There are a lot of great things about living in New England. We've got iconic history, delicious seafood, and successful sports teams. But one of the most notable characteristics of living in New England is the changing seasons. Most people enjoy New England's snowy winters, but to soccer players, it marks the end of the fall season and playing outdoors.
Some critics argue that the lack of year-long sunshine means New England soccer players are at a disadvantage: the loss of valuable outdoor playing time results in impeded development compared to players living in warmer climates. However, this could not be further from the truth.
Training indoors during the winter provides a wealth of benefits that can supplement any young player's development. Indoor soccer is faster, smaller, and more intensive than the outdoor game. Players develop key skills including: positioning, off-the-ball movement, and individual attacking & defending.
Indoor fields are smaller than outdoor fields, and the number of players on pitch is significantly less. Due to smaller field size and a faster surface, the ball moves end-to-end much faster, and requires quick decision-making. A lapse of concentration in an outdoor match can be problematic, but there is still an opportunity for teammates to fill in the gaps and correct your mistake. In contrast, losing focus for a split second in an indoor game can result in your 'keeper picking the ball out of the back of your net.
Indoor soccer is a game of individual plays. One-on-one attacking and defending occurs during virtually every possession. Indoor play refines a player's ability to successfully engage in 1v1 battles several times throughout a game. At the end of a professional match, a striker may have completed five "take-ons" in the course of 90 minutes. In an indoor match, five take-ons can occur in the first five minutes. Indoor soccer players are granted the opportunity to develop creativity in attacking 1v1 and discipline in defending 1v1, which greatly impacts their outdoor game.
The most rewarding aspect of playing indoor soccer is when that experience does, in fact, translate to the outdoor game. Next time you're watching your favorite team on TV, pick a random time in the game and hit the "pause" button on your remote. Whenever you do this, you can draw an imaginary box around the ball-carrier and see the closest 5v5 area. The entire surface of an outdoor playing field can be broken up into mini fields at all times. The training and experience you gain from playing indoor soccer is readily apparent during outdoor when you find yourself in a 1v1 situation on the flank, defending a 3-player attack, or counter-attacking after making a tackle in the midfield.
The fast, small-sided, and intensive aspects of indoor play can be seen all over the field during an outdoor match. Players that have trained for these aspects of the game all winter are better suited to succeed when spring comes around. So don't worry too much about missing out on outdoor playing-time – we become more well-rounded players when we get a break from the warm weather. Bring on the snow!
Photos courtesy of Nike Academy.