Private vs. Public Sport Development

There’s no doubt about it, but the landscape of youth sports has clearly changed. There are pros and cons to that development, and depending on the situation I’m a bit torn by it. On one hand I’m in favor of business and the role private business plays in the economy. On the other side, I think we’ve gone too far with privatization and as a result it’s creating a system of those who can afford to play and those who can’t. There are a number of reasons why this has happened, and I think that we’re on the cusp of going one way or the other.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s the landscape of youth sports was still developing. You had travel teams, but it wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent as it is now. If you wanted to play you likely went to the plethora of youth sports leagues that were offered by the local parks and rec, or other government entity. The programs were affordable and thrived. It seems that somewhere along the lines that changed, partly because of lack of funding to parks and rec over time, but also with the growth of “elite” clubs and travel programs all promising to take players to the next level.

Fast forward 15 -20 years and the market of elite programs and clubs that was once small have largely cannibalized the youth sports market. I don’t fault businesses for doing things to grow their product, but in doing so a growing number of kids are either not playing sports as they get older, or aren’t even starting. In many ways they’re being priced out.

I’ve always been interested in this process, and I’ve been in and out of it throughout the majority of my life and professional career. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to watch, and while I disagree with the direction it has gone, I think in the long-term it will not last in its current format forever. I think people are getting a bit more wise to what’s happening, and I think there will be a bit of shift back to more emphasis on recreational based leagues and programming.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to put a league together, and if you’re going through the process it should be worth that time and effort. I’m seeing more and more programs pop up that are offering something different, and I believe in the end it will be beneficial.

I’ve been going through this myself as I’ve developed my instructional classes, leagues, and camps. I’m really aware of what I’m ultimately trying to do. I’ve created partnerships with my local parks and rec to offer low cost programs. It’s two fold. On one hand I want to get people engaged in the sport of Floorball, and on the other I’m hoping long-term it grows into something bigger. Right now as it sits my costs are pretty low, and I can keep it that way. It works for me and it works for the parents.

The cost of the program is below other similar sports programs or it’s priced right in line with others. I know my market and that plays a lot into how I price my programs. It’s a fine line to walk, and in the early stages of program development I think it’s important to strike that balance. I could make more money not going through the parks program, but there are a number of important parts to doing so. The main one is providing value to the parks by offering a new program, and providing parents with more options to keep their kids active.

If Floorball is to grow we need a mix of both private and public organizations getting involved. However, in doing so they can’t price it the same way they’re able to price more established programs. We need to make it affordable to get people in the door and develop the product accordingly. The price should cover costs, but shouldn’t too high. There’s always ways to get creative in this process, and if you’re a private organization think about how you can effectively bring this sport into your world in a way that helps it become sustainable and grow. If you need help with that reach out to us.

A Changing World in Sports

The World has changed. In the midst of a global pandemic we’re all feeling the effects of this. What come of it in the end is what I’m really curious about. Where do go from here?

COVID-19 has already had a major impact on our lives, and it will continue to shape many lives going forward. We don’t know yet when the spread will stop, but we do know that it’s hopefully changing how we react to it. To see a complete stop of our daily lives, for many, gives us pause on our lives. By taking certain things away do we value them more, or realize that we can live without them? Do we learn to improve how we live our lives, or are we simply waiting to return to how we lived before this happened?

Outside of health, the impacts this is having and will continue to have will be felt for a long time. Businesses, organizations, and people will all falter. The landscape of sports, specifically youth sports will be changed. It will take time to climb out. I’m already seeing and hearing of youth sports programs, businesses, and organizations starting to shut down. They have no choice. Will they be able to return when things settle? For many that many not be the case. Even when things settle it will take time to coordinate and get things going. What impacts will that have?

I think there’s going to be a shift in how we do things within sports. We’ve seen it a little bit in the shift back to more recreational sports. Some of that has been in response to cost to play. I see a growing number of people wanting access to sports, but without the added costs and travel. I see this as an opportunity for people to reconnect with why they play sports. It’s the camaraderie, love of the game, challenge, and the competition. I’m hoping that as we slightly retract in the path we’ve been on that more opportunities open for all to engage in sports.

Here’s where I see Floorball having a chance. You’ve got a sport that you can play and train anywhere. It draws in skills sets from a variety of other sports. It’s affordable to play. It’s adaptable to any age or ability. I think that people are looking for things like that. The landscape of sports is changing, and we don’t know to what degree. I believe that more options helps everyone in the end.

For all reading this I hope you’re safe and healthy.

Learning sports in the digital age

Everyone is going through a massive change. As we all want to be together, we’re all apart. This has forced us to get creative in how we communicate on every level. As a result, we’ve been pushed to go virtual. The traditional models have all be thrown out the window as we operate in a virtual world.

This has a massive impact on every person, business, organization, and sports are thrown right into the middle. How do sports continue in this new world? Going from normal training methods and games have been thrown out the window. In an instance everything that we’ve done before changed overnight.

For many the jump to virtual is a challenge. Aside from the social component to sports the ability to effectively train at home with whatever resources you have can be a challenge. One of the great things I see coming out of this is how it’s forced everyone to rethink how we are doing things. From a training perspective this time gives kids a chance to be creative. While that may stem from boredom, some of the best creations come from boredom. It doesn’t take much to see the creativity that’s happening right now. If there’s something to take away from all the quarantine/pandemic situation is that we all can get creative.

Having been quarantined at home has given me a lot of opportunities to think about how I can get creative in my own right. Coming into the spring Floorball classes that I put on were growing. At the time things were shut down in Washington State I was just starting the spring session. With 30 kids signed up we were thankfully able to get one class in before things shut down. For me, I wanted to be able to provide resources for my students to continue to practice at home. As a result, I started creating training videos to help teach my students, and anyone some of the skills and drills I use in class.

The ability to take my lessons online has been a great creative outlet. It’s also allowed me to work on my video editing skills, which is a great skill to learn. I’ve been wanting to do things like this for awhile, but I always put it off or gave an excuse. Now was the perfect time to get it done. What’s been fun for me is to see what students are doing at home and how they’re staying active during this time. I’m not alone in this process. I’ve really enjoyed watching what other people are creating, and I’m learning from them.

Here’s a little tip, if you don’t know it already. If you’re not on Twitter I recommend it. If you want to follow any specific group of people, I recommend following physical education teachers. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this time it’s how creative these people are in working to actively engage their students from afar. If anything, they’ve given me ideas on how I can better teach or present Floorball topics online. I highly recommend tapping into these resources.

This is a time we’ll all remember. I hope that wherever you are you and your family are healthy and safe.  I hope you’re getting creative however you can be to stay active and have some fun. I think I can speak for everyone that I can’t wait to get out of this and back to a new normal.

The Value of Volunteers

It’s great to have ambitions.  To reach for the stars.  To have goals and dreams that aren’t quite yet realized.  Without action they’re an illusion of something that we want.  Action requires hard work, dedication, vision, and a singular movement in that direction in any way possible.  You may be feeling ambitious starting out with a new project.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this you’re interested in Floorball, and trying to figure out how you’re going to get started.  While many people have the drive to take a new venture from start to finish it’s not the norm.  In fact it’s highly unlikely that it will get done without some sort of help.  For anyone looking to start a new program or venture some of the most valuable people around you are your volunteers.

Take for a second to think about what a volunteer is to you and your organization.   The volunteer is in many cases the strongest advocate for you.  They love your product, organization, or mission so much that they give their time and resources freely to help in some capacity.  People volunteer for any number of reasons, but without them many wonderful programs and events wouldn’t happen.  This is especially true for programs and events that are just starting out.  The support, guidance, muscle, and help volunteers bring can never be taken for granted.

I’ve been fortunate to have experience on both sides.  Being able to give time and energy to a worthy cause is worth the time and effort.  Frankly, it’s a wonderful opportunity to give back.  At the same, running an event that requires a lot of volunteers is an equally amazing experience to see the joy and dedication volunteers bring to the process.  It’s very humbling knowing that a successful event or program I ran worked not solely because of my work, but by a collective of people who saw value in what was being done and acted.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen this play out in the Floorball community.  There are countless numbers of people who have volunteered, and are volunteering to help grow the sport of Floorball.  They give their time, resources, energy, knowledge, and guidance to push this sport to the next level.  Without the dedication of so many individuals the sport wouldn’t continue to grow.

The challenge for developing programs is finding those core volunteers that will help you grow.  However, you have to be very careful about not overburdening your volunteers with too much.  Make sure to show appreciation for your volunteers.  At the very least to take them for granted.  The ability to grow volunteers into brand ambassadors is a crucial aspect of event programming.

Once you have that the challenge is continuing to find new volunteers to keep things moving forward.  Keep pushing, keep believing, and keep grinding.  You never know who will find you or your program and want to get involved.  Sometimes it only takes that one person to make the difference.

Lasting Impacts of Teaching

A few years back I was working for a youth soccer company. I was in charge of the Pacific Northwest Region of the company, which covered Washington and Oregon. When I eventually left I had grown the business to contract with over 60 cities and over 10,000 participants. It was a lot of work, but I’m really proud of the job I did. I really enjoyed working for that company, and the lessons and skills learned have helped serve me well in my endeavors since. One of the things I learned was the lasting impact teaching had on me personally, and the kids I taught.

Teaching is rarely a glamourous job, but I’m specifically talking about teaching youth sports. It may sound fun, and don’t get me wrong it is, but in reality there’s more to it. Whether you know it or not, if you’ve chosen to step out and teach you’re making an impact. Those impacts can be positive or negative, and it’s important to know your role in the process.

When I first found Floorball I immediately saw its potential as a sport, and in teaching youth to play. There is a market to be had that I see using Floorball to break into. The youth sports instructional scene is very crowded area, but there’s always room for more. As I began to think about how I would approach this process I kept coming back to my soccer days. In my mind it was a perfect fit, but at the time I fought it because I needed a break from teaching. Teaching is a demanding component on your time and energy, and I wanted to make sure that I could bring both effectively. I reached out to my old client in my town and we put a youth floorball program together.

It’s been 3 years since I started teaching floorball classes regularly. It was a challenge at first to find a date/time that would work within my current job and life schedule. I chose a day that was fairly light for me, and something I could make sure I could be consistent on. I’m a big proponent of consistency. I wanted parents to know that it would be at the same day, time, and location every session so they could start to plan on it. It’s been successful, and I’m really proud of it. I make some money off of it, and while it’s not huge, it has allowed me to continue to grow the game the way I wanted to. It hasn’t always been easy or fun. There have been challenges along the way, but in the end I know it’s worth it.

That reminder of it being worth it has come in different forms. From parents talking to me about how joining Floorball has helped their kid overcome fear, anxiety, or just found a passion in something. Those are the things that mean the most, and are the reason why I do what I do.

There are kids out there not being reached in the current sports scene for any number of reasons. By creating opportunities to reach them I’m hoping they’ll find themselves. Every week is a new week, and the kids I teach are a week older. I never know what child I’m getting on that day, but in the end having a chance to make an impact is enough for me to keep pushing forward. What’s fun is that the longer you teach the more kids you get to see, and seeing kids grow and mature is fun. I’m excited to see where these kids go, and hopefully I’ll get to see them mature into adults and positive role models. I encourage anyone reading this to take a chance on themselves and the kids around them and get involved in teaching. If it happens to be Floorball great. If not, that’s ok too. Good luck on your journey, and if I can help along the way I’m happy to do so.

Do Schools Really Need Floorball?

I’ve been around the block enough times now to hear a lot of the same comments and arguments. One of the first comments that comes up is Floorball would be great for hockey players. The other comment that comes stating, “This would be perfect in schools”. The true question in anything is asking the question. Do schools really need Floorball in their physical education curriculum?

Let’s step back and try to analyze that question as unbiased as possible. Believe me, I’m pretty biased on this question, but I think it’s worth asking the question. Hopefully you’ll be able to make your own decision. A big part in answering that question is to look at the current role physical education plays in our society, specifically in U.S. schools. Unfortunately in the U.S. emphasis, funding, and time spent on physical education is rather low, especially when compared to cost spent on other subjects. However, there are a plethora of studies and research done on the importance of physical health and it’s relation to long-term benefits inside and outside of the classroom. Needless to say it’s just not a priority, and without getting into the political components of the argument in the short-term that simply won’t change overnight.

If you haven’t spent time in a physical education class in the past 10 years you’d likely notice some differences from your youth. One of the differences I notice aside from a lack of funding, is the size of kids in physical education classes. In the classroom we’re asking one teacher to manage 25-30 plus kids, but in a P.E. class that can jump to 50-60 per teacher. On top of that physical education classes are fractured in their consistency. Kids don’t have P.E. every day, and instead may go one week for three days, and then have two or three weeks off before they come back to P.E. Each school teacher, school, district, and state are different, but it’s certainly a huge challenge. Simply managing that time and schedule is a huge undertaking; especially if you add on top of that the requirements for meeting and showing students are meeting state and national standards.

With all of this in hand teachers simply don’t have the time or resources needed to dedicate enough time on everything they want to do. There are some really great resources out there, and there is a huge push on teachers getting creative. The results from this are astounding, and they should be applauded. The impacts P.E. teachers are making across the country to ensure students are getting exposed to new things, moving, having fun, and learning are a crucial component to their overall development.

So where would Floorball fit into this mix? That’s a question that each teacher has to answer for themselves. The physical benefits of the sport are a no brainer. If you break down the sport it is pretty clear how it can meet state standards in regards to physical development. I think it has a place in some form in schools. If a teacher doesn’t have floorball sticks, but has hockey sticks can they teach floorball? Of course! The keys are making the necessary adaptations to teach the sport. Focus on the rules of the game, use goals that you have. If you’re lucky enough to get a grant buy equipment and make it available for students during recess. There are options, but to think that the whole growth of the sport hinges on schools is not true. It should be a component, and that is where outside organizations play the bigger role. A kid who gets excited about Floorball in school, but has nowhere to play outside of school misses an opportunity to play.

So before you jump to expecting the schools to grow the game I would turn it around and say, what are you doing to support that?

Adding Floorball to your Repertoire

If you’re like me, you probably enjoy playing multiple sports to suit your interests and needs. Growing up I played just about anything I could get my hands one. This became important in my personal development and if the topic itself has become more common place in media. Whether you’re an individual or an organization you should at the very least consider adding Floorball to your repertoire.

As an individual there are many benefits to playing or learning to play Floorball. The physical benefits of running are clear, which I enjoy because I need a reason to run. It’s one reason I enjoy sports so much. Cardio is an important component to our lives and Floorball focuses on both endurance and quick burst movements, which is important to develop in most sports. If you’ve chosen a preferred sport and are looking for something else to keep your physical skills in tune during the off-season Floorball is certainly one to look at.

By playing multiple sports players can not only take a break and recharge, but in the process; they’re working new muscles both physically and mentally. While many players focus on developing physically they may not realize how they’re developing mentally. Some call this development athletic IQ. An athlete with a higher IQ in this area can use that to their advantage in any number of scenarios. There lies the true benefit. The more situations a player is exposed to the better they will be able to read the field and hopefully make the proper decisions in the moment. This is a long-term skill, but the exposure of multiple sports and factors can help in this development.

While there are benefits to adding Floorball to an individuals’ repertoire, the same can be said of an organization. In today’s market many organizations are working to stay ahead of the curve. If they’re a pay to play organization the heat is always on to attract new customers while attaining current ones. This requires businesses of this nature the challenge of keeping up with current trends in the market, while trying to read what will increase business. There are many variables to account for, but if there is a building involved one of the key focuses is to maximize it’s use. For many areas everyone has the same old standards for sports. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I would argue that there is a market that is being missed. Will Floorball be the answer to all? No. However, I believe if given a proper chance with the correct training and education it will begin to take hold on a massive scale.

I’ve seen the beginnings of this first hand through my own programs. I’m not one to just talk, I’m actively working on these things myself. I’ve started classes, leagues, camps, and clinics along the way. I’ve seen a very clear market for this sport. For those looking for something a little different and a way to offer more options for customers within the space you already have, Floorball is certainly worth a look. I hope you will give it a chance, and if there is a way I can help you I would love to have the opportunity to do so.

How’s your Marketing Plan?

You’ve come up with the program, event, or league and you’re ready to get things moving. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your work is done. In fact, you’re far from it. The work you do before the event will likely make or break your success. Use these tips to help set yourself up for success.

Don’t procrastinate

If there’s one thing I always try to avoid it is procrastination. When planning an event too often people think things just happen overnight. In fact, to plan a quality event takes weeks, months, or even years to ensure everything is in place. Before you do anything make sure you have the date and venue squared away. Other than figuring out funding for the event these two components are crucial and must be done in advance. Personally, when I program anything I’m ideally planning six months out, but depending on the event three to four weeks will work.

Planning

This is important when marketing because you should have a marketing schedule in place and know when, where, and how you plan to market your venture. Marketing is a balance. If you market too soon people will forget about the event when the time comes. if you market too late, people may have already made other plans and you missed out. Your marketing strategy will vary depending on the program intended.

For classes I teach I begin to promoting and marketing approximately one month before it begins. If I’m working with a third party, such as a parks and rec department, the marketing going out through them will vary as well. One month out and people should begin to see or hear about the program in more than one medium (audio, video, print, digital).

I’m a firm believer that only going digital (social media) is not the answer for everyone. I still use print media because it’s still an effective way of marketing. Three weeks out and I’ve begun to get print and digital media out there. The closer I get to the start date the more frequently I post about it. This is where shares, likes, and engagement is helpful to raise awareness. One thing you’ll learn through this process is that you’ll likely see the brunt of registration happen within the week leading up, but really within a 48hr window to the start of a program. People put things off to the last minute so be aware of that.

Camps

 If I’m running a camp the timeline for my marketing will increase. Instead of a month to start promoting I will begin marketing a camp as early as six months to over a year ahead of time. While six months may seem excessive it’s not. Think about how you plan your summers or holidays breaks. If you have kids, they tend to fill up rather quickly. If you’re looking to put your kids in camps throughout the summer having more information to make informed decisions is important. It could be the difference between someone signing up for your program or going somewhere else. If you’re planning a camp for June-Aug I would highly recommend having your camp information and marketing together and released sometime in January.

No matter how you approach your marketing I encourage you to take the time to sit down and form a plan. Mark down when materials are going out, when they need to be printed and distributed. If you’re able to distribute print materials through schools make sure to go through their approval process, though most schools are going away from print and using digital. If you’re using social media you can target specific areas, which helps, but plan on budgeting money to get the best result.

Get out there. Make a plan. With the right moves your program will be a success.

Camps, Camps, and more Camps

Growing up playing sports or being around sports was what I wanted to do. I played a number of sports throughout the year and, especially in the summer. I can vividly remember going to a handful of sports camps as a kid. At that time the focus was just something to do.

There weren’t elite camps, especially what you see now. For my mom keeping her four kids active and out of the house during the summer. I was fortunate to have those experiences. I’m thankful for those opportunities. They shaped my childhood, and I’m sure many others have had similar experiences themselves.

At the younger ages, a camp is basically daycare and is a great way to increase revenue for the year. Parents are looking for a fun activity for their child to keep them busy and active during the day. I’ve had some people try to argue with me on this fact. They claim that camps are designed to increase a players overall performance and development. At the older ages I agree. I won’t argue that as there are many camps that do just that. However, if you’ve attended one of these camps or worked an all-day one sport specific camp you know how difficult it is to keep a child’s attention on one sport all day for a week. There’s only so much training and development that can be done over 6-8 hours. Equally, there’s only so much attention space kids have. Keep that in mind when planning your camp.  

As the youth sports culture has evolved the economic impact of camps has become big business. A result of this is the market being saturated with just about any camp activity you can think of. When planning a camp create something different. Establish what your goals are and build your camp off of that. Too often we think having a name behind the camp automatically means success. If you can provide value, and many can, you’re on your way to a successful camp.

If you have the skills to teach, or can learn, you can run a camp. There’s more to it on the back end, but it’s doable, and you can run a quality and efficient camp. I would personally recommend avoiding a camp that’s focused solely on drills and scrimmages. I think a key to a development camp at the younger levels should focus on skill building but doing it through play based games. In an effort to focus on training I feel some forget to include or encourage fun into the experience. The hope is that all campers learn and develop, but more importantly that they have fun and enjoy the experience.

Floorball like other sports is a great addition as a camp, for a long time I avoided running an all-day sport specific youth camp. There are a number of reasons for this, most of which have nothing to do with the sport. I’ve found that if it can open up more potential issues as people get tired and bored, especially as the week drags on. I’m speaking specifically to camps with younger kids in particularly. It’s not always the case, but it’s something to take note of.

If you’re thinking about running a camp figure out what your target market is and how you’re going to run and manage it. Do it. Don’t wait. Don’t ask for permission. Figure it out and make it happen. If you think you can provide value through the process make it happen. In the end the ones who will benefit are the kids, and that should be the end game.

Stick Sizing Matters

One of the questions I seem to get more often, especially from new players, is what size stick should I get? This is a pretty basic question but is an important one to ask. I see a general assumption among newer players that a longer stick is preferred. But why?

It’s an interesting phenomenon really. If you put a stack of sticks in front of people they’ll generally grab a larger stick. Is the assumption that a longer stick equals a better stick? Or, is it an educational piece that they just simply don’t understand. I think for many they’ve been inadvertently conditioned to think that a hockey type sport should have a similar size stick. For many when they think of hockey they think of the hockey stick that is as tall as they are, especially in comparison to a Floorball stick.

If you’re starting out or are teaching Floorball for the first time you’ll quickly see this process play out if you have multiple sizes of sticks. However, the bigger is better idea doesn’t always work in Floorball. While a hockey stick is typically sized to around the chin, a Floorball stick is sized to around the belly. Don’t forget that the hockey stick is longer because you’re also standing on skates.

What matters is the height of the player in relation to the size of the stick for a proper fit. Too long and they player is unable to access the full performance of the stick. Too short and they will struggle physically with the sport. Both put the body out of optimal movement which reduces effectiveness and overall fun for the player. The challenge for taller players is there are limits to the length of the stick, but the International Floorball Federation does have allowances for longer sticks, though they’re harder find.

By having a short stick, in comparison to hockey, the player is able to control the ball in tighter space. By having the ability to keep the ball close to the body it makes it harder for the defense to steal it. It also allows for quicker movements in motion to move the ball, and it allows the player to flex the stick to generate optimal power. These are the basic concepts that should be implored on everyone when we talk about education of the sport. We need to make sure that people know and understand why a stick that’s properly fitted will improve their development, but also their overall enjoyment of the game.

When I teach this is one of the first things I discuss. While I don’t hand sticks out I separate them accordingly and tell players which sticks to look for. Inevitably I get kids who grab a larger stick than they need. I don’t always correct them. I’ll let them work with it, and usually they struggle. At this point I will encourage them or hand them the proper stick and ask them to tell the difference. It doesn’t take too long for them to realize which one is the better fit. It’s about education and it may seem like a small thing, but the more we can educate the better understanding players will have; which only adds to their own learning and hopefully enjoyment of the sport.