Bulldogs started as the simplest of ideas. Provide fitness and school identity through an after school futsal club. Recently divorced and virtually penniless, I was not in the best of moments. However, the idea of creating a club I could call my own resonated. I would be able to control this one small part of my life.
So in October of 2010, I posted a few flyers around the campus of Junction Ave K-8 School, and a few days later waited in my classroom to see if anyone would show up. Hoping for 15 kids, but praying for at least 10, I sat at my desk anxiously tapping a pencil. Little did I know, but my life was about to change. Within 10 minutes the room bulged with nearly 100 kids.
Now the fear tilted in a different direction. What would I do with 100 players? I had little knowledge, no prior coaching experience, and minimal equipment. This was not good. After 30 minutes of trying to sound like I had a plan, I stopped the meeting and told everyone to show up the next day behind the school.
Portable nets, beat up soccer balls, and utility cones on top of cracked asphalt basketball courts is apparently a recipe for content kids. All that Fall and Winter, this large group of boys and a few girls scrimmaged in jacket and gloves weather. Bruises and scraped knees became badges of unity.
By January, we had formed a donation based Saturday league that consisted of enough players to provide 8 hours of games. I was suddenly a league organizer, main referee, and an unofficial custodian as I swept and spot mopped when needed. Supposedly in my down time I was a 3rd grade teacher.
The asphalt courts in back of the school were not ideal, so in an almost maniacal frenzy, I began fundraising to construct outdoor futsal courts like I had seen in my childhood vacations in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The idea was to raise over $30,000 to build courts for a sport most people had never heard of. I’m sure somewhere Don Quixote was shaking his head. Most of my colleagues and parents politely nodded their heads at the idea, but deep down I suspect most of them thought I was nuts. At times, I too, thought the same.
A few weeks into the process, I asked our energetic Community Liaison, Belia Martinez, to attend a meeting of community leaders at a neighboring school. As fate would have it, members of a city planning group in charge of a recycling grant were in attendance. They were enthralled with the idea of providing fitness for our low income community and soon thereafter they approved the funds for two outdoor courts. They were built in the summer of 2011 and are recognized at the first of their kind on a school campus in the United States.
Now if the story ended here, it would be a good one. However, when the futsal bug bites, it bites hard. Out of the 100 students there were a dozen or so middle schoolers that stood out. Over the next 18 months, we trained 3x a week. I experimented with different techniques and tactics and settled upon a system of play. This group is now a bit of an urban legend as they went on to dominate the local competitive soccer clubs that would visit. Through graduation, girlfriends, and goofiness, this team eventually disbanded, but the seeds of a successful system of play were now in place. Edwin, Brian, Johnny, Hector, Zach, Christopher, Gustavo, Lefawo, Brandon, Alfonso, Lalo, and Pancho were a hell of a group. Just thinking about the group gets me a bit choked up. Just amazing kids.
In the Fall of 2013, we started a weekly training group for my son Luke, age 7, and his soccer buddies that played for BUSC: Ballistic United Soccer Club in Pleasanton, California. Under the canopy of an enormous Valley Oak, the group tossed acorns, chased squirrels, and occasionally trained at futsal. With the knowledge gained from training the Junction Ave boys, we now put a plan in motion: to become a competitive futsal team at the highest levels. In March of 2015, the boys won USFF’s u9 Regional Championship. In July of the same year, they won USFF’s National Championship under the banner of Ballistic United “Bulldogs” Futsal Club. This same double championship was also accomplished by our u8 group. BUSC is a progressive club and now has fully integrated futsal into the soccer curriculum at the younger ages. BUSC players are some of the few in the nation that essentially train at futsal year around.
In the upcoming year, we look to continue to train at a high level, and perhaps set sail for Barcelona where a standing invitation to participate in the World Futsal Cup awaits.
Rob Bell – BUSC Director of Futsal & Author of Winning Futsal: Secrets to Success in the Youth Game