Goalie Training 101

The Floorball Goalie can be one of the key areas where you can train ultimate athletic defensive play. But only if you get those who want to serve as goalies.

Remember, your athletes will want to focus on offense skills for Floorball. Getting young athletes to become goalies is the challenge as a coach you’ll have to make.

At the youth levels in many sports one position that tends to be forgotten is the goalie.

On a team full of field players most teams have only two goalies.

With practice time a premium for focusing on offensive, defensive, and tactical play training the goalie can get lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes coaches don’t know how to teach goalie play, or don’t see the same value in goalie training as the rest of the team.  Sometimes it’s all of the above.  The goalie is a crucial aspect of the sport and it’s important to ensure that time is spent helping train and build goalie skill from a young age.

For coaches just starting out there are a number of simple skills to start on to create the base.   As the goalie develops the training can evolve into newer skills and challenges.  For new goalies the first thing is making sure the feel comfortable moving while wearing the equipment.  It’s important to make sure that goalies spend time warming up and stretching focusing on the hips, hamstrings, and back.  For a basic warm up goalies should be comfortable sliding side to side on their knees covering post to post.  The next progression for a warm up can be hand eye coordination with a player lightly shooting at the goalies hands allowing them to catch the ball.  From there the progression can move to covering post to post while taking shots and so on.

There are a number of things to think about and in many cases this sort of training can be done while the rest of the team warms up.  As the team progresses through training it’s important for coaches to remember to use the same opportunities to instruct the goalie.  Whenever possible encourage goalies to be working on mobility front and back and side to side off the court as well.  Along with these skills consistent training focused on body position in relation to the ball and the goal will also be important.

It’s important for coaches to find the time to help develop goalie.  It will ultimately help them as they get older, and like many sports a solid goalie helps build confidence throughout the rest of the team.  At the same time make sure that there is an emphasis on safety especially in regards to time when a goalie is in a position where they could get hurt.  Encourage all players to avoid contact with the goalie as much as possible.  Even though they wear protective equipment it’s not the same as hockey goalie equipment.  Either way encourage and challenge young goalies to improve and increase their abilities.   Whenever possible get create and think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to look to other sports for training techniques as well.  There’s lots of information out there on the topic to help you out.

PE Floorball Programs

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Floorball can attack the epidemic of childhood obesity head-on. Mainly because its participation levels are so high.

It’s no surprise that there is a crisis in American specifically related to obesity in adults, but also in children.  A simple google search on the topic will bring up around 43 million hits talking about this subject.  Many people are talking about this issue on TV and online and there are countless articles talking about how to better yourself and get on the right track.  However, when talking about children and obesity I think physical activity plays a crucial role in helping curb, or at least help lower obesity within children.  It’s not a secret that more and more of us have become sedentary, and sadly that has slowly trickled into our education systems.  With dwindling resources for extracurricular activities and more emphasis on standardized tests physical education programs are slowly being reduced.

I believe that floorball can be a valuable tool for schools and physical education departments.  Floorball is a sport that truly is a sport for all regardless of age or ability.  When looking at the diverse environment that many school provide it becomes a challenge for physical education teachers to ensure that they’re providing activities that are all-inclusive.  Floorball fits the bill in being an all-inclusive sport that will help develop hand eye coordination, communication skills, and fair play.  Another fundamental skill learned through floorball is control of a players’ body, and control of their stick at all times.   Because the sticks are shorter and lighter than hockey sticks players have more control of what they’re doing, especially at younger ages.  Per the rules players’ sticks must stay below their waist, and they may only touch the ball using their stick if it’s below the knee.  These rules force children to be constantly aware of so many different aspects around them, which are very important skills to learn

For many physical education departments introducing a new sport or lesson can be a challenge due to limited funds and ensuring the new sport meets specific standards.  Due to the inclusive nature of floorball and the various skills learned through the sport these challenges can be minimized.  There are a number of grants out there focused on sport development and helping to teach children to live healthier lives through nutrition and exercise.  Depending on where you look some floorball companies have even begun to address these issues in an effort to help.  Generation Floorball is one of those companies.  The partnered with the NHL’s New York Islanders to develop a floorball program for elementary schools in Brooklyn addressing these issues.  While not every school has an NHL partner available to them they certainly can get creative in finding partnerships or grants to build floorball into their physical education programs.

Anywhere, Anytime Sport

Floorball has spawned some interesting variations aside from the traditional game.

What you might not know is that floorball is equally suited for a number of locations and climates.  With some tweaks to the rules you can play floorball anywhere and at any time.  If you want to play floorball in the water you can.  In fact it’s being done already in Europe.  Basically they set up a rink with noodles and play in knee high water.

However, the two versions that have stuck out to me as being a bit more interesting include beach and swamp floorball.  You heard that correctly.  Much like sand soccer floorball’s counterpart beach floorball is fairly popular.  In beach floorball there are no goalies and they use smaller goals.  The rink is effectively cut in half with players playing in bare feet.  There are no penalties but if the ball leaves the field a free hit is awarded.

Unlike sand floorball swamp floorball is played in the muck and in many cases uses hay bales to line the rink.  The size of the rink is around 25×15 meters, but unlike sand floorball the goals are bigger at around 2 x 4 meters.  In swamp floorball there are three players and a goalie.

In either manner the focus for the variation on floorball is about having fun.  I’m not sure what sounds fun about playing floorball in a swamp, but to each his own.  While the biggest concern I have about sand volleyball is sand in the face I love when people think outside of the box.  While there’s always a competitive spirit behind sports when you can change the atmosphere from the norm it can almost level the playing field.  While both sports tend to stick to Northern Europe I wouldn’t be too surprised to see some of these pop up across the US as the floorball gains popularity.  I could easily see a sand tournament played in California attracting a decent crowd on the beach.  Speaking of sand, sun, and floorball that sounds pretty good to me.

Board Tactic Techniques

You can play Floorball without the boards. But it won’t be as much fun.

Part of what makes floorball fun are the boards. While they’re not required to play recreationally, they do help when learning to play the sport as intended.  In many cases there are a boards can be substituted by using walls, tables, fences, and almost anything to be creative.  I’ve been working with some fire fighters and we’re looking into using old fire hose to create a rink.  At Saint Martin’s University we use our two partitions to create a rink.  While it’s not perfect it certainly does the job.

I’ve found that for most the boards are an undervalued aspect of the game.  Aside from helping to contain the ball the boards can be an effective tool throughout the game.  When using the boards on offense it takes a little bit of knowledge to understand of angles.  The angle at which the ball hits the board will equally reflect the angle it leaves the boards.  Being able to accurately use angles during your play can help your gain an advantage.

As a game progresses players become more accustomed to their opponents’ style of play and can begin to key in on how a player moves.  It’s important to keep your opponent guessing by changing up how you move the ball and progress through the field of play becomes key.  If a defender is directing the opponent towards the boards the offensive player can play the ball off of the boards and run around the defender.  Another scenario might include needing to use the boards in order to complete a pass to your teammate.

Use of the boards can become helpful on the defensive side as well.  A lot of times players will use the board as an added defender closing down space and making it difficult to get past.  If played correctly these techniques can disrupt the offense, or create turnovers and counterattacking options.  However, a word of caution to using boards.  While the boards can be helpful they can also create turnovers with the ball going out of bounds, or if the angle isn’t correct can put the ball in a dangerous position.

However you choose to use the boards in your playing style it takes time and practice to become accustomed to how the ball plays off of the boards.  It will also take communication between teammates in order to effectively add the boards as part of your overall strategy.  Simply put, when done well the boards can be an effective tool for players on the court.

Equipment Trends On The Market

Floorball equipment has evolved over time as companies have refined the manufacturing process.

It is important to know what you are purchasing, in order to ensure the best quality for your athletes or recreation program.

In recent years, there have been notable advancements in stick and blade construction using strong and more durable materials.  When looking at a floorball stick it is an engineering feet when you consider the forces placed on the shaft and blade.  The lightest stick in 2016 weighs in at a mere 177 grams through Fat Pipe Raw Concept 27.  As the sport and equipment evolved more has become available to the consumer.

If we look at sticks there are a number of variations to choose from introductory to professional.  On the retail market recreational players have the opportunities to play with the same sticks as the top players in the world.  Sticks also tend to change in color or layouts yearly in an attempt to meet market trends.  This gives more options for the consumer to choose their preferences in both color and functionality.  Currently there seems to be a few things happening with floorball brands.  On one hand most companies are pushing neon colored sticks on the market this year in some fashion.  This trend would fall in line with what’s happening in other sports like soccer where neon colors adorn jerseys, and shoes.  If a neon pink shaft and blade is your preference of color you can find that.  On the opposite side of the spectrum some companies are opting for a simplistic approach.  In this manner colors are basic all white sticks and blades, or all black.  One thing to take note is that blades and shafts are not necessarily compatible between brands, so beware that your Exel Blade may not fit a Salming shaft.

For the consumer there are a number of options available related to equipment from sticks, blades, grips, and accessories.  In the US there is a minimal amount of companies selling equipment, so depending on what you’re looking for you’ll be forced to go overseas. As the market continues to grow in the US more and more emphasis will naturally be focused to meet the demand.  In many cases with equipment it’s a matter of preferences for the consumer and as a whole there are a number of options available in the market.  The US is a primarily untapped market in the sport and as it catches on, and it will, more and more products will begin to flood the market.  As a result it is likely it will also influence in many ways how equipment and apparel is made and marketed in relation to the US and Europe.

Floorball in the World Games

If you didn’t know, Floorball was showcased at the World Games for the firs time since 1997.  If you haven’t heard of the World Games you’re not alone.  The World Games are more or less the younger brother to the Olympics.  In many ways it is the stepping stone to the Olympics.  There were only six teams that qualified for Floorball.  Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, and USA.  Four of the teams qualified for the World Games based on their ranking in the World Floorball Championships with Poland securing their place as the host country.  The USA qualified as the top non-European team, just edging out Canada.

The USA team, comprised of US players based around Europe and playing in various leagues there had a difficult task for the World Games.  In the group stage they were paired with Swizterland, and Sweden (top 4 teams in the world).  The first match against the Swiss ended 17-0, and 20-0 against Sweden.  To many this would look shocking.  While it’s not an ideal score we have to take into account that Floorball has been a staple in Nordic countries for a long time.  In this part of the world Floorball has various tiers of development and competition from youth recreational leagues, up to the National Teams.  In comparison to sports in the US, it could be compared to the farm systems of Minor League teams in hockey and baseball.  Taking that into account it was not necessarily too surprising of an outcome however unfortunate.

As the tournament progressed the US played their third match against Poland for 5th place in the World Games. From the beginning of the match it was apparent that the US team came to play.  They a had a distinct energy to their game that made a huge difference.  At the same time the US was a better match in skill with the Poland team.  That doesn’t take anything away from those two teams, but shows how far the other four teams are in terms of skill and development.  If you watch the games, which can be found in replay on YouTube it will be apparent at the difference in skill level.  However, this final match for the USA was a good one to showcase the skill the US can provide.  The USA were able to outlast the Polish team with a solid performance on both sides of the ball ending in USA 4 to Poland 1.

With the World Games coming to a close it’s important to start looking towards the 2021 World Games, which will be hosted by the USA in Alabama.  Given the success of the this years games it’s likely the USA will get a first hand look at the best in the Floorball world.  We need to grow the sport at all levels targeting youth programs, adult leagues and mostly just get people playing.  As a country we have a long way to go in building this sport back home, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Floorball grow in popularity.

I challenge all of my readers to seriously consider adding Floorball in  your community.  It’s a great inclusive sport that gets people active and moving, and in terms of cost it’s a very affordable sport.  Get involved and get playing. If you need help contact me for more info at david@floorballguru.com

Para Athletes and Floorball

Floorball’s dynamic allows para-athletes to enjoy the sport without limitations.

The International Floorball Federation has been a great proponent of the sport of floorball both for abled bodied players as well as persons with disabilities.  They have partnered with various organizations to introduce and help promote the sport throughout these communities.  The IFF is represented through Special Olympics, the largest sports organization for persons with intellectual Disability.  They partner with IWAS Powerchair Hockey, and the International Committee Wheelchair Floorball.  Through these programs and organizations, and with the IFF’s continued focus on keeping floorball an inclusive sport many players for all walks of life have opportunities to play floorball.

The International Committee for Wheelchair Floorball was established in 2012, and is focused on developing the sport throughout the world.  Currently there are seven countries competing in ICWF events.   Manual wheelchair floorball is played using basically the same rules as floorball, including 5 v 5 and goalies.  Wheelchair floorball is a fairly newer organized sport first represented in the Para Games in Breda, Netherland in 2011.

Another option for athletes is powerchair hockey (floorball) which is a sport for people in motorized wheelchairs.  The field of play is roughly the size of a traditional basketball court and uses boards to create the rink.  Five players may be on the court at any one time and players use both traditional floorball sticks, as well as a “T-Stick” which is attached to the wheelchair.  The goals closer to the ground and are more rectangular in shape. The sport is played in 15 countries throughout the world from Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia.

These organizations do a wonderful job in creating an inclusive environment for athletes to compete and engage each other in new ways.  I see a lot of opportunities within the US for floorball to reach these communities.  There are sports currently offered such as sled hockey and wheelchair basketball there is still room for floorball.  The more sports offered the more athletes than can have opportunities to compete in sports that they’re passionate about.  If you’re reading this and are interested get involved, start a program in your area and get people playing.

Floorball for Intramural Sports

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The game of Floorball is bringing young college students out of their dorms, experiencing campus recreation through a broad, co-ed sport.

Throughout the US there a Colleges and University campus recreation professionals working diligently to provide students with a diverse and comprehensive experience to their education.  For most schools there are the regular sports such as flag football, volleyball, basketball, and soccer.  However, in many cases these sports limit the number of players available or interested in playing.  As schools look through their departments evaluating needs and available funding,

it has become more important that campus recreation departments continue to provide a diverse programming base to retain and attract students.  Everyone is looking for the next big trend and organizations like National Intramural Sports Recreation Association (NIRSA) have become a central point for professionals to collaborate and improve.

As a campus recreation professional I’m constantly dealing with this same battle.  When I started my job as the Director of Recreation at Saint Martin’s University I naturally evaluated out programs.  What I found was that we were lacking in both sports available to students, but we were only serving a very small portion of our population.  As a result, I drew on my experience of floorball and made a plan to add it to our intramural sports calendar.  In order to gain more interest, I planned multiple demo events and connected with various students regarding the sport.  Whenever there was a chance I spoke to students about it, and posted the traditional print and digital platforms in order to spread the word.  For the first events I would see about 10 students show up.  I also host a monthly event in the late evenings for open gym, and I would set the equipment out and see what happened.  Through that event it’s pretty normal to see 16 or more students engage through the sport.   For a frame of reference, the late night events draw anywhere from 40-100 students of a population of about 1,400 students at SMU playing strictly pickup games such as basketball and volleyball.  We’ve also run two seasons of intramural floorball with 24 students respectively each season.

What I’ve found in offering floorball was that it provides a different kind of atmosphere from basketball and volleyball.  Since most kids don’t grow up playing hockey the skill level for most is roughly the same.  Through floorball I’ve noticed newer students come out to events or intramural sports that aren’t coming out otherwise.  That is one of the more important aspects to how the sport has helped me attract new students to the department.  I’ve even begun to see informal games start up during the day between students.  While I was the driving force behind it in the beginning it has slowly taken on a life of its own by the students.  I think it is worth a look by all campus recreation professionals to consider adding floorball to their programming.

Special Olympics Floorball

*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.

Learning To Fire The Ball

When teaching Floorball, the offense always comes first and the defense second. Mainly because scoring goals in Floorball is so much fun that its addictive. Don’t be frustrated if your players focus on scoring first, defending last.

When playing any sport, who doesn’t want to score goals?

This becomes especially apparent when teaching children to play floorball. As soon as they have a stick and ball they’re aiming for the goal. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never touched a stick before they’re still trying.

There’s something about an open net that calls us to shoot at.  If you’ve never instructed youth sports program, then I’ll give you a little tip.  If you set out goals for your class or practice the goal will likely be a distraction if you’re not planning to use it right away.  This pertains to pretty much all sports with a goal of some kind.  At least with basketball they can’t physically climb into the goal and get caught.  Nonetheless it’s a good idea to keep the goals hidden, or put propped against the wall until they’re needed.

With that in mind lets dive into the concept of shooting.  There are a multitude of shooting options available to use.  The two obvious ones are the wrist shot, where you effectively flick the ball off your stick, and the slap shot, where you wind up and slap the ground behind the ball creating a bow in the stick that acts like a spring which eventually releases energy against the ball propelling the ball quickly from the shooter.  Both are effective means to shoot the ball but require practice to improve.

Learning wrist a great skill to learn when you need to release the ball quickly and accurately.  One way to teach the skills is to have players dribble the ball back and forth a few times.  When they move the ball from the backhand to the forehand and are ready to shoot they should shift their weight to the front foot.  At the same time, they should be pushing downward on the stick while dragging it across the ground.  This will create a bow in the stick generating energy.  As the stick slides past the front foot they’ll look to release the ball.  The direction of the ball will be determined by how the bottom hand is positioned during the release.  If the bottom hand is palm up the ball will rise, and likely slice off the blade.  Encourage players to rotate the bottom hand downward during the release to keep the ball down and straight.

The slap shot is a much more difficult skill to learn from a static position, but is considerably more difficult on the move.  The keys to the slap shot is timing, transferring weight properly, and creating enough power behind the shot.  The concepts behind this can be difficult to grasp at first.  Initially many people aim to hit the ball as their shot.  However, the focus should be hitting the ground behind the ball first. This allows the shaft to flex generating power behind the shot.  Some players may grasp the concept faster than others.  Continually encourage players to work on the skill and eventually things will click.  The wrist shot and slap shot are just two options available for shooting, but both are equally effective in different circumstances.