Benefits of indoor soccer go beyond just staying dry
Lionel Messi receives the ball just past midfield, turning towards the goal as his Barcelona teammates surge forward in anticipation of Messi's attack. They've seen it plenty of times — 73 in 2012 alone, in fact — Messi working magic with the ball at his feet, creating goals seemingly from nothing.
Messi may well be the world's best player under pressure — certainly no footballer on the planet can match Messi's mastery of the ball in tight spaces, or his ability to pass, move and receive a pass before the defense has had time to react.
"Barcelona is excellent at playing in tight spaces," says Micah Pigott, the Director of Program Operations for Starfire Sports in Tukwila. "It just so happens that's one of the leading benefits of playing indoor soccer."
Pigott's claim has plenty of facts to back it up — the smaller, tighter indoor soccer field results in less open space, requiring players to think and react more quickly. Quick passes, movement, and 1v1 skills are essential for success in the indoor game — and as indicated by Messi, can make a good outdoor player into a global soccer icon.
"Indoor players are exposed to far more touches per game as compared to outdoors," Pigott says. "It's a much quicker, fast-paced game, where players have to learn to pass and move, and become comfortable playing in tight spaces.
"Then, when that player is playing outdoors and comes under pressure, they're used to working in tight spaces from having played indoors, and can take advantage of those skills to beat their opponent."
Of course, there are other natural advantages to playing indoors as well — not the least of which are consistent field and climate conditions during the Pacific Northwest's often less-than-friendly winter weather. Pigott says that Starfire's indoor fields are especially popular in the rainy season with younger teams, ages U6-U9, for whom building fundamentals is a primary focus of training — and one made much more difficult by muddy fields, wet turf and cold conditions.
"Many of the younger RCL teams will practice here in the winter," Pigott says. "It's easier for the coaches to work on basic skill-building, and the parents of those younger kids often don't want them out practicing in the cold and rain."
In addition to formal team practices, Starfire features informal youth drop-in times during after-school hours (3:30-5 p.m.), and opens its fields to area youth for free play any time they are not in use for a formal training session.
Players and teams interested in sampling indoor soccer have several opportunities in the fall and winter months — the annual BooFest event, held Oct. 28, features Halloween-themed games and activities centered around a 4v4 recreational tournament for teams aged U6-U11, and is one of Starfire's most popular annual events. In addition, youth leagues (which run for five weeks in the fall, eight weeks in the winter and spring) and the holiday-themed Candy Cane Challenge give older and more competitive players a chance to develop their ball skills indoors as well.
"The BooFest is great for younger players, and the Candy Cane Challenge and youth leagues are always really popular with the U8-U19 players," Pigott says. "They're each a lot of fun."