Choosing the Right Path

If you’re new to floorball or have been around for a little while you’ll recognize two things.  The first is that floorball is a great sport to get involved in.  The second is that if you’re looking to start a program it might take off faster than you’re prepared for.  In my experience the latter is tough to predict, but a real possibility in many communities looking for something new.  As a facility or organization everyone is out looking for the next big thing.  The problem is what to do with it when you find it.  There’s sustainable growth and then there’s growth beyond capacity.  For organizations just starting out that last thing you want is to have a program that grows beyond your ability to provide a quality service.   There’s a lot of planning that should happen when looking to start a new venture.

Like any new venture it’s best to take the time to think about what your goals are as well as some of the challenges ahead.  How does this program fulfill the mission of the organization?  Do you plan to purchase equipment?  Do you have or need to secure dedicated space to play?  Who is your target market?  What will the costs be to the consumer?  By taking the time to think through these questions and plan will allow you to better prepare for how to respond to challenges.  Those who aren’t currently businesses may need to look at creating and LLC or non-profit, but that isn’t always the case.  In some cases, it might be more beneficial to partner with local sports organizations and utilize their resources and network to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

The biggest challenge will be to educate players about the sport including the rules.  In areas where hockey is popular some of these steps may be easier than areas that do not play stick sports.  While that’s not always the case the ability for players to learn and pick up floorball skills will help in the development of programming to meet the needs of the consumer.  In my case, I’ve spent more time creating opportunities to learn and interact with the sport outside of an organized league.  Eventually I started an intramural league, but in the beginning my intent was to simply get it in front of people.  In most cases I let the sport speak for itself and let the players find the joy in playing.  That’s what keeps them coming back for more.

While leagues have their place, some organizations may not be interested in developing and managing the nuances of a league.  In this case the focus may be better suited in youth development through instructional classes.  For a facility looking to offer a new program this can be an effective way to educate players about the sport, get them involved, and build a base to start a league.  Whatever route you choose as an organization bring it back to how the sport will mesh with your overall mission.  In the end that will help guide you towards a decision that’s best for your organization.

 

Talking Floorball at NIRSA Region VI Conference

Any chance i get to talk about floorball is a chance I can’t pass up. I’m thankful for opportunities to do so, and I try to be creative with the audience I can get in front of. Obviously you need to think about who you’re presenting to and the space you have to work with. If you didn’t know, my day job is working in campus recreation as the Director of Recreation at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA. As part of my career I’ve been involved with a variety of organizations and associations as a member. The organization I’m currently most active in is the National Intramural Recreation Sports Association (NIRSA). As a whole NIRSA is broken into six regions across the US, and an additional region comprised of Canada. It’s focus is on developing and improving campus recreation from the professional and student levels working to develop and improve best practices across all facets of recreation operations.

I’m located in Region VI which is comprised of HI, AK, WA, OR, ID, MT, UT, CO, AZ, NV, NM, and CA. When looking at the landscape of potential markets to grow, working with colleges could be a great one in time. There are a number of challenges to this including education about the sport, student buy in, competition with established sports, and limited space to name a few. While these challenges exist there is still a place for Floorball on college campuses.

To get in front of colleagues I started submitted presentation proposals to talk about floorball. I submitted and had my presentation accepted for the Region VI conference in Bellingham, WA. The focus of the presentation was built around educating people about the sport and why it’s different, and to get them active in playing it. We talk a lot about the concept of sticks in hands, and I think it’s one of the best ways for people to feel the sport up close. If they can feel it they can start to imagine doing it in their facility, or start to think about how to incorporate it. That is a crucial component to winning over believers.

At the conference I was able to do just that. During the presentation and after I had many conversations about Floorball. Will anything come of that? Time will tell, but right now the key is making people aware of the sport. While they may not jump into it right away having the knowledge about it in the first place might help steer them towards it in the future. While I tried to coordinate ahead of time about the space I would be speaking in, and explained that I needed activity space for the hands on portion of the presentation. In reality things didn’t quite work out the way I was hoping it would. It was a little bit of a bummer, but in the end we were able to do something. That’s the way it goes sometimes. You don’t always get the space, audience, or message out the way that you’re intending. When presenting you have walk a fine line between educating and selling the sport. If we want it to grow we need to be able to present it in a manner that reaches the audience and excites them to want to explore the sport more. Going forward I’m hopeful that the work done will help educate more people and grow the sport at the same time. Either way my mission will remain the same, and I’ll keep pushing forward.

Merchandise matters

In regards to most ventures, but specifically anything business related I fully believe in branding.  There’s a reason why business employees wear branded shirts; why sports companies fight over teams to wear their products exclusively.  They want their brand and message out there to the masses.  Companies are looking for buying power, and ideally brand loyalty.  The same thing goes to teams at all levels of competition.  However, I’m astonished in the Floorball world at how few clubs, especially at the highest levels in Sweden and Finland don’t have any merchandise.  They’re missing out, and they should be working to change that.  Some are doing a good job of that specifically, Storvreta IBK, FC Helsingbord, IBF Falun, and Classic (FIN).  While these teams are the top tier of their respective leagues the vast majority of clubs don’t at least have anything online available related to merchandise from what I can find.

Growing up Soccer was just starting to hit its stride.  Back then you didn’t see much TV coverage unless it was a World Cup match.  However, every now and then on a Saturday I’d be able to catch an English Premier League game running.  As a kid I was drawn to those games.  The MLS was still in its infancy and games didn’t garner much of a TV audience.  I was hooked, and thinking back at time I became an Arsenal fan, because that’s who was being shown.  I became as best a follower as I could at the time because the technology of today wasn’t really there as it is today.   From half way around the world I was a fan of a team I wouldn’t actually have an opportunity to see play in person for at least another 15 years.   I remember asking for Christmas to get a David Bergkamp jersey, and low and behold it was there that year.   I know it was a challenge to find it, but needless to say it happened.  I still have that jersey to this day.  You can’t tell me that with Floorball games being broadcast live online to world that clubs couldn’t capitalize on attracting a worldwide fan base.

Putting aside team preferences and whether or not you like a team or not, the focus is that there is market to promote your brand.  While in many cases you may need to invest in the material and have things designed the return can outweigh the cost.  A simple google search will bring up any number of companies who can design, print, and ship apparel while hosting an official store for you with little to no cost on your part.  While you share the profits your overall risk is fairly low, and a good way to start.  As an example I’ll use the Fresno Floorball Club out of Fresno California.  They have a well-established adult Floorball league.  Frankly they have a good looking logo for it.  As a means to promote their brand and get more overall engagement they could host a league store.  While they have an adult league, if they added youth apparel, and added Floorball clinics for kids they could possibly spawn a youth league from that.  As those kids move through the youth league they’ll trickle into the adult league potentially growing their overall engagement.  More engagement means more buying power, which potentially leads to more sponsors looking to reach specific demographics.  It’s not so farfetched and I’m hoping they’re reading this and if they’re not doing it already, will start to consider it.

If anything is taken from this week’s article is that merchandise matters.  It’s your brand, and if you can do something to connect people to it you will see a return on that investment in some for in the future.

Maximizing League Revenue

Running a league is a business, even if it’s a small one.  While the mission and goals may be different depending on the league it’s still a business, nonprofit or not doesn’t matter.  You still need to cover your costs, and hopefully make more in your net revenue than your expenses.  Starting a league can feel a bit daunting, but that in and of itself shouldn’t deter you from starting if you’re willing to put in the work.

Leagues take work and time.  Depending on your sport, access to players, facility, and funds you it will likely take a while to get it off the ground.  As a result you’ll likely need to rely on volunteers as much as you can since it’s not likely you’ll be able to pay their services at the beginning.  In your business plan you should have all of that outlined long before start.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  If you don’t have a business plan make one.  I talk a lot about making a plan before you get started.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s mostly built around thinking ahead and being prepared to make the right steps so you can avoid potential pitfalls.  The last thing you want to have happen is invest in something that fails before you get started.  Set yourself up for success.

The majority of your revenue will come from league fees, and how you get to that price point should be well thought out.  You should have a very clear understanding of your expenses, and the number of people or teams needed in your league to breakeven.  Spend time researching what other leagues are doing so you have an understanding of the market.  If your product is different from a competitor and want to price it higher you better be able to show why you product is superior for the higher cost.  Even then it may not work, but you want to have as much information so you can make an educated decision instead of an impulsive one.  Again, all of this should be in your business plan.  Think each process through.

While the majority of revenue will derive from league fees it’s worth looking into other viable options to make more revenue.  With a league you should already have a captivated audience that you can tap into.  Concessions is a great way to provide more service to you customers while increasing revenue.  If you’re renting a facility you’ll need to check the rental agreement on doing this, and you’ll also need to add in a retail component within your business license.  Each State and City may have different regulations and taxes pertaining to retail concessions so make sure to be aware of the requirements and make sure you have the necessary documents.

When thinking about concessions think about the amount of time, resources, and regulations needed to operate within the law.  Simply grilling burgers on your grill and selling them will likely be more involved than that, and any prepared food will require food handler permits, and be prepared to be inspected at any time for any rule or regulation.  In the end going that route might be more trouble than it’s worth.  My personal preference when looking at concessions is to go the route of pre-packaged food.  There’s a variety of options out there from ordering online through wholesale stores, to finding food stores that sell with restaurants in mind.  With pre-packaged you don’t need to prepare anything, you have very minimal food loss or spoilage in the long term.  You can accurately account for retail and track your potential gross and net much easier.  This will allow you to more effectively chart and plan out what you costs will be in the long term.  I’ve done both, and there are pluses and minuses to both.  If you’re choosing between the two I’d start with pre-packaged and build from there.   Either way it’s worth looking into as another stream of revenue.

Why getting sticks in hands matters

Sticks in hands.  An interesting phrase when you think about it.  It’s a very simple notion, but one that can have profound impacts on a broader scale.  The question is how do effectively do this?  There are a variety of strategies to do this, but how do you figure out what will be the most effective?  That in and of itself is a challenge.

Let’s look at the NHL as one option.  As an organization it’s a good idea to look for ways to connect customers with your brand in unique, but similar ways.  One way that NHL teams have approached this is to go out into the community.  They have staff dedicated to developing relationships with community organizations and schools to connect and give back.  NHL players will go to schools with sticks to run a program, or they’ll connect with Special Olympics to support athletes and programs.  There’s a good chance you’ve seen many of these showcased online.  It’s a great way to build rapport with people, give back, and just be good community partners.  At the same time they’re building their brand through goodwill.  This can be a powerful tool that benefits the organization beyond the sport, but still drawing things back to the sport.

Over the past two years a number of NHL teams have begun to use Floorball as means to connect with the community.  The goals may be somewhat different for each team, but they’re looking for a way to connect a hockey like stick game to get kids active, but also to connect them to the hockey world.  They get sticks branded in their logos, and will host specific events.  The Florida Panthers have gone a set further by partnering with the Boys and Girls Club to run a league, which the Panthers then host a year end tournament for the players.  This is all done in the off-season when more time and space can be dedicated to an aspect like this, but still gets their brand to potential customers.  Can we specifically correlate a fan base of kids who grow up to participate in hockey, or at least support hockey?  It’s certainly possible, and would make for an interesting research project for someone willing to coordinate it.   The raw data collected from a project like that could potentially help confirm the idea that sticks in hands correlates to long term involvement in hockey, or hockey like sports in the future.

The notion of sticks in hands is simply the gateway to the overall brand.  I think that Floorball programs built buy organizations can effectively serve multiple purposes.  However, simply doing the program missed out on the long term potential.  Going to schools and doing these events is useful and frankly a great thing for the community.  However, if resources and partnerships were developed to encourage Floorball leagues within local communities it would have the potential to help connect players who will never play hockey to still have a connection to hockey organizations.  There are far more people not playing hockey who can be supporters of teams and hockey programs, but they can get lost because they have nothing connecting them to it.  I don’t see too many floor hockey leagues running throughout the US, but I bet we would quickly see more Floorball leagues or instructional programs develop if NHL teams put some resources into helping develop them and build off of that.  For a return on investment this model can be easily repeated anywhere, and that brings significant value to all involved.    The NHL is one example of how this could work, there are others.  My challenge is how can you get sticks in hands of players in your area?

 

Safety and Mitigating Risk

Risk is all around us. Working in the field of recreation we talk about risk constantly. In today’s world it seems to be talked about with consistency. While activities carry risk and it’ can’t be totally unavoidable, it can be mitigated.

If you’ve been in the athletic, fitness, or recreation world in any capacity you’ve likely heard the word “safety” thrown around with much frequency.  In no means do I think it should be taken lightly.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in gym you know that people seem to throw caution to wind and as a result some unfortunate things can happen.  In the field we talk about risk management and mitigating risk on a daily basis.  Before you develop a new program it’s likely that you’ve either thought about, or been asked to assess the risk of said adventure.  There’s a reason for this beyond wanting to make sure people are doing things safely so they don’t get hurt, hurt someone else, or damage a piece of equipment.  While most people think it’s just that, in reality it’s really based around legality.  The legal system drives so much of what we do, and as a result we have to adjust to new norms in order to protect ourselves.  As a business it’s very easy to lose everything you’ve work for because of something you did or did not do.  Fair or not fair it’s the way it is.  If you’re not thinking about safety you’re leaving yourself or your organization open to possible litigation.

We can’t always avoid accidents.  People are going to get hurt.  We can adjust rules, add equipment, open space, etc. but it’s not always avoidable.  To avoid problems it’s best to focus on staff and start there.  It’s pretty standard now to have a least one person on staff certified in CPR/First Aid.  The expectation for facilities is to have trained personnel in these components, but for them to also have an Automatic Electronic Defibrillator (AED) in the building and staff trained to use it.  Pair that with the numerous waivers that are required to do anything it’s surprising to me when I see organization not doing these things.  If you’re reading this and you don’t have policies in place or aren’t sure where to start please contact me.  I’ll help you get the right policies and procedures in place.  It’s too important not to have these things in place for any number of reasons.

Taking a step back and looking at risk management of a program.  When we look at floor hockey programs most people are primarily concerned about kids getting hit in the head.  One of the ways risk has been mitigated to avoid this issue was creating a stick that had a lot of flex in it.  This gave the look and feel of a hockey stick, but the excessive flex reduced the potential for the stick to rise up during follow through.  While this is one way to go about it the main issue I see with that it reduces the sport a bit.  By taking away functionality of the equipment it makes the sport less enjoyable in this manner, which is one reason why we don’t see floor hockey outside of schools.  Don’t confuse PE floor hockey with ball or street hockey.  The risk management there is that they require protective equipment to play which adds a whole different set of challenges when talking about risk management.

Floorball comparatively has lower risk management to floor hockey.  While the concern for high sticks is there the sticks are shorter and lighter.  This allows for more control in tight spaces.  A full swing and follow through with a floorball stick, for most, is shorter than a hockey stick.  Per the rules of the game players must keep sticks below the waist at all times this helps reduce the possibility of a head injury.  Players can be coached and taught to control their sticks, and because of the increase in performance leads to a more enjoyable experience for the participants.  While sticks will and do come up, in many cases the instance has less force because it in inadvertent, especially with beginner players. It’s at least worth noting that when we look at the risk and things done to mitigate risk without losing the essence of the sport Floorball is worth a look.

 

 

Swedish Super League (SSL) Team supports growth of Floorball in US

Floorball in the US is growing. At this moment in time it’s a grassroots sport that is gaining more and more attention not just in the US, but around the World. To grow a new sport there must be an emphasis on education and instruction at the youth levels. It is important that established clubs and organizations around the world encourage growth of Floorball in all locations. For those who are looking to expand their fan base this is an opportunity to connect with a largely untapped market of fans and potential long-term customers.

For the past two years David Crawford (Aka, Floorball Guru, LLC.) has been instructing youth and adults throughout Lacey, WA on Floorball. Currently David is focused on teaching Floorball in an effort to raise awareness of the sport and grow it into a club and league sport for kids and adults. David has developed a partnership with Lacey Parks and Recreation to offer a 6 week program for youth to learn, grow, and develop their Floorball skills. Aside from teaching youth classes David is working to grow Floorball at the collegiate level running demos and leagues for students at Saint Martin’s University where he’s the Director of Recreation Services. David plans to offer a 3v3 Floorball league this fall as the next phase in Floorball development in his area. David also coaches the USA U19 Women’s Floorball Team and is working to find and develop female players to compete internationally.

Recently David connected with Joel Olofsson who is the Communication and Youth Coordinator at FC Helsingborg in Sweden, and is also the USA U19 Men’s Coach. FC Helsingborg is a Swedish professional floorball team that was formed in 2003. The club offers a full development program for players to mature through the club from beginner to the top club playing in the Swedish Super League. FCH also offer camps, clinics, goalie development for both men and women. As a way of creating more awareness about floorball, and to create more fans for FC Helsingborg the club donated youth jersey for kids participating in floorball classes in Lacey, WA.

“In the US there is a struggle to raise awareness and show people that Floorball is a developed and growing sport, much like soccer or basketball. With the development of leagues, clubs, and tournaments it brings a validity to the sport. Through the generous donation of team jerseys by FC Helsingborg we hope that this will help kids get involved in following FCH and other clubs by watching games, studying the sport, and increasing their learning. The kids and parents were more than ecstatic to receive the jerseys. The more we can get kids watching games and building a passion for the sport the more education and development we can provide to assist in their overall growth. From halfway around the world FCH now has fans rooting for them this season. Hopefully we’ll see more groups getting involved to build the sport beyond the boards”. – David Crawford

For any established Floorball clubs out there we encourage you to think about possibly following in FCH’s path to help raise awareness, and build a potentially broader fan base around the world. Hopefully someday we’ll see more partnerships spring up with matches played overseas in the spirit of growth and awareness about Floorball.

Goalies, A Different Breed

It all starts at the back.  One of the most important positions, yet the position with the least number of players on the team.  If you’ve ever spent any time around a goalie you know they’re a special breed of player.  It takes a different mindset to play in goal whether it’s hockey, soccer, lacrosse, or floorball.  Being a goalie requires a unique skill set to put yourself in harms’ way to keep the ball out of the goal at all costs.  At the same time despite the equipment a goalie wears they’re the most vulnerable player on the field.  At all times the field players must make sure to protect the goalie from the opposite team. With that in mind it’s important for goalies to be prepared physically and mentally for the task at hand.

Starting out it’s important when training to focus on movements that will help you on the court.  Time spent focused on core strength and hip strength and flexibility will help developing goalies on and off the court.  Kneeling hip flexor stretches and hip flexor mobilization is a great start when focusing on your overall hip flexibility.  These stretches are also helpful in relieving tight hips.  An overall lack a flexibility for a goalie makes everything in the position more difficult that it already is.

For training to be effective, it’s important to make sure that you stay balanced.  Staying balanced means thinking about the entire body.  Stretching is one aspect to training, and on the flip side goalies need to also focus on functional training.  Functional training is about power, strength, and stabilization.  These qualities are vital in allowing goalies the ability to perform their duties effectively while reducing potential injuries.  Dead-lift exercises and front squats are great additions to any lifting routine, and a great way to help strengthen muscles throughout the body.  When combined with other exercises functional training helps train the entire body.

Another training skill to emphasize is visual training.  In hockey, you may have seen goalies juggling tennis balls, or throwing them against a wall to increase reaction times.  These training techniques are not unique to floorball, but are like goalies from different sports. A floorball moves at a high rate of speed, and can change direction at any time.  The ability for goalies to react and move to block those shots take a tremendous amount of training and skill.  One exercise that is effective revolves around serving shots from behind the net to a shooter who shoots on goal.  The goalie begins by watching the ball, therefore doesn’t know where the shooter is.  Once the ball is passed the goalie must react and position themselves to make the save.  This can be done from both sides of the net.

Being goalie takes a willingness to learn a skill that few choose to learn. It takes a desire to carry the burden of protecting the net, and in many cases impacting the outcome of the game.  For all the field players out there be thankful you have someone to watch your back.

Floorball Growth Leading to the World Games in Birmingham

The sport of Floorball has been seeing some great growth and awareness over the past several years. One of the sports overall long-term goals is to be part of the Olympic Games.  To do that Floorball must show the value it has as a sport, but also as a draw for spectators. A sport that draws a crowd draws attention in many forms, from ticket sales, sponsors, and other businesses. This is a crucial part of the development of any sport because investment in money helps build and grow any sport exponentially. Just look at the impact TV deals have had on the sports world in funneling more and more money and exposure to the sport. Having opportunities to play on a large state will help Floorball continue to grow exponentially.

Currently the biggest stage for Floorball is the World Games. The World Games are the proving grounds for the Olympics. Sports that prove themselves on this stage have a decent chance at being included in the Olympics in the future. Floorball was part of the 2017 World Games and will be included in the 2020 World Games and will be hosted in Birmingham, Alabama in the U.S. Looking down the road a strong showing of support for Floorball in the U.S. during the World Games sets the stage for a potential inclusion in the Olympics for 2028 when the Olympics are hosted in Los Angeles, California. The road map is somewhat planned out on the potential of what could happen. The crucial part is to do the work necessary to put Floorball in the best possible position.

Here’s the challenge. Floorball is not a well-known sport in the U.S. or North America for that matter. It’s gaining an audience, but by and large it’s not well known, and even less so in the south where the World Games will be hosted. The first step is to raise awareness and build and educational campaign about the sport. People can’t support a sport they don’t know, understand, or play. As part of the educational campaign there needs to be a focus on instructional development. Demos and clinics are great, but if there is to be a sustained movement there needs to be a process of instruction that leads to growth. People need to be given the resources and support to be successful. Running clinics and hoping things will stick isn’t sustainable and will not help the sport grow. If the goal is to increase participation in Floorball specifically in the Alabama region after the World Games are done, a proper foundation must be laid to assure it will still be played long after the event is over.

The World Games are an opportunity for the sport of Floorball, and an opportunity for growth in the U.S. To have the best in the world playing on U.S. soil to showcase to the world how great it can be. We need people willing to think outside of the box and develop resources and sustainable practices to be successful. The goal is to develop advocates around the country teaching, playing, and growing the sport leading up to the World Games. What the sport needs are advocates who are actively doing things and not people who talk or are simply looking to make a quick buck off the opportunity. Having doers is what will truly develop growth for Floorball leading up to the World Games.

The U19 Women’s World Floorball Championship Experience

The International Floorball Federation is doing a number of things right in their development and growth of the sport of Floorball.  The one area I’d like to highlight and focus on is their championship series.  Every year they host the World Floorball Championships around the world.  They have them in adult and U19 Men and Women competitions.  As the number of countries looking to participate in the WFC increases the need for qualifier tournaments grows.  In places like Europe and Asia these qualifying tournament allows developing countries the opportunity to compete and grow their product on a bigger stage.  The fun part about it is that it allows for the upset to always be present.  As more and more countries evolve their teams the level of competition will increase, which in turn produces a better overall product for the fans to watch.

In May of 2018 I was able to experience my first WFC in person at the U19 Women’s WFC located in St. Gallen and Herisau Switzerland.  The location of the event was about 45 minutes east of Zurich and included 16 teams from around the world.  It also saw a few newcomers to the U19 tournament from New Zealand and Australia.  I’ve been to and been part of a variety of sports tournaments over the years, but this one felt a bit different.  This was not simply a rec league event, but a marquee sporting product with dedicated professional staff and an overall professional feel.

The WFC is currently broken into two groups. Group A is comprised of the top eight teams while Group B is comprised of newer and lower level teams.  Ideally this format will pit similar skill level countries against each other in the hopes of increasing development, but also providing more engaging matches for spectators.  However, the winner of group B is promoted to group A the next tournament, while the eighth seeded team in group A is relegated to the lower group.  This year we saw this format play out with Germany upsetting the trend as the eighth seed of group A by taking seventh place to stay in the top group.  The drama placed around this story was a great one to watch throughout the tournament, and was one of many stories that came up during the tournament.

One interesting component of the tournament was having two separate locations for group matches.  The group A facility was phenomenal, and being a spectator provided a great atmosphere to watch a number of key matches.  However, I really enjoyed the smaller venue that group B played in.  What I like about a smaller venue is that when it’s packed and the fans are engaged it’s an amazing atmosphere. As a player I would rather play in a smaller packed facility than a larger more empty space.  The atmosphere created as a result of some of the matches and fans in the group B location really stood out to me.  I can’t wait to get to the next WFC wherever I’m able to be at.  If you’re a fan of all sports and are looking for a unique and engaging event you need to check out attending a World Floorball Championship.