For years, the small walled courts, which have served as the venue for The Summit’s Indoor Championship, the Altoona Soccer Club’s Spring Meltdown and Hollidaysburg Soccer Club Polar Challenge, have provided fast-paced, unpredictable, physical, pinball-like action. Many who watch and nearly all who play find it tests your conditioning and can be incredibly exciting.
The problem is, however, is that it does little to promote the most fundamental skills of the true game of soccer. The little blaster board rebounding indoor soccer is to the actual game of soccer what ping pong is to tennis. With the youth, it is often the strongest, fastest youngsters with the powerful legs ,who have matured early, who can dominate a game. It often does little to promote the team concept and the idea of actual passing, and tactical play is replaced by pounding the ball off the back wall or sidewalls with little concern for ball control.
Most college and advanced level coaches have been pushing hard for touchline tournaments because they do so much more to develop raw soccer skills similar to the outdoor game. Even the large indoor courts surrounding us, like the Indiana hockey rink soccer courts, are more helpful to ball control because the walls are more of a boundary than an instrument to pound the ball off of. Facilities like the 120-by-75-yard domed court at Williamsport make players adjust as though they are playing outdoors. Nearly all the courts in surrounding states are geared to mimic outside play.
This is especially important for the very young u-8 and u-10 division players, who can develop bad habits very easily on the tiny blaster board courts. When they head outside, the difference in their game and bad habits show immediately as they no longer have a wall to slam the ball off of. More and more local teams are foregoing the small courts to travel to the touchline and futsol tournaments against varied top flight competition. The dividends of this becomes evident as they grow older.
It would be great to see someone in our area step up and give local soccer a real boost with a full-sized indoor court.
n The number of teams from u-10 to u-19 boys and girls for spring travel play has taken a big jump. This would be fantastic with the exception of the fact that referees continue to grow more scarce. The call is out for all youth and adults to get involved not only in playing and coaching, but joining the ranks of refereeing as well.
n Next time the Blair County Hall of Fame is searching for Community Service Award candidates, it still really needs to give strong thought to Jim Fee, the grandfather of soccer in our area. He has served as Penn State Altoona girls coach, founded the Altoona Campus original soccer club, founded the Altoona Soccer Club and served as president for years, a travel coach for decades, registrar for our district, Altoona Area High School boys coach, the original American Youth Soccer League commissioner and PIAA referee.
We need to remember who pioneered the game in our area and give out just recognition.
Tom Schmitt’s soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.