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Non-Walled Soccer

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How does non-walled indoor soccer promote better technique?

Players fight to keep the ball from crossing the touch line and you'll immediately begin to see how it develops better skill, control, and technique. A small field with lines puts players constantly under pressure from other players and out-of-play boundaries. Players must learn to settle the ball rapidly, chop sharply, shield effectively, pass quickly and move into space. Compared to walled soccer or large indoor field soccer, non-walled indoor soccer places a greater premium on ball control. There is no reward for errant passes because the other team gets the ball. There is no reward for errant shots because the other team gets the ball. There is no incentive to 'kick and run' because the field is too small and packed with players. Players with the ball must use proper technique to maintain control and must seek out other players in space. Players without the ball must move to 'real' space and must truly support their teammates. With non-walled indoor soccer, the emphasis is clearly on control and technique. Without control and technique you cannot expect to succeed. Playing indoor soccer in a hockey rink just does not make sense to any serious development program. If you are serious about skills and technique development, non-walled indoor soccer is the superior activity. It promotes better technique and develops skills more rapidly. And if you are serious about the quality of the time you spend playing or watching soccer games, non-walled indoor soccer is clearly better.

Why the low bounce soccer ball?

The low-bounce soccer ball is smaller than a normal outdoor soccer ball and heavier. There is a FIFA specification for the ball's size, weight and bounce. These properties are specifically designed to build confidence and develop skill and technique. When a low bounce soccer ball is received, it virtually 'sticks' to the foot. This builds great confidence in tight spaces when rapid passes are being issued repeatedly. Interestingly, that same property which makes the ball easy to receive makes it more difficult to strike. A low bounce soccer ball gradually eliminates the 'lazy pass'. It is heavier and players rapidly get acquainted with the merits of bending the knee, turning the hips, and striking the ball firmly to propel it. Repeated touches on the ball eventually produce a motion which, when transplanted outdoors with a high bounce ball, translates into a firmer and proportionately longer pass appropriate for the big field. Many programs around the world also claim that smaller size encourages more precise striking of the 'sweet spot' of the ball. If one works during the offseason on striking a low bounce soccer ball, then a larger bouncier ball is struck with greater confidence and authority in the outdoor game.

How is Non-Walled Indoor Soccer better than Walled Indoor Soccer?

It improves soccer players better than walled soccer for both offensive and defensive skills training.

As an offensive non-walled indoor soccer player,

there are no walls to save errant passes. There are no walls to stop long balls. There are no walls to rebound errant shots. There are no walls against which to pin the ball or your opponent. There are no walls to help you if you lack the feinting skills to beat a defender. There are no walls to save you if your teammates are not moving into space to support you. In general, you must control the ball, use proper touch and technique, use correct pace, send accurate service, and truly work dynamic combinations.

As a defender in non-walled indoor soccer,

you can 'face up' on an oncoming player just like in outdoor soccer (there is no wall pass to beat you). You can let errant passes go out of bounds to win the ball (the proper result of your opponent's faux-pas). Goalies and defenders can concentrate on proper shot blocking angles. You do not need to worry about long overhead balls which should go out of bounds. You can drive an oncoming player into the side to break up break-aways or outnumbered breaks. In general, you can practice and perfect the defensive techniques which apply to outdoor soccer. You don't waste time working on defending against phantom players (i.e. walls).

Consider some of the key problems with these typical hockey-rink style soccer scenarios:

Question: In hockey-rink soccer, what happens when a child bounces a ball against a wall in order to beat an opponent?

Answer: The child advances the ball past a defender when there's a wall available without the need or effort of feinting, chopping, or chipping. Hockey rink soccer supporters defend this as a useful simulation of passing to a teammate who subsequently one-times the ball as part of a 'give-and-go'. Non-walled indoor soccer sees this as a lost opportunity to work on skills to beat defenders (i.e. never waste an opportunity to work on the skills required for the outdoor game).

Question: In hockey-rink soccer, what happens when a child bounces a wall-pass to a teammate?

Answer: The child advances the ball to a teammate when there's a wall available without the need or effort of passing. Hockey rink soccer supporters defend this as a useful simulation of passing to a teammate who subsequently one-times the ball to the forward-most member of a 'triangle'. Non-walled indoor soccer believes the best pass is to a live player. You should be developing dynamic combinations of moving players who move into space. The player with the ball looks for moving teammates and anticipates those movements. Don't assume a stationary target (i.e. the wall) is always there ready for your pass. You need to be trained on the realities of the outdoor game and your teammates need to learn how to support you.

Question: What happens when a child blasts a shot against a wall so an onrushing teammate can score on the anticipated rebound?

Answer: The child creates scoring opportunities when there's a wall available to either side of the goal without the need to make an accurate shot. While some soccer aficionados label this a useful exercise others feel it is best to practice taking accurate scoring shots.

Question: What happens when a child beats a defender by 'dumping the ball into the corner' (รก la NHL) and chasing it?

Answer: The child beats a defender when there's a wall available without fear of the ball rolling out of bounds without the need or effort of passing or dribbling. Non-walled indoor soccer supporters argue that players should always be reinforcing the need to control the ball and keep it in play (i.e. never waste a touch).

It should be apparent that there are serious problems with the above scenarios in terms of developing proper technique for the 'real' game of outdoor soccer:

1.) These indoor soccer techniques assume that a wall is available. If there is no wall available then these wall-based skills have questionable value.

2.) These so-called 'wall skills' can account for a frighteningly high percentage of the touches in a game. Therefore, the quality of the time spent in terms of developing useful outdoor soccer skills is limited.

3.) Playing with walls introduces a real danger to the child. What happens when a player pins his/her body against the boards either to advance a ball past a defender (who is also pinned against the boards) or to stop his opponent from advancing? And what can happen when players run at full speed toward the boards? Real horror stories abound.

Non-walled indoor soccer places a premium on control and technique. Take away the walls and you can still have as much fun as walled soccer. But there are far more quality touches and repetitions which directly translate to the outdoor game. With non-walled indoor soccer you make better use of your time and money.

What the pros are saying:

"As a kid, you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it's spinning, how it's coming at you, the speed it's coming at you, anything. You can learn the tactical side of the game later. It's amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn't matter when you're 12 years old. We're going to have big, strong, fast players. We're Americans, we're athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it's just useless."- Landon Donovan, US National Team