Over the years, I’ve heard numerous coaches say some version of “If you want to dribble like Pelé, you need to practice more on your own.” Ronaldinho and Neymar find their way into that sentence as well. Coaches and players in the US have been fascinated by Brazilians’ ability to manipulate the ball for decades now. Brazilian soccer is synonymous with creativity and daring, or ginga. And yet, although Brazil is served up at the ultimate example of soccer, it’s rare for a US coach to travel to South America. My own club colleagues make regular visits to England, Spain and Holland for coaching education, but Brazil never comes up.
Due to this lack of familiarity with the southern hemisphere, one of the great segredos of Brazilian soccer has mostly stayed just that: a secret. At the heart of many of Brazil’s most renowned professional clubs like Santos, Corinthians, Vasco de Gama, Flamengo and Palmeiras, are youth futsal programs meant to develop and nurture future soccer stars. Until u11, players in these clubs don’t set foot on a soccer field. It’s all futsal. Currently in the US there are a few youth clubs sprinkling in weekly futsal training to supplement the soccer curriculum. At some point, clubs will follow the Brazilian model and implement futsal exclusively at the younger ages. Ballistic United may be one of the first.
This year, one of our u8 academy’s two weekly trainings is futsal. The kids love it and the parents have noted how quickly their skills are developing. Next year’s u8 group may train only at futsal in the Spring. A bag of balls, a well lit gym, and a group of 7-year-olds… let the ginga begin.