Interview With U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach Keith Tozer
The massive growth of futsal in the United States has provided youth players with an opportunity to extend their training past the outdoor green pitch. With coaches, parents and players recognizing how beneficial this super fast-paced, indoor game can be for player development — facilities and leagues have emerged all across the USA.
There is one man who has helped bring Futsal into the forefront — on both the professional and youth side — more than anyone else … and he is U.S. Soccer’s Futsal National Team’s Head Coach Keith Tozer. Who is Tozer and what are his views? Here is an exclusive interview with the man who is a FIFA Futsal Instructor, CONCACAF Futsal Instructor, PFL Commissioner, and 20 years as USFMNT Head Coach and has changed Futsal forever in America.
I devoted 30+ years to the game and the game has given me so much back.
Futsal News: Gone are the days that individuals question the benefits of Futsal for a youth or adult player — or play Futsal because they discover Ronaldo loves it.
Keith Tozer, Technical Director of U.S. Youth Futsal and head coach of the U.S. Futsal National Team, has dedicated his life to growing indoor soccer and futsal in the United States. Tozer’s experience in the game dates back over 30 years and he has developed a proven model for reaching success on the court.
SoccerToday spoke with Tozer on his experience in Futsal and his work raising the level of the game in the youth soccer world. With US Youth Futsal national player ID camp only weeks away, Tozer also shares his advice for youth players who want to be identified as good enough to represent the USA on the international stage in games in Costa Rica.
Diane Scavuzzo: As the U.S. Futsal National Team coach — from your perspective, how has futsal changed, if it has, since you became involved?
Keith Tozer: Futsal has changed dramatically since I played on the U.S. Futsal Men’s National Team in 1986 in Budapest, Hungary. Back then, we just called it 5-a-side. We really had no idea about Futsal — all my teammates and coaches came from either outdoor soccer or from the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).
In 1996, when I was the interim coach at the CONCACAF qualifiers in Guatemala, we then discovered more about the game — and, people were beginning to call it Futsal then.
Early on, we could compete — ’92 Silver Medal Hong Kong, 1996 & 2004 CONCACAF Champions followed by 2004 7th place in Chinese Taipei — with most teams in the world.
Spring forward to the current era, professional Futsal is becoming huge around the world, players are playing 2-4 days a week with their pro teams, training with their national teams on the other days, followed by matches every weekend along with international competitions and exhibitions pretty much all year long.
Globally, the level of players now playing futsal is incredible and coaches’ expertise is changing the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: How did Futsal change your life?
Keith Tozer: Futsal changed my life dramatically in so many ways.
I have traveled the world and experience life lessons with so many wonderful players, coaches and staff members. And, Futsal has really helped me to be a better coach for indoor — I took many of the concepts from futsal and brought them into the indoor game.
Futsal has given me the opportunity and honor to represent the U.S. — both as a player then as a coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: As the U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach since 1998, what are you most proud of?
Keith Tozer: Winning the 1996 and 2004 CONCACAF Championships was an amazing feeling — not only for myself, but I know firsthand for all the coaches, players and staff. Many of us get together often and we reminisce about the experience and opportunity it presented.
Challenges are many as the world of futsal has grown tenfold since then. The top eight countries in the world have professional leagues which allows players to play futsal regularly.
Other countries have youth national teams feeding their men’s and women’s teams and, until the Professional Futsal League (PFL) is in full swing, it will be very difficult for our country to compete effectively.
Diane Scavuzzo: As a leader in the world of futsal — why is Futsal important for player development?
Keith Tozer: As we all know, many of the top players in the world have grown up playing futsal, which really helps especially with the technical and physical aspects of the game.
Everyone is promoting small-sided games and obviously that is what Futsal is.
More touches on the ball within a smaller space creates more technical players as well as players who react quicker both physically and mentally.
Here in the U.S., Futsal will continue to grow not only in the suburbs but as futsal courts begin to emerge in the inner cities, a whole new demographic of players will develop.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your role with U.S. Youth Futsal?
Keith Tozer: I am the Technical Director and have really enjoyed helping to educate coaches and develop players.
The U.S. Youth Futsal program creating youth futsal national teams has been such a great experience. The future looks very bright
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you and your team of coaches identify youth futsal players at the National player I.D. program in Kansas City?
Keith Tozer: Our coaching staff first tries to identify the players in 4 areas:
- Technical/Futsal: specific technique including the ability to utilize their first touch with the sole, 1v1 dribbling skills and running with the ball, shooting ability and the ability to control the ball.
- Tactical/Ability: ability to defend as an individual, in pairs and as a team. Offensive characteristics and the ability to understand concepts.
- Physical/Speed: quickness, conditioning and strength
- Psychological: Team player, confidence and leadership qualities.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is this only for player identification or will players also receive training on how to improve?
Keith Tozer: Our philosophy is to teach and identify since we are at the beginning of the I.D. program so that when we start our matches all the players have some of the same concepts both defensively as well as offensively.
At the same time, we are preparing all of the players — as if they will make the USA squad — because shortly thereafter, we travel to Costa Rica for matches.
Diane Scavuzzo: Has the US Youth Futsal program grown in the last few years?
Keith Tozer: In just the four years we have been doing the I.D. program, we have seen with the emergence of Futsal academies across the USA and now we have players attending the national player pool in Kansas City who have much more experience than ever.
Parents often tell me that their son or daughter has learned so much — and, in such a short period of time.
Diane Scavuzzo: In Kansas City, you are selecting players for the US Youth Futsal National rosters to represent the USA in July — Can you describe the opportunity?
Keith Tozer: This is such a great opportunity for these players to travel abroad and represent their country.
To stand and hear your national anthem and then compete internationally will be a memory of a lifetime.
For all the players and staff, being on the US Youth Futsal national rosters is an experience similar to those of the full men’s national team.
This year’s trip for the U14, U16 and U18 boys and girls is back to San Jose, Costa Rica. We traveled there in 2015 and had such a fantastic experience both with the matches as well as other activities.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the big difference between being a soccer player and a Futsal player?
Keith Tozer: Especially at the youth level, I really don’t see a difference between and outdoor player and a futsal player.
All coaches look for the same attributes: physically fit, great technical ability, tactically understands concepts and psychologically strong.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the some of the challenges coaching the U.S. Futsal team compared to indoor teams?
Keith Tozer: Although I left indoor three years ago on April 1st, 2014, to become the Commissioner of the PFL and to devote all my time and energy to the game of futsal, I love indoor soccer and am very proud to have been involved in the game since 1978.
As far as the differences, the biggest one is that with indoor you have the players for 5-8 months long where you can train them in all aspects of the game, technical, tactical, physical and psychological. Whereas with the national team you only have weeks.
Because we really are a non-Futsal nation at the highest level, you do not have much time to work on the physical conditioning so you must rely on the players to do much of it on their own.
Not much time to hone the technical aspects as well.
Then you must try and get in as much tactical preparation as you can in that short period of time without overloading the players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the one moment/experience/decision you would like to turn back the clock and change?
Keith Tozer: I love coaching, teaching and developing coaches and players; however, I wish I would have played a little longer.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is more important — fame or money?
Keith Tozer: Neither — I believe a person’s character is worth much more than both.
However, if I had to pick one, it would be money!