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Navigating the Youth Futsal System in the United States

In the United States, the youth futsal system has been growing steadily, providing young athletes with a dynamic and skill-focused experience. In this post, we will delve into the world of youth futsal, shedding light on its benefits, and explore the various programs and infrastructure currently in place to support your aspiring young futsal stars. To help us understand the youth futsal landscape we reached out to Coach Otto Orf. Having played alongside the US National Futsal team, Otto Orff is a respected member of the USYF community. His experience adds a valuable perspective to youth futsal.

The United States Youth Futsal (USYF) 

The backbone of the youth futsal system in the United States is the United States Youth Futsal (USYF). This organization plays a pivotal role in coordinating and governing youth futsal leagues across the country. Most of the largest youth futsal leagues in the United States are affiliated with USYF, ensuring consistency and quality in the programs.

Benefits of Youth Futsal

Skill Development

Futsal's nature demands constant involvement and quick decision-making. Players naturally develop enhanced technical skills, footwork, and agility due to the smaller playing area. These skills often transfer effectively to outdoor soccer, aiding overall development.

Coach Orf shared that for him the most important skill developed through futsal is passing. “Passing for accuracy and power.We get so many parents that bring their children to our program specifically for this reason. With the limited space of the court and reduced amount of time it takes defenders to close down their opponents, futsal emphasizes and rewards accurate and powerful passing skills.”

Another important skill is that of controlling the ball with the sole of one’s foot. Coach Orf explained that this skill is critical in futsal but that it translates well to the outdoor game. “As far as the importance of using the sole of the foot to control/trap the ball. We always want players to attack the ball and not wait for the ball to arrive. In the game of futsal the space between players is greatly reduced, at least on the small basketball sized courts that are usually used for the American version of the game. We emphasize strong accurate passing as discussed above. So, when the player is moving toward the ball and the player attempts to control the ball with the inside of the foot the ball bounces away. On the flip-side, when the player learns to use the sole of the foot the ball is controlled immediately. In addition it allows the player to advance forward, change direction to the right, left and even backwards. This is the foundation of futsal at its simplest.”

Improved Decision-Making

The fast pace of the game and the quick transitions require players to make split-second decisions. This sharpens their ability to read the game, anticipate opponents' moves, and make quick, effective decisions.

Fitness and Conditioning

The game's high tempo and constant movement contribute significantly to a child's overall fitness and endurance. It promotes cardiovascular health and helps build stamina, essential for any sport.

Coach Orf explained that, although fitness is the responsibility of the individual player – each player should be working outside of training on speed and fitness. The fast paced nature of Futsal supports fitness for participants. He explained that, “The game of futsal itself is very fast paced so this helps without specifically dedicating time to the fitness aspect”

Teamwork and Social Skills

Being part of a futsal team encourages camaraderie, cooperation, and communication. Children learn to work in unison, understand their roles within a team, and develop essential social skills.

“Team leaders become obvious at a young age,” shared Coach Orf “but it seems that the more confident a players is on the ball the more apt they are to communicate to others.” He shared two components of futsal that promote teamwork and social skills”

  1. Substitutions. Because they are made “on-the-fly” players must work with each other to make them and not delay getting onto the court.

  2. The ability to create set plays, kick-in plays and rotations. This is my favorite part of futsal. Once the players have grasped the fundamental skills and can pass, control and manipulate the ball the team is now ready to move on to team oriented exercises in training and in games. Corner kick plays, set pieces and kick-ins are so much fun for the coach and the players and with practice and improved timing their coordinated movements help open opportunities and deceive opponents. 

*Photos Courtesy of Great Lakes Futsal and Heart and Sole Futsal Social Media

USYF Programs and Opportunities

Futsal I.D.

The Futsal I.D. program gathers promising young players from across the country for regional identification camps. The best talents then have the opportunity to participate in national camps. The very best among them may be selected for youth international teams, representing their country on the international futsal stage.

Coach Orf has been involved in the Futsal I.D. Program since its inception.” It is very difficult to describe the benefits that players who try-out for and make the teams gain. Some tryout year after year and finally make it and those are my favorite stories as they have worked hard to achieve their goal and appreciate the opportunity. The cultural aspect is something that will stay with these players for the rest of their lives and it is possibly my favorite part of the trips. Eating new foods, meeting new friends, trying to speak new languages and seeing some of the history of South America and Europe is invaluable for all of us. Of course the competition is wonderful and at the youngest ages we have been very successful. It is at the higher levels, say 16 and older that the United States falls way behind. All of these countries that we visit have futsal in high school and university and then they have a professional league.” While there is a pathway for futsal in these countries the US lacks the infrastructure that would encourage players to continue through high school and beyond. “In the US our best futsal players are really soccer players and when they hit the middle of high school the numbers decline greatly. Of course we continue to work on this aspect and hopefully we can provide opportunities other than the national teams in the near future.”

USYF Academy

USYF Academy offers a unique opportunity for players to develop and compete year-round alongside similarly skilled players from various clubs. This program significantly improves a player's ability in both soccer and futsal. It's a chance for your child to further hone their skills and reach their full potential.

“The USYF Academy system is an opportunity for young players that have a real passion for futsal to participate on an Academy team that will train multiple times per week,” Coach Orf explained “some of them (train) year round and then compete in high level tournament competitions. These players stand out amongst the others and it is easy to tell which players have spent more time learning the more tactical parts of the game. Comprehension of these tactics and the ability to integrate them into their outdoor game are what differentiate the best players from the rest”

The youth futsal system in the United States offers a fantastic platform for children to nurture their skills and foster a love for the game. With the affiliation of most leagues with United States Youth Futsal (USYF), the system ensures credibility within the local soccer community. The participation of former futsal players, such as Keith Tozer, Jon Parry, and Otto Orff, in shaping the system adds an invaluable layer of experience and knowledge.

As parents, supporting and encouraging our children's involvement in futsal can lead to not just athletic growth but personal development as well. Coach orf encourages children to start on the ball as early as possible. Coach Orf explains that “parents need to get the ball under their child's feet as soon as they start walking. Simple obstacle courses, moving the ball between both feet, turning and dribbling. The developmental ages of 3-8 years old can never be replaced and if they can command the ball at an early age the sky's the limit for what a child is able to do on the court or field”

About Otto Orf:

Otto Orf is a 21 Year indoor soccer, outdoor soccer and futsal goalkeeper. With his partner he currently runs the Great Lakes Futsal League. 2, 8-game sessions played at 5 locations across Northern Ohio. In addition we host a USYF Ohio State Championship in Hamilton (Cincinnati). Ohio in November and for the 12th year the USYF Great Lakes Regional Tournament on MLK weekend in January.

Coach Orf also manages the  historic Goodyear Hall Gymnasium in Akron, OH and I run Heart & Sole Futsal Academy out of that facility.  The program has grown to almost 200 players and this year added training and programming on the west side of Cleveland.

Great Lakes Futsal is an OSMD Insider and Sponsor of Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads.

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