Positional Play and Youth Players

When considering how to foster growth in your position players, especially youth, the game of Floorball offers many nuances that may not exist in other sports. In a safe, practical playing surface, you can train players for these tactics without risk of major injury.

This framework goes into movements for defensive as well as offensive play.  While players have specific positions those positions at many times can be fluid as the movement of the game plays out.   The concept of positional play can be a difficult one to grasp for younger players and is an important skill to regularly introduce and build on.

What I’ve found when teaching younger players (ages 7-14) is that some will immediately grasp these concepts and can play in that framework.  On the other side there are many players who do not immediately grasp these concepts.  As a coach or instructor it’s important to continually encourage and direct your players in a manner that will not overly frustrate them.  A frustrated player quickly loses interest and thus a desire to play.  Sometime the struggle is purely developmental.  Children in these ages are all developing at different paces and that needs to be recognized and addressed in a manner that meets them where they are at.  We must not forget that everyone learns and processes information differently, and as an instructor we must remember to present information in different ways.  Some of these tools include using verbal cues to describe what is needed.  In other cases coaches may use a white board to map out the movement on the field.  Other tools may be a physical demonstration walking players through the process.  Many coaches use all of these tools and more to help teach their players.

In regards to positional play I try to frame the idea with something that all players can relate to.  In this manner I treat the field of play as an airplane.  Hopefully ever child has seen what an airplane looks like and can quickly visualize what I’m trying to convey.  I break the airplane down using the field as a reference.  In this manner I’m able to quickly introduce positional play to my students in a clear and concise manner.  I will spend a few minutes on this topic and then we play.  As the game progresses I will start and stop the game in order to address positions of offense and defense bring it back to the airplane.  It is likely the first few weeks that the framework will fall apart, and it will take some time for many to fully comprehend this concept and patience must be practiced.

Remind yourself and your players that for many this is a new sport, and that you’re all learning together.  Find any success and make sure to praise it.  As your players progress you’ll see an overall better style of play come out in the end.

Making the USA Men’s National Floorball Team

Representing my country was one of the greatest honors that I’ve ever had. Playing on the USA National Floorball Team at the Riga Cup in Riga, Latvia, I knew that I had to help bring education of the game back to The United States. That is why Floorball Guru exists.

Upon my selection to the USA National Floorball Team, I was quite emotional, excited for such a different opportunity.

At 32, I was one of the older players on the team, but that didn’t deter me from making sure I was ready to go.  I had about 65 days from selection to be in Riga for team camp and the tournament.  I didn’t know it at the time but the entire experience would be life changing.

The biggest challenge for me was ensuring that I would be in top physical shape to compete at that level.  I am fortunate enough to have a coworker who is a Division I National Champion Sprinter from the University of Tennessee.  I was nervous about the preparation for the tournament and wondered if I had what it took.  After the first day of training I realized that the physical wasn’t as important as the mental.  In pushing through the pain I completed my first day of training. I could barely move, everything in me hurt and I was exhausted.  Yet, I knew at that time I would be able to get through the training.  Speed and movement off the ball was one of our main focuses.  We spent a lot of time doing various agility drills and strength training, which greatly improved my speed on the court.  Initially we started training three days a week doing a mix of cardio and strength training and after two weeks moved to training five days a week.  We continued training five days a week until I left for Riga.  By the time I left I was ready physically and mentally.

I’ve done some traveling before, but traveling half way across the world was a new experience.  Once I met with the team and we began our training sessions it hit me at what I was doing.  The speed and skills of the players was very high, especially in comparison to the competition I was playing back at home.  It took a little bit to get comfortable but I eventually got there. I couldn’t have been more excited when we were given our National Team jerseys.  The experience was a proud one for me and for the other players on the team.

What I’ve brought home from that tournament was an increased desire to replicate that back home.  In Riga there were teams of all ages and genders from all over.  That represented everything that I envision happening in the US.

Defensive Tactics in Floorball

(photo credit: Adam Troy)

Understanding the tactics of defense in Floorball can open up the game to a broader audience. Floorball is a fast-paced, competitive sport, with many opportunities on the offensive side of the goal with quick counter attack measures.

However, unlike ice hockey, players in Floorball are not allowed to check their opponent. This creates a strategy differential in how defense is played in Floorball.

Defenders need to be aware of their stick, body position, offensive players and the flow of the attack coming at them.  It is important through the development of youth players that they understand some of these concepts related to defensive play in order to be successful.

Floorball’s rules of play prohibit stick checking, stick lifting, or contact with the stick prior to contact with the ball.   A defensive player may not go through the offensive players stick in order to obtain the ball.  Doing so results in a free hit, which is similar to a free kick in soccer.  However, based on these rules there are some strategic moves defensive players can make in order force a turn over.  A defensive player may pressure the ball and in doing may force the offensive player into a turnover without fouling.  This method can be effective at both ends of the court.  However, defenders must be mindful not to foul, especially in the defensive zone, which requires the defender to be aware of their body positioning to the ball and player.

Body positioning and awareness of the spacing on the court is important when defending.  When on the defense it is important for all players to understand these concepts.  The entire team must work in sync and understand their roles in the defense and know what to do as the offense moves the ball around.  In many cases the defense will form a box in the defensive area with each player responsible for a specific zone.  Each player should be communicating with each other as offensive players move the ball, but should equally be aware of offensive players’ movement without the ball.  This is important as most offensive plays are built on quick passing and movement into open space between the defensive box.

When teaching the concepts of defense to new or younger players it’s important to emphasize zones to start.  In many cases younger players that are playing defense want to hang back as play moves into the offensive zone.  It is best to encourage them to move forward to at least mid-court emphasizing the importance of keeping the ball in the offensive zone.  With regards to body positioning introducing the defensive tactics concept can be as simple as staying between the ball and your goal.  At the beginning this will be a challenge and there are a number of other drills that can be done to help teach defense, but it will take time and patience.  While everyone wants to score the goal spending time focusing on the importance of defense will help solidify the team aspect of the sport.

Starting A Floorball Program? Now What?

Starting anything requires not only knowledge, but strategy. Simply getting the Floorball sticks, ball and potentially goalie equipment is not enough.

As with anything, the more expertise you have in your undertaking, the better result you will achieve.

Floorball is starting to catch with communities, who are browsing online, asking questions, and considering starting up their own team or league. Whether you happened to discover the sport online, through a video or blog post, the game of Floorball has many facets you should consider in order to build a team or league correctly.

If you had the opportunity you went out a played a scrimmage, or you watched a video purchased a stick and a ball.  You may have even begun to develop a passion for the sport.  You see the value of floorball as a viable sport for yourself, your kids, and your community.  Now what?  Where do you begin?

Fortunately you’re not alone.  Like any newer sport the opportunities to play can be somewhat limited.  However, the beauty of the sport is that it doesn’t need to be confined to space, facility, people, or organizations.   Fortunately the cost to get into the sport is relatively cheap.  You can purchase an entry level stick for $30-50, buy a ball and goals and you’re set.  If you’re wanting to invest a little more into equipment there are floorball companies like Generation Floorball out of New York that sell packages of sticks for groups, teams, etc.  However, in many cases you’ll be the first one with a stick and need to grow your group through your contacts.  Initially you’ll spend a large amount of time educating friends, family, coworkers, and anyone who’ll listen about the sport of floorball.  My experience has been to focus on small gatherings in order to help teach the rules, game play and ensure a fun experience.  For the most I’ve been focused on the informal process to get people coming and playing.  Once people get a hang of the rules and how to play the level of play will increase accordingly.

Whether you’re looking to start a weekly pick-up game, or a full-fledged league the biggest challenge will be finding space to play.  The beauty of floorball is that you can play almost anywhere.  If the weather is not (not raining at least) go outside and find a community basketball court, or tennis court to play in.  Thankfully for most cities there are plenty of both to set up shop, and they’re free.  If you’re looking to go inside you’ll want to contact your local parks and recreation department to rent, or if you’re able to use them to create a partnership in order to offset the facility rental.  Once you have established a consistent space use your contacts and social media to create a club that can be found by anyone.  The goal is to get people playing and the more interest for your club or group the easier it will be to determine if you should begin looking at a league.  For collegiate intramurals you can use your facility to host one day demo sessions to gain interest and gain feedback from your students.  Based on that interest you’ll have a better idea of how to frame your intramural league.

However, you decide to start or grow your group don’t be discouraged.  It’ll likely take some time to get people connected and aware of the sport.  Keep pushing and talking about what you’re doing.  If you’re able to you might want to think about running youth classes as a way to grow the sport in your region.  The important thing when starting out is ensuring an inclusive and fun environment for all to partake.  Now get out there and start your group.

Coaching Thoughts

During St. Martin’s University Division II basketball pre-season, I created a two-hour session for the men’s & women’s athletes, in order to broaden their conditioning.

The focal goal was to create a team-bonding experience, as much as it was educate them on how to play Floorball. While the sport itself is a great workout, fun is a key component to keeping interest of both the players and coaches.  Working with both teams, I designed a short program that would fit their needs.

The men’s basketball team focused on a scrimmage format, after introductory programs and game play had been established. The men’s team played with goalies, and we established a 4 x 6 net system with goalies wearing masks. Goalies also kept their sticks. While this wasn’t the traditional goalie look, the teams loved it and the competitive drive kicked in immediately.

The women’s basketball team was more instructive. After a basic rules instructional course, we showcased a few stick handling games as a warm-up, then went into scrimmaging. The men’s format for scrimmaging was changing out every goal in a king-of-court format. The women’s game was broken into three teams, playing 5 minute matches. We played for over an hour, rotating in that format.

Both the men’s and women’s teams were exhausted, however, they enjoyed the experience more than other traditional exercise programs.

Between the two teams maybe one of these athletes had ever heard of or touched a Floorball stick, and that one athlete came from Sweden. What stuck out to me was seeing highly skilled and competitive players step out of their comfort zone and have fun together. The program met the coaches goals of building “esprit de corps” while ensuring a high level of fitness. It is likely that as a result of this program that I’ll continue to work with these teams in in the future.