*Photo Courtesy of Special Olympics Washington
The game of Floorball has the ability to be utilized by everyone, including those who are often shut out of other forms of play.
In coaching The Washington State Special Olympics teams on the game of Floorball, I’ve witnessed the interaction of players of all skill levels, who are at their hearts champions in how they engage in play.
The US Special Olympics is the largest sports organization for persons with intellectual disability. Per Special Olympics statistics there are currently there are 4.7 million athletes involved in various athletic programs around the world. Officially there are 220 national and U.S. programs in 169 countries. Special Olympics provides a number of events throughout the year that culminate in the World Games and World Winter Games. Each major event is held every two years alternating between the summer and winter games.
Floorball is a game that bridges the gap for most Special Olympics participants. It reduces injuries and avoids major contacts, and allows the focus of teamwork along with coordination, to reign supreme. I would highly suggest its incorporation in any Special Olympics event, simply because it trains the athletes on exploring limitless athletic participation while out on the floor.
As a whole Special Olympics provides a vast array of sports for its athletes from track and field sports in the spring, to ski and snowboarding events in the winter. Floorball is also part of the sports offering within Special Olympics. Floorball is a relatively new sport to Special Olympics and was first demonstrated as a sport in 2013 during the World Winter Games in Korea. During that demonstration eight teams competed in floorball. Floorball was recently approved as an official Special Olympics World Games sport and was introduced in 2017 in Austria for the first time.
Special Olympics has slightly modified the game to better suit their athletes, but the modifications to the rules are minor. One of those modifications pertains to the size of the rink. A traditional Floorball rink is 40 meters long by 20 meter wide. For Special Olympics they play on a rink that is 20 meters long and 12 meters wide. Matches are played 3 on 3 with goalkeepers, versus the 5 on 5 with goalkeepers.
As for the sport in the US, it is still developing. Floor (ring) hockey is primarily played by most groups, but there are more and more Special Olympics groups starting to learn and play Floorball. There have been demonstrations in Arizona and Washington State most recently designed to inform and educate athletes about Floorball. I anticipate that as more and more become educated about this sport that we’ll see more groups playing. It is also likely that we’ll see Floorball emerge as a Unified Sport within Special Olympics too. Special Olympics already has a variety of resources out there so if you’re looking to start a program that’s a great place to start.