By JoEllen DeLeon
When the cold winter months come around, the soccer fields often look abandoned and no longer filled with players and parents on the sidelines, but that doesn’t mean no one is playing the game. Fortunately, with the help of indoor soccer and futsal facilities, soccer can truly be a year-round sport.
Indoor soccer and futsal can be beneficial for athletes in three main ways: (1) they keep athletes active all year round, (2) they foster quicker play and (3) their smaller field sizes call for creativity and more movement.
All Day, Every Day
First, indoor soccer and futsal can come in handy when the weather is not cooperative, allowing athletes to be active in the sport throughout the entire year.
Strike FC in Wisconsin opened its own indoor facility in November 2015. Rob Lestina, the Technical Director and Girls Director of Coaching, said before the opening, the club had been renting gym space at nine or 10 different facilities over the winter months, so it made sense to create one building where the entire club could train under one roof.
“In Wisconsin, we have four to five months where the climate makes it difficult to train outdoors, so it is very important for our players to continue to train inside during these winter months,” Lestina said. “Indoor soccer and futsal is important to take advantage of because it allows our players to continue to grow technically and tactically during these months when we have to train indoors.”
Lestina notes that Strike FC even uses its indoor facility in the fall and spring seasons when trainings get rained out, causing indoor soccer and futsal to be practical options for the whole year. Futsal and indoor soccer bridges the gap in between seasons, and the training allows athletes to continue progressing.
“Even those who do participate in other sports during the winter, playing once or twice a week helps them keep their touch on the ball and the game fresh for when they do begin a 4 to 5-day-a-week program,” Justin Becht, Director of Futsal at Indiana Soccer Association, said. “The more frequently you touch the ball, the more frequently you have to make decisions, the greater the opportunity to improve exists.”
Pick Up the Pace
With the flat, smooth surfaces and smaller playing fields that people find in indoor and futsal facilities, the game picks up speed, which can ultimately help athletes to grow in the sport.
“Small-sided games offer the players increased touches and opportunities to make decisions, typically in a challenging period of time,” Becht said.
This type of play promotes short sprints, quick transitions and more opportunities to touch the ball but for a shorter amount of time.
“The majority of possessions in futsal are quick combinations with limited touches on the ball,” Lestina said. “The game rewards players who keep their head up by allowing them to make quicker tactical decisions.”
Smaller Field, Bigger Lessons
While a smaller playing field encourages fast-paced play, the field size can also help players to develop creatively, to handle the soccer ball in tight spaces and to learn about movement on and off the ball. It’s a different style of competition that translates well to the full outdoor field.
“The nature of small-sided indoor soccer and futsal is to play in a smaller space, making quicker decisions and emphasizing creativity to create space,” Becht said. “Indoor soccer and futsal give the players the freedom to try new techniques, as well as play in multiple positions throughout a single game.”
Especially with less players on the fields, individuals can easily transition from defense to offense or vice versa multiple times each game, covering ground all over the field. This does not occur often in outdoor soccer where players remain in their specified positions.
“As players begin to master the skills of the game, they can challenge themselves by restricting time and space, which indoor soccer or futsal offers,” Becht said. “Players also have to learn to move together up and down the field as a unit and to cover each other defensively. Indoor soccer and futsal promote the ability to play in different positions on either side of the field.”
Indoor soccer and futsal certainly have their differences when compared to outdoor soccer, but they are two versions of soccer that individuals can take advantage of all year long.
“For those who are not playing other sports, it gives people the opportunity to be active, get repetitions with the ball and continue to enjoy the sport they love,” said Becht.
In order to enjoy the most popular sport in the world, spectators need to understand the rules. Here is a breakdown of some soccer basics.
Basics: Soccer is a team sport in which two sides consisting of 11 players each compete to score goals, while protecting their own net from the opposing team. Matches are played on a rectangular grass or artificial turf field, with two goals, one on each end of the field. The goals are eight feet high and 24 feet wide with a metal frame and a net.
Time: Games consist of two 45-minute halves played without stopping the clock, with a 15-minute break between, known as halftime. At the end of 45 minutes, the referee decides to add “stoppage time” to make up for any delays during play.
Results: During the regular season matches can end in ties, but if there must be a winner (during a tournament or playoff game), the standard procedure is to have two 15-minute overtime halves, followed by a penalty shootout in which five players from each team take turns shooting on goal.
Uniform: A player’s uniform consists of a jersey, shorts, socks, cleats and shin guards, collectively referred to as a “kit.” The goalkeeper is required to wear a uniform that is easy to differentiate from those on either team, so they often wear colors not included in the team’s regular scheme.
Goalkeeper: There is only one goalkeeper on each team and he/she is the only player allowed to use hands and arms, although he/she is only allowed to do so within the penalty box. Also, if a teammate intentionally passes them the ball, a goalkeeper is not allowed to use his/her hands.
Defender: Also known as fullbacks, defenders are the last line of defense, besides the goalkeeper, hence the name defenders. Their main responsibility is to prevent the opposing team from scoring.
Midfielder: Also known as halfbacks, midfielders are positioned between defenders and forwards. This allows them to move up and down the field and contribute to both the defensive and offensive efforts.
Forward: Although forwards often aid the rest of the team with defense, their main responsibility is to score goals.
Throw-ins: When a team causes the ball to go out of play on the sidelines, their opponents are awarded a throw-in. This means that one player will throw the ball in toward one of his or her own teammates, resuming the game.
Goal kick: A goal kick is given to a team when the opposing team does not score, but causes the ball to cross the defending team’s goal line on either side of the net. Goal kicks can be taken by any player from anywhere in the 6-yard box.
Corner kick: A corner kick is given to the attacking team when the ball crosses the goal line, having been last touched by a player on the defending team. The ball is placed in the corner, where the sideline and goal line meet, and all players from the defending team must be at least 10 yards away from the ball.
Free Kick: Free kicks are given to a team when their opponents have committed a foul. There are two types of free kicks, indirect and direct. Indirect free kicks are for less severe offenses and must be touched by another player before entering the goal. Direct free kicks are given for serious fouls and are allowed to enter the goal without being touched by any other player.