Prominent coach Chris Panayiotou talks of his confidence in the sport’s potential.
While few are surprised to see the North American Sand Soccer Championship grow to its current size and scale, the impact of the tournament is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
One man who has witnessed the recent surge in popularity for both beach soccer and football in general in the Virginia region is Chris Panayiotou – a prominent coach in the area who entered a number of junior teams into this year’s competition.
Panayiotou is Developmental Technical Director for Rush Soccer – a global club franchise in more than 37 states and 20 countries with around 50,000 youth players on its books – while also serving as Developmental Director of Coaching for Virginia Rush.
As someone who has seen first hand the impact of NASSC on young kids in the area, Panayiotou believes such an “unbelievable” event will only continue to spread the word about soccer in a nation which traditionally has other sporting priorities.
“This is my third one and I think it’s fantastic. When I came to America 23 years ago, kids here were just wearing American football shirts and now you come to Virginia Beach and it’s completely different,” he told Beach Soccer Worldwide.
“It’s probably a mile and a half long and you see all sorts of football shirts – Premier League, MLS, Spanish – and so for myself and the kids to hang with the Barca guys, who are a real class act, it’s just unbelievable. It’s soccer heaven really.
“This event is unbelievable for showcasing the sport of beach soccer and to elevate it to another level – along with futsal, indoor, grass football – is invaluable for the sport.
“It’s massive to have guys here like Barca, Team Pugg, internationals from Costa Rica and guys who have played at FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups.”
Aside from reaching out to kids about the sport, Panayiotou believes playing on the sand can open up new possibilities for children within their football environment.
“I do a lot of coaching within football, at grassroots level and with Rush, so I develop best practices for all our kids at grassroots,” he added.
“Futsal, beach soccer, events like this are all part of it so I’m keen to get more of our guys to places such as these.
“I think the benefits [of beach soccer] are touch, new concepts and ideas, movement and there’s a lot of transferable skills. But mainly it’s the relationship with the ball, if we watch the pros, the ball hardly hits the ground.
“I just think it’s huge and it gives the kids a few new ideas, extra confidence and growth in general.”