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Many of the top basketball players in the world including Kyrie Irving refined their finishing touch through the Mikan Drill. The drill allows for a high number of repetitions within a limited amount of time. Basically a lot of technical bang for your buck. It’s considered a big man or center drill, but obviously it works well for guards and forwards, too. The center spot in futsal is roughly the equivalent of the pivo. Like a center, the pivo often plays with his/her back to goal. Out of necessity, a pivo must learn footwork that involves spins and feints while facing away from goal. Scoring is the most prized skill in futsal or any invasion based game, so the incentive is there.

In these shelter-in-place times of Covid-19, a thousand and one Instagram posts have surfaced emphasizing technical skills in isolation; juggling, dribbling, and passing against a wall routines abound. All wonderful for foot-eye coordination, but not especially game specific. One of my all time favorite lines comes from FC Barcelona’s Xavi Closas: I don’t dribble on cones because I beat the cone every time. That’s not to say there’s not a time and place for drills that isolate technique with little or no decision making. That being said, it’s important you pick these drills wisely to maximize your player’s time and efforts. So back to Mr. George Mikan.

When I train my own kids at home, our focus mostly revolves around various 1v1 exercises that combine technique and decision making. But when we do practice technique in isolation, it almost always involves finishing à la the Mikan Drill. There isn’t the same number of rapid repetitions as in basketball since futsal balls need to be recovered, but with a bag full of balls, a similar dynamic can be recreated. One of the goals of the Mikan is the development of the weak hand. Equal use of both hands is built into the drill. Few players are genuinely dangerous with their weaker foot. In my own club with over 300 competitive players, a top coach estimated only two were equally adept with both feet. And our club is considered a progressive one. The majority of the San Jose Earthquakes Homegrown signings are players that have spent time at Ballistic United. This speaks to the challenges of getting players to develop their weaker foot outside of training. So a futsal version of the Mikan is ideal for resolving this challenge.

At the recent World Futsal Cup just outside of Barcelona, every international team seemingly had a pivo well versed in the ways of hold-up play. Players were comfortable receiving, passing, and turning and firing all while starting with their back to goal. In the US at this point, you don’t often see this, yet. In part it’s due to the fact that many if not most clubs still use a 2-2 formation. This doesn’t allow for a central target player supported by runners that you find within the 3-1. Over time most teams will abandon the 2-2 and pivo play will flourish. And variations of Mikan like isolation drills will no doubt play a part.