As the head coach of Barça B, Xavi Closas arguably holds the world’s top youth coaching position. He is charged with developing professionals for Barça, the pro team. International coaches and players routinely travel to Barcelona to participate in his iOX Futsal program. Many of our own players have learned from Xavi over the years, and his ability to inspire and educate is second to none.
Welcome back, Mister. Let’s get started.
What is your earliest memory of futsal and when did you decide it would become your vocation?
Well, I started playing at school. Here in Barcelona and in most of the schools here in Spain, the playground is where futsal is played. And the majority of the schools have a team. Also in a nearby town where my parents have a house, I played on two or three teams. In the end, one of the teams took an interest in me and I started playing at the federal level, the most advanced. There I saw that it was my favorite sport. When I was little, I already realized that I loved it especially since you get so many touches on the ball. There was a time when I also played soccer. But it came down to that in soccer the ball is often airborne and you get very few touches, and futsal was the opposite. So I saw clearly that it was my sport; that it was what I wanted. I played other sports, but this is what I liked best. And I enjoyed it more and more until I got injured. Then I became a coach.
In recent years has youth futsal tactically evolved? And if so, how?
I think futsal has change quite a bit, mainly because the rules have changed, no? At least this is the case here in Spain. Before, the keeper wasn’t allowed to throw the ball into the opponent’s half. You had to toss it in your own. Also there’s the corner and sideline strategies. So the fact that the keeper’s role was enhanced with a greater freedom to distribute the ball led to more precision and more goals. Play became more spectacular.
The fact that the keeper previously was not permitted to throw the ball into the opponent’s half created the following situation. First off, the keeper had to provide a quality outlet pass. Two, the defenses pressured just a bit higher so the quality of the player on the ball needed to be better because you needed to build out of the back in a controlled way. Now, when you allow the keeper to throw the ball into the opponent’s half, this implies that you have a strong pivot, so you can focus on throwing long balls. So now you’ve stopped working on the individual skills of the player that builds from the back to instead ensure a safer outcome for the team. So now you’re more dependent on defending and less on attacking.
Who influenced you the most as a coach?
I started coaching after I tore my cruciate ligaments when playing with the team. So the club on my return, I had played a year, proposed the idea of being a coach. And the fact I had torn my ligaments, I had to resign myself to a place on the bench. More than having just one coaching influence, I really flourished when coming across the ideas of many coaches that had different ways of looking at the game. I’ve adopted their ideas, selecting individual aspects from each and then created my own identity as a coach.
But I haven’t had one main coaching influence. There’s been a few. Each dedicated to different ways of playing and able to explain the nuances of the game. So why not attempt to learn from many, no? From Javier Lozano to Miki Candelas and Marc Carmona. There’s been a lot of coaches that I’ve learned from. And they’ve all helped me develop and find my own coaching identity.
You and Oscar Alonso founded iOX Futsal. Can you talk a little about what your program offers coaches and teams?
iOX was born when I was working with Oscar. He was my top assistant and physical trainer for A.E. Bellsport. Well, there was an economic problem (at Bellsport) and there was a period of two years that I did not train any team. So at that time, we founded iOX Futsal and dedicated ourselves to various aspects of teaching futsal. One area is online work where we offer coaching advice. We help coaches with their model, their game ideas. We help them build the sessions and the planning of matches. It is like having a second coach.
There’s also online physical prep work, that is, the concept of having a physical trainer at the online level that adapts to the characteristics of your team and prepares the sessions for you. And then we also do online conferences. We decided to do a lot of things online because futsal is not football from an economic stand point. Many coaches work alone or do not have much of a staff, so it is good for them to have a person to consult, to debate, to ask, and to be more convinced.
Another facet of iOX is international. We will travel to any place in the world and hold sessions, from summer camps to personal training for clubs. Coaching education and group conferences as well. In that sense a complete package.
Coaches can also come here to Barcelona, and we teach them the iOX methodology, the way of working that we have at iOX. We teach them if they are coaches. We take them to see different clubs to see how they train. We do some training sessions on formations and take them to watch futsal games. If they bring a team, we schedule friendly matches so that they can see the level of play here in Barcelona. Training sessions are also available depending on what you want. So that’s a little of what we do at iOX.
Mister, always a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Stay safe and continued success to you, Oscar, and staff.