5 Things More Important to Your Child's Soccer Development than Futsal

5 Things More Important to Your Child's Soccer Development than Futsal

I encourage every opportunity to play soccer - from free play to structured leagues, indoor and outdoor, recreation or academy.  The more a person plays - the more opportunities there are to have fun and improve. That's why I signed my son up for futsal again this winter. However, I have seen a lot of hype, mainly among American parents and league promoters, claiming the intrinsic benefits of futsal. At times, this trend has drifted into the absurd - with respected journalists from newspapers like The Guardian pondering whether futsal can produce an American Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo.  This has prompted me to publish the following list "5 Things More Important to Your Child's Soccer Development than Futsal".

Are there benefits from playing futsal? Yes, of course, (click here to learn more). As a parent myself, I know that fear of thinking that your child might be left behind if you don't act now.  Futsal league organizers never miss an opportunity to exploit this emotion during each registration period.  However, the time has come for us to be a bit more discerning, and stop buying everything these clubs and alphabet licensed coaches are selling. I am not suggesting, by any means, that you shouldn't participate in futsal. I just think you should have realistic expectations about the benefits for your child.

You can't take Their Culture: Futsal has its origins in Uruguay and Brazil, where the culture is dominated by soccer - so much so, that the kids play soccer in the streets when there is no alternative.  Back then, I imagine they would have played on spacious manicured soccer fields if the facilities were available. In essence, street soccer gave birth to futsal and the creativity, flair, and speed that comes with it - futsal didn't create anything.

And apply it to Our Culture: This Sunday, I am going to take my boys to our local park to do a quick training session followed by a world cup game against their old man.  Located in the heart of Durham/Chapel Hill North Carolina, this particular park has a regulation size turf soccer field, a grass field, and a smaller turf field.  I guarantee that we will be the only people playing (with the exception of the local adult frisbee league) on any of the fields. I don't care how many futsal leagues we create, until this changes, I don't think we will see an American Messi anytime soon.

Said plainly, futsal didn't create Messi, just like the blacktops of Rucker Park New York didn't create Dr. J and Wilt Chamberlin - Rucker Park was an outbirth of a broader culture of basketball within the inner cities of America. No reasonable person that knows anything about basketball would suggest that playing at Rucker Park will force you to make quicker decisions and play with greater speed - that sort of logic is reserved only for unsuspecting American soccer parents and is best served with a shovel.

5 Things More Important to Your Child's Soccer Development than Futsal

 1. Enjoying the Game: Having fun is key to your child's soccer development and more importantly, their well-being.  Adding multiple leagues, elite competition and off-season training could become detrimental if they don't already really enjoy the game.  When kids in Brazil, Uruguay, and other developing nations play soccer in the streets with balls made out of socks - they are doing it because they love the game not because mommy and daddy signed them up for a travel team.  If your child rarely shows a desire to play soccer outside of the team structure, you may consider using the off-season to recharge and explore other interests - not play futsal.

2. Training Individually (Especially Ball Mastery): Team training does not provide players with nearly enough time on the ball. Improving ball manipulation enables players (among other things) to move faster and make quicker decisions - key benefits touted about futsal. I am not convinced that futsal does this in a way that couldn't be achieved in outdoor training and outdoor game situations.  Instead, it's the thousands of hours on the ball that's key - whether it's in the streets of Brazil, a futsal league or at the local park on a cold day in North Carolina.

3. Good coaching: Too often I have seen the same bad coaches from outdoor leagues move to futsal leagues. While I believe playing always provides some benefits, a large part of development happens during training. If the coach is not engaged or competent - the players will likely not receive the benefits of futsal touted by league organizers.

4. Becoming two-footed:  With few exceptions, elite players can manipulate the ball with both feet. I am very intentional about training my sons to become both footed.  I have seen enough kids using only one foot during futsal games to know that futsal alone won't make them two-footed.  Check out my post The Playbook - My Strategy (So Far) For Raising an Elite Soccer Player for my tips on becoming two-footed.

5. You tell me: Comment below and share misconceptions or overpromises that you have heard about futsal.  Or maybe you totaling disagree? I would like to read those comments as well. 

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  • Eric - January 14, 2019

    Actually becoming a good athlete: speed, agility, core strength, et cetera. I have seen plenty of youth soccer players who struggle to do a pushup. Kids that are “elite” players delude themselves into believing that they are great all around athletes. Most are just great relative to other soccer players (ie – tallest midget syndrome). Also, mental toughness versus learning what I’d call “the art of the flop.” While learning how to generate calls that result in PKs is valuable, doing so at a young age seems stupid. I saw a kid in my son’s game purposely fall down 8 times in the game. I started counting because the 2nd flop was on a play where he was literally behind my son pushing. He fell, looked st the ref and asked for a foul. The ref literally laughed at him.

  • Neil M Crawford - January 13, 2019

    Hi Ed, you are right – but normally only the most technical players get those benefits…especially the extra touches. Without proper training, the less technical kids might as well run track

  • Ed - January 13, 2019

    Thanks for the article. Couple things I will point out in regard to futsal is that it creates an incredible amount of touches. Touches that translate to the soccer field. I also think it helps young players build confidence when they go 1v1 in soccer with the experience they have gained from Futsal. Finally, it is fun. As you point out in your article, enjoyment is important. After all is written, I think Futsal is simply a compliment to soccer.

  • Jesus - January 13, 2019


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