Bring The Goalie

You have a floorball program up and running, you have players, teams forming, but you don’t have any consistent goalies.

That is pretty normal problem for any sport that involves the position of a goalie to play.  While there are alternatives to have a real goalie such as using a shooter trainer in front of the goal, or by using smaller goals with no goalie, nothing is quite the same as having a live goalie in the mix.  Playing with goalies changes a number of aspects of the game on the defensive and offensive side of the ball.  However, there are some barriers to that mainly the cost associated to purchase the necessary protective equipment.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a shot you know how important it is for goalies to have the proper equipment.  If you’re lucky and have someone who’s dedicated to the position they’ll invest in getting the equipment needed to play.  While having head to toe protection is nice there are a number of options out there that can do that job to get by.

Where you’re an individual looking to buy gear or a program looking to have gear on hand the top three pieces of equipment that are a must have are a helmet, knee pads, and chest protector.  Aside from the helmet you can pretty much piece together the rest to make it work.  If you’re looking to have equipment available for multiple users, such as at a facility, you’ll want to purchase multiples and take into account sanitary and cleaning procedures.  In some cases you might already have some of this equipment if you’re moving from ball hockey to floorball.  There’s nothing that says you can’t use the same helmet and chest protector.  Depending on your situation the catcher style chest protector might be a better financial option for your program. Sometimes you use what you have to make it work, and for recreational purposes that works just fine.

When you’re looking at goalie equipment there is a lot out there online and for the most part it’s all very similar.  Like any product floorball goalie gear is focused around protection, comfort, and the ability to absorb energy to control the ball (think minimizing rebounds).  One thing to note is that a floorball goalie helmet is not the same as an ice hockey helmet.  While there share a lot of the same characteristics floorball helmets are considerably lighter, and are very similar to street hockey goalie helmets.  Pricing will vary as any other piece of equipment, but depending on what your needs are or your personal preferences there is a variety out there to meet your needs.  The same goes for knee padding.  A number of floorball companies sell knee pads, but floorball knee pads vary from volleyball pads.  Floorball knee pads are typically large and provide more complete protection around the knee.  In some cases they will also extend down to the middle of the shin for additional protection.

The biggest thing is don’t worry about the initial cost.  You don’t need every piece of equipment right off the bat, and in many cases those who like playing goalie will go out and buy their own gear.  Just don’t be shy in using goalies or getting some minimal piece of gear to get things going.

Discover The Game Within

Let’s say you’re new and you’ve just found out about floorball.

You have a general understanding of the sport, rules, equipment, and now you’re ready to get involved.

If you’re fortunate you’re already in the process of purchasing equipment to get a program going.  What now?  When starting any new program, or event you’re going to need to create a culture that buys into what you’re doing.  How do you that?  What does that look like?  You can have the greatest product in the world, but no one knows about it you’ll likely fall flat on your face.  In order to make change in this way you need to be the initial driving force pushing for your new program to get out there.  While some people may look at and brush it aside all it takes is one more person to join you and take up your cause.  Now that you have support there is some sense of legitimacy to what you’re doing, and now that you have momentum it’s a matter of time before more and more people join you and things flourish.

I’ll use hockey as an example.  Initially, and in many ways is still the case, hockey coaches and administrators in the US upon first glace look at floorball from one lens.  This isn’t hockey, or it’s similar to ball hockey so why bother?  I’d argue that in many cases from my experience this is a common occurrence for non-hockey people as well.  However, all it takes is one person to see the value in floorball and how it is a useful tool for off-ice training, or engaging and attracting new players in a similar sport for it to take hold.  All businesses, organization, and teams are looking to engage new members and grow their base.  Without regular engagement and new blood in the system facilities, organizations, and team will struggle in the long term.

As a facility recreation program manager at a University I introduced floorball on campus.  In the beginning I spent a lot of time promoting and educating students about floorball.  I hosted events and did other giveaways to entice students to come out.  I engaged them on a personal level and encouraged them to give this new sport a try.  Once I was able to get a few students engaged in the sport it grew from there.  Over time I became less the driving force behind it, and students had taken reins for themselves.  With their involvement and ownership we have an intramural league as well as informal pick-up games that happen on a regular basis.

As with many new programs it will likely take time, and the development and growth of any program will vary based on a number of factors.  Some areas will be able to take floorball and seamlessly integrate it into what they’re already doing.  Others will see slower growth, but in the end I encourage anyone looking to grow a program to stick with it, and if you’re passionate about the sport and what it can do for kids and adults the growth will come.

Play Above All Else

The notion of play is a simple yet complex aspect of our lives. I respect Floorball because it allows us to play, as much as compete. With few “legacy” players coaching Floorball, it allows our young athletes to have equal participation, minus the pressure that other sports provide of having to compare to another athlete who came before them.

Play part of the foundation of who we are a people, and helps us develop a number of skills when we’re younger.  Growing up in Washington State in the late 80’s and 90’s the youth system for youth sports was vastly different from what it is today.  Too many kids and parents are running around with visions of athletic grandeur in their eyes, and miss the realities in front of them.  At the same time there are an equal amount of sports administrators and boards who create and absorb other organizations for the monetary benefit it brings them.  All of this is focused around two things.  Kids and parents hoping they’ll get a college scholarship and get to the big leagues, and the clubs and organizations who gouge them along the way.  Another aspect we’ve found from this has been sport specialization at younger and younger ages and year round play.  Both are a detriment to the athletes and science has proven to be fact, specifically before a certain age.  The athletic world is seeing more and more cases of overuse injuries, a term and condition that has become more common.

More recently there has been more literature and studies written talking about players being sport specific, and the impact it has on their development.  What people forget is that kids are constantly growing and developing across the board.  At the same time there needs to be more direct emphasis on letting kids rest.  I’ve seen it time after time where coaches gripe about players missing a tournament or training during the off season, and feel like they don’t care enough.  A sport season is long and tiresome and it’s important to make sure that kids are getting that time to recover.  The fitness world has done an excellent job over the years emphasizing the importance of recovery, noting that recovery time is when the body grows and develops.

Floorball for instance is in an interesting place in its development as a sport in the USA.  I see it currently positioned primarily as a recreation based sport for youth and adults.  The main reason is that it still needs to attract and develop players beyond the introductory and intermediate levels.  Ultimately we’ll likely see players settle between intermediate and advanced.  In the current progression of the sport some will have an initial advantage, primarily in stick handling ability.  However, that is a skill that can be readily learned and those athletes coming from other sports will have an advantage in speed and agility that will allow them to catch up and surpass.  Again the aspects that will allow that come from those athlete who have skill in multiple areas.

Floorball is very similar in movement and game play to sports like hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. Players who are playing in these realms can mentally and physically adapt to the sport and be effective.  Through their prior training they’re already learning how to move, avoid, and adjust their bodies based on a variety of situations during game play.  While these skills can be taught to a degree the majority of the time it’s learned through unstructured play.  It will be interesting to see how floorball develops in the USA.  While I know it will spawn club and travel teams, I hope it equally evolves through a more recreation and unstructured form too.

Court Grabbers & Floorball Guru Partnership

        

January 17, 2018

York, PA & Lacey, WA – In an effort to grow the sport of floorball throughout the US, and provide players with more resources to make better equipment purchasing decisions, Court Grabbers and Floorball Guru announce the creation of a new partnership. This partnership will focus on educating players to make the right equipment choices to enhance their game.

Court Grabbers, located in York, PA, Court Grabbers are a super lightweight equipment that lace onto your shoes to allow you to instantly restore the World’s Best Traction to your shoes at any time on the court, during play, without using your hands! No more slipping on the court or wasted energy constantly wiping your shoes for traction.

“Our equipment allows you to instantly clean your shoes and restore game winning traction while you are on the court, during play, without using your hands. Court Grabbers® allow you to elevate your performance and play safer. We’re excited to work with Floorball Guru to help Floorball players realize their full potential on the court.”

  • Steve & Seth McLaughlin, Co developers, Court Grabbers

Floorball Guru is based out of Lacey, WA, and is focused on educating and developing floorball across the US. Floorball Guru posts weekly blogs and other resources designed to help individuals, clubs, and organizations develop and grow floorball.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to partner with Court Grabbers.  I’m always looking for products to increase my game on the court in any sport.  I found Court Grabbers and was intrigued.  I love the idea and had a chance to use the product, and I’m hooked.  I play on a wide variety of surfaces that are left desirable and this product helps.”

– David Crawford, CEO Floorball Guru

Be on the lookout for equipment reviews through Court Grabbers and Floorball Guru’s official social media accounts.

 

Adaptation Is Always Welcome

Floorball is a fast paced game that requires hand eye coordination, body control, and quick movements.

From a first glance one would say it’s for young people. As other sports you tend to see players on the younger side.  It’s not the norm to see a professional player in his or her mid to late 30’s although there are some out there.   The brunt of the players would tend to fall in the late teens to mid-twenties making this sport an ideal option for players in high school and college.  In an ideal world all players would have access to a full rink with boards and what they need to play.  However, where the US currently sits this isn’t the norm so in order to play we need to be thinking outside the box.

What I personally love about sports is that they’re adaptable.  They don’t always require a need to stay the same, and that rules can be adjusted to meet the needs of the players.  While this isn’t the same in organized competition that doesn’t matter as much on the playground.  When I approach people about floorball they usually ask, “How many players are on the court?”  I give them the answer of 5v5 with goalies.  Depending on the person I’m speaking to their responses to that will differ.  However, I always make sure to follow up that answer by reminding them that they can easily adapt the sport to meet their needs.  That means that it might be better to play with no goalies and smaller goals in a smaller space.  This allows players to have more touches on the ball and forces players to learn to control and move in smaller spaces.

I’m in the process of growing the sport in Lacey, WA at the base of the Puget Sound.  Hockey or stick sports are not the norm and we don’t currently have access to board systems.  As a result I have to get creative with the spaces that I’m able to access.  When I teach or play I prefer to play in smaller settings when training.  At the schools I go to they generally have two gyms, and if it’s available I always prefer the smaller of the two.  My reasoning is that it creates more opportunities for players to learn and develop.  In most cases I’m working with people at the beginning so the more I can force them to grow and introduce different styles of play the better off they will be in the long term, especially when we move to a large court.

It really doesn’t matter how you start but that you keep playing.  If you’re out there starting a program from scratch, like I do, think outside the box.  It’s likely that you’ll have 5-10 players on a regular basis and you won’t need a full high school or basketball court.  Look for a smaller elementary school gyms that you can use the walls instead of boards.  If you go outside use half of a tennis court.  It’s easy to get discouraged in the beginning, I certainly do, but if this truly has become a passion for you keep at it.  Eventually things will catch up in the end.

Getting School District Buy-In

The game of Floorball has increased its interest in grammar and secondary school play across the United States. I’ve witnessed this first-hand, at The North Thurston School District in Lacey, Washington.

Training 10 North Thurston physical education professionals at the elementary level, Floorball Guru focused on training ways to incorporate Floorball into the PE curriculum, invigorating ways to create standard school play implementation for the broader student body.

During that time we went through a basic background of the sports rules, history, where it’s currently at, and what the future of the sport is shaping into. The majority of the session was focused on teaching them how to instruct Floorball as if they were my students.  Throughout the time there were various Q & A’s and I ran them through a demo of what they would expect in teaching their students.

At the end we spent time scrimmaging and playing the sport.  While all of the teachers play floor hockey in their schools none had seen Floorball.  At first they were a little skeptical about it, and it wasn’t until we started playing the scrimmage where they really understood the difference. There’s something serenely enjoyable about seeing people new to the sport find the same joy I have playing.  In the end everyone wished they had more time in the session to play.  As we were finishing up there was more conversation between the different schools trying to think about how they could implement Floorball into their schools. There was an energy among them where you could see their minds racing on how Floorball would fit into their programming.

The focus of the session was built around showing how Floorball will fit as a viable sport, as well as how Floorball differs from floor hockey.  I modeled my instruction as if they were students and I was the teacher, but I made a point to stop and give them some more insights into what I wanted them to get out of it.  A good base to build off of is being prepared and having the right information available through a curriculum.  A solid curriculum allows the instructor to be mentally prepared to teach their class. Obviously there are times when you need to throw it out the window and adapt, but an instructor should come prepared for such occasions and be able to direct the players accordingly.

Schools are currently offering Floorball programs, though it’s not the norm.  However, I believe it will continue to grow in popularity as time progresses.  One aspect of why I started Floorball Guru was to be a resource for anyone interested in getting started, and have a place where they could be supported in doing so.  While I do my best to get out to schools I’ve developed a curriculum that can be utilized in a variety of settings.  The learning curve to start Floorball is short, and can be easily implemented into current systems.

Youth Player Introduction To Floorball

Introduction of any sport is easy, but the game of floorball causes more kids to remain active for longer than any other sport that I’ve be a part of.

Give a stick and a ball to just about any child regardless of age or skill and they’ll take off without any direction.  The beauty for most kids is that they want to participate in sports like Floorball.  The trick is effectively guiding them in learning the necessary skills to properly develop.  Kids as young as 18months can pick up a stick and move the ball around.  Through this development kids are learning any number of skills that will benefit them developmentally from depth perception, hand eye coordination, and gross motor skills.

I spend a lot of time working with beginners in the sport.  Living in the Pacific Northwest hockey isn’t a regular sport being played by most kids.  Normally the only time kids play hockey is through their school physical education program.  In most cases it’s a 6 week program once a year at best.  When I meet new players I spend more time focused on helping them become comfortable holding and maneuvering a stick and ball.  Floorball is an adjustment.  The sticks are light, as opposed to heavier hockey sticks, and the ball is very light.  What we need to teach is a soft but controlled touch.   This can be difficult when you have a group of 10-20 students all anxious to get playing, but it’s important to take the time to go through basic stickhandling drills.  When I teach a class in this format I make sure they can see me and I demo the skill then ask them to follow.  I’ll walk around giving feedback as necessary.  The key is to continually encourage them and remind them of the skills.  It’s very unlikely that they’ll take to it right away, but given time will develop.  I’ve found as an instructor giving positive feedback and encouragement is beneficial for new players.  Once we go through a few stickhandling drills I’ll move onto one or two more drills before scrimmaging.

I’ve been around youth sports as a whole for a number of years as a coach and a player.  One thing I’ve noticed is that most practices tend to be too focused on the skills and little time promoting and encouraging play.  Remember the group I’m talking about are between the ages of 10-14, and in most cases have never played before and need to hopefully develop a passion for the sport.  One way to do that is to play.   I will go through the basics for the rules and will use a stop start method as we scrimmage as a means to teach and reteach skills, rules, and tactics to the game.  With one ball and 10 kids they’ll all likely run at it at the same time.  It may drive the instructor crazy, but given time and proper instruction they’ll catch on.  Far too often we don’t let the game just happen.  As coaches we want to control or add tactics to the youth game when kids aren’t able to understand or comprehend what they mean.  It’s our job to take a step back and remember our players are learning and we need to walk them through the process.

An Inclusive Game

As is the mantra of many organization and people the notion of inclusion is prevalent throughout the floorball community.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to play regardless of where they’re coming from.  We’ve seen this play out through Special Olympics, Paralympics, and Title IX, based on the idea that everyone should be able to play.

As coaches and facilitators we’re tasked with figuring out how to make sports more adaptable and inclusive for our participants.   Whether we need to adjust a piece of equipment or rule the goal should be to create opportunities for all wherever they are.

The International Floorball Federation has partnered with various organizations in order to spread floorball throughout the world.  As a result the IFF launched a number of programs and partnerships in order to bring floorball to the world.  In the past year there have been big stride through partnerships with Special Olympics and floorball being an official sport in the World Games in 2017.  Through these partnerships the IFF is reaching out to developing countries such as the Middle East and Africa in order to educate and help programs start there.  At the 2017 Special Olympics World Games Africa was represented in floorball for the first time.

For organizations or groups looking to be more inclusive floorball is a great sport to help with that mission.  The equipment and rules can be easily modified to be more inclusive allowing more players to engage in the sport.  Special Olympics has taken steps to build more inclusion through their Unified Sports programs which pairs athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.  Their focus is to break down stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities.  The program is relatively new but has grown, and they’re in America they’re in the midst of adding floorball as a unified sport.

For physical education programs floorball can be used as an inclusive sport with all students regardless of ability.  While it may take some creativity to find appropriate adaptations to equipment or rules it can and should be a priority to ensure inclusion for all.

Creative Program Marketing 101

Whether you’re starting a new Floorball program or hosting an event there is a lot of planning that goes on prior to things happening.

Once you’ve made the decision to move forward it’s important to sit down and hash out your marketing plan.  Some key things to consider is revolve around how you plan to inform people about your program or event.  Do you know what your marketing budget will look like?  Do you have access to sponsors that could help defray the costs?  In today’s world we’re in an interesting mix of generations that didn’t grow up with technology, grew up with technology, and those that don’t know a world without technology.  Your marketing strategy will vary depending on your market.

The obvious choice in marketing for most will be to focus solely on digital media including social media sites, and email blasts.  Depending on what you’ve already set up and the followers you have this can certainly be an effective tool.  Sites like Facebook have advertising options available.  You can set a number of parameters to find your target audience within a varying radius to you or your event.  You can set up an ad for one event or by contacting Facebook can set up a sponsored ad.  In my experience this particular marketing option has been mixed, and I haven’t been able to effectively correlate the expense of the ads to income.  In the end it depends on what you feel is best for your organization as well as how it fits in your budget.

While digital marketing has gained significant focus in marketing there’s still something to be said about print materials.  Print marketing has in many cases slowed down, but it is very much an effective tool to promote your program or event.  In the research I’ve done exploring this topic I found that a lot of it depends on your location.  I surveyed parks and recreation departments in Washington State inquiring about how they promote their programs.  What I found was that print marketing, specifically for the city guide brochure, was still favored yet was declining.  In some cities they had effectively dissolved printing their guide, and had gone completely online.  At the time of the survey Bellevue, WA Parks and Rec, the home of Microsoft, went completely online and in doing so saw a small decrease in programs, but nothing substantial.  However, when more rural cities tried to go completely digital they saw a dramatic drop off in program participation.  It wasn’t until they reintroduced their print materials that they saw an increase in participation.

I’ve found that trying to utilize a mixture of print and digital mediums can help provide a more cohesive marketing plan when specifically targeting a program or event in your local or regional area.  If you’re doing youth programming the kids may be tech savvy, but that doesn’t mean the parents are.  You need to get the info to the people who are paying for the program or event.   Either way you choose to market, get creative to get your message out to the masses.

Ball Control

Ball control is the name of the game. And often, the difference between winning or losing a Floorball game.

It’s no secret that to win Floorball games you need to score more than you opponent. How that plays out in a game will vary, but a team that controls the flow of the game has a higher chance of winning in the end.

While the amount of ball control a team has doesn’t necessarily correlate to winning, unless the team is able to capitalize on quick counter attack.  When evaluating most floorball games you’ll notice that a higher percentage of goals are score in the through a quick counter attack, or the ability to recover the ball in the attacking zone.  This fast paced style of play is what makes floorball so exciting to play and watch.  It also requires players to be more careful with the ball in the defensive zone, and places significant importance on the defenders to be able to control the ball accordingly.  A team that is unable to control the ball through their defense into the attacking zone will have a difficult time creating scoring opportunities.

Each player on the court should at any time be able to control the ball under pressure and either escape through movement or through passing to avoid the opposing team.  The skill of ball control takes time to develop and is one that all players from the beginning to advanced should routinely work to hone this skill.  As a coach there are a number of drill and scenarios that can be done to encourage ball control for the offense and the ability to pressure the opposite team without fouling.   The ability to effectively pressure the opposing team is a key component to a quick counter attack or a turnover in the offensive end.  Again turnovers in these areas give teams a higher percentage of scoring opportunities.

There are many examples of this, but one that sticks out was the final match between the USA and Canada in the 2016 World Floorball Championships.  It was a tight game played well by both teams with minimal scoring and scoring opportunities.  In the end it came down to one play.  With time winding down and Canada set up in the offensive zone the Canadian defense misplayed the ball at midcourt, which turned into a quick counter attack by the USA.  Despite an unfortunate bounce for the Canadians resulted in the deciding goal for the USA.  This is but one example of many on the importance of ball control through a match, and that very small missteps can turn into big goals for the other team.

If you can spend every day with a stick and a ball working and pushing yourself to be better and more comfortable stickhandling in various situations.  When I instruct we spend every lesson starting with ball control and building from there using various situational drills.   While players may not fully understand in the beginning the importance of this skill they will as they develop.