Futsal: Small league with a big impact

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The University of Dallas continues to expand and grow, offering its students a wide variety of opportunities to take the initiative and start something new. Last semester, a futsal tournament took place on the new outdoor courts with smashing success.

Begun by two friends, Kevin Patton, senior business major, and Joseph ‘Joe’ Dunikoski, senior politics major, their passion for building community through sports has made waves to become something bigger. The coordinators have gained permission from Dr. Gregory Roper, the dean of students, to create a whole intramural and co-ed futsal league that’s open to anyone interested in joining. The two upperclassmen spoke about their experience, motivations and plans going forward with the new league.

One of the founders, Dunikoski, a former soccer athlete, wanted to engage his competitive spirit with a group of like-minded people.

“We basically missed competition and missed playing in competitive leagues,” Dunikoski said. “So, we decided it would be really fun to go and just organize a [futsal] tournament.”

As though the task was nothing difficult, the two friends reached out to Roper initially with the hopes of starting a league. Patton discussed the original plan and proposed to test the waters of enthusiasm.

“My friend Joe Dunikoski and [I] reached out to Roper and were like, ‘Hey, can we do a futsal league?’ and [Roper] goes, ‘Before we do futsal league, let’s do a tournament.’ So, in the fall, we organized a tournament.”

With only a few days to prepare and launch the event, Dunikoski and Patton got to work. They advertised, organized and hosted the tournament with over ten teams joining. With at least five people per team, the high engagement rate was nothing short of impressive and it rallied in players from across the athletic to non-athletic spectrum.

“We had plenty of people that weren’t with any sort of UD athletics,” Patton said. “We had teams that had a couple soccer players on them, or former soccer players, or just people who were interested. It’s just really great to see the turnout of a wide variety of people.”

After this outcome revealed the high demand for the new league, Roper readily agreed to the idea of allowing weekly games in this spring semester. The new sports court will be put to good use in the next few weeks as the futsal league officially starts in earnest.

Now what exactly is futsal? The game shares similarities with soccer but on a smaller scale. It also includes the ability to use the walls and floor to the player’s advantage. With a heavier ball and closer quarters with opposing players, Patton compared it to the high speed of basketball as well.

“I always think of futsal as the perfect combination between basketball and soccer. It has that high-fast pace of basketball because it’s on a small reduced hardtop court, and you play it with a ball that’s harder so it doesn’t bounce as much,” Patton said. “It’s also less physical in the sense of the amount of running and there’s just not as many fouls in futsal – it’s pretty casual and light.”

Outside the game itself, futsal allows for an intermixing of ability levels and sports experience, and provides a space to make friends with a wide range of people with different interests and experiences. Just as the tournament showed, sports provide a unique opportunity to connect with students you might never have met otherwise. Dunikoski was optimistic about the future of the league with regards to this social aspect and highly recommended the game as an avenue for connection.

“It’s a great way to have fun competitions where you’re able to connect with people you wouldn’t necessarily connect with. Soccer is a beautiful game,” Dunikoski said. “Talking about the difference between a student-athlete and an athlete, or a student-athlete and just a normal student at UD, kind of disappears when you go on the field, in soccer. I think that’s something that’s really cool.”

The future of the league will allow seven to eight players per team for subbing and they will limit the number of student soccer athletes that can be on the court to maintain fairness. Only two student soccer athletes will be allowed on the court per team. Teams can have a mix of men and women, and games will consist of two halves: twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Weekly games will come into full swing in the coming weeks and it is not too late to form a team and join the new community. It is a great way to meet people, get some exercise and possibly take home a victory with friends or take a victory from friends on opposing teams – whichever is more motivational.

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