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It’s Fun, It’s Fast…It’s Futsal!

Futsal is taking the island by storm, thanks in large part to Martin Steinhaus. The Kauai High School junior varsity boys soccer coach has been integral to bringing the sport — a derivative of soccer played indoors with teams of five — to the island. “Futsal Fridays” at Southside Sports Center in Poipu have become quite popular, attracting players of all ages, especially keiki age 8 to about 15, who either want to improve their soccer skills or just play for fun.

“Kids at that young age don’t really want to compete, they just want to have fun. They don’t care who’s winning or not, all they want to do is play the moves,” says Steinhaus, who coaches the keiki. “The important part is to take the competition away. Let them flourish naturally.”

That’s exactly how Steinhaus became such a seasoned soccer player. Born and raised in Brazil, he naturally gravitated toward soccer (or football, as it’s called everywhere else in the world). He recalls that, as early as 5 years old he was kicking a ball around in the streets with his friends, practicing fancy moves and trying to avoid the three C’s — curbs, cobblestones and cars.

“Eventually breaking a neighbor’s window and everybody running away,” jokes Steinhaus, who also coaches U-13 boys for Club Onipaa and Kalaheo AYSO Under-13 teams.

This method of learning how to play the game (minus the window-breaking) without the pressure of competition is what Steinhaus believes helps kids become champions later in life.

“They are not intimidated,” he explains. “They have the confidence level that’s higher than anyone else because they tried their moves 50 times without a grown-up telling them to lose the ball. By the 51st time they’ve mastered the move, and that stays with them for the rest of their playing years.”

This is the same ethos emulated in South Shore futsal clinics, where it’s less about making goals and more about making moves.

“Just having them playing freely without pressure brings out the best in them,” Steinhaus says. “Their creativity flourishes when you don’t tell them what to do.”

Futsal also gives players an opportunity to work with the ball more because the chances of being in contact with it are much higher than in soccer.

“That’s one of the secrets of the people who play futsal, who are so much more adept when they go to play a soccer game,” says Steinhaus, who encourages his high school soccer students to practice futsal whenever they can. “Here, you are always participating.”

And since futsal is played in such a small space, reaction times are heightened, meaning that once players participate in a soccer game, they’ll find they have ample time to get out of their opponents’ way.

Futsal originated in Uruguay in the 1930s, after kids became frustrated with not being able to play soccer outdoors during the winter months. At first, a regular soccer ball was used on a basketball court, but after several broken windows, a heavier ball was substituted, which continues to save gym windows in futsal games today.

The professional sport is gaining international traction and efforts are underway to incorporate it into the upcoming Olympic Games. Futsal didn’t grow roots on Kauai until about 2009, even though Steinhaus introduced it to the island during soccer workshops he hosted in the mid-1990s. It wasn’t until Jorge Bordt, a former professional futsal player for the United States team during the 1980s, contacted Steinhaus about seven years ago — because he planned to develop two

futsal courts at his former Kiahuna Swim and Tennis Club — that the sport took off. Steinhaus started coaching there twice a week, bringing along his son Carlos Steinhaus-Lang, who was 5 at the time, and a bunch of his friends.

“Futsal slowly started becoming recognized as a great tool to develop skills for the regular soccer game,” says Steinhaus, who is a social worker with Kauai Drug Court.

Today, the sport remains strong in the community, including with Kalaheo Futsal Club, which Steinhaus helped found. The club hosts regular soccer practices at Kato Gym for keiki of all ages. In fact, last year, Kalaheo Futsal Club under-12 boys won the state championship on Maui in their division and went on to represent Hawaii in the National Championship in Anaheim, California, in June 2015.

“No matter how much you preach and yell and tell and go over it again, they’re going to learn from their own experience playing the game, and futsal provides that,” says Steinhaus, who lives in Kalaheo with wife Lissa Steinhaus-Lang and their two children, Carlos and Marlena.

Darren Cote, Southside Sports Center director and Kauai Christian Fellowship sports pastor, says he immediately was drawn to the sport after recently learning about it through Steinhaus.

“The speed of the game, the finesse of the game and the actual fun of the game for the kids has been very attractive,” says Cote. “Coach Martin has been absolutely amazing.”

The bonus of playing Friday evenings is that the kids get to kick the ball around while the lights are on and the music is playing loudly.

“The kids love it; they go crazy,” he says.

Coach Cliff Pappas says it’s a great way to introduce kids to the sport.

“And they have a chance to get out and do stuff instead of just going to the mall,” he says.

Visit kauaisportscenter.com for more information about “Futsal Fridays” and to keep current on upcoming workshops, including one with professional futsal player Pablo Daniel da Silva in April. Go to facebook.com/kalaheofutsal for more information about Kalaheo Futsal Club. Futsal also is featured as a sport in the All Saint’s Indoor Sports program; visit allsaintskauai.org/futsal.html for more information.

cocomidweek@gmail.com

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