For soccer players looking to practice year-round, or for anyone looking for a bit of active fun through the winter months, futsal is the sport that does both.
The Okanagan Futsal League is back for another season at Priest Valley Gym in Vernon. Played on a smaller gym surface with smaller nets and a heavier surface, the South American sport is ideal for training footwork while the fields are covered in snow.
“Futsal is just a natural fit for the Canadian climate,” said Ian Murphy, who initiated the league five years ago.
“It’s indoors, you control the environment, it’s great for kids. They have a lot of fun doing it and now we’re exposing it to the adults as well, getting them to come play.”
Youth futsal games run every Saturday through December and January. Afterwards, the nets are left up and the floor is open for an adult session.
In addition to game sessions the league also runs a training program for kids, who tend to be in the 8-13 age range. Murhpy also runs a coaching program to ensure ther instruction is quality.
“We get our coaches all trained up, we make sure that what we’re teaching the kids the fundamentals is accurate and to their benefit,” said Murphy.
Murphy views futsal as a fun way to take a young player’s game to a higher level. As proof, he points to some of the top players in the Eurpoean League, past and present.
“You look at all of the top players throughout the world – the Rinaldos, the Messis, even the Pelés. They all played futsal as kids.”
Players on Thompson Okanagan FC’s U13 girls team get two months off from playing soccer during the year, but many were at the Priest Valley Gym on Saturday to contonue honing their skills.
“It helps with your skill and your footwork because because it’s just a small space so you have to have quick passes,” said Charlotte Schommer.
“The ball’s way faster so that also helps with footwork,” added teammate Sydney Hannah.
Murphy isn’t the girls’ regular coach, but he’s their leader during futsal season.
“He helps you understand it and he kind of pushes you to go harder,” said Paige Leahy, who has been playing the sport for the past two years.
Games consist of two 20-minute halves wityh a five-minute intermission, Teams must have a minimum of six roster players and a maximum of nine. The cost per team for a six-game season is $300. Teams are grouped by ability and age: U10, U12, U14, U16 and open.
To see the Saturday schedules or to register a team or as an individual, visit okfutsal.ca.