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.

Floorball companies partner to educate players and grow the sport.

floorballplanet.com

June 29, 2017

Grand Prairie, TX & 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, FloorballPlanet and Floorball Guru announce the creation of a new partnership. This partnership will focus on creating articles, reviews, and videos on a wide range of floorball equipment.

FloorballPlanet, located in Grand Prairie, TX, is the largest supplier of floorball equipment in North America. They carry a complete selection of floorball products from leading brands such as Salming, Oxdog, Fatpipe, and Blindsave.

“We are very excited to join forces with Floorball Guru in new efforts to educate the floorball community at all levels; from the newest player looking to pick up a floorball stick for the very first time to the most experienced elite player who has enjoyed the sport for decades. With the vast array of floorball products that are now available in North America, it is so important that players, coaches, and administrators have the information they need to make informed decisions.”
– Darryl Gross, FloorballPlanet

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 FloorballPlanet. Floorball is growing and more and more people are looking for information regarding equipment and what to buy. The intent is to help players figure out what they’re looking for in a floorball stick. What’s the difference between a $30 stick and $100 stick? While both might suit your needs it’s important to understand how they differ. That’s what this partnership is about; creating a space for people to learn about those differences and make an informed decision about what stick, or equipment will work for them.”
– David Crawford, CEO Floorball Guru

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

Choosing A Great Floorball Stick

There’s a lot of development that goes into making sporting equipment, and that is no different when making a floorball stick.

Like other sports floorball equipment varies in the technology, materials, and design used.  In some cases, sticks are being designed to fit a players’ position and preference.  As a result, there are number of options that players can choose from in regards to grip tape, shaft composition, flex, and how hard or soft the blade is.  For beginners most of this information won’t mean much, because when you’re starting out you’re just learning basic skills and getting a feel for what might best suit your playing style.

As you begin to search for floorball sticks you’ll likely find any number of sticks with varying prices and functions.  Beginner sticks tend to fall in a price range of about $30-50 and tend to have more flex in the shaft.  This information can be found sometimes in the description of the stick (Salming 32, etc.).  On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find professional level sticks fall in a price range of $150-230.  What’s the difference and why would I spend that kind of money?  The main reason to purchase a professional level stick is that it does provide an increase in performance.  As you develop as a player you’ll begin to find what works for you and a professional level stick will help increase your skills and playing abilities.  A professional level stick will also have a variety of options from stick flex, type of grip, and coupled with the right style of blade can make a positive impact in your game.

Other questions to answer prior to buying a stick is knowing what size you need.  To size a stick, you’ll be looking for the end of the stick to fall around your belly.  You don’t want the stick to be too tall or too short. and knowing if you’re a right or left handed shooter.   Left handed shooter have their right hand furthest from the blade with the hook of the heel of the blade starting from left and the toe of the stick moving to the right.  You can take things a step further and customize the amount of hook in your blade by heating, molding, and freezing the blade to your preferences.  While you can create any amount of hook in your blade the International Floorball Federation restricts the amount a blade can hook for competitions.

There’s a lot of information out there on equipment and like many things purchases can come down to preference in a certain brand, certain look, feel, or and more complex understanding of knowing specifically what you’re looking for.  If anything when you see a stick out there talk to people and ask them what they like and don’t like about the stick.  If you’re lucky they’ll let you try it out.  Either way get out there and keep playing.

Looking For Area Leagues

Don’t mistake where Floorball is headed. Despite being a new game in the United States, it is catching hold with a number of leagues growing annually. Floorball fever is upon us.

Given the statistics from USA Floorball there are currently 23 states that have floorball groups or programs operating pick-up games or full leagues.  At this time the top three state with floorball clubs are California, Texas, and Colorado.  It is also likely that there are other groups playing that are not represented.  However, there is continued growth in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, and Washington with newer grassroots programs and leagues forming.  The focus for many is providing space to gather, learn, and play.  At the same time there are also a number of opportunities for players to compete in 4v4 and 5v5 tournaments across the country.  In some cases, there are also be opportunities to attend National Team training events.

In California they have the Fresno Floorball League, groups playing throughout the Bay Area, and San Diego.  As for tournaments they host the Golden Gate Cup which saw eight teams from California and Seattle, WA attend.  California also hosts the Floorball Madness tournament in SoCal.  The sport is growing in throughout California, but at this time that growth seems focused on adult leagues.  We were not able to find any information focused on youth development.  We’re hopeful that more youth programs will be developed over time.

Within Texas floorball has been growing for a number of years.  There are developed leagues such as the North Texas Floorball Association that offer weekly pick-up games and leagues. Arlington Floorball also hosts the Lonstar Invitational Floorball Tournament.  Pick-up games and leagues run throughout the area are played 4v4 or 5v5.  Texas has also seen buy in by the NHL’s Dallas Start to help promote floorball throughout the Dallas area as part of their Fitness Stars program.   Depending on the location there are groups that are offering youth programs, but that is limited at this time.

If you don’t live in either of those areas, there are plenty of groups throughout the US that want you to join them.  In 2017 there are planned tournaments in Utah, Colorado, and Wisconsin.  It’s likely we’ll see more coming down the pipe over the next year or so.  Either way the if you’re interested there’s likely a group near you. If not, then you should start a program of your own.

Floorball Is Catching On In America

While the majority of people in The United States haven’t heard of Floorball, its only a matter of time before the sport really catches on.

When people do witness Floorball for the first time, they see it initially as a substitute to the floor hockey they grew up playing on elementary school.  While on some levels that may be true the sport is significantly different on many levels.  Back in the early 2000’s even less people knew about the sport.  In the beginning, and still to this day floorball has been a grassroots sport.  If you were lucky you would find a group of people who had moved into your community from overseas who knew how to play.  While more people are catching on to the sport it’s still currently building off of this model.  There are more clubs and groups forming slowly, but the USA’s ability to compete on a national stage is somewhat limited.

The USA Floorball Association is the governing body for international competition recognized by the International Floorball Federation.  The USA team is comprised of Men and Women, and U19 Men and Women.  Currently the national team is comprised of foreign based players based outside of the US.  The majority of players come out of Sweden, Switzerland, and a small handful from the US.  Frankly the US is fortunate to have an organization and people within it that have helped push the sport along largely unnoticed.  The US team has competed in several World Championships with the highest ranking of 10 as well as representing the US in the World Games 2017.

Needless to say given the history of the sport and the development stateside it’s amazing what’s been done so far.  However, for the longevity of the national team there needs to be more development stateside, specifically an emphasis on youth.  The USA wouldn’t be in its current position without relying on players overseas, but that model can’t be sustained.  When you think about the 2016 World Floorball Championships the team that won its group stage, almost beat Germany, and ultimately qualified for the World Games, that group of players rarely trains together on a regular basis when compared to just about every other country.  What they do have going for them is that many play on teams throughout the year.   What the US needs is to build a development system stateside in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world.

The biggest question is what will that look like?  USA Floorball doesn’t have the same financial support from the government, or currently outside organization.  They have put on smaller development training sessions, but they’re limited.  Once a year isn’t going to cut it in the long term.  Thankfully though the sport is catching on and more and more teams and clubs are starting to pop up around the country.  One day it’s very likely that the USA team will be fielded primarily of US based players.  I hope that as the sport moves forward people understand and appreciate the ground work that has been laid out from the players and staff that came before them.

Floorball Is Co-Ed Sport Friendly

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The development of Floorball doesn’t stop at the youth or adult recreation or club levels. In order to provide more competitive sport opportunities it will be important for the growth of the sport to matriculate into the collegiate level.

It is likely that there won’t be an immediate jump to add floorball as a varsity sport on Colleges and Universities.  There are obvious hurdles to making that move a reality.  However, one aspect to it being a widely accepted sport is the emphasis on promoting women in the sport from the top down.  The International Floorball Federation has made strides to promote floorball among women by developing the Go Girls program designed to increase participation.  The IFF has outlined a number of resources focused on female participation in the sport.  Participation rates are increasing with over 31 countries competing in the recent qualification tournament for the 2017 Women’s World Floorball Championships.

While the sport is growing throughout the world it is still lacking in growth in the US.  Part of the problem is the overall development of the sport in the US is still primarily new.  While clubs, programs, and tournaments are being created and growing, there isn’t a dedicated female program yet.  In order for the sport to grow in the US it needs to ensure that there is a continued commitment to developing female players.  In order for the sport to grow development through collegiate Intramural Sports will be crucial.  The next step at Universities and a more viable option will be to position floorball as a club sport.  Club sports traditionally are made up of non-varsity players that still compete at a high level but do not receive the same funding from the University as varsity sports. Rugby is a good example of a sport that is gaining popularity and developing collegiate club team, which form into leagues that aren’t solely defined by DI, DII, DIII status.  Floorball could easily form leagues regionally across the country utilizing this format.  Whether that would progress into a full-fledged NCAA varsity sport would take more time and development.

Title IX will also play a factor into the development of floorball at this level.  Floorball can be an attractive sport for many, and because it’s already well established at the international level it could be a perfect fit for you athletic programs looking to increase female participation in sports. With more and more kids and parents looking for more options to get involved in sports at the collegiate level floorball could meet the need for a new, exciting, and low contact sport.  If the development is focused from the youth level upward there is a real possibility for floorball to become a force in the collegiate athletic world.

Floorball: An Effective Off-Ice Training Tool

In the world of hockey there are what seems like endless training tools designed help improve a player’s skill on and off the ice.

A simple google search will bring up a plethora of companies selling the latest and greatest equipment to improve every facet of your skills.  There is a lot of value to using these training tools on and off the ice.  The development of equipment in this medium has advanced so far that individuals can build their own rinks using synthetic ice in their basement.  It’s no secret that hockey has, as a sport, a number of barriers to its continued growth, specifically in youth development.  These barriers consist mainly in cost of equipment, and the cost of ice time.  We also need to take into account that throughout the US the hockey culture and communities are different and have different needs and access to things like rinks.

In Washington State, specifically Western Washington there are only a small handful of hockey rinks available and the opportunities to compete are not as abundant.  It requires the programs there to be creative in finding players and finding adequate completion within a reasonable driving distance.  However, when we look at Minnesota there are more rinks, players, and development available.   The issues there is that the competition for hockey is fierce, and as a result players who don’t carry on in their system will ultimately filter out into other sports.   As a result hockey programs may need to start thinking creatively in order keep those players in their system and developing, but in different ways.

How does floorball fit into the hockey world?  It’s no secret to many that floorball is a very useful off-ice training tool, and there are many benefits that it can bring to hockey players and programs.  When we look at youth development and hockey those are two obstacles.  For one thing it’s hard enough just learning to stand on skates and it’s another to add the complexities that go into learning and playing hockey.  As a result floorball can be used in a number of ways to help reduce cost on parents, free up valuable ice time for facilities, help coaches teach more technical aspects off the ice, and allow for a more comprehensive skill development for players.  If hockey teams shifted a practice even once a week from the ice to a gym they would immediately reduce their costs.  Renting a gym in most areas is significantly cheaper than ice, and helps create positive relationships with local businesses.  If you break that down over the course of a season there are some significant savings.  That alone could help retain players, improve their skill and hockey knowledge, enjoyment, and their overall physical development.   At the same time coaches would have a controlled environment to teach allowing players the ability to connect movement off the ice back onto the ice.

In the end running a floorball program as part of the overall hockey development of players benefits the organization, coaches, and players.  The confidence players develop being able to do a pull back off-the ice will directly translate to their confidence of carrying out the same move on the ice.  Floorball can also be used to develop summer leagues, summer fitness program, or attract new players and parents to hockey.  It’s certainly worth investigating how floorball can benefit your players and organization.