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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.