The approach of winter in the midwest means that teams are making plans for what they will do once the colder weather arrives. Traditionally the options have been limited; teams played indoor (arena style) soccer and held their practices at the indoor facilities or in school gymnasiums.
In the last 5-10 years more options have become available. Now teams can play Futsal, Indoor Soccer, Small-Sided Touchline Soccer or continue to practice and play outdoor on artificial turf fields. There are positive and negative aspects to each option.
Futsal is the only form of indoor soccer that is recognized by FIFA. For those that are unfamiliar with it, the game is usually played on basketball sized court with goals that are the same dimensions as those used in team hanball (6 x 9). When the ball goes out of bounds, play is restarted with a kick-in from the side line or a goal throw by the goalkeeper (or corner kick) for balls that travel over the end line. Adults use a size four ball while younger players use a size three. The ball is also different from an outdoor ball in that it is designed to bounce less.
The game is known for quick passing and tight ball control so it’s a great tool for teaching technique. But it’s also an excellent format for coaching tactics because it is played with four field players and a goalkeeper. The 4v4 game is recognized as the best format for small-sided games because it provides all of the tactical elements of full sided game while providing the players with more touches and opportunities to make decisions.
The game of Indoor Soccer or Arena Soccer first appeared in the US in the in the late 70’s and combines aspects of soccer and hockey. The field is surrounded by boards up to eight feet high and the goals are set into the walls at each end of the field. The game is played with a regular soccer ball and includes five or six field players and a goalkeeper. Field sizes vary greatly and can be anywhere from 210×80 feet down to 155×60 feet. They generally use artificial turf for their playing surface.
This is a very fast form of soccer where the ball is almost always in play because of the high walls. Even when it leaves the field, it is quickly put back into play because there is usually a net that surrounds the area above the boards and extends to the ceiling. It is the speed of the game that most appeals to both the players and the spectators.
Small-Sided Touch Line Soccer combines aspects of Futsal and Arena Soccer. It’s played on a turf field that is usually smaller than an Arena field but uses lines rather than walls for the boundaries. The size of the teams varies generally it is played as five or six-a-side.
This is the indoor game that most resembles a mini version of the outdoor game and that is why it is the preference of many coaches and players.
Continuing to play outdoor throughout the winter is an option that is favored by more teams as they begin to play 11v11 because it allows them to continue their normal training routine.
Advocates of one style or another list the benefits of their choice while bemoaning the shortcomings of the others. Personally, I feel there is something to be gained from each of these games. In my opinion even older players benefit from playing a game other than the regular outdoor game for part of the year because it demands different things from them both technically and tactically. There is also something to be said for a change being as good as a rest.
This winter my teams will practice one week indoor on a Futsal court and outdoor on artificial turf the next week. We will play an eight games season of Futsal as well as an eight game season of Arena Soccer along with the occasional outdoor scrimmage with other teams from out club.
We will also take a couple of weeks off around the holidays to take a break from the game completely.
I feel that this will give us the best of all possible worlds.
As always, I’m interested in your opinion and what you will be doing with your teams this winter.