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Curtis Mason – Q&A with IFA’s Head of Strength & Conditioning

Curtis Mason joined the IFA as an 18 year old in 2014 and spent 3 years on the futsal programme here in Loughborough. Curtis achieved great things while on the programme and since his graduation in 2017 has gone on to forge a successful career in sports and to represent his country in the sport he so clearly loves.

After a year away from Loughborough Curtis missed the programme so much he returned in 2018 as the IFA’s Head of Strength & Conditioning and to play for our partner club Loughborough Students’ NFS One team.

After three years on the programme you graduated from Loughborough and the IFA in 2017 with a degree in Sports Science.  What was your biggest highlight while at Loughborough and on the IFA?

Graduation was definitely a massive highlight. My family and I were all really proud and that feeling on the day made 3 years of hard work worth it. Overall though I must say that the memories of my time playing in the BUCS teams will stay with me forever. Some of the best matches, teammates and performances I have ever been a part of – the whole experience was unreal.

What did you find the biggest challenge whilst at University and on the programme?

Personally one of the biggest challenges for me was injury. My left ankle was sprained multiple times during my three years so this came with a lot of time off court that wasn’t great. However, with lots of support from coaches and access to the elite level physiotherapy facilities the recovery time was far quicker than if I’d have been left to manage it on my own.

Another challenge at first was opening myself up to make friends and engage with students outside of The IFA. It was a new experience being away at university so most of the lads found it more confortable to just stick together at first. This obviously came with lots of positives but with the help and support of my peers and the staff team I forged some great links away from futsal too.

You’re clearly a very talented player, how do you feel being at Loughborough and on the IFA programme helped you to achieve the level to play for England?

Incredibly proud. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the things you’ve mentioned in that question don’t tie together. Without Loughborough and without The IFA I wouldn’t have played for England. Being at Loughborough and the IFA is the closest to training like a professional player. It is credit to the coaches, the ability of players around me and opportunity of ridiculous amounts of court time (BUCS, National League and friendly games) that helped me to improve as a player. Loughborough has the perfect atmosphere for winners and for athletes that want to be the best they can be. It was class to be a part of and is one of the main reasons I haven’t been able to keep away from Loughborough post graduation.

Knowing what you know now what three pieces of advice would you have given to your younger self on your first day at Loughborough all those years ago?

Firstly, I’d say enjoy every single moment. I miss the routine and way of life (training, lectures, gym, chilling) so much now that I’m in the ‘real adult world’!

Secondly I would say read more. If I’d had read more of the required content in my first and second year it would’ve made my final year and dissertation a lot easier, less stressful and probably better quality. I’m still happy with my final grades but I just think it would help later in life if I engaged with the academic side a bit more; especially now I’m making a career out of sports, exercise and science.

Finally, I’d say understand that there is even more to Loughborough than just the futsal. The futsal programme is no doubt the best in the country but open yourself up to all the other amazing opportunities there are on offer at Loughborough – do stuff with the volunteers academy for more work experience, watch more of the other elite sports being played on a daily basis, try out different sports – the opportunities really are endless.

What job did you do after graduating and how did your time in Loughborough help you in that job? 

I got myself a job back home in Kettering at a local health club, working as a receptionist. It was my intention to eventually work there as a fitness trainer so I kept a look out for potential courses before eventually enrolling on one designed specifically for sports science students. My previous knowledge and experience gained at university helped me as it not only made me eligible for this specific course (which was cheaper and more efficient with time than some other courses available) but also made it relatively easy.

You took on the role as Head of Strength & Conditioning for the IFA in 2018 – explain what this role entails?

I am responsible for all of the gym related training that the academy players do both in season and pre season. All players receive a personalised training programme, regular fitness testing and academic support for any modules they are studying where I can be of any help. This also includes weekly gym-based sessions where I coach the players in small groups, tailoring the sessions to the individual needs of the players. For example, I do a specific recovery or ‘sick note’ session as we call it for those recovering from injury.

At the moment with the Covid-19 pandemic I am running virtual sessions and managing the players fitness programmes with them remotely to ensure they are totally ready for when next season kicks off.

What’s the best part of your role as Head of S&C?

It’s hard to say, as I honestly just really enjoy what I do. However the feeling of being back in Loughborough, around The IFA and being involved in the programme not as a player now but as a coach is really satisfying. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle, matured and now I can give something back to new players coming through

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into a career such as a Strength and Conditioning Coach or being a Personal Trainer?

A degree 100% helps. The fitness industry is extremely competitive and getting even more crowded. It is actually quite easy to go out there and pay for an ‘off the shelf’ PT qualification but it is a whole different story actually making a sustainable career out of fitness, whilst also being able to deliver high quality of coaching and really be able to help people. Knowledge and experience is a necessity and I feel that I developed a good base of both of these during my three years at Loughborough.


Insights from an IFA finalist

Nathan Riches is now in his final year of his degree at Loughborough and with the IFA. Nathan reflects on his time with us and gives some sound advice for those starting with the programme this coming September.

You are now in your last season with the IFA and finishing your Degree in Loughborough, how have you been able to manage the busy schedule of the programme?

I found it quite hard to balance my studies and futsal at first, because my training started at 7am most days, and my lectures would start at 9am, and then training again in the evenings. However, I quickly realised it was essential to keep on top of my studies otherwise I would fail due to my lack of application. For example, I made sure before an evening training session I would spend at least half an hour of my own time studying; it’s about finding the right balance that suits you.

How important has Futsal been to help you during this journey?

Futsal was and still is very important because it maintains motivation and is a good distraction from everyday challenges.

What have you taken from being on the IFA programme not only as a player, but also as a person and student?

The IFA helped me build relationships on and off the court. There is no coincidence in the correlation between my social life and futsal life, as the same people are included in both, which I personally really like. The student aspect is something I enjoy because it keeps me grounded and makes me think about my future.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to start my Master’s degree in Loughborough, but that depends on my final year grade. Then I want to go into a job related to my studies. However, I also enjoy the idea of working abroad and learning about new cultures and languages so I would probably go down that route if I don’t do a Masters.

To someone that is reading your words and that is thinking of coming to this programme, what would be your advice?

My advice to anyone joining the IFA, would be to concentrate on having a good daily routine, like having a good sleeping pattern, eating correctly etc.  It sounds so simple but when you come to Loughborough there is a lot to take in and a lot of aspects to focus on so you need to be organised. If you start to become lazy, you get into bad habits, and you don’t have your parents here to nag you to do the right thing and all the decisions are made by you – so make the right ones. Also, the IFA is a big family, so if you need help ask for it. If you are feeling low, speak to anyone because they will listen and help as much as they can and cater to your needs – don’t be afraid to speak out. Other than that, just enjoy it.


A message from the IFA Team

Following the advice from Public Health England and the Football Association we have taken the difficult decision to suspend all face-to-face IFA activity.  However, our staff team are working to support our student-athletes to provide an alternative ‘virtual’ timetable of activities during these unprecedented times and while we are all asked to socially-distance ourselves.  For example, we will provide live-streamed Strength and Conditioning sessions for our student-athletes that can be done during isolation in their own homes.

For those students who have already applied or want to apply to join the IFA programme next season, we are working closely with Loughborough College and University, who in turn are working with The Department for Education and other governing bodies.  We appreciate this is an unsettling time for anyone looking at going to university next year but we are still planning that everyone can start this September as originally planned.  If you have any questions or want any advice please do not hesitate to contact us.

We want to reach out to our local community in these difficult times. Together with our partners, Loughborough Student’s Futsal Club, we are offering to help those who are quarantined or cannot get out to get their food or medical supplies.  If you know of anyone in need within Loughborough please contact us on [email protected].

We hope that one day soon we will all regain normality to our everyday lives, but in the meantime we hope you and your loved ones stay safe.

The IFA Team


Recent IFA graduate Nathan Davis trains with ABC Nelas in Portugal

The International Futsal Academy (IFA) prides itself on growing and developing young futsal talent and Nathan Davis is a great example of a recent huge success of the programme.  Nathan joined us in 2016 from Bristol City’s Community Trust programme. Whilst always a natural talent, Nathan’s passion, determination and sheer grit has seen him capitalise on the available opportunities at Loughborough and catapult him into being one of England’s best players.

So when the decision time came to send one of our graduates for a trial with our Portuguese partners, ABC Nelas, Nathan was the clear choice for the opportunity.  We caught up with Nathan during some of the rare downtime he gets while training full time in Portugal:

So you’ve been in Portugal for just over a week now, how has it been?

Really good thanks, I’ve really enjoyed the experience a lot. The people here are really nice and the futsal is a great standard.

What have you learnt so far being in Portugal?

I’ve learnt a different culture to futsal. How it’s played in a different country where players have played the game since a really young age. How they press, the ball speed, their movement is all different to the English game which is good for me to see. I’ve also learnt some Portuguese phrases that I’m sure will help on the court.

You were on the IFA programme and played for Loughborough Student Futsal Club for three years, what learnings did you take to Portugal with you?

That if I am committed to training and put 100% in I will get something out of the experience. Ask for help whenever I don’t understand something and perform to the best of my ability.

What has been the highlight so far?

I’ve enjoyed every moment so far but probably the recent friendly tournament we had. That was really enjoyable and fun, and I got to see Portuguese futsal in a competitive environment.

How have you managed with the language barrier?

To be honest I’ve coped really well. The manager speaks Portuguese but explains the drill on the futsal board so I can see what he wants when he explain the drills. Also a few of the lads speak a little English so if I’m stuck they can translate so it’s really not as bad as I thought it would be.

What’s the main difference to training in the UK?

The main difference is the intensity. Everything they do is so much faster then the game in England for example pressing, ball speed, movement etc. They also love to attack. Everytime they see an opportunity to attack they will, rather then securing the ball and keeping it they will attack the opposition. Also the heat plays a big part. Although I’ve coped it does get very hot in the hall – I’ve never sweated before like I have here!!

You’ve been a consistent presence in the England national team last season, how do you think this experience at ABC will build you as a national athlete?

This experience will help me develop as a player as I will see the game in different ways. Therefore, I can adapt my game and include things players who play at a better standard do and hopefully take that into my game at club level and international level.

We wish Nathan all the best for the rest of his trial at ABC Nelas.

If you want more information on the IFA programme at Loughborough then visit our website:

IFA Open Day 19th May 2019

Here at The International Futsal Academy in Loughborough we’re confident we have the best Futsal and Education programme in the UK, and we’re opening our doors for you to come see this first hand.

Spend the day with us on 19th May 2019 to experience what it’s really like to be part of our unique Futsal & Education programme. You will get involved in futsal training, seminars, strength & conditioning sessions and watch a Loughborough Futsal Super League and National League 1 game.  We will also discuss with you the plethora of educational opportunities available from Loughborough University, the World’s number 1 sports institution.

We will have plenty of current IFA student-players and alumni on hand throughout the day as we feel it’s really important for our prospective students to hear about their experiences and have the opportunity to ask questions on how they find being part of such a successful futsal programme.

We will also take you on a tour of our amazing sports and education facilities here at Loughborough, and show you around the student accommodation.  You will soon understand why Loughborough continually tops the rankings for offering the best student experience in the country.

Plus we will also host presentations and tours for parents, family members and/or guardians who would like more information on our programmes.

To book your place or for more information please contact us at [email protected], or message us through any of our social media channels.

This is a free event and spaces are limited.

IFA lead the way on Women’s Futsal in the UK

As Portugal and Spain warm up for the first ever UEFA Women’s Futsal Euro Finals tonight at 19:30 CET (6.30pm GMT) the world of Futsal is finally seeing a huge leap forward in the women’s game.  Women’s Futsal has been making great strides internationally and here at the International Futsal Academy (IFA) we want to ensure we remain at the forefront of the women’s game in the UK.  September see’s us welcome the first women onto our successful Futsal and Education Programme based at Loughborough.

IFA Head Coach Joao Almeida says: “We are so excited to be welcoming our first cohort of women onto the IFA programme this September. It really is an exciting time for the women’s game both globally and locally here in the UK.  The IFA programme has long been successful in developing some big names in the English men’s game – Mark Croft, James Webb, Dylan Malpas, Russell Goldstein, Nathan Davis – only mentioning those who recently travelled to Latvia in England’s successful World Cup qualifying campaign.  So we are hugely excited to be able to play our part in developing the future success stories for the Women’s game too”.

The IFA is a unique Futsal and Education programme designed to provide Further and Higher Education level (degree level) studies alongside elite futsal training programmes. Our programmes not only offer world-class education in partnership with Loughborough University and Loughborough College but also the best futsal coaching in the best sporting facilities in the UK.

High quality coaching and development is the foundation to the IFA programme. All IFA students are supported with additional performance analysis, nutrition, strength and conditioning, and academic support.  IFA players also have the opportunity to play in Loughborough’s successful BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sports) and National Futsal League teams.

The IFA also gives student athletes a wealth of additional opportunities. Amongst many other things all student-players have the opportunity of sponsorship through the FA Futsal Level 1 and 2, regular CPD workshops and seminars, and opportunities to play or coach futsal abroad.

After graduating from the IFA programme and with a qualification from a top class institution your future career and playing opportunities are sure to be endless.

For more information on the women’s IFA programme please contact us at [email protected]




Tue, 13th Jun 17

How the youngest team in the National Leagues qualified to the FA Futsal Cup Finals

Loughborough Academy, the team that serves as competition programme for International Futsal Academy players, are making history after becoming the first ever Development squad to reach the FA Futsal Cup finals.  And they did it in style, after beating one of the powerhouses in the FA Futsal Super League, Genesis Futsal Club. If you haven’t watched the game… View Article
Wed, 24th May 17

Loughborough Students miss on a second consecutive BUCS gold

Loughborough Students Futsal Club BUCS 1s, including many IFA players and coaches, travelled down to the Copper Box Arena in the London 2012 Olympic Park on the 10th May to play Cardiff University in the BUCS Final, with hopes of making history in a fantastic sporting arena which hosted events such as Handball in the Olympics… View Article