It’s almost two years since my first visit (when I was living Hungary) to Neil Lucas’s Sala Soccer Schools in Manchester. It’s great to still be coaching with him now, and being a part of what he’s building. It’s been my weekly Friday night after work since I came to Manchester 16 months ago, and I’m still involved for the same reasons as that first visit.
Neil’s philosophy has always struck a chord with me. It’s grounded in the developmental psychology I studied about what is best for kids: developing intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic rewards or results, rewarding perseverance rather than talent, and trying to help them become better people, as well as players. He recently completed his Uefa B Futsal licence with the FA, part of an exclusive invite-only group as it was piloted for the first time.
I had another catch up with Neil to learn more about ‘The Sala Way’, in his words.
Misconception of futsal
We teach the skills from futsal, although people think futsal is all about skills. It’s not really; it’s a faster moving game, nearer to Barcelona’s tika taka. It’s a misconception of futsal. The reason you see the skills is because you’ve got no time and space. You have to think quicker so those skills that you learn can help you get out of tight spaces. Everything [learned in futsal] can transfer to football, which is the beauty of it. And it’s a great game in its own right.
The Futsal skills
I believe you need to teach them all the skills. Our really young ones will be doing even more because we need to build the foundation. I believe that every session you have to do the ball mastery and it goes a long way.
Sala futsal balls
I use size 2 balls, going back to the original. In football, men play with a size 5 football, and kids the next size down. So it should be the same in futsal. My little ones, the 4 and 5 year olds, use size 1 futsal balls.
Sala Futsal Sessions
My sessions are more game related now, with conditions. For example, today we did a session holding cones. [The session involved holding different coloured cones to test the awareness and communication of players to interpret not just the bib colour, but the cone each player was carrying.] The Brazilian Soccer Skills was a little more drills driven. And there is a place for that; it’s what the FA called ‘constant’ practice. But mine’s often more random, when they have to make decisions.
Manchester Futsal Tournaments
We’ve played some teams in tournaments and we win a lot. But you get football teams come and they’ll beat us sometimes if they just play 5 a side football, and it’s not good on the eye. I want our kids to play with flair and imagination. I want them to try the skills and to learn when, and when not to. Like Glen Hoddle said recently on TV, it’s called football – they should have the ball at the feet. Not knocking it long but dribbling, taking people on and trying things out. If you don’t get that at an early age, up to age 8, then you’re going to really struggle when you’re older. When I was a kid it was just ‘get rid’, that’s all I used to hear.
Becoming a better footballer
If you can play futsal and it can make you 1% better than football, then surely it’s beneficial. That’s my belief. Anyone can come to me; I don’t choose them on ability. I’m confident I can make anyone a better footballer, whether it’s by 1% or 10%. Within six weeks, they’ll either carry on or they won’t like it. The more they put in the more they will get out of it.
[Sala Graduate Callum Styles became the first Millennial to debut in the football league for pro club Bury FC, at just 16. Sadly, the record was officially revoked because of a registration error. He is one of over 70 Sala players to have gone onto a pro academy]
A Growth Mindset
Hard work, effort, persevering. Some kids say ‘I can’t do that’. And I say you can’t do that YET. And that’s a big word. But if you continue then you will be able to do it. It’s like anything in life if you persevere.
Skills for Life
They might not become footballers, they might go on to be a banker or a doctor. But if they learn that basis that if you work hard you’re going to get somewhere, then hopefully that will turn them into better people as well.
It’s not all about football. Obviously I want kids to come, but I want to put them back into society as better people as well.
I want children to make mistakes, to learn from them and be disciplined and dignified as well.”
And that’s the Sala way.
Neil has sessions all over Manchester for his Little Strikers up to advanced classes, tots to teens.
0779 0779 007