Right now I’m sitting in a hotel and my youth team is getting ready to play in a futsal tournament. In our part of the country these futsal tournaments are very popular, due in large part to the weather (it’s currently -10 outside and about 4 inches of snow has fallen in the last 24 hours).
I recently had a conversation with another youth coach that had a very strong opinion about the limited relation that small sided futsal games had to the full sided game. He was quite serious and felt the futsal games had little game application for his players, and did not provide them enough “game experience” problem solving tactical situations.
I’m not one to debate with people particularly, but I thought this coach’s opinion was pretty narrow and misinformed about small sided games.
In my opinion there is no better teacher of the game for young and inexperienced kids than a small sided 4v4 of futsal game. The dynamics of the big game are all there; depth, width, and penetration are all present. The decisions are similar, maybe a little less complicated and simplified, but still the same. But the most important benefit to a small sided game is the quantity of touches and opportunities for decision making players get. In a game where the ball is only shared with nine other players compared to 21 other players the chances of touching the ball and making decisions related to the game are much better.
How do we develop youth players, give them situations in a game to touch a ball and make game like decisions. The more opportunities they have to make mistakes and learn from these mistakes will make them a better player. So what is the downside of a small sided game for a youth player? I use small sided games all the time with my college players. The ability of our coaching staff to catch our players making good decisions and to correct their poor decisions is much easier on us if there are fewer players to be following than in a full scrimmage.
Maybe it’s the country I grew up in. We weren’t a world power in soccer by any stretch of the imagination, but one thing we were decent at was futsal. We regularly have professional clubs qualifying for the UEFA Futsal finals. It’s a passion of ours and we thrive in it, and we turn out some very good players through futsal. We’re just too small of a country and too disorganized to be a power in UEFA in the next 50 years.
But look at a country like Brazil. When I had the fortune of traveling to Fortileza we were playing futsal and beach soccer every night at the local parks. Kids from 10 years old through old men were playing together on the same courts in mixed teams of 5v5. You’re telling me that this doesn’t have an impact on the development of a nation in the world’s greatest sport?
Kids need to play the game, absolutely, and we want them to play the game. However, I think it is invaluable to our players development to be playing futsal, or small sided pick, or anything that will simulate game tactics while increasing touches at the same time.