Jennifer Schwartz is a Master Level Muscle Activation Techniques™ Specialist and certified Exercise Physiologist. She oversees Alexandria Soccer Association’s Injury Prevention and Fitness program and her exercise and rehab practice in Alexandria.
Alexandria Soccer Association provides a unique opportunity for players in the area each winter with the ASA Futsal league. Futsal’s ability to provide skill development and fast thinking in a fun and safe environment is a great asset and compliment to the outdoor soccer game. The fast paced action is truly exciting for both coaches and players.
Injury prevention and aerobic conditioning are additional reasons to be a futsal devotee in Alexandria. I’ve listed 5 reasons that futsal is great for injury prevention and conditioning. I’ve discovered the 5th reason to be intriguing and powerful for teaching our players this game.
- Skill over power is a major win for the health of our players. Skill over power refers to the fact that futsal is an opportunity to become more skillful, with a goal to complete actions with the ball and make smart defensive plays rather than winning with brute force. This reason alone makes Futsal superior for a player’s health when compared to indoor soccer or basketball.
- Continuity of Play refers to the continuous action and quick turn around on transitions in and out of play. This can transfer to a more aerobically fit player on the outdoor field. Research has shown this in studies with U20 professional players in Portugal.
- Intensity of play is the speed at which futsal naturally occurs. This can make a player faster on the outdoor field. There are high intensity efforts every 23 seconds. Highly competitive futsal covers 121 meters per MINUTE, that’s almost 400 feet! In addition to the running intensity, a futsal player will touch the ball 210% more often than an outdoor player.
- Futsal is safer on the knees than other winter sports. Unlike other court sports such as basketball and volleyball, futsal does not have much jumping. In indoor soccer, the contact tackles, hard surface and lack of foot traction create a deleterious environment for injuries.
- The weight of the ball has distinct benefits for the soccer player. The reasons for this have to do with strength but an unconventional type of strength. The weight of the futsal ball in combination with creative play and outdoor soccer play can give the player an edge for their foot strength and neural connectivity to the foot.
Enter Neymar Jr. and a group of Japanese researchers on a mission to show us that his brain plays without thinking. Along with Neymar, researchers tested three professional soccer players (La Liga 2nd division) and two professional swimmers for motor skills of the foot.
This study strongly proved Neymar’s ball skill ingenuity. What sets him apart from other international players? Can it be explained that his talent is more than a genetic gift from Brazil? Is it a part of an athletic intelligence?
- 7 athletes were studied using Functional MRI machines
- In addition to Neymar there were three other professional La Liga players
- Brains were scanned while each athlete moved their ankles (think ankle circles).
- The images from the scan showed a specific area of the brain that controls the fine movements of the foot.
- The results showed that Neymar was more efficient in this brain area when he was asked to move his foot. He scored better than all the athletes including 10% over his peers.
The scientists correlate the brain scan outcome to his superior soccer skill set and the speed at which he can maneuver his body to perform the skills. Neymar is quoted in the publication. He said that his youth consisted of training with a variety of balls and done barefoot. The researchers connect this to the findings.
Since Neymar’s brain has been shown to be more efficient while moving his foot, doesn’t it make complete sense that he can execute other skills, decision-making off the ball, and anticipate his defender’s movement at the absolute highest level?
It’s been difficult to find a way to share the incredible implications of this study. The more we learn about how the brain organizes information, the more impressed I become with the simplest acts of human communication and motion.
At ASA our playing style and teaching mechanisms focus on exposure to all positions, and understanding the complexity of the game. Our fitness model supports this by giving guidance to players for building a strong physical presence and resiliency, mind and body. Futsal is a large part of supporting the player in their physical, mental, and all of the inner workings of a well-rounded smart player.