Mission of Athens Futsal

Introduction to Athens Futsal

Description of futsal from Wikipedia:
Futsal (Portuguese pronunciation: [futˈsaw]) is a variant of association football that is played on a smaller pitch and mainly played indoors. Its name is a portmanteau of the Portuguese futebol de salão, which can be translated as "hall football" or "indoor football". . . Unlike some other forms of indoor football, the game is played on a hard court surface delimited by lines; walls or boards are not used. Futsal is also played with a smaller ball with less bounce than a regular football.[1] The surface, ball and rules create an emphasis on improvisation, creativity and technique as well as ball control and passing in small spaces.[2]  . . . Physical contact is minimized in futsal, partly due to the hard playing surface, and partly based on the standard ethic of the game.  

Overview of Athens futsal:
Athens futsal uses the low-bounce ball and the basic rules of futsal in a less formal version.   Athens futsal is played on hard court and turf field surfaces.  The lines of the court define the edge of the field. When the ball goes out play, it is restarted from a promptly taken indirect kick.  Games are self officiated based on principles of fair play and compassion for fellow players.  Teams are formulated with the objectives of parity and maximizing the enjoyment and learning of all players.  Unbalanced teams are rebalanced on the fly through mutual agreement.
Games are played without goalies.  All players are field players, and the ball may not be picked up or touched with hands or arms.  Kicks or shots on goal are only scored if they are low (approximately knee height or less).   Height exceptions are made for artful shots made with the head, chest, or thigh.  Long shots on goal are not allowed.  On a standard basketball court shots must be taken from within the three point range.  These constraints minimize risk of injury and damage to the facility.  They also reinforce the emphasis, inherent to futsal, on improvisation, creativity and technique.  Games are played with a minimum of 3 players per side and maximum based on the size of the available court and age and ability of the players.  For mixed age groups this typically means 4-6 for a single court size, 6-8 for larger courts (like at the Athens High School turf field).      
The quality of the play is more valuable than the number of goals scored.  In fact, during normal pick up play, we don’t bother to keep score, instead we applaud the quality of the plays and the successes of the players.  Everyone cheers because it was a great success when a series of well placed passes results with the 11 year old winger scoring a great goal at the back post.  
This overview was first written in January 2013, and since then Athens Futsal has grown and developed as part of Athens Community Soccer and through the support of Erin Helms at the Athens Community Center.   

Mission of ‘Athens Futsal’ the organization
Athens futsal is an Athens and Ohio University community based group that includes futsal players of all ages, genders, abilities and backgrounds.  We are dedicated to fostering opportunities for members of the broad OU and Athens community to develop the love of the game, improve skills and abilities, and to foster friendship and community among all players.  We do this by encouraging inclusive participation in recreational, just-for-fun games and by actively demonstrating our commitment to fair play, and compassion for the safety, enjoyment, and development of all players.   

Learning by playing for fun
Futsal and soccer are social games.  Players need to learn how to coordinate their efforts through roles and relationships.  The most fun and effective way to learn these relational dimensions is through games that include a mixture of abilities and ages where teachers and learners are integrated as peers and players.  Futsal, piggy in the middle, and related games with small groups give players more touches on the ball, and highlight the relational aspects of the sport.

We self-officiate because good will within the community and high quality play are more important than the outcome of a game.   More experienced players are expected to demonstrate leadership in terms of fairplay and calling self fouls in a manner that demonstrates respect and concern for the safety of the other team.  It is better to err on the side of safety and generosity than to quibble over possession or foster ill-will.  There is a time and place for intense competition, but this is not it.

Building community and friendships:
We begin sessions by reminding all players that our primary goals are to have fun, improve, and avoid injury.  We ask everyone to “take it easy on those who need to be taken easy upon”.  This means several things.  Most generally, it means that all players are expected to restrict the intensity of their play depending on the situation and the capacity of the other players.
Every player is expected to play within their abilities, and to avoid reckless play that would endanger themselves or others.  It also means that more experienced and/or more athletic players take extra responsibility to control their intensity based on the limitations of the players around them.  The appropriate intensity of a challenge between two former college players is necessarily different than that between a college player and an 8 year old, or that same college player vrs a beginner or a 60 year old player.  When in doubt, we ask all players to play with all of their skill but to restrict the physicality.    

Players of all levels, ages, genders and backgrounds are welcomed.  We encourage participation from complete beginners as well as active professionals.  In practice this means that we try to balance players with different backgrounds across the teams.  It also means that the more experienced players are expected to balance their own development with playing a supporting role for the less experienced members of their team.  For instance, it is common for Kay, who played college level soccer, to win the ball and set up a good pass for Anna, who is 10 years old.   Many skilled young players have benefited greatly from this on the field mentoring made possible by experienced players taking an active role in helping others improve.

Approximate parity of players and teams:
The best playing experiences come from situations where parity between players and teams is balanced according to the goals of group.  We have found that games with the youngest (8 and under) and newest players are best when they combine a mix of young players and parents, and possibly coaches on both teams.  Older kids (10 and up) benefit more from a setting with some older kids, parents, and other adults and a slightly faster paced game.  The fastest pace games, with the most advanced adults seem to be best when only the most advanced and older kids (14+) are included.   In practice we balance these needs by offering different fields for the different groups or for staging the games at different times.   

Our community needs more opportunities for learning by playing for fun
In the US we have many outlets for formal, competitive teams, at all age levels. Formal teams are also common across the best soccer playing nations.  However, according to numerous experts (MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmen, futsal star Falcao, the official statements of USSF), it is informal play, and futsal in particular, that are the ‘missing ingredients’ in the development of youth soccer in the US.   Many successful stars like Ronaldinho, Messi, Marta, and Xavi credit futsal and pick up play with the development of crucial skills in their individual and national success.   Playing for fun, in a mix of ages, genders and abilities needs to be easier to find in Athens, especially in the cold and rain of fall, winter and early spring.  


Ted Welser,    
Aaron Leatherwood,
Lisa Carson,
Deb Thompson,
Susan Burgess,
Laura Black

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