Local futsal coach learns from FIFA champs

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

A Widewater woman travelled to Portugal to improve her futsal coaching.

Esther Bylsma is the driving force behind Slave Lake Soccer Club. She also coached the Team Alberta North girls futsal team at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games in Alaska. Recently, she honed her coaching skills by learning from world champions.

May 6 to 18, Bylsma was one of 28 Canadian futsal coaches who travelled to Lisbon, Portugal to attend a futsal coaching training. One of the head teachers was Portugal Men’s National Futsal team Head Coach Jorge Braz. Portugal is the defending Men’s FIFA Futsal World Cup champion. Braz is five-time FIFA futsal coach of the year.

Bylsma also learned from other high-level futsal coaches, sport psychologists, and other futsal experts.

Along with 100 hours of classroom work, participants attended various levels of futsal games and dissected them. They also did coaching simulations and got feedback from the Portuguese coaches.

“It was really cool to pick the brains of the coaches,” says Bylsma, “and the sports psychologists.”

Many of the Canadian coaches were from the east. Two were from the Yukon, Bylsma had met one at the Arctic Winter Games. Five were from Alberta – Bylsma, one from Calgary, and three from Edmonton. A few of the coaches from New Brunswick and Quebec were from small towns.

“I was probably from the smallest,” she says.

She was also one of only three women who took the course.

Of the Canadian coaches, only six (including Bylsma) were born and raised in Canada. The rest had immigrated at some point, one within the last year.

Slave Lake Soccer Club has filed the paperwork to become a society.

In the spring and summer, it has outdoor soccer, including four travel teams. Competition started the first weekend in June. Futsal will return in the fall.

Futsal is a type of indoor soccer.

“It’s a well-known sport in other countries,” says Bylsma, which can be played in any gym.

Bylsma is interested in helping Wabasca and High Prairie minor soccer clubs add futsal.

Esther Bylsma, with Slave Lake Soccer Club, and Jorge Braz, head coach of the Portugal National Men’s Futsal team, at a futsal training camp for Canadian coaches. This was taught by Braz and other Portugal futsal leaders. Portugal is the defending Men’s FIFA Futsal World Cup champion.

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