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Bulldogs Futsal Club

A page at a time, futsal as soccer’s muse…

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We make comparisons and analogies where we have experience. So I often see futsal through the filters of writing and basketball. Both are life long passions. From watching my high school coach diagram plays to taking screen writing classes as an adult, it all applies in some practical way to futsal. Apparently learning is learning no matter the discipline.

Writing leads to reading. Learning to read involves decoding: knowledge of letter sounds, blending, and chunking. This is the equivalent of futsal technique. Once fluency is achieved, the brain no longer spends precious energy on decoding and instead focuses on comprehension. This deeper understanding of setting, character, and plot are the tactics. And finally an advanced reader will recognize when an accomplished author goes on a full field Messi slalom with the use of imagery, metaphors and witty dialogue.

So how do we teach creativity?

In recent years, street ball and futsal have been touted as a tools for creativity on the soccer side. Futsal in many ways is simply an organized version of street ball. The thinking goes that if Neymar, Ronaldinho and countless other Brazilians started in futsal then there must be some connection to dribbling genius. Spectacular ball manipulation, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

In my mind futsal fosters two types of creativity and both can be developed in two different ways:

  • Individual creativity (dribbling, crafty assists, unique finishing)
  • Team creativity (movement, intricate combos)

How does futsal guide this creativity?

  • Unstructured play (school/community courts)
  • Structured play (knowledgable futsal programs)

Unstructured play, aka, street ball, doesn’t need much elaboration. The unsupervised touches you get in soccer, basketball or any sport will lead to innovation as players are free to experiment away from adult guidance and criticism. Simple enough. Now the tricky part: facilities in convenient locations. Every day thousands of Brazilians and Spaniards play futsal at school during recess and PE. When this is the case in the US, America’s version of Neymar will be born. Currently in the Bay Area there are a number of initiatives to build futsal courts. Converting underused community tennis and basketball courts is a good start, but constructing these courts on school grounds is even more powerful. If you build it they will come. Or in this scenario, they’re already there.

Structured play and creativity are opposite ideas for many. But think about the glory days of FCB. Much of the tiki-taka (sorry Pep, I know you hate the label) brillance came through Guardiola’s insistence on positioning and movement. FCB produced a level of combination play and ball possession that will still be studied generations from now. Did it help that he had Xavi, Iniesta and Messi forming infinite triangles? Of course. But the good news for us lesser beings? All three grew up playing futsal.

And this leads us to futsal’s high level of tactics. Basketball like in its frequent set pieces and patterned movements, futsal’s structure actually allows for creativity. This will seem contradictory, but the more aware you are of your positioning as well as your teammates’, the more efficient you become in your daring. My most spontaneously, bold, and unique teams have always been the most tactically sound as well. So bookmark it: a school based court, a high functioning futsal program, and an occasional ticket to watch Steph launch from Fremont. Follow your muse.

 
 

 

Futsal’s calm inside the Matrix…

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“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus

Over the years, I’ve had countless parents approach me at soccer games and express how calm our futsal players look on the field. What exactly does calm mean, and why is it used to describe futsal trained players again and again? In The Matrix only a special few were able to decipher the digital code. They saw things others did not. Do futsal players interpret the movements and angles of a soccer field differently as well?

At first glance, calm is used to convey the superior technique that comes from manipulating a round ball on a hard surface. Receiving, dribbling and passing on a hard, flat surface is significantly more difficult than controlling a ball on grass or turf. It’s a matter of physics. Grass and turf offer resistance and the ball slows. If you can control a ball on the trinity of wood, plastic or blacktop, you can boss it on any surface. Master your greatest challenge and the rest is easy. Once Neo knew he could take down Agent Smith, all others were dominoes yet to fall.

Besides the obvious technical benefits, the observant coach or parent often notices the quality decision making. With its time and space limitations, futsal places enormous cognitive demands on players. They must also make quicker decisions due to defenders in constant proximity. When these same players are put inside the acreage of a soccer field, they literally seem to be playing at a slower RPM. They are able to read and analyze the game quicker than their non-futsal playing teammates and opponents. Once Neo truly understands the code all movement idles as he fends off multiple flailing agents with just one arm. Faster, stronger and bigger are great adjectives, yet calmer is the one coated in red.

What if every USSDA played this way?

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Combining passes on a soccer field is tough, but at least in the youth game at u12 there’s nearly an acre of space to do it within. Pinging passes on a futsal court is considerably trickier due to the reduced space and the tight marking it allows. And to compound things, the ball rolls at pace with no grass to offer resistance. For these reasons, except for a few clubs, youth futsal games in the U.S. are often choppy and involve frequent 50/50 challenges. Teams are lucky to connect a couple passes let alone 3 or more. But if a team could link up 3 or more meaningful passes, what might it look like? And to up the ante, could it be done against first rate competition? Against players that are used to hoisting silverware everywhere they go? Such a scenario came into play recently at USFF’s National Championship Final in San Jose, CA at the u11 age group. Ballistic United USSDA, implementing FC Barcelona’s futsal curriculum, played the Futsal Kingz; a team comprised of top players from not one, but two excellent USSDA soccer programs: De Anza Force and San Jose Earthquakes. On top of that, a few of the Quakes players are of Bay Area Barcelona fame. A team and program that has dominated the NorCal State Soccer Cup in recent years. So there it is, the table is set; pull up a chair and take a look at what organized futsal looks like against a quality opponent. Then ask yourself, is this a one-off, or can every American soccer player benefit from the insights and creativity that come from learning futsal in a purposeful way?

Ballistic United USSDA Futsal… National Champs!

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Ballistic United (BUSC) USSDA Futsal made a smashing debut at this year’s USFF National Championship in San Jose, CA. With wins against established and respected clubs like Meg City Futsal, Rose City Futsal, and Futsal Kingz, the team showcased its FC Barcelona inspired ideas of play. The methodology with its emphasis on decision making and movement was evident throughout the tournament that finished with an 8-4 win over a Futsal Kingz team made up of incoming u12 San Jose Earthquakes and De Anza Force USSDA players. Congrats boys!

‘The Extra Blessing’ & Futsal…

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The smoothness found in a bottle of Jack Daniels is legendary. It comes from charcoal filtering known as the Lincoln County Process. Locals refer to it as The Extra Blessing. Over a week’s time, the whiskey drips through sugar maple charcoals. The resulting spirit is then officially labeled as Tennessee Whiskey, distinct from bourbon.

So what might you ask does modern day moonshine have to do with futsal? Futsal, too, is the finest of filters. Poor first touch? Soft man marking? Slow to interpret a 3v2? Well, spend a few years in the futsal casket and the impurities drain away. Going back almost a decade, I’ve witnessed numerous local soccer players with big reputations step onto futsal courts. As they enter the gym, the murmurs grow, “Oh that’s so-and-so, plays the 9 at X, Y & Z Academy.” However, without days, weeks and months spent dripping through the futsal charcoals, these players don’t stand a chance. The first touch is heavy, the marking is loose, and the ability to solve a numerical advantage on the counter is raw, unfiltered. Success isn’t so easily bottled, but a toast to futsal and all its mellowing ways.

BUSC USDA futsal logo.. (and training!)

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Ballistic United Soccer Club (BUSC) USDA u12 is training 2x per week this summer in preparation for USFF’s National Championship to be held in San Jose, CA. There are a handful of players with experience, but most of the boys are new to organized futsal. In their expressions and reactions, you see futsal’s magic. Howls of “Just one more game!” punctuate the ending of every training. And yet, underneath all this fun, quality decision making and advanced technique are taking hold.

Because the local cities do not allow futsal in their school gyms, we train outdoors on a school blacktop. Cracked asphalt is nothing to include on a postcard, however, a ball, hard surface, portable nets and enthusiastic kids bring everything to life.

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Pulisic played futsal, lots of it..

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In US futsal circles, it’s long been felt that the first great American soccer player would have futsal roots. Christian Pulisic’s quick decision making, close control, precision passing and off-the-ball movements all scream futsal. Bleacher Report’s recent article details the extent to which Mark Pulisic went to ensure his son played futsal at an early age. This included creating Detroit’s first futsal league. Those of us that have founded clubs and leagues can attest to the rapid development that occurs when a small ball is placed on a hard surface in a confined area. This simple recipe creates magical results again and again. Pele, Socrates, Zico, Maradona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Christian Ronaldo, Neymar and numerous other stars played countless hours of futsal as kids. Pulisic is our first American entry into this conversation. And yet, there are still plenty of skeptical US coaches, parents and players as to futsal’s benefits. The world is round, the sky is blue, and futsal is the most direct route to soccer success. Just ask the Pulisics.

Futsal, penalty boxes, and urgency…

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When I first came across competitive futsal, what struck me the most was the urgency of play. The hounding defenses, rapid transitions, and lightening quick shots were tough to process. It all seemed a blur. In every second of every game there was the urgency to score or be scored upon. There was no down time. No chance to catch your breath. You had to be mentally and physically “on” from beginning to end. It was exhilarating and exhausting.

The best description of futsal’s nonstop back and forth comes from Mario Gonzalez of Legends Futsal.  “It’s like soccer when the ball is in the penalty area. The urgency to score or defend takes the intensity to an entirely different level. Futsal is constantly played at this level.” I couldn’t agree more.

Exclusive interview with FCB’s Xavi Closas

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In much the same way the NBA’s tactics evolved in recent decades, so have futsal’s at the highest level. One of the sport’s great minds and tacticians is Xavi Closas, head coach of FC Barcelona Lassa B. Along with his long time friend and coaching partner, Oscar Alonso, the two have developed a highly respected coaching curriculum at iOX Futsal. Coaches and players travel to Barcelona from all over the world to learn from the pair.

Recently Closas’s team won the Spanish League championship with a group missing five of its top players through promotion to the top pro team. In spite of playing against opponents that averaged 5 years older than his young FCB team, Closas managed to win the league title on the last weekend. It is considered one of the great coaching accomplishments of recent times.

The following interview with the coach or “mister” as they say in Catalonia, looks to provide ideas for developing futsal in the U.S. and other growing futsal communities.

Bulldogs: Mister, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. First off, for a coach, what are the most important things to put in place to begin guiding a team?

Closas: The most important thing for putting together a new group of players is to be clear about the goals you have for the team. These personal goals then need to be reconciled with those of the club’s. Starting from here, you can build the values of the team and a way of playing.

Bulldogs: During your distinguished career as a coach at Bellsport, FC Barcelona and iOX Futsal, what moments have you found the most rewarding?

Closas: The moments of greatest reward have come from the various promotions I helped attain at teams such as Bellsport and FC Barcelona. All the hard work one puts into a season is reflected in the promotion.

Bulldogs: Your son, Nil, plays on FC Barcelona’s top team. How did you mentally prepare him for playing at the highest level?

Closas: The easiest way to help your child grow in a sport is to let them be theirselves. Let them pick their own path. It must be clear to them how far they exactly want to go. I think the coaches he has had over the length of his career have allowed him to grow at a steady pace as well.

Coach Xavi, thank you again for your insights and good luck this week versus Valencia!

 

 

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