US Youth Futsal Academy Success Story: Sean Bowers’ 619Futsal Academy
According to FIFA, Cristiano Ronaldo honed his natural ability by playing futsal — so with the goal of helping enhance player development, US Youth Futsal launch the Futsal Academy program in 2018. Here is a look at the success of this Academy program.
The inaugural year for the US Youth Futsal Academy program is almost over. There are twenty-three US Youth Futsal Academies across America and the program is designed to complement, not compete with, a player’s regular soccer training with their own clubs.
The goal of the US Youth Futsal Academy is to offers players a unique opportunity to develop and compete alongside similarly skilled players from other youth soccer clubs, improving the players’ ability in both soccer and futsal.
One of the most successful, if not the most accomplished, is the 619Futsal Academy in San Diego, CA. The man behind the 619Futsal organization is former pro player Sean Bowers who was a world-class player.
Bowers played in the MLS for four seasons with Sporting KC — back when it was called Kansas City Wizards. The 1992 NPSL Rookie of the Year, four-time Defender of the Year and a six-time All-Star in four different leagues, Bowers was a defensive force on the field.
As a Futsal player, he proudly served as captain of the U.S Futsal Team from 1996 to the 2004 Futsal World Cup.
Bowers has pioneered the game of Futsal in Southern California for years. Back in 2011 when Bowers founded 619Futsal, today’s highly acclaimed and very successful futsal league in San Diego, most youth soccer players were unaware of the many benefits of playing this five-a-side fast past game.
Today, the majority of elite youth soccer players know the value of playing futsal and its many training advantages.
SoccerToday Interview with Sean Bowers
Diane Scavuzzo: This is the first year of the US Youth Futsal Academy — and you have one of, if not the most successful academies in the nationwide program. How many players are in your 619Futsal Academy?
Sean Bowers: Thanks, the first year of our 619Futsal Academy has exceeded all expectations.
We have 170 talented players in our 619Futsal Academy — U8 to U19.
Over 400 youth players came to 619Futsal to try out for the Academy, and we accepted only the most talented to train.
Diane Scavuzzo: What has been the response? Do the players like it?
Sean Bowers: Yes, it has been great. Our players, their families and our sponsors have been terrific — Adidas and Prime Sports even sponsored our Academy.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long is the Futsal Academy season?
Sean Bowers: The 619Futsal Academy’ provides a 10-month season with tryouts starting in July for the following 19/20 season which kicks off in September.
For the 2019/20 season, we anticipate double the size of our 619Futsal Academy.
Diane Scavuzzo: What will be different in the 2019/20 619Futsal Academy season?
Sean Bowers: For next season, we are moving to birth-year teams and will have teams in every age category starting at U8 through U16. Players U16 and older play in a high school grouping.
When I started 619Futsal in 2011 with Mike Gentry who is a director in the Academy and the Director of Player Development for 619Futsal Leagues, I did not realize how many players wanted futsal training.
The Academy program has really opened my eyes to how big futsal has become all across America, and especially San Diego.
The 619Futsal Academy is very professional and structured. For example, our schedules are posted three months in advance and our players are immersed in a focused training environment in which they can learn and develop.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do the 619Futsal Academy teams compete in futsal events?
Sean Bowers: In early March, 619Futsal Academy teams competed in USSF’s U. S. Futsal Southwest Regional Championship 2019 in LA at the LA Galaxy Soccer Center.
It was a great experience for our players. All of our teams played up an age range because we are focused on player development.
We also knew our 619Futsal Academy teams could not take advantage of advancing to the USSF National tournament in July, so we wanted to make it as challenging as possible.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why couldn’t your teams advance?
Sean Bowers: Our Academy season runs from August through June and most of our players are competing with their youth soccer club’ teams in summer tournaments in July.
Our girls’ teams, coached by Danny Madrigal, performed very well. In fact, our U14s Academy group we split into two teams and they ended up playing each other in the Championship Final, emerging as Champions and Finalists in the National Futsal. Our U12s girls also performed very well, losing in the final.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is one of the biggest challenges with the Futsal Academy?
Sean Bowers: It is challenging to find really good futsal coaches.
I am extremely proud of our futsal coaches at 619Futsal.
Diane Scavuzzo: You are at 619Futsal every Sunday during league games and also on Friday evenings for the Academy. Why do you do it?
Sean Bowers: I really believe in what we are doing and one of the reasons we are so successful is because our coaches and staff believe in what we are doing too. No one here is doing this for the paycheck.
Everyone at 619Futsal is doing this for the right reason.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is futsal training so valuable?
Sean Bowers: Futsal training is really excellent for youth soccer players. All the movement off the ball and the speed of play helps improve a player’s vision and teaches them how to anticipate the game instead of just reacting.
Futsal makes players better. Futsal speeds up learning.
Futsal gives young players so many tools. In the outdoor game, you have time to rest, to think. In futsal, you are learning every second of the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are you seeing an impact?
Sean Bowers: Our 619Futsal players have enjoyed a lot of success over the years —many of our players have been selected for the USYF National teams.
Several USYF National team players have returned recently from playing international futsal friendlies in Portugal and have shared their experiences with others. We also have had players rostered for international friendlies in Costa Rica and Columbia. It is very exciting to see this all come to life.
Being identified at our USYF State Trials and then advancing to the National I.D. Trial in Kansas City where the players are selected for the National Youth teams opens up an amazing opportunity for youth players.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many youth players have played, trained or tried out at 619Futsal?
Sean Bowers: I am sure we have had over 18,000 players, maybe 20,000 since we started nearly 8 years ago.
Diane Scavuzzo: Have you seen a growth in futsal since you started 619Futsal?
Sean Bowers: Yes, the growth has been dramatic 619Futsal has exploded on the map nationally and we are really seeing the growth of futsal in San Diego.
Our 619Futsal league has really taken off — we have 130 teams registered for our upcoming spring season. Last Sunday around 11 am, when one series of games was ending and just before another session was to start, there must have been 1,000 people in the Miramar College gym.
It is very exciting to see futsal grow.