Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pura Vida Futsal - John Leisman in Costa Rica

By John Leisman, Captain of the U.S. Youth Futsal Boys U18 team 
I was captain of the U.S. Youth Futsal U18 Boys this past week in Costa Rica. What a week and what an experience it has been! Both individually, as a team, and as a whole group, we have grown so much in such a short period of time.

Upon arrival, we were immediately thrown into a nation and culture that was completely foreign to many of us. With the help of local liaisons, our group was able to adapt to this change and immerse ourselves in the wonderful things that Costa Rica had to offer, including zip-lining and whitewater rafting in the heart of the rainforest. Such experiences were crucial in fostering relationships and helping our respective teams become a single unit.

Action on the court picked up where it had left off in the previous trip to Canada. With only one day of training, the coaches were able to mold a group of talented individuals into a functioning team. All teams opened the first day with convincing wins and that success carried on throughout the rest of the week. At various times on this trip, each individual was forced to adapt and learn on the fly. It was this ability to accept a new role or face a new challenge with total commitment that allowed our teams to have so much success.

As for what the future holds, it isn't hard for me to speculate. A brand, an identity, a culture for futsal is starting to develop within our country. I had the chance to discuss the impact it is bound to have with many people during the trip and I came to the same conclusion every time. What the average American yearns to see in soccer is brought to life in futsal. The game combines the sharp ball movement and explosive power that is found in basketball, the dynamic runs and tactical edge that is used in American football, as well as the frequent transitions of hockey that happen in the blink of an eye, all with the ball at one's foot.

I have seen the quantity of hours that so many members of the U.S. Youth Futsal organization have put in. I believe their passion and dedication to the game of futsal has ignited a spark that will only grow within our country. With that in mind, I look forward to seeing what will happen over the next five years and more.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Pura Vida Futsal - Felicia Knox in Costa Rica

By Felicia Knox, Captain of the U.S. Youth Futsal Girls U14 team
Pura Vida! One week ago while packing my bags I was wondering how my upcoming trip would compare to the Toronto, Canada trip last year? With it being such an amazing trip, I questioned how could the Costa Rica trip get any better?
When we arrived at the hotel after the long day of traveling we had a meeting letting us know what was going to happen this week. Coach Tozer was going through the schedule and showed all the teams a motivational video. I think it got the players excited to play! After he went through all the rules and expectations he let us know who was going to be the captains for each team and age group. As coach Tozer was calling the names I didn't know what to expect. As he came to the u14 girls I heard my name called I couldn't have been more excited to have the privilege to be the captain once again for the u14 girls team.

Tuesday July 28th was excursion day. The day was filled with great activities. We were able to go to a fruit stand and taste all of the bizarre fruits that were being sold; and after that we went zip-lining and whitewater rafting! Not only was it a good way to start off the trip but it was fantastic for team bonding. At the end of the trip I really thought this is what tied the team together and really got us to be able to play as a team and get to know each other as much as we could. 
On Thursday July 30th was the first game day. I didn't know what to expect. I remembered from last year that competition was really good. I had no idea what was coming, all I told myself was I guess I will just have to wait and see. Before our game we had the opportunity to visit a daycare right near the gym we played in. There we got to play soccer with the little kids for a bit before heading to the market where we got souvenirs for ourselves, friends and family back home. After buying a t-shirt we arrived back at the hotel and got ready for the game. I could tell everyone was a little nervous but also ready to play. After warming up and listening to the two national anthems the whistle was blown to start the game. We had a special play to start the game it was called "mango" we ran it just like Coach Ty asked and we scored in the first 5 seconds on the game. it was the best feeling ever! On Thursday the 30th - Saturday the Aug 1st, most of the players spent their days at the futsal court. While playing it was always fun to hear "USA! USA! USA!" chanted in the background along with all the students for the school there watching you play. It felt great to play in a full gym! After every game we would always get a pictures with the other team and socialize as best we could. They were all so welcoming and friendly. It was also really fun to interact with all of the students as we walked around their campus going to and from the buses. Costa Rica was a trip that I will always remember and I loved how we got to experience their culture hands-on, which was so amazing! I am not only honored to have been selected to represent USA for this trip but I was also able to do it along side my brother Roman who played on the U16 boys team. Not many siblings are this fortunate to share an experience like this together. A huge thank you goes out the amazing people that made this trip happen. GO USA!!!

Knox (left) with Annie Stauffer and Tiffany Bernot