Step out and try something new

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that things don’t normally happen in the time frame we want them to.  I’ve spent a lot of time creating programs from scratch, and it’s not an easy task.  Despite the best intentions or desire to see a sport or program get off the ground it can be a huge success or a total failure.  The possibility of failure is not an excuse to not try.  To start anything new it takes time.  One fundamental aspect is figuring out how a new program will meet the needs of your customers, and overcome various obstacles to become successful.  For now let’s assume you’ve already figured out how you’re going to pay for the equipment.  The next steps are figuring out how your new Floorball program will fit into your existing program structure, and facility, and ultimately how you’re going to effectively market your new venture.

If you Google Floorball you’ll likely find numerous videos from European leagues.  In many cases what you’re seeing are top tier leagues and tournaments that are housed in arenas.  What you may not always see are the smaller venues that are also part of the tournament.  Hopefully you won’t immediately dismiss trying the sport because you can’t house 15,000 people.  What it will take is you as the program manager, recreation specialist, sports supervisor, or Floorball instructor to look at the space available and make it work.  Floorball can be played in just about any space and in a variety of configurations.  I’ve played it on a tennis court, in a small utility gym, on a basketball court with curtains down to create a pseudo rink.  I’ve taught classes on large gym floors and those tend to be my least favorite.  Unless you have access to a rink a large space can be challenging.  Depending on the space available teaching Floorball classes in a small space can improve the experience, especially for younger players.  While classes of 20 are nice that may not be feasible given the space available.  You should be forming an idea of how this will all work together.  The next strategy is thinking about how this new program will impact your current programs, or sports.

People are creatures of habit.  We like doing what we know.  If you’ve played soccer every fall since you were 6 it’s likely that as the fall season rolls around you’re thinking about soccer.  Given where you live it’s possible that soccer may be the dominant sport played.  Starting a competing program could hurt your overall numbers in that sport.  While number of players directly correlates to dollars, too many program managers focus on the number of people in a league instead of the overall numbers in the departments programs.

In the end what’s the bottom line, or overall mission of the organization.  Think of it this way.  I offer a youth soccer league.  Historically we have 300 kids player soccer between the ages of 7-15.  For all intents and purposes let’s assume those are successful number for us.  Now I decide to offer a Floorball program for the same age group and time.  After two years I have 150 kids in floorball and 225 in Soccer.  Many would look at that and assume Floorball is negatively impacting the soccer program.  In some ways that could be the case.  At that point we need to dig deeper to figure out what is causing the drop in soccer participation.  Is it the coaches? Training?  Did players only play soccer because that’s what was available at the time?  Another question is why are we now attracting 75 more kids and families than previously?  While soccer numbers are down Floorball numbers are up.  As a whole the number of participants has increased.  Is the goal of the organization to attract more players?  Make more money?  Let’s assume that a youth league runs $50 per person.  With an increase of 75 players that’s an addition $3750 in revenue.  In my book that’s a success.  The key moving forward is to find out what factors are creating the change.  It could simply be that you’ve now given people a choice, and they’re showing you what they want.

Demo at Eastern Washington University

One of the perks to working in Campus Recreation is that you get a lot of opportunities to connect and work with some amazing people. I’ve been fortunate enough to have these experiences around the country and I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made. As a member of National Intramural Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA) I’ve had multiple opportunities to give back as a volunteer in their Championships Series, specifically Flag Football and Basketball. 

The past two years I’ve worked the Region 6 Basketball Tournament, which has been hosted by Eastern Washington University. I grew up in this part of the state and any chance I get to come back is always welcome. Last year I reached out to the IM Sports coordinator regarding Floorball. While he gave me his time in listening to me pitch him about the sport he wasn’t too keen on adding it at the time. This time when I was asked to join the staff again for the basketball tournament I used the opportunity to offer a demo program for his staff and students on campus.

I’ve done many demos and clinics in the past and honestly the engagement at them is a toss-up. Whenever I travel I use that as an opportunity to connect and offer a hands-on demo of the sport. I think it’s an important component to the education process. The more important thing I’m after is eliciting an emotional response, which normally is positive; but also helps whomever I’m working with a reason to think about how they can incorporate this program. I’ve done programs at schools like Western Washington University and Arizona State University. While staff were really supportive helped develop space and promote it in the end there wasn’t a lot of engagement from students. There are a number or factors that could have played into that, but sometimes things line up and others they don’t.

Going into this demo I wasn’t sure what to expect. College kids are busy and adding one more thing to the mix isn’t always in the cards. I showed up to get things going and we started our time off with five students. Within a few moments we were up to 10. We were fortunate enough to have a lot of students in the area playing other sports and practicing, so we looked a bit out of place from the norm. It was perfect. After a brief intro we started playing. We had some players from the club hockey team come out and it was great connecting them to the sport too. I even had students who weren’t playing come over to ask what we were doing. I wish every event or interaction I had went that well.

Upon further discussion with the IM Sports coordinator he couldn’t stop talking about the sport and the experience. We were already talking about how Floorball could be incorporated into his current program structure. He kept coming back to how the sport was similar to floor hockey, which had been popular in the past, but that it was different enough to excite people. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them in the future and see how the program grows.

Speaking at AZHPE Conference

I try to do as much education and promotion on Floorball as I can pending time and resources available to do so. At times I’ve had to be creative with that, and at other times I’ve had to say no to some great conferences and opportunities because things just didn’t work. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. While Floorball isn’t my full-time job pay wise, I do everything I can to grow this sport in my own way. Last fall I was fortunate enough to travel to some amazing conferences and speak about Floorball. One such conference was the Arizona Health and Physical Education conference hosted in Phoenix.

I had never been to Phoenix so getting a chance to travel south from Washington State for some warmer weather in the fall was fun. When you’re living in temps in the low 40’s and get to be in 80’s on the same day is always a nice treat in late fall. I found the conference from a friend back in high school and was part of the group putting on the event. After applying and being accepted I traveled south for the event.

I’ve been to numerous conferences in a number of capacities and it’s always interesting to see how the attendees are at each conference. One of the things I love about the recreation and PE fields is that when you go to a conference you’re doing to meet a lot of fun and energetic people. That translates into the sessions too. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for people standing on a stage presenting a topic or material, but I’m much more of a get up and more person. I try very hard to do that when I speak. Sometimes the challenge when I submit a presentation for a conference is getting the organizer to realize that my session is more of an activity, and I need space to get up and move around. That’s the point of what I’m after. I can talk Floorball all day, but I’d rather give people the chance to experiences it, get their hands on, and find an emotional response to it. Floorball has a place in schools, but until we get sticks in hands we’re missing an opportunity.

This conference was also one of the first opportunities to showcase my book on the topic and have those conversations with people about the sport and connecting it to their needs. I’m proud of the work I’ve done to write and publish a book, and I’m hopeful that it’s helpful to those looking to teach the sport.

Going forward I’m interested to see how Floorball will be used in schools. There are some other hurdles that need to be overcome and I’m taking steps to mitigate some of those in the future. The more obstacles removed the more the sport becomes available on a larger scale. I’m thankful for a chance to do that. I thank every Physical Educator out there for the work they do, and if I learned anything from this group is to have an open mind and stay creative with what you have.

U19 World Floorball Championship Experience

The Floorball World has come to North America, specifically Nova Scotia. For the first time the U19 Men’s World Floorball Championships were played outside of Europe. It’s not the first time Canada has hosted a WFC. In fact they hosted the U19 Women’s tournament a few years prior. These are crucial steps in the development of the sport as it begins to spread its influence around the world.

I was fortunate enough to be there for the event in Nova Scotia. I am thankful to have played a small part in the process having been invited by Premier Floorball, a company working to expand the sport across North America. My main role was to be an ambassador of the sport. Frankly, I’m happy to carry that role if it helps further the cause. I’ve been able to coach in the U19 Women’s WFC and having the chance to be a spectator is a treat. When you’re coaching or playing your focus is on the task at hand. There is little time to do much else during the event. Having a chance to sit down and just enjoy the games before me was special. Sadly I don’t get many opportunities to do that so when they come around I make sure to take full advantage. The fun part for me is getting to watch the little nuances of the players and coaches that you don’t see watching online.

The World Floorball Championships are a spectacle in their own right. You bring the top 16 or so countries around the world to one place to compete. While there are games with likely outcomes given past performances, there are always a few surprises along the way too. What I like about the event from a fans perspective is that all games are steamed live. However, it doesn’t capture the game the same was as seeing it firsthand. In the vastly underdeveloped space of North America it is vital to give spectators opportunities to see and engage with the sport in person. Doing so build excitement and passion that carries on after the event. It’s the same phenomenon we see after an event like the World Cup. People see it, experience it, and fall in love with it and that translates into participation or at least an interest in the sport leading up to and after the event. That can’t be lost on its importance, and I think the Nova Scotia area will see positive engagement in Floorball as a result.

Hosting an event like this is a huge undertaking. There is so much that’s happening behind the scenes that no one knows about. It requires a talented and dedicated group of individuals in order to make it happen. It also requires a large financial commitment too. For those who sponsor Floorball and surrounding events a huge thanks for the support. As we look forward the US will play host to the World Games in 2021 in Alabama. Floorball will play a part in that event. The potential impact that event will have on growth in Floorball can’t be lost. There’s a lot happening and a lot of excitement for the sport going forward. Join us and get involved.