By Marcelo Antonelli
Should soccer players learn Futsal rotations? If so, why?
The short answer to the question is very simple:
Yes, because it will make players better! (both on the futsal court and on the soccer field).
It this article we will explain how Futsal rotations make players better and; therefore can be a good tool for the development of soccer players. We will also explain a little bit about the process; its challenges and limitations.
Your soccer (football) team/club coach, or your Futsal coach, wants to teach you Futsal rotations.
But, you are not sure if and how it will make players better. Furthermore, looking at an initial practice, it looks like just a passing pattern, with repetitive movements, no creativity, and not similar to “how it looks” in soccer.
Unfortunately, the start of the process is not a good “cover for the book.” But, it will lead to something completely different: an environment of training very rich, where players’ movement of the ball is smart and effective; where players are reading each other’s positions and combining in creative ways to unbalance the other team’s defense.
During the process of learning how to use the rotations, players will be developing technical, tactical, physical and psychological/communication skills.
We will now present a list of some of the things that players will be learning and mastering during this process:
Common habits during a Futsal rotation:
A. Pass and move
- Almost all rotations will demand the players to pass and move, trying to unbalance the other team.
B. Change direction during the runs
- The futsal court is small, and futsal defenses (if coached properly) are very organized. It forces players to consistently change directions of their runs in order to create space.
C. Recycle runs
- Often times, even if a player changes the direction of a run, the ball is not going to be played, because the other team did not allow a penetrating pass. Because each team only has 5 players, and considering the way that the rotations work, the player will get used to recycling the run quickly and become again a passing option
D. Keep the ball under pressure
- As we wrote before, with the low number of players, a player will receive the ball quite often. And, during a Futsal rotation, the player is expected to be able to keep the ball, even when under tight pressure. Different strategies (e.g. spinning out, dribbling to a side or changing the direction of the dribble) and a variety of techniques will be mastered during this process.
E. Be proficient in 1v1 scenarios
- Multiple 1v1 scenarios will be present, and the player will be developing the capacity to become proficient at it.
F. Combine in creative ways
- While a player can try to find individual solutions, the rotations will be providing the opportunity for an infinity of combinations on the courts. Because of the tight and organized defense, futsal has developed many combinations that are, in general, more sophisticated than those seen in soccer.
G. Communicate effectively (give, receive and follow communication)
- This tight spaced environment, against an organized team, demands from the players sharp individual or collective solutions. Just “kick the ball in behind,” as we often see in (low level) soccer, will likely not work. As a consequence, players are consistently forced to communicate (visually or verbally) in effective ways. As important as giving communication is the ability to perceive and follow communication, and players will be developing these capacities.
H. Read the game well
- This has to do with all of the items listed above. For example, during a rotation, if 2 players make the same run, it will be easy for the other team to pressure and steal the ball. Or, if a player fails to offer support on a side, the same outcome may happen as well. The rotations will demand that the players keep consistently focused, read the positions of all teammates and opponents, and be creative in an efficient way.
I. Time, angles and space.
- During any combination, including the overlaps that are a frequent part of most rotations, the reading of timing, angles and space is key for the success of the play. Skills, as well as tactical intelligence, are required the entire time.
J. Body position and intentional first touch
- In other to succeed at some of the other items above, players will get used to moving before receiving the ball (e.g. checking-out to create space).
Important Points to Consider
1) It is not about learning the rotations, but practicing them.
- Learning futsal rotations will give players some ideas and concepts,
but it is really about the process of mastering them (dealing with
timing, angles, space, etc.). Players' skills will improve when
practiced in the environment of training that they create.
2) It is mentally demanding
- If someone’s goal is to just play for fun and not try to achieve a
higher level, then rotations are probably not worth it. Coaches can
be experienced and use a great methodology in order to make it fun
most of the time, but it will still be demanding, especially
Many players are used to doing “their own thing.” Futsal rotations will “force” players to look around, read the positions of teammates and opponents, and act accordingly. It allows and enhances
individual creativity, but while maintaining tactical responsibility at the same time.
3) The start is the hardest.
- Usually, the starting part of the process is the hardest, because
before making it free-flow in a very creative environment, players will
be challenged to learn certain patterns and develop a variety of
good habits. Some players are more open to the challenge, to do
things that they may not be used to doing before. Others may have
a harder time trying to adjust to something that they were not used to.
4) It is great when you “get it.”
- A player who persists long enough to achieve a certain level of
reading of the game, movement of the ball, and ability to make and
follow collective decisions, will eventually love to use it. Personally, I
like to say that the game becomes a “matrix.” You see where
everything is, and then you are able to “read and manipulate” things
better than those who don’t have the same kind of training.
5) It needs time.
- It is not magic. Players will not have one session on rotations and
leave the sessions as a soccer star. The process takes some time,
and is demanding, but totally worth it.
In the book, “Soccer Powered by Futsal,” (https://www.soccerpoweredbyfutsal.com/book) for pedagogical reasons, we divide the process of using futsal rotations into 10 stages. During the process, players will learn variations of a rotation, different rotations, will become proficient in dealing with full pressure and develop many good habits. Eventually, when the players achieve the last stage, it is not about the rotations anymore. It becomes about principles of play. This is when the player will have the confidence to step into any field and know that their reading of the game and technical skills will bring success on the field.
For what age is this process and how long it takes?
Following educational psychology concepts, we need to answer that age needs to be considered at the same time as culture and background. It the case of sports, we also need to consider the initial level. Therefore, we can’t give a simple answer to these questions, as they can both vary and depend on many factors.
Will Futsal rotations help my team win?
Not for a good amount of time.
You need to think of them as a middle-long term investment.
If you watch high-level soccer, think of the way that Manchester City plays with Guardiola. You can’t just try to play exactly the same way and believe that it will bring results in the short term (unless if you were already far superior to your opponents).
Think about this: Futsal is a professional sport, played for decades in a great number of countries. The rotations are the result of years of evolution. They are the best strategies for combinations of up to 5 players in a tight space. Eventually, they will help you achieve results as a team, but trying to apply them initially may decrease, not increase your team’s performance in matches.
If you are looking for short term results, start with Futsal defensive strategies.
How do I transfer my knowledge and skills from the futsal court to the soccer field?
For decades players that started and played futsal for years “automatically” transferred their knowledge and capacities to the soccer field and became international soccer stars.
Despite the fact that this transfer can occur “automatically,” we need to consider that this happened mostly in countries that had a strong culture in both sports, which helped facilitate the transfer. On this note, one of the goals of “Soccer Powered by Futsal” is to facilitate this transfer to a variety of possible settings.
For example, as a player is learning Futsal movements, combinations, rotations and concepts, the player can use our free videos online (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBWWxl8m9wz_-jaCvnIoSZg) to see in clear and practical ways how the transfer to the soccer field occurs.
Another way, described in our book, is the use of SSG (Small Sided Games), based upon Futsal strategies, to facilitate the transfer and raise the level of play on the soccer field.
The same reasoning can apply to functional training sessions. You can work, for example, on how to improve wide play in soccer, using strategies that are common in high-level futsal.
Can’t we learn these concepts already on the soccer field?
Yes, if there was something that could not be performed at all on the soccer field, it would not make sense to develop it on the Futsal courts first.
But, there are two important points to consider:
1) The physical environment of Futsal makes it much easier to develop many different capacities of a soccer player,
2) There are many aspects/tricks/concepts of futsal that are not normally covered by soccer methodologies but could make a difference on the soccer field.
When watching a high-level soccer match on TV (e.g. Champions League), sometimes we hear the commentators say, “Wow! What a movement/pass/combination/idea. It came out of nowhere.” But, what many of these professional commentators often don’t realize is that the particular action that they think “came out of nowhere,” is actually a typical part of high-level Futsal.
Will the rotations develop all aspects of the game?
Futsal rotations will be great to develop many different aspects of the game (we listed some of them at the start of the article), but they are not the ideal tool for some aspects of the game of soccer, such as:
- long runs,
- dealing with bouncing balls,
- organizing an off-side line.
Futsal is accepted by many federations, clubs, and associations around the world as a good tool to develop soccer players. The great number of soccer superstars playing at the highest level (e.g. Champions League) that started in Futsal, backs up the theory.
However, little is debated about how the way that you play Futsal influences the degree in which Futsal can contribute to the development of soccer players.
It is certainly not just going to a court and having more touches on the ball. It is great, of course, but without creating a rich and competitive environment on the courts, the benefits will be minimized.
We strongly advise soccer players to learn and practice in a rich environment of training, and since the rotations are an important part of creating this environment, soccer players can benefit and improve as a consequence of following a technical tactical progression in which the rotations play a part in it.
What you will see in a high-level soccer match, are “little pieces” of rotations. For example:
- players exchanging positions without the ball,
- variations of overlaps,
- variations of target play,
- variations of give and go,
- players faking passes/combinations and gaining a better angle or space for 1v1s.
We hope this article can be a good source for Futsal coaches around the globe to explain to their parents and players why Futsal rotation can be a great tool for developing soccer players.
We will finish with a few links of videos that help illustrate this article. We will be updating these links as we keep posting more related videos.
Futsal Rotation 3-1 Combos on the Soccer Field:
Futsal Rotation 2-2 Applied on the Soccer Field:
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