Guest Author: Matthew Coleman-Foster, USAF
Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am an individual who exudes pride for my country. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to represent and serve as a member of the United States Air Force. I have also been fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent and compete for my country as part of the USA National Floorball Team. I am as passionate about this sport and the benefits it has brought me and others as I am passionate about my country. I actively work on a daily basis to educate and implement Floorball programs around me.
For those who do not know, Floorball is an up-and-coming team sport. There are various divisions of leagues, clubs, and national teams around the world, with the most developed area being Northern Europe.
A few months ago, I was watching the United States Men’s Floorball team play in the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Prior to the start of one game, the announcers were talking about the two teams and noting where each player came from. I distinctly remember one announcer pointing out a distinct lack of US based players on the team. For the World Games the entire team was made up of US born players that now reside in and play floorball throughout Europe. I have nothing but respect for those players, as many of them are my friends. However, as a passionate US-based player and someone that is part of the USA Floorball organization, I feel that we need to be doing more to develop Floorball in the US.
Established leagues and programs
Floorball in North America is largely built around grassroots development, promoted by men and women around the country who are passionate about Floorball and are actively developing the sport in cities, states and regions. In order to build a solid foundation, we must be actively developing and supporting these businesses and organizations. The largest obstacle for us right now is a lack of education, awareness, classes, and leagues to engage and develop players. In order to do that, we will need to leverage positive relationships with local parks, recreation departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, etc. These programs, if trained and supported properly, will accelerate the development of Floorball in the US. Developed leagues, clubs, and programs will allow for more development of our National Team system.
A Central Training Location in the US.
I believe the main struggle with promoting floorball in the US is the size of the country. It is a huge challenge building a team from all corners of the country, asking players to travel on their own dime, and be available for training on a regular basis. Having a central training location is integral for USA Floorball. We need a location for the national team to gather to prepare for upcoming events, training camps and selection. This location would also serve as a development center for potential and future USA Floorball athletes to hone their skills. The challenge with this is where do we begin? What facilities do we have that can host or accommodate the needs of the teams? Our national teams usually have less time to prepare compared to other national teams and I attribute part of that to there currently being no central training location.
Advocates for floorball within the US
Another thing that hurts the growth of floorball in the US is the lack of ambassadors. As a national team athlete, you are not only an ambassador for your country, you are an ambassador in your country for your sport. Especially if it is a new sport. This is one thing that US-based players can deliver on and foreign-based players cannot. There are many schools, gyms, and programs across the country looking for something like floorball, but they haven’t found it yet. The reason for this lies within the lack of incentive for US-based players. It is also difficult for current ambassadors of the sport to get taken seriously when they don’t have as much experience as foreign-based players. Because of this, it is apparent that USA Floorball needs more US players. The current and future state of floorball in the United States depends on it. It will be off the backs of those athletes selected that floorball will prosper in the US.
If some or all of these steps are taken in an effort to improve the growth of US floorball, there would potentially be an increase in numbers for attendance to floorball clubs, creation of floorball clubs, development of youth floorball and general interest in floorball all around. Floorball is an amazing and polarizing sport, but no one will know about it or share their experience with it when it is not effectively cultivated in the US. There are people who care about this sport greatly in the states, people that can properly utilize the experience and opportunity to represent their country. If we do not cultivate that enthusiasm, interest in the sport will diminish. I know that I and other floorball players living in the United States are very passionate about this sport and the growth of it in our country, but if there continues to be no progress in these areas we know that floorball in the US will begin to decline. Floorball has had a profound influence on my life and I encourage anyone interested in this sport to get involved.