FUTSAL. That term has become somewhat of a hot topic in the soccer community recently. Many programs and facilities promote futsal as a great way to develop in the off-season. But what are the pros and cons of playing futsal? What exactly qualifies as "futsal" and why should you (and your teammates) be playing futsal this winter versus traditional American "indoor soccer"? More importantly, why is futsal considered a better development option for players?
SO WHAT IS FUTSAL?
Futsal is a version of soccer played in many different countries across the globe. The sport is played on hard surfaces with smaller soccer ball specifically designed to have a low bounce. Futsal games are 5v5 with one player designated the golerio (or basically a goalkeeper/field player hybrid). There are no walls and the game is speed is very quick due to the surface played on (usually hard court or tile).
Check out this quick example of what the game of futsal requires:
SO WHY IS FUTSAL CONSIDERED BETTER DEVELOPMENT THAN "INDOOR SOCCER?"
Futsal rewards the quick, creative and intelligent athletes. To succeed in futsal, players must be able to control the ball in very tight spaces while creatively solving tactical aspects of the game. Listed below are some of the benefits of futsal that players will experience:
DIRECT TRANSLATION - The skills taught and reinforced in futsal are the technical aspects that have been embraced by many of the world's top soccer countries; including Germany, Brazil, Holland, Spain and others. Soccer and futsal are complimentary of each other; helping athletes that participate in both to become complete, developed and creative athletes. This includes passing & receiving technique, dribbling & creativity on the ball among other aspects that can immediately improve players once they move back outdoors.
TECHNICAL CONTROL - Futsal requires players to remain focused on developing technical control in tight spaces. Players will utilize every surface of their feet; including the bottom to create deceptive movements and changes of direction. Just kicking the ball and chasing will ensure your team loses not only the ball but usually games. Players must learn to settle the ball rapidly, cut sharply, shield effectively, pass quickly and move into space.
VALUE OF POSSESSION - Ownership of the ball is everything. Players must constantly fight to keep the ball from opponents as well as out of bounds; something not easily achieved with the speed of the game and field surface. Just like in the real game of soccer, players must respect out of bounds as a potential turn over of possession.
CREATIVITY & DECISION MAKING - With small spaces, quick playing surfaces and rapid game development, players are forced to increase their decision making in shorter time frames as well as solve tactical situations with creativity; something that will make a significant difference once moving back outdoors.
QUICKNESS & AGILITY - With a sport the requires constant changes of direction and heads up awareness, players will begin to develop better body control and balance. The speed of the game will require that player develop the proper muscle control and balance to execute the creative foot skills they need to succeed.
SO WHY SHOULD I (MY TEAM) STAY AWAY FROM TRADITIONAL INDOOR SOCCER?
Indoor soccer can be fun. There is not question about that. There are thousands of indoor soccer facilities filling up with players and teams this time of the year. Players can get more touches on the ball, the ball moves quickly and the speed of the game can help build speed and endurance. We are not arguing that indoor soccer is not beneficial. The real question needing to be asked is "Which version of soccer is more beneficial and just how important is skills development to my players?" Consider these points:
DEVELOPMENTAL CRUTCH - Consider the walls and how they can become a "crutch" to players who cannot control the ball. Afraid of losing the ball? Just kick it against the wall and it will bounce somewhere near a teammate.....hopefully. It never went out of bounds, remember? Playing off the wall does not realistically replicate "give & gos" as some proponents of "indoor soccer" will argue. Futsal instead asks players "Why not just learn to pass to a live teammate instead of a stationary object; just like outdoor soccer?"
DEFENSIVE HANDICAP - In proper soccer and futsal, defenders are constantly taught to P.R.I. (Pressure. Redirect. Isolate.); pushing opponents away from passing lanes and striking zones. Defenders that do this properly in "indoor soccer" will have players just kick the ball off the wall and run around them; penalizing them for using proper technique.
OFFENSIVE HANDICAP - With a wall to bail out any inaccurate pass or shot, players are not challenged to become technically proficient while maintaining possession. Watch a game of youth indoor soccer and chances are most teams will not connect more than 3-4 passes before bouncing off the wall or turning the ball over. If a player's younger years are a crucial time to learn and test individual development, why give them a "bumper system" that rewards poor technique?
VISION & AWARENESS - With a wall impeding movement and creating artificial angles, players will start to develop a warped sense of game vision. Instead of maintaining angles and rotation of positions, indoor soccer easily becomes a game of "catch-up" as passes/shots deflect faster than players can move.
SAFETY CONCERNS - Many players use a wall to shield players into or off the ball; similar to hockey. Concussions and injuries can happen quickly; especially with players that cannot control their body and movements.
"Consider this. Indoor soccer is like bumper bowling. Players that are not skilled enough to miss the gutter require something that ensures "success" aka bumpers. Do you actually improve?"
At the end of the day, players and coaches must make a decision on why they are choosing the style of winter soccer they are. Is it for fun (and the coach does not care about the developmental bad habits being taught)? Then indoor soccer is a possible choice for your players. But if you as the coach or player want to use the off-season to change your approach to soccer while continuing to develop proper soccer technique, futsal is the best choice for you and your team!