Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Soccer as Self Expression- The Philosophy Behind the Futsal Genius of Kauai

"If you cannot organize five, you will not be able to organize eleven."

For those of you who don't know, or haven't assumed this by now, I am a soccer magnet... or maybe I just have a weird radar fine tuned to pick up any kick of a ball within a ten mile radius. Either way, I was lamenting the loss of my regular footy packed lifestyle earlier this month as I vacationed in Hawaii with my family. We were on the small but vibrant and diverse island of Kauai, one of the last places on earth I would have expected to stumble upon a thriving soccer culture that revolved around futsal.

By some miracle, I was introduced to Jorge Bordt, a former professional futsal player and current fanatic and expert. He possesses a fascinating philosophy on the beautiful game and it is best projected through the small five-a-side game that few people, even myself, are knowledgeable of. Let's take a quick detour with some help from our friends at the United States Futsal Federation:

  • Futsal is a five-a-side game played on a hard court like a basketball court
  • It has its roots in Uruguay and dates back to the 1930s
  • After it's birth, it quickly became popular in South America, mostly Brazil, where it is still popular and has been the first sport of many of today's top Brazilian stars.
  • The first Futsal World Championship was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil with the Brazilians collecting the prize (not surprisingly)
Now that we have brushed up on the history of futsal to go along with the potentially vague understanding we may have of it, I will continue with my riveting anecdote. The players on the court in front of me had an impressive array of individual skills. They could all complete a pass, they could all dribble, some were notably better at shooting or tackling but all and all they were very well-rounded for such young players (I dropped in on a group that averaged in their mid teens). The biggest thing that stood out to me as I watched them, however, was their composed stance on and off the ball. There was no push forward, there were very few turnovers to induce panicked defensive transitions and their relaxed disposition on the ball gave them more confidence to be creative. "In the U.S. we over-coach kids." Bordt said to me in a telephone interview from Berkeley, California. "You can't develop technique with that style."

Bordt's philosophy on futsal goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy of "Brazilian" soccer. Not surprisingly, as the Brazilian style of quick passes, disciplined shape and creativity are perfectly suited for the tighter spaces found on futsal courts. Speaking of his work with the children on the island, Bordt states that "we allow them to be creative" thus creating calm, thinking players who are actively engaged in the game without robbing them of the fun that keeps their passion for it alive.

Bordt's establishment on the island has been successful in it's three and a half year lifespan. His talent pool is limited to some degree, but he has many success stories. His U10 side, boys who had not received the standard coaching style of drills to sharpen their skills, competed in a tournament in Honolulu with some of the top teams in the state, going on to win the final game an impressive 8-0. "We can prove it (that we are good), but it's not what we emphasize." Bordt's main aim is to use futsal to develop technique and order on the field. The players need to learn how to hold their shape due to limited space, they need to learn how to function properly in these close quarters individually as well as on a team level, and they need to be calm, creative and confident with the ball at their feet. Panicking and booting the ball will get you nowhere. "We have kids who can go for an hour without missing a shot on goal. It's because they know not to shoot until they're in a position to." All of the skills that these kids develop on the futsal court under Coach Jorge's watchful eye are easily applicable to any other soccer situation and are learned in a style that keeps them hungry for the game. "We lost them because they lose interest." Bordt said as we discussed the current situation of the system in the United States and why futsal is such an effective way to develop youth. "I don't care if they win or lose, I'm just interested in them playing."

"The only time you should feel pressure is if you do it for a living."

Jorge Bordt observes his players in Poipu
Now lets contrast this method with the stereotypical yet painfully true coaching techniques of the American model: kids are forced to perform drills that they may not enjoy. In game situations, there is at least one "soccer mom" standing on the sidelines screaming "BOOT IT TOMMY" the second poor little Tommy is within ten feet of the ball. There are also the soccer parents who claim to know everything and be God's gift to the footballing universe who tell their child exactly the opposite of what the coach has been drilling into their heads all week at practices. All of this makes for one confused and defeated little soccer player who may feel the pressure getting to him. "I stood in front of Brazil and got my ass kicked. I do know there is pressure. I get it." Bordt recalled one of the more forgettable moments of his futsal career with the U.S. National Team. "To do that to an eight-year-old is idiotic. The only time you should feel pressure is if you do it for a living."
With plenty of experience under his belt and a refreshing yet timeless outlook on football, Jorge Bordt has established a thriving and successful club in Poipu, Kauai where children are taught the basics of the game, encouraged to develop their techniques and given a comfortable environment to do so. His players will surely go far in the footballing world from their humble and, in contrast to American academies, unconventional football upbringings. Who knew that I would stumble upon this brilliant microcosm of a successful football club while hanging out on a little island in the Pacific? It may have been a chance meeting, but I am certainly glad it happened.

Look for more features regarding Jorge Bordt's work soon as well as information on tournaments hosted and run by him. Mai Tais on Poipu beach, anyone? 
Suggested Links:
Futsal Online - A great blog with current articles and tons of information about futsal all over the world
U.S. Futsal - Another great site with all the information you could possibly need (rules, tournaments ect.)

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