Why do so many great soccer players come from Brazil? That’s a question Daniel Coyle explores in his book, “The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.”
While Brazil’s climate, passion, and poverty create an ideal context for developing great soccer players, what really makes the difference is Brazil’s passion for “futsal,” an indoor, six on six game, played with a very heavy soccer ball. The game is more like hockey than soccer and consists of “an intricate series of quick, controlled passes and nonstop end-to-end action.” Futsal shrinks all the activity of soccer into a small box, and the result is concentrated action; players touch the ball six times more often than they would in a traditional soccer game.
As a basketball coach, I wonder if, we should run our practices in the smaller Prep gym, rather than the spacious Lett? This might help our offense learn how to operate in tight space. (My only fear is that defensive players might also learn that they don’t need to move their feet.)
I wonder, too, what the academic parallel of futsal might be? Is there a way to compress essential scholastic skills into a small box? Is there something beyond the seminar classes or Harkness Table approach that might work? And if we discovered this parallel, would it also help with developing emotional intelligence and character?
Whatever our equivalent to futsal is, it’s probably something that’s intense, concentrated, “high touch” and engaging. Futsal is, after all, just a a game.