There is a growing belief that futsal provides an ideal grounding for those starting out in the game. The nature of the ball promotes ball mastery and the indoor surface means that the game is quick and intense, with limited time for decision making. Angles and spaces dominate the game whilst players develop creativity and vision that help them pass and move as a group thus developing game intelligence.
Rodrigo Baccin is one of those who not only shares that belief but who actively promotes it. And seeing that it is increasingly gaining traction, he is the ideal man to talk about his blueprint.
Blueprint for Football: Let's start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long was that?
Rodrigo Baccin: I started playing futsal when I was 5 yrs old in Brazil up until the age of 13 when I moved to regular outdoor football. I was 16 years old and was playing for a development centre of Internacional from Porto Alegre when my family moved to England.
After trying hard to get into a club, I joined a conference team and only played until the age of 19. I realized the game being played was not my type if game and I would need to change a lot to fit in the English culture and time was running out. I was always passionate about football so I decide to start my journey as a coach/ educator when I left the club. My feeling was, as I did not proceed in playing football, that maybe I could use my experience and share this with kids.
So I started my education in coaching, I have now been coaching for 5 years, during this time I was blessed by God who gave me the opportunity to do what I love on full time with a few spells at different National League Futsal Clubs, having participated of UEFA Futsal Cup and World Cup in Thailand with Brazil. But my work has been mainly in the youth development sector working with individuals from 5-16 years old, so my opinions today will be based in view of youth development.
Today, after working for different organizations, I have the opportunity to head Escolla Futsal academy in London and surrounding areas, with the support of other great professional coaches alongside me.
BfF: Have you had any mentors in your career?
RB: I think if you want to reach your best potential, you must learn from those who have gone before you and achieved their dreams. I think it is so important that I can look up to a mentor on a daily basis to help me develop and learn everyday, not just a mentor but any other coaches, you always learn from them.
I have had the pleasure to have Marcos Sorato, former Brazilian National Futsal manager as my mentor and colleague for a few years now, his professionalism and desire to see Futsal delivered in the right way so kids can enjoy it to the most has been impressive and the amount of knowledge I have gained from him as a coach is priceless. I am thankful to God for being able to learn from a World Champion and one of the best Futsal coaches in the world.
BfF: What is your coaching philosophy?
RB: Philosophy for me is not just the way I coach or the way I want my team to play. It is much more than that. It has to do with the values I want to pass on to the players I work with, I believe they need much more than just technical advice. I have seen many players who have great potential and talent however because of their attitude, not being educated properly or lack of discipline, they lost the opportunities they could have taken if they were better prepared as people.
I do have a philosophy in helping players from tying their laces to encouraging them to wash their own training kit when they reach a certain age. In terms of playing style, I am a fan of the passing game which teaches players how enjoyable it really is when you have the ball and not when you chase the ball.
BfF: Is winning important for you?
RB: I know my opinion could sound a bit hard for some readers but I think this is one of the biggest problems in the grassroots football and academies for kids in England. I do agree kids should learn to be competitive and desire to win. But some kids do not define success the way some parents or coaches do, for some kids it is great to win, but for some others they don't really care. Some kids might define success as the amount of effort they put in or simply being with their mates having a good time (something they can't do like our kids do in Brazil playing football every day on the street or on the beach).
As adults, we must not put pressure or raise high expectations about the kids, our words could make them think they are playing Premier League football when they are just kids. Let them use their imagination, show their magic without fear of making mistakes. We must provide a scenario which will force them to make their own decisions, learn from their mistakes, and the most important, win or lose play with joy.
BfF: You're heavily involved in futsal. First off, why futsal?
RB: Firstly because I love Futsal, this sport has helped me so much in my technical and social development when I was a kid. It is dynamic, intense, intelligent and a very demanding sport for both players and coaches. I see Futsal as a complete package for developing individuals, from a social to a technical point of view. The benefits in playing this small sided game are huge and all of them have a direct impact on outdoor regular football.
By the way, this is how I transitioned from Futsal to football only when I was 13. It was hard for me to decide which position I wanted to play in regular football as in Futsal we do not have set positions, I learned to play under pressure both in attack and defence. But the main reason I would say is that everyone can play, girls or boys of any ability, it is a multi-functional sport which brings so much to the participants and it is good to mention it is a sport in its own rights.
BfF: How is coaching a futsal side different from coaching regular football?
RB: If I am honest, in my opinion coaching a Futsal side is much more complex. If you are coaching Futsal for fun it is quite relaxing but when it comes to high efficiency team training the demands could be extremely high. Like I said, in Futsal you have to prepare your players to attack and defend altogether, one very simple mistake from one of the players can disrupt the whole system. There are so many combinations between the squad for kick ins, free kick and corner set pieces. You have less space to make decisions, therefore you have to always be thinking ahead of the game, always under some pressure. The game is fast so the fitness level of your squad must be high in order to carry out all the necessary movements.
The individual demands when attacking and defending are very diversified so you need players with a very good capacity to take so much information. Not to mention, the decision making from the coach is constantly put to the test, with subs rolling on and off, your tactics might change accordingly. Futsal is a chess game.
BfF: Are there benefits that players of regular football can get from playing futsal?
RB: I have seen so many different debates on this issue, with Futsal being considered by many people mainly as a development tool for football players and not understood as a sport in its own rights as in Brazil, Spain and many other countries. Futsal is and will always be immensely beneficial for football players, like I said above, the demands and conditions of the game will naturally improve the ability to react and think faster, offering more touches on the ball and developing the intelligence of the players. Not to mention the fitness level which will always be hard to keep up with. One very good example is being always in tight areas and under pressure, on a regular football pitch players will be so much more comfortable and with much more space to make decisions.
But I would like to encourage coaches to learn about the game and study with coaches who are specialized in the sport, because many people out there are just letting kids play indoors with a heavier ball without much experience on how to explore and coach the game in order to give something new and exciting for regular football players. Futsal is not all about skills or just five-a-side, it is in fact much more complex than football, but they can make a great combination together and this is what we believe and specialize in, Futsal being the foundation of football.
BfF: If you could change one thing about football in your country, what would that be?
RB: In every country we need to make changes because there will always be problems to fix. From my experience here in England. I would like to see a change in the way kids development is approached by grassroots clubs and academies, through coaches and parents.
I would like to see kids enjoying themselves and having fun without having the pressure to be the star that dad was not. It is not right to play only the kids you think are better prepared so that you win 3 points on Sunday morning when everyone is standing in the rain on a muddy pitch just to kick a ball and have fun. Please do not get me wrong, some parents are great, they give up their time and manage teams really well, with respect for the kids. I do not understand how some academies can assess a player who is 9-10 years old after trials and decide whether or not he will be a pro player yet. The system is damaged and this is one of the reasons why I believe England has struggled to develop players in a very effective way. I believe parents also put pressure on kids and take them for trials too early, they should enjoy their football without pressure till they are 12-13, then you can see if actually want to continue playing rather than telling them to.
This country has got an amazing attendance every week in the stadiums, these kids and parents are passionate about the game, no doubt. It is very sad to see Premier League Clubs seeking foreign players, when they could be spending money in further education of their academy coaches or investing in a methodology of Futsal just as an example, which is what many clubs have done in Brazil many years ago and developed many players like Neymar, Oscar, Ronaldinho, also likes of Messi, Iniesta, etc. I see so much potential in English kids and I have learnt so much working with them over here. I hope together we will help these kids to continue their journey of discovering themselves through the sport, not forgetting that education is a priority to develop as individuals whilst encouraging them to have respect, discipline and a positive attitude to always learn.
Rodrigo Baccin can be found on Twitter and currently heads the of Escolla Futsal academy in London.
The Blueprint According To... originally forms part of Blueprint for Football Extra.