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 Way Forward – A player’s perspective

Guest Author: Matthew Coleman-Foster, USAF

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am an individual who exudes pride for my country. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to represent and serve as a member of the United States Air Force. I have also been fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent and compete for my country as part of the USA National Floorball Team. I am as passionate about this sport and the benefits it has brought me and others as I am passionate about my country. I actively work on a daily basis to educate and implement Floorball programs around me.

For those who do not know, Floorball is an up-and-coming team sport.  There are various divisions of leagues, clubs, and national teams around the world, with the most developed area being Northern Europe.

A few months ago, I was watching the United States Men’s Floorball team play in the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Prior to the start of one game, the announcers were talking about the two teams and noting where each player came from.  I distinctly remember one announcer pointing out a distinct lack of US based players on the team. For the World Games the entire team was made up of US born players that now reside in and play floorball throughout Europe. I have nothing but respect for those players, as many of them are my friends.  However, as a passionate US-based player and someone that is part of the USA Floorball organization, I feel that we need to be doing more to develop Floorball in the US.

Established leagues and programs

Floorball in North America is largely built around grassroots development, promoted by men and women around the country who are passionate about Floorball and are actively developing the sport in cities, states and regions. In order to build a solid foundation, we must be actively developing and supporting these businesses and organizations. The largest obstacle for us right now is a lack of education, awareness, classes, and leagues to engage and develop players. In order to do that, we will need to leverage positive relationships with local parks, recreation departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, etc. These programs, if trained and supported properly, will accelerate the development of Floorball in the US. Developed leagues, clubs, and programs will allow for more development of our National Team system.

A Central Training Location in the US.

I believe the main struggle with promoting floorball in the US is the size of the country. It is a huge challenge building a team from all corners of the country, asking players to travel on their own dime, and be available for training on a regular basis. Having a central training location is integral for USA Floorball. We need a location for the national team to gather to prepare for upcoming events, training camps and selection. This location would also serve as a development center for potential and future USA Floorball athletes to hone their skills. The challenge with this is where do we begin?  What facilities do we have that can host or accommodate the needs of the teams?  Our national teams usually have less time to prepare compared to other national teams and I attribute part of that to there currently being no central training location.

Advocates for floorball within the US

Another thing that hurts the growth of floorball in the US is the lack of ambassadors. As a national team athlete, you are not only an ambassador for your country, you are an ambassador in your country for your sport. Especially if it is a new sport. This is one thing that US-based players can deliver on and foreign-based players cannot. There are many schools, gyms, and programs across the country looking for something like floorball, but they haven’t found it yet. The reason for this lies within the lack of incentive for US-based players. It is also difficult for current ambassadors of the sport to get taken seriously when they don’t have as much experience as foreign-based players.  Because of this, it is apparent that USA Floorball needs more US players. The current and future state of floorball in the United States depends on it. It will be off the backs of those athletes selected that floorball will prosper in the US.

Conclusion

If some or all of these steps are taken in an effort to improve the growth of US floorball, there would potentially be an increase in numbers for attendance to floorball clubs, creation of floorball clubs, development of youth floorball and general interest in floorball all around.  Floorball is an amazing and polarizing sport, but no one will know about it or share their experience with it when it is not effectively cultivated in the US. There are people who care about this sport greatly in the states, people that can properly utilize the experience and opportunity to represent their country. If we do not cultivate that enthusiasm, interest in the sport will diminish. I know that I and other floorball players living in the United States are very passionate about this sport and the growth of it in our country, but if there continues to be no progress in these areas we know that floorball in the US will begin to decline.  Floorball has had a profound influence on my life and I encourage anyone interested in this sport to get involved.

Coaching the Women’s Team at US Nationals

(Photo: Adam Troy)

Every year the United States Floorball Association hosts the US Nationals Floorball Tournament.  This year the tournament was hosted in San Jose, CA at the Silver Creek SportsPlex.  The facility was a great location to host such an event, and in my mind sets the bar for future locations.  The US Nationals Tournament is also paired with a US National Team training camp.  This year the Coaches from the USA Men’s Floorball team (Stefan Hedlund, and Joel Olofsson) and USA Men’s Floorball player and MVP of the World Championships (Robin Brown) were there to train and teach prospective players for the US National Teams.  While time was spent working on training and skill development, a significant amount of time was focused on better understanding the game.  All of this served the players well moving into the tournament.

The US Nationals Tournament had eight teams from Reno, Menlo Park, San Francisco, San Jose, a mixed team with players from Colorado, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, and an all-women’s team.  I was on the multi-state team and I was excited to play with such a diverse group of people.  I was also asked if I would be willing to coach the all-women’s team, which I gladly accepted.  Given the current set position of Floorball in the US we’re normally converting players from other sports to play Floorball.  With that conversion comes a learning curve for all players.  In fact some of the women players were pulling double duty on other teams.  In the end while many players played 3-4 games a day they were playing 6-8.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the first day with the team.  We had many new players, and various ages on the team.  At the same time they’re going up against more experienced players and teams.  Going into the first day I spent most of my time working with the team on defensive positioning.  Building on the lesson from Stefan Hedlund’s instruction the day before, we focused on playing the percentages.  He’s statistically found that 70% or more of goals are scored in the middle of the court.  Given the competition we knew we weren’t necessarily going to out run them, so we had to be smarter.   In the development of the team the focus was not on the score, but on finding the little things that player were doing right and getting them to focus on that.  Each period of each game our goal was to be a little bit better as a group.  In the second game the girls showed progress and were able push forward and attack.  They created chances and worked well as a unit.  In the end it served them well.  Going into the teams last game the focus was on playing well, but they really wanted to win.  In the end the team did come out on top against a good team from Reno, NV.  In that game we lost half of our subs, but they worked hard and came out on top. 

I couldn’t have been happier for the team.  To end the tournament on a win was a great end to the weekend as a team.  They worked hard, they learned, the listened.  As a coach all you can ask is that players be willing to learn, try, and perform.  They were coachable.  This is a skill that is lost on many.  They put their heads down and worked hard.  As the only all-women’s team in the tournament they showed what they could do.  It is my hope that they are the start of something bigger.  Through them more women would see Floorball as a fun and exciting sport.  Hopefully we’ll start seeing more and more all-women’s Floorball teams compete at tournaments.

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.