Many professional soccer players talk about the benefits of playing futsal for developing soccer skills. A futsal ball is smaller and easier to control than a soccer ball. Consequently playing with a futsal ball is thought to be advantageous for developing ball control ability.
Luca Oppici and colleagues investigated whether practicing with a futsal ball improved the ability to pass an actual soccer ball.
24 adults who had minimal to no experience playing futsal or soccer participated in the study. Participants were divided into 2 groups:
- FUT group. This group practiced with a futsal ball.
- SOC group. This group practiced with a soccer ball.
Both groups practiced the same passing skill across 3 sessions. Each session involved 100 passes, and most passes required a decision. This was achieved by presenting a scenario (e.g., 3 v 3) on a large projector screen in front of the participant.
Skill was assessed before and after the 3 sessions. Assessments of skill required participants to perform a passing task with the soccer ball only. During this assessments participants also wore eye-tracking glasses so that their gaze behavior could be tracked.
The key findings were as follows:
- Both groups improved passing ability during scenarios where a teammate was free for a longer period of time.
- But only the FUT group improved passing ability when a teammate was free for only a short period of time. Hence the futsal ball facilitated the ability to identify key perceptual information when there was less time.
- The FUT group improvements were underpinned by gaze behaviour changes. These included:
- Increased fixation alternations between the ball and other locations.
- Decreased time fixating on on teammate-opponent pairs, and increased time fixating on the ball (unexpected) & non marking opponent.
- Increased time fixating on free teammate than SOC group.
- Changes in fixation duration and count were correlated with passing improvements in FUT but not SOC.
The authors highlighted:
“The results showed that the equipment participants trained with influenced the perceptual attunement to environmental cues.”
Indeed, manipulating equipment is an effective and simple strategy to influence performance and learning. Coaches can use futsal balls to fast-track improvements in passing skill, particularly when working with beginners.
Oppici, L., Panchuk, D., Serpiello, F. R., & Farrow, D. (2018). The influence of a modified ball on transfer of passing skill in soccer. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 39, 63-71.