SportsTutor is widely known in Owensboro for developing premier soccer players and “technically superior athletes” through a better understanding of fundamental techniques. Focusing on the three key elements of mind, skill and game, coach and owner Ty Stauffer builds confidence in his athletes. It is that confidence that guided the SportsTutor U19 girls’ team to victory at the U.S. Youth Futsal National Championships in Kansas City, Mo., this weekend, Feb. 15-18.
SportsTutor had three teams in competition in Kansas City — U19 girls, U18 boys and U10 boys. Stauffer said it is an honor to be invited to this tournament, let alone be able to take three teams.
“This is the largest futsal tournament in the country,” Stauffer said. “Usually you have to play your way into this tournament. The quality of refereeing and teams is just really good.”
What appealed to Stauffer most was the opportunity for his athletes to play against teams from all over the country, including Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Virginia and Texas.
“SportsTutor has a long history of doing well out there,” Stauffer said. “We only participate if we have teams we think can compete at that level.”
While his initial goal for this tournament was to have a team in the semifinals and one in the finals, he was able to walk away knowing that the SportsTutor U19 girls were victorious for the third year in a row.
Bobbi Sandifer, a senior at Daviess County High School, has been with the girls’ team since 2015. An avid soccer player who recently committed to play at Brescia University, Sandifer said futsal moves at a much faster pace than soccer. As a futsal keeper, she has to be able to react faster than usual, versus outdoor soccer where she’s a midfielder. Although it has taken some adjusting, Sandifer said her team just gels, which makes the experience all that more enjoyable.
“I get to play one of my favorite games with my absolute best friends,” Sandifer said. “We’ve been doing it for so long — we just get each other.”
Sandifer said when she was in eighth grade, she, Natalie Hinchcliffe and Annie Stauffer all played together on the first U.S. Youth National Futsal Team, which included traveling to Canada.
This year’s victory for the U19 girls is a bittersweet one for the trio because Stauffer said, “They will age out.”
For those who may not have a clear understanding of the differences between futsal and soccer, Stauffer was quick to explain.
“Futsal basically is played on a court with five players,” Stauffer said. “The biggest difference is a low-balance ball — the speed of things is just so much quicker than playing regular soccer on a field.”
While he believes futsal players can make a simple transition to outdoor soccer, he said for a guy or girl who has only played outdoor soccer, it’s a very big adjustment.
“A futsal player is playing a game that is similar to basketball,” Stauffer said. “A player’s movement is very similar to that of basketball — it’s a lateral game, where soccer is an up and down game.”
For that reason, Stauffer said, from a tactical standpoint, many of the drills they use to prepare are basketball drills — they just use their hands.
“In futsal, we’re kind of in a unique situation,” Stauffer said. “Futsal is typically used as an offseason training tool for competitive soccer clubs. All of our kids play on our outdoor teams, so we’re not out recruiting players. For a community like ours to compete at a level like that is pretty unique.”