Improving with Futsal

Oct 4, 2021

Soccer’s fast-paced, indoor cousin - Futsal - doesn’t get the same kind of appreciation that regular footy gets. But it should. Many of the greatest champions (notably Brazilian players) honed some of their legendary skills playing futsal, and it’s a version of the game that youth players can learn a lot from. This post will take a look at how futsal can improve some key soccer skills in unexpected ways. 

Futsal in a Nutshell 

Futsal emerged in South America during the 1930s, but it has since gone global. UEFA and FIFA both recognize the format. In fact, you or someone else you know has probably played it. Hint: those days of elementary or high school soccer indoors, was futsal to some extent. 

This indoor version of soccer requires sharp technical skills under high-pressure and in a fast-paced setting. It’s not as tactical as traditional soccer, but the playing style of futsal can help youth soccer players improve on the pitch itself. 

The official format of Futsal is played indoors using a size 4 ball. You can play to the touchlines and players can freely enter the penalty area and can play the ball over head-height. 

If you don’t believe futsal can mould superstars, that means you don’t believe in the talent and greatness of the following players: 

  • Pele
  • Ronaldinho
  • Lionel Messi
  • Cristiano Ronaldo 
  • Iniesta
  • Kaka
  • Xavi 
  • Fabregas 
  • Zico 

All of these legends honed their skills playing futsal. Some of them have even crdited futsal for shaping their abilities. 

“Futsal was important in helping to develop my ball control, quick thinking, passing…. also for dribbling, balance, concentration…. Futsal was very, very important, no doubt” - Pele

“During my childhood in Portugal, all we played was Futsal. The small playing area helped me improve my close control, and whenever I played Futsal I felt free. If it wasn’t for Futsal, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.” - Cristiano Ronaldo 

“Football & Futsal have a lot in common … There are different tactics and moves, but there is the same essence of mastering the ball, combining and making quick decisions.” - Iniesta 

Futsal: The Reason Why Some Countries Dominate in Real Soccer

Here’s a more analytical examination as to why Futsal breeds superstars and why it can make your kid an elite soccer player. 

The book, The Talent Code, written by Daniel Coyle, analyzes why certain regions of the world are talent hotbeds in certain fields. The book sheds light on Brazil since it has long been known as a hotspot for incredible soccer talent. The book mentions soccer coach, Simon Clifford, who was stunned by the superhuman skills Brazilian soccer players possessed - he realized that their skills came from Futsal. He made the following statements: 

  • “Futsal players touch the ball far more often than soccer players—six times more often per minute, according to a Liverpool University study.”

  • “The smaller, heavier ball demands and rewards more precise handling—as coaches point out, you can’t get out of a tight spot simply by booting the ball downfield.”

  • “Sharp passing is paramount: the game is all about looking for angles and spaces and working quick combinations with other players.”

  • “Ball control and vision are crucial, so that when futsal players play the full-size game, they feel as if they have acres of free space in which to operate.”

  • “Futsal compresses soccer’s essential skills into a small box; it places players inside the deep practice zone, making and correcting errors, constantly generating solutions to vivid problems.”

  • “Players touching the ball 600 percent more often learn far faster, without realizing it, than they would in the vast, bouncy expanse of the outdoor game.”

Essentially, the frenetic pace and tight constraints of futsal force players to learn key soccer skills at an accelerated rate. Not only do they learn these skills faster, they learn them more efficiently. It’s almost like entering a cheat code for unlocking elite soccer skills quicker. 

Benefits of Futsal

From the research above, it’s clear that youth players who practice futsal can acquire essential skills faster than the kids who don’t play futsal. Here’s a recap of those benefits. 

  • Improves decision-making skills 
  • Improves reaction time 
  • Increases ball contact 
  • Increases power (since the ball is heavier) 
  • Improves creative playmaking ability  
  • Improves player’s confidence 

The fundamentals of futsal make it a great way to gain these skills in a natural and novel manner. It’s more exciting than regular soccer drills and it can help your players develop a better feel and appreciation for the game. 

How to Incorporate Futsal Into Real Soccer Practice 

Keep in mind that futsal can’t replace actual soccer training. Futsal helps young players increase their technical skills significantly, but it can’t replace the tactical skills they need to learn by actually playing traditional football. Nevertheless, they can play futsal regularly, whether it’s part of their league or outside of it. 

For example, youth soccer players living in Canada and various parts of the U.S. experience winter. During these months, they have to play indoors anyway, so it wouldn’t hurt to add a weekly session or two of futsal to the training regimen. 

You can also enroll in pre- or post- season futsal camps, which would allow for more frequent play. Of course, don’t overdo this because you don’t want youth players to burnout by practicing non-stop, year-round. 

When looking for a futsal league, here’s a simple trick to apply: enter the word “futsal” and the name of your city in Google or any search engine. If you live in Toronto, for example, you can enter “futsal Toronto”. You can also type in other variants of the phrase such as “futsal in Toronto”, “futsal clubs in Toronto” and so forth. 

Playing Futsal Safely With Soccer Protective Gear 

One thing that soccer and futsal share is injury risk. With the exception of injuries such as turf burn, you can still sprain an ankle or suffer a head injury in futsal. Wearing soccer protective gear is still vital. Fortunately, you don’t have to overthink this because the protective gear used in soccer largely applies in futsal. 

Essential Soccer Protective Gear for Futsal

  • Padded pants and body sliders - Falls on a hard surface aren’t fun and tackling can happen (although it’s rarer) in futsal. Wearing padded pants and padded sliders can help cushion the impact. 
  • Padded tops and jerseys - Body shots and other above-the-waist hits can occur in futsal just as frequently as it does in traditional soccer. Wearing padded jerseys or crop tops can help reduce the forces of bodily impacts. 
  • Leg guards - A hard kick to the shin can still take place indoors just like it does outdoors. That’s why leg guards are a must-have when playing futsal.  
  • Soccer concussion headgear - Concussions can and do happen in futsal. That’s why we recommend wearing soccer concussion head guards for those who have already suffered a brain injury or who may be prone to them. The headguard may not prevent a brain injury per se, but it may reduce the impact forces that cause them. 

Futsal to Footy: A Shortcut to Elite Soccer Skills

The honest truth is that soccer skills are honed through years of practice, dedication and grit. But kids can learn these skills in “turbo mode” adding futsal to their training routine.

It won’t teach young players strategic elements of soccer, but it will help them bring their technical skills to higher levels. And let’s face it: those fancy dribbling or passing skills can help players shine in the eyes of scouts or give players an edge over tough opponents.

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