Graeff to run Futsal

Sports writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ATHOL — Futsal indoor soccer is a youth program offered by the Athol Area YMCA for over 20 years.

Matt Talbot, associate executive director of the Athol Area YMCA, made a few changes to the league, which started its season two weeks ago, in hopes of creating better play and a better experience.

New this season, the program scaled back the grades K-1 to 3-on-3 play, grades 2-4 to 7-on-7 and grades 5-8 to 5-on-5 play, in hopes of bettering each participant’s shooting ability.

“It’s falling in line with U.S. soccer criteria, trying to get (the kids) to be able to score without dribbling into the goalie,” said Talbot. “That’s what they’re finding and as they’re developing, they’re not using the entire field. They’re not shooting from far enough away, they’re not developing their shots.”

Talbot explained that the inability to develop participants shots runs even through high school players.

“Even in high school, you’ll see kids dribbling through the 18 into the 6 to be able to shoot,” explained Talbot. “It’s unnecessary. You should be able to get a shot off by the 18.”

Talbot referred to the area within the penalty box. The 18 indicates the top of the penalty box on a traditional soccer field, while the 6 marks 6 yards out from the goal line.

Kurt Graeff, who played a big role in developing the youth soccer program in Petersham, has joined the Athol soccer club this year and will help develop better quality coaching and referees within the Futsal program. Graeff and his son, Kurtis, will instruct player development and coach development. Kurt Graeff takes on the title of director of soccer development, a volunteer position. Kurt Graeff and his son are on the board of Athol Soccer Club.

“They actually hosted a training for all of our coaches, where they actually went through an entire practice and worked on all these different skills,” said Talbot. “The coaches really benefited a lot, there was a lot of positive feedback from the coaches.”

Talbot participated in the training and had positive things to say about the program Graeff put on.

“Kurt is really, really knowledgeable,” said Talbot.

Graeff spent eight years running the Petersham youth program. He started a skills day with players and coaches there, which the Athol Area YMCA adopted. While volunteering for Petersham, Graeff worked in all aspects of the program, from registration to getting coaches started in the program.

“My background is in, essentially, doing soccer in some means or form since I was 3 years old,” said Graeff.

Talbot, along with Kurtis Graeff, asked Kurt to volunteer. Kurtis had previously worked with the Athol Area YMCA.

Kurt Graeff got started in training coaches when he watched his son play at an early age and noticed coaches ignoring teaching the fundamentals of the sport.

“I turned to my wife and said, ‘If I’m going to do this, then I’m going to go all in,’” said Graeff.

The purpose of the changes is to raise the level of skill and experience of all the kids to the point where each kid can play in a travel program.

“When we can do that, we can say we have, you know, we have 40 percent or so of these kids that can play in a travel program,” said Talbot. “Then we can get them to that next step of travel, where they’re going to be practicing multiple times per week and then allow them to build up to the next step.”

Participants of the Futsal program currently practice once a week and play one game per week. The program has over 250 players and 28 teams.

Each team has at least one coach, with 25 total coaches and 35 assistants.

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