Youth soccer players in Pasco County have left the field and turned indoors to improve their game. Using a basketball court at the Sport + Field Complex in Wesley Chapel, coach Mike Connell is teaching the sport of futsal instead of traditional indoor soccer. Futsal incorporates the traditional rules of soccer away from the field. Indoor soccer has boards surrounding the playing field allowing players to deflect the ball off them as in hockey.
Indoor soccer can promote improper techniques and rewards sloppy play. In futsal, if the ball crosses out of bounds, it's an automatic turnover.
The limited space means every player in the five-on-five match must work together.
"With the smaller field, you have to pass more instead of dribbling," 8-year-old Griffen Richter said. "When you play futsal, you really have to rely on your teammates a lot and your goalie."
Originating in Uruguay in the 1930s, futsal has become very popular in South America and parts of Europe. In 1982, Brazil won the inaugural futsal world championship after FIFA, soccer's international governing body, officially recognized the game.
Growing up in South Africa, Connell fell in love with soccer, also known as 'the beautiful game,' and wanted to find new ways to develop his skill. Futsal uses a smaller, heavier ball and the confined space makes the first touch a player takes even more important.
After receiving a pass, the offensive player must quickly scan the field and recognize the move to make. The enhanced decision making results in a more aware player.
"What (futsal) does is forces you to think ahead of the game and prepare for what you're going to be doing and think two or three steps ahead," Connell said. "It makes your body react quicker and figure out a way to keep the ball moving."
On the final day of a weeklong camp, a group of boys 8 to 12 played their most competitive game. In the 9-7 victory for the red team, four penalty shots were taken, three resulting in saves and one deflecting off the cross bar for no goal.
The green team jumped to an early lead, but the red team stormed back with fancy footwork and precision passing. The go-ahead goal was scored as one of the players received the ball in front of the net and kicked the ball with the side of his right foot behind his left.
The biggest similarity between soccer and futsal are the celebrations following a goal. When the red team went ahead for good, the entire team congregated on the court and exchanged high fives.
"Usually the games are pretty high scoring, but it's always fun to get a goal," 10-year-old Spencer Peek said. "It's really intense when you're out there, but when you score a goal you can't help but be really happy."
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