Futsal, The England DNA and the Future
Go4Goal futsal head coach Luis Melville recently attended Middlesex County FA’s England DNA event, where he had the pleasure of watching Peter Sturgess, The FA’s Technical Lead on Foundation Phase players (ages 5-11), presenting the future of English football at grassroots level.
Peter, former England futsal head coach, sat down with Luis to discuss England DNA and the important role futsal will feature within the FA’s new strategy.
LM: In your presentation, one of the barriers you mentioned was coaches wanting to win the game for their own benefit, rather than thinking more about their young players. How are you trying you to help coaches break that mindset?
PS: I don’t know whether my thoughts around this are too simplistic. If you’re a coach in the Foundation Phase, you are not the best coach if your team always wins, you are not the worst coach if your team always loses. What you need to do is, for each event, each competition, each match, tell your children what they are developing and what they are improving. It might be that we are improving in such a way that we are getting the result we desire, but if the results aren’t forthcoming, there’s still a lot of development that can take place. You have got to build a certain amount of resilience to bounce back when you have been beaten and keep the players motivated. The players need to develop with the four-corner development model, even though the focus isn’t primarily on the result.
Don’t get me wrong. I think children have got an inherent need to want to win. But they also need to be able to deal with not winning. I think that’s where we as coaches can really help the players. There would never be an instance where I would say, ‘the result doesn’t matter’. The result always matters. If it goes against us, there are still major lessons to be learned and that would then be my focus.
LM: So, do you think that there are still too many coaches who are seeing the game through adult eyes?
PS: Yes. I think there can be this halo effect, where you get great results and are strutting around thinking ‘this is all down to me’. Actually, it’s not. You might play a small part in that, but what you are developing in your players is a significant factor to whether they are going to win more matches than they lose in the long term.
LM: Moving onto futsal, are there any areas in the UK where you have seen the sport be really embraced as part of the DNA since it dropped into The FA’s strategy going forward this summer?
PS: The place that stands out is Northampton, as they asked me to do both a DNA roadshow and a futsal roadshow. I did the futsal specific one at Moulton College. There were a large number of coaches who wanted futsal-specific content that links into the DNA. However, most of the places I have visited had embraced some elements of futsal. So, it is growing. I don’t think we’ve had a roadshow event where there’s been an apparent lack of awareness around Futsal. As someone who is real advocate of the game, just to see how that futsal is reaching most parts of the country is pretty good.
LM: Is there anything that futsal can offer at a grassroots level that football doesn’t?
PS: I can be quite clear about this. I see the importance of futsal for player development, but it can also be terrific for coach development. There are so many decisions for the coach to make. So many things they have to be aware of, their ability to manage games in the moment, while planning and predicting how the game might be managed later on. You get so many more opportunities in futsal than you do in football. I think it’s fabulous for player development, but I also think there’s a real benefit for coach development.
LM: In your presentation, you challenge the view that players should ‘play the way they were facing’. In futsal, once a GK has released the ball, they cannot receive it back in their own half unless certain conditions are met. Is this something grassroot football coaches could integrate into their sessions to encourage players to find ways out of problem situations, rather than always ‘playing safe’?
PS: One of the games we filmed for our DNA resource had only one constraint, and that was that you could not pass the ball back to the goalkeeper. After a few minutes, the players don’t even look to pass the ball back. We have to break the chain somewhere. Now for some players, that might be a bridge too far. If you take on this idea of really getting to know your players, you’ll know when you can introduce that type of constraint. Because the children are in this magical period of development, they’ll have a great go at it if the coach is supportive and recognises when a player nearly gets it right – it will encourage them to carry on trying. We just need to create the right environment where we can challenge these children to a much higher standard than we have ever done before.
LM: You have mentioned the England youth teams and the success they have had recently, and that it has been 10 years in the making. With Futsal now forming part of The FA’s strategy, what will English football look like in 10-years’ time? How will the Three Lions squad look?
PS: I think this focus on a real technical capability on the ball has to continue and I can see that improving. There are some young players, aged 10 and 11, that I visit and work with in the clubs that will blow you away with their technical ability. Things we really need to add is a tactical understanding. I’m not sure how well we do that, particularly with the younger age groups. It tends to be around systems rather than principles of play. Another job for me is working out how we introduce those principles of play, even to our youngest players. But I can really see the technical and physical ability of our players getting better and better. I think we mustn’t take our eye off how important that tactical understanding is, but it must be delivered and done in an age-appropriate way.
LM: What would be your key message when encouraging parents or clubs to try futsal?
PS: In a nutshell, if you think your son or daughter has got some potential, you won’t really see that potential until you see them on a futsal court. It’s going to compromise everything that might look good on a football pitch due to the lack of time, space and the pressure. If they look great on a football pitch, put them on a futsal court. If they’ve really got something, you will see it.
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