Q&A with Mike Skubala – Assistant Coach of the England Men’s Futsal Team

Who is Micheal Skubala?
Michael Skubala is the youngest ever appointed national coach at the FA. At the age of 27 was appointed Assistant Head Coach to Pete Sturgess, for the England National Futsal Team. He is also Head coach for the England Futsal Development squad (U21’s Equivalent) and Heads up the Great Britain Universities Futsal team.  Michael is also Assistant Head coach for Great Britain Universities football team, where they achieved a silver medal in the world university games last year in china. Which made them the most successful football team in a FIFA accredited tournament since the 1966 world cup. Michael also is head of futsal development at Loughborough University and Head coach for the International Futsal Academy (IFA) at Loughborough.

 1/What are the main benefits of Futsal for youth soccer/football players?

For me the main 3 benefits of futsal to youth football players are simple really. First of all I think the first one must be decision making. Futsal puts every decision you make under the micro scope and magnifies good, bad or indifferent decisions of the field of play. For example in football you can play and move as an attacker and if you make a poor decision or a better one could have been made it can result in a turnover of possession but not always a scoring opportunity. Whereas in futsal as a pivot if you dont make the best decision it could result in a scoring opportunity for the other team. Futsal allows players to make better decisions and the game highlights this where I don’t think football can do the same. The next main benefit for me has to be playing under pressure. In futsal teams need to work hard as a four and a individual to play under pressure, and this means getting relaxed even in tight situations, which for me is what’s missing sometimes in the 11 a side game. It is not easy to train dominant response of panic in tight situations where they have not always worked or been exposed to it. However if youngsters growing up are exposed to these tight situations under competition then for me they are more likely to develop a dominant response like the Brazilians or Spanish where they understand that if they are pressed there must be space somewhere else. It’s just a case of keeping calm and making the best decision in a given situation. Which is what futsal is all about. The other one for me would be individual and group tactics. Futsal on face value can seem like a group of players just kicking a ball around but when you pick the game about its actually very tactical and can change within in blink of an eye, dependent on triggers, clues and cues. But the speed of which this generally happens is much quicker than eleven a side. Although there are some positive and negative transfer to the two games and it is important coaches understand these, then I feel these are the most beneficial parts to the game. But of course there are the technical aspects of the game that most are aware of but not all cross over into football.



 2/ What is better for youth to play Futebol de Saloa or Futsal?
For me personally I would say futsal. Its a FIFA recognised version for a reason. Thats not to say there is not a place for technical development strategies such as Futebol de Saloa or Coerver coaching, but my personal view is we need to teach the kids the game and if it’s futsal we are teaching then we need to be playing futsal and if it’s football we are teaching then futsal is the closest thing to the eleven a side game that would get the most realistic game returns for players. After all we are trying to improve our players to become the best guessers they can be on a futsal or football pitch, if we don’t expose them to these situations that are fluid and vastly moving within element of real competition how can we ever expect them to get better.



 3/ How important is it for youth players to play Futsal/ small sided games?
I think it has to be done if players are to become all round accomplished players and develop in to athletes that can make quick, skilful decisions in the blink of an eye. It’s no surprise to be that Spain are top of the world football rankings and Brazil have been dominant for so long. Players may not formally play futsal in these countries but recreationally they are growing up with the game playing in schools and learning within it. Then when they get to a certain age they choose their exit route. It’s amazing how Spain have not lost a game of futsal in open play for 6 years and also so dominant in football right now. You could also see Manchester United’s and Barcelona’s development of youth as they both work hard throughout the age groups in 4v4s which in essence is futsal on grass. It’s great that the new football programme here in England is making children play small sided games till older age groups as if nothing else players will be getting around 33% more touches on the ball like in futsal, which we know is a big part of learning. That’s without talking about all the other benefits we have been chatting about.



 4/ Do you think the popularity of Futsal is growing in England?
For sure. Futsal is growing slowly but shortly and for me will keep moving. As long as adults and coaches take the time to fully understand the game and not look at it and view it as just 5 a side which is what a lot of coaches at all levels do sometimes then it has to get bigger. The learning practitioners already see great value in it and the Premier League and other football clubs are starting to write it into their programmes which is only a good thing as youngster’s coming through will be exposed to the game and inevitably learn from the game. The bigger challenge for me is changing a culture and the adult mindset which differs within every county, I always ask coaches do you know what futsal is or do you think you know? But like I say this for me is Futsal’s biggest challenge because at the end of the day ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.



 5/ Is Futsal the main reason why Brazil and now Spain have been dominant in world football?
I’m not sure I buy into the argument that futsal is main reason for Brazil and Spain’s success but I’m sure it has an impact. Is it measurable, no! And at the moment in football we want to measure everything. I do however think it is one of the strong elements that has played a massive part in individuals development. What is more, we can not ignore the facts such as Spain being number one in the world in both sports, the 6 out of the top ten futsal nations are also in the top ten as football nations in the world. There is for sure a competition correlation. If you also look at the best gifted players in the world that play football so autonomously, they seem to have had futsal in their life one way or another. Again we can not dismiss this as coaching practitioners.

To find out more about the International Futsal Academy ran by Michael, click on Logo below:



An Interview with Daniel Coyle author of “The Talent Code”

By Anna Edgerton

BERKELEY, Calif. (5-20-10) – The number one question for any coach is how to cultivatethe best players possible without killing the love of the game. How do you design a practice that develops talent, simulates real game situations, and gets everyone involved? To find out I asked Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, who argues that it is actually possible to “grow” talent. For those soccer coaches whose players were probably not kicking in the womb, this is excellent news.

(Daniel Coyle.)
For Coyle, Futsal is the “perfectly designed game” to develop soccer talent. Many of us Futsal aficionados could have told you that already, but in The Talent Code, Coyle presents both scientific and empirical research to confirm our enthusiasm for soccer’s smaller sister. In this book he explores the idea of “deep practice” and the effect that constant repetition has on the neurological development of an athlete or artist. Without getting too deep into the science side of the story, it turns out that through constant repetition one can actually grow a kind of insulation called myelin around connections in the brain to make them fire faster.
When I suggested to Coyle that repetition in practice also develops muscle memory, he claimed that physically there’s no such thing. “Muscles are actually really dumb,” he pointed out. “Muscles are like the wooden part of the puppet. The action is with the strings.” These “strings” are the connections in the brain, and the faster information travels through them, the better you perform. More of the right kind of practice means more myelin to transmit neurological signals even faster.

For a soccer coach, this is where Futsal comes in. According to Coyle, there are many qualities of Futsal that make it the perfect tool for deep practice—and developing that all-important myelin. Because it is played on a smaller scale, with fewer players and a ball that has 30% less bounce, it naturally provides players with “perfect feedback and lots of quality reps.” Although the fundamentals are the same, the significant differences between Futsal and outdoor soccer make it the ideal setting for maximum learning with minimal coaching.
To illustrate this point, Coyle cited the example of board sports—skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding—because there is no coach to explain how to get it right. People learn these sports by repetition, by figuring out what works and what doesn’t, so that “the sportteaches you what to do.” This makes the learning process much more meaningful, because every mistake becomes a teaching moment and every success builds “a pokerhand of possibilities” to use in the future. Add to this the intensity and competition of Futsal, and you have the perfect training tool for building a better soccer player.
For example, consider the depth of soccer talent and range of ball-handling creativity that comes out of Brazil. It’s no coincidence that almost all Brazilian youth play Futsal for years before they ever touch an outdoor ball. For one, there is less space required for a Futsal court than for a soccer field, and organizing a game is “cheaper, faster and easier.” According to Coyle, it’s “the perfect confluence of circumstance and culture” in Brazil that makes Futsal the norm for young players, resulting in some of the best professionals in the world. In the first chapter of his book Coyle says, “since the 1950s Brazilian players have trained in a particular way, with a particular tool that improves ball-handling skill faster than anywhere else in the world.” That tool is, of course, Futsal.

(Kids playing Futsal in Brazil.)

Although this sport
 is rapidly gaining popularity in its own right on an international scale, like all things soccer, it is slower to catch on in the United States where coaches are used to sculpting players with drills and conditioning. However, Coyle argues that “the sport sells itself.” After investigating the Brazilian scene, he brought a few Futsal balls back the United States and “just threw them into the high school pick up games. The kids loved it.” Because it’s basically condensed play, which is the best kind of deep practice, anyone who enjoys soccer will be a lot more enthusiastic about playing Futsal than running suicides down eternal lines of cones. Not to mention, Futsal will grow your brain. Talk about the perfect sport!
For more information on Futsal as “deep practice” and The Talent Code, see Daniel Coyle’s website at: thetalentcode.com