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Spotlight of Soccer series: Beach Soccer

Yuri Beach Soccer Shot

If you are a footballer, and you have played the game on the beach, you know how different and fun the game can be on the sand. That is specially the case when the water is warm enough for a swim right after a game!

Beach soccer started as an informal game that friends would play on the beach, mostly while on vacation. But with the growth of the sport, in 1992 the first official rules of  beach soccer were created. Since its first historical competitions, beach soccer has grown to be an international game, with the start of the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005.

Each beach soccer team consists of five players, including the goalkeeper. An unlimited amount of substitutions, from a selection of 3 to 5 substitute players, is allowed at any moment of the game, even when the ball is in play. A game lasts 36 minutes, and it is split up into three 12 minute periods. The pitch is considerably smaller than a regular one (about the size of a futsal field), and it should be composed of sand without any other objects which could injure a player. The game runs on a fast pace, with an average of over ten goals scored per game as players are able to score anywhere on the field. This makes for a fast pace game, with lots of action.

photo (1)We had the chance to discuss  beach soccer with Yuri Morales, who played for the United States national beach soccer team at the highest level. Yuri can be seen throwing bicycle kicks at virtually every Beach Soccer Tournament in the Bay, and he works with America SCORES Bay Area to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world. He helps put together an Annual  Beach Soccer Blast Tournament in San Francisco every summer, with proceeds going to America Scores.

Yuri also played previously with the Danish professional football club Viborg F, the Portland Timbers right before they joined MLS.

Senda: How did you get involved with Beach Soccer?

Yuri:I grew up in Santa Cruz, so there was a beach going culture there. When I was playing with the Portland Timbers(USL division 1, before there was MLS) in 2006, my friend Ronny Silva was a member of the beach soccer team at that time and he was looking for players for beach soccer. There was a core group of players from Santa Cruz that were forming a core of the beach soccer national team based in training in Santa Cruz. So he asked me if I wanted to try playing beach soccer, and I did.

Senda: What aspects of “regular” soccer does Beach Soccer emphasize the most?

Yuri: There are tactics similar to grass soccer, but at the same time different because the field is so much smaller and fewer players. In terms of defensive tactics in some ways they are more similar to futsal than grass soccer in many ways. attacking wise you have to have very good technique to be successful, just like grass soccer. For beach soccer you have to be more focused on the technical because the ball is usually and ideally in the air, so you have to adjust your body in the sand. So you have to have very good techniques

Senda: What was your most memorable Beach Soccer moment?”

Yuri: The second time we qualified for the world cup in 2007, in Mexico. We beat Uruguay in an exhibition championship match. There was an arrangement that the champion of North America and the champion of South America would play against each other in an exhibition match. Uruguay earned second place in the previous world cup and they were a very strong team. We beat them in the last minute of the game. I remember because we won 4-3, and I scored the goal to make the game even at 3-3 as a substitute at that time. That was a really memorable moment for me.”

Senda – What did it feel to have the opportunity to represent your country in the World Cup?

Yuri: It feels great. I’d say that it’s a great honor, and I am very appreciative of the US Soccer Federal for sponsoring the team. They supported the team from the very beginning even when this beach soccer didn’t make much money. For them to stick with us I feel very supported by them. ”

Yuri FIFA Photo

Senda – “What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start playing Beach Soccer?

Yuri:Stick with it. Don’t give up. It’s like golf and snowboarding that the first few times you do it it’s going to be miserable. After that when you start getting the hang of it, getting your balance, and moving better on the sand it becomes more and more fun.”

Senda: What characteristics do you look for in a Beach Soccer ball?

Yuri: I like it to have a layer of foam so that when you kick it it doesn’t slap against your skin against your foot. When it has that layer of padding it can protect from that. Also the weight has to be just right. If it’s too light the ball would just fly away in the wind. If it’s too heavy it can hurt your foot. I think you guys did a great job with the Senda beach soccer ball. It could have a little bit more padding, but I think its a great ball.

Senda: Any fun Beach Soccer stories while playing the game?

Yuri:In 2006 in the qualifying tournament, it was my first trip with the national team. It was in the winter and it was in the Costa Rican rain forest. It rained all the time there. They built a little stadium and brought in sand, but they weren’t allowed to bring in real sand, so they brought in dirt. When it rained the dirt turned into mud, so we played the first couple games in just deep mud. It was my first beach soccer experience, and I did really well because I was used to playing in mud because in Santa Cruz in high school when it rained the grass field we played on was covered with mud. I did really well the first couple games, but it just kept raining, so the tournament was forced to move to a beach town in order to continue.”

Another story, I got to have granola next to Eric Cantona, coach for the French National Team, in 2006!  I was having breakfast in the morning and I looked over and there he was. We greeted each other and continued to have breakfast. I was a little star struck at that time.

Thanks to Yuri for taking the time to talk to us about beach soccer! 

Skillz and Drillz Video of the Month: The Cruyff Turn

 

Our monthly video from Skillz and Drillz is showing a classic and elegant beginner basics move: “The Cruyff Turn.”

This trick is a great way to get away from an opponent or simply just faking a cross by pulling the ball back in a different direction to get space for a better position to pass the ball, or simply a better alternative action to take place.

By doing a Cruyff turn you are  misleading the opponent and making him change his choice of action in which it most likely will be a delay from your action, ultimately leaving you with more space and time.

Take a look at this video showing step by step instructions and try to see if you can manage to do what Cruyff first did during the FIFA World Cup in 1974.

Impress your friends, coaches, opponents and yourself.

And don’t forget to visit Skillz and Drillz to stay tuned on his videos and updates!

 

 

See Cruyff doing the move himself:

Ball Testing with SJ Quakes Players: Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro, Adidas Prime

The Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro & Adidas MLS Prime

A goal that we always have at Senda, is to offer products that are as good as any other similar options in the market, with the added value of Fair Trade, and the opportunity for customers to Share the Game with others.

In order to ensure that, we work with hundreds of coaches and players to test our products, and get feedback. Recently, we had the great opportunity to do product testing with Sam Cronin, who is the starting Center Midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes, as well as Quakes trialist Josh Suggs, and former CAL Captain Tony Salciccia. During a beautiful South Bay afternoon we tested our top of the line Senda Volta, along with the Nike Seitiro, and the Adidas Prime Match balls. Our goal was to check where our Volta Premier Match ball stands , compared to the two most popular brands with the best leagues in the World.

For testing, we looked at 3 main indicators: performance during crossings, performance during shots, and finally overall touch and feel of the ball.

 

Test 1: Crossings

When making a series of long distance crosses for Sam, Josh and Tony enjoyed the responsiveness and precision of the Volta, which surpassed that of the Adidas Prime, and matched that of the Nike Seitero. In terms of long crossings, the Volta flies well in the air and it does not “shake,” like the Adidas ball does.

The Adidas Prime uses the same thermo-bonded technology as the Jabulani (official match ball for 2010 South Africa World Cup) which was a nightmare for most goalies because it moves a lot when it flies long distances, for examples in in crosses and free kicks. The Prime improved in this aspect, but it still curves in rather unpredictable ways, unlike the Volta and Seitiro models.

” The Volta ball was easier to get used to, and to strike in the air” Josh Suggs, San Jose Earthquakes trialist

Test 2: Shots

When it comes to striking the ball, the Volta felt a little bit harder than the Seitiro and Prime. Players said that this did not mean that it was more difficult or uncomfortable, just a ball characteristic that you notice after using all three balls. The harder outer surface can benefit players with strong shots when they strike the ball, offering more immediate power. Some players who don’t like harder balls might not like this aspect, and this comes down to personal preference.

The Adidas Prime is the ball that travels the most out of the three, but it can be quiet inaccurate because it gets more power only if a player strikes the ball “just right.”  That it is not always easy after winning  a 50/50 ball, hitting a ball at high speed, or in other game scenarios, and players preferred a ball that offered consistency in different scenarios, and not just clean shots.

Finishing session, using the Volta, Seitiro and Prime

Test 3: Touch

In terms of touch the Senda Volta is little bit harder than the Seitero and Prime, both which have a “spongy” feeling. The top-of-the-line Japanese synthetic leather used in the Volta resembles more the older Match balls used in the late 90′s, compared to the newer synthetic materials developed by Nike and Adidas.

When we asked for a fair final assessment, Suggs said that he honestly enjoyed playing with the Senda Volta the most.

 

“With a  lot of balls, it takes a long time to get used to them,” Suggs commented. “With the Volta one gets to know the ball rather fast, and it provides a consistent response in different game-like scenarios”

Although it was the first time that all 3 players where introduced to the Volta, they did not feel any inconsistencias with the ball, and they felt that it was up there with the Nike Seitero, and above the Adidas Prime when it came to overall touch, shooting, and making/receiving crosses.

 

From our end, after talking with Sam, Tony and Josh, and asking for their honest feedback, we feel that we have succeeded in making a top of the line ball that’s as good, if not better, than that of the two market leaders in soccer. That makes us proud. Very proud!

Meanwhile, we will continue to research the latest cover materials available for different types of match balls, to make sure that Senda is taking advantage of the latest technologies available to make the best performing product.

But whatever new materials are developed using technology, they have to be tested and approved on the field, where the magic happens. Technology, for technology’s sake is not the answer. The final word should come from players and coaches on the fields, and not just from the labs. Right now, it seems like we are in good hands with a Volta Match ball, that has some of the traditional characteristics one finds in Japanese cordley leather, which is one of the best on the World.

The story to make the best posible Match ball leveraging technology and embracing Fair Trade continues, and we will keep you posted!

Sam Cronin helped us test the 3 balls for precision, touch, and flight