The Science Behind BSS
The acquisition of skill is fundamental to football and throughout a players’ training life we are continuously trying to develop new skills and refine existing ones.
Success in football is dependent upon the players’ ability to develop and fine-tune a specific set of skills (whether perceptual, cognitive or motor skills).
In youth football winning matches is too often prioritised over the development of the player. Of course winning is important, but over time winning is a by-product of effective practice. Despite the importance of practice, football in comparison to other sports has devoted relatively little effort towards identifying the factors underpinning effective practice.
The table below highlights figures obtained from the sports science departments of The FA and FIFA, these statistics will help explain part of the Brazilian Soccer Schools training methodology.
Game % of time ball out of play Touches per minute
11-a-side 34.62 0.60
7-a-side 14.11 0.769
5-a-side 1.78 2.73
Futsal 11.59 2.60
Futebol de Salão 5.12 7.954
Source: Academic research provided by the FA and FiFA research departments
"We must get these kids having 1000 touches of the ball a month rather than the 200 they get now."
Glenn Hoddle, on 30th May 2011 in The Sun newspaper commented on the academies of professional clubs: “We must get these kids having 1000 touches of the ball a month rather than the 200 they get now.”
Practice, repetition and progression are central to the Brazilian Soccer Schools syllabus. Touches of the ball maybe a crude measure but the number of touches, subject to the touches being specific to game play, are fundamental to skill acquisition.
There are three reasons why Brazilian Soccer Schools use Futebol de Salão, these findings would endorse our assertion that Futebol de Salão is unquestionably the most effective skill building environment for the 11-a-side player.
The percentage of time the ball is out of play highlights the time players are ‘engaged’ in the activity, with the exception of traditional English 5-a-side football (which is played without boundaries) a Futebol de Salão player will spend more time ‘engaged’ resulting in greater aerobic and anaerobic benefits than Futsal, 7-a-side or 11-a-side football.
Research conducted by the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (2001) supports this finding. In a study comparing Brazilian Soccer Schools’ training practices and those employed by professional academies it found it would take 8 English training sessions to match the aerobic and anaerobic intensity of 1 Brazilian Soccer Schools training session.
More so, the increased intensity of the game due to the smaller playing area and proximity of the players integrates the teaching of the technical, physical and cognitive (decision making/tactical) elements of the game as ‘one’ rather than as separate components. Thus players are required to develop their skills under increased time and physical pressure that when converting to the 11-a-side game the additional time and space makes it easy.
The boundaries ensure the refining of relevant motor skills and enhanced skill acquisition. The nature of the ball encourages more touches and as the ball cannot be lifted the dynamics of the game change. The game restricts the long aerial pass so endemic in the 11-a-side and 7-a-side games and also possible in Futsal, players must therefore play differently. Constant circulation, recycling of the ball, fast possession play, with creative passing and movement to support the ball or make space are essential to play the game effectively.
Only in traditional English 5-a-side football are players engaged for the whole duration of the exercise, this is a result of the game being played off the wall. Whilst the lack of boundaries may sacrifice the fine tuning of motor skills, i.e., passing accuracy, the increased time ‘engaged’ will induce aerobic and anaerobic benefits beyond other small sided games. Based on the number of ball touches these findings would also suggest 5-a-side football promotes similar skill acquisition to Futsal, which contradicts current trends of thinking...
The lighter, lively and fast moving 5-a-side ball would aid the development of some motor skills. A comparison could be made to squash where the ball can be fired off the wall supporting the development of a players’ touch.
The above findings should open debate on the purpose of Futsal and 7-a-side football as a development tool for players. Based on time ‘engaged’ and number of touches these findings would suggest other forms of small sided football offer far greater benefits.
Futsal was selected by FIFA not for its development properties but due to the ‘entertainment value’ it offered to a TV audience. As a result of the money directed by FIFA and their insistence on promoting the sport, many coaches now utilise Futsal as a means to aid player development.
"..it would take 8 English training sessions to match the aerobic and anaerobic intensity of 1 Brazilian Soccer Schools training session."
This would appear to be a misguided approach, with other versions offering greater benefits. The difference in the number of touches a player would experience in Futsal compared to 5-a-side football or 7-a-side to 11-a-side football is minimal. Anecdotal evidence would suggest the dynamics of the ball used in Futsal and 7-a-side football allow players to play longer, direct and aerial passes thus impacting the number of touches but also allowing the philosophy of forcing the ball forward without regard to retention (an over-focus on winning).
Brazilian Soccer Schools do acknowledge the use of the Futsal ball and do indeed use it as part of the training syllabus. The ball used on grass is more effective than a Futebol de Salão ball, it can be moved quicker and allows the option of a longer ball that when coached within the correct philosophy will promote skill acquisition and aid the conversion of players to the 11-a-side game. 7-a-side football could benefit younger players with similar changes to the type of ball, or a restriction on the height of passes.
Alongside game play the wider training syllabus of Brazilian Soccer Schools supports the acquisition of skill. In a typical training session it is estimated, on average a player will touch the ball 30.15 times each minute. A two-hour training session would equate to 3618 touches. This is significantly more than the 1000 touches recommended for professional academies each month.
Extrapolating a player training with Brazilian Soccer Schools for three sessions each week (6-hours) will touch the ball 10,854 times/week and should the player follow the recommended weekly hours of practice at home on the Brazilian Soccer Schools Skills Badge Scheme a player would have 68,616 touches/month. Based on training 48 weeks of the year an elite Brazilian Soccer Schools player could achieve over 1 million touches each year.
In summary it is the intention of Simon Darcy Clifford’s Brazilian Soccer Schools to provide a structured path towards player development. The training programme is geared towards the acquisition of skills specific to game play. These skills are then honed within game situations with the use of balls of different sizes and weights to achieve specific learning outcomes central to the development of the 11-a-side player.