Floorball is growing around the USA, and it takes a dedicated group of people who see the future of the sport to continue it’s growth. Once such person who has been working hard is Jyri Koivisto out of Utah. I met Jyri when we played on the USA Men’s Team in Riga, Latvia. His passion to grow the game is infectious and is not surprise he’s made an impact wherever he has gone.
How did you get involved in floorball?
JK: I can remember the earliest time playing floorball I must have been 11 or 12. We used to play either hockey or basketball during PE during the winter time depending how cold it was outside. Soon it became hockey or floorball or basketball. I played flooball in the middle school and then in our high school team.
When I first went to college at BYU-Idaho we played floor hockey and I thought it would be really cool to start playing floorball and bring a new sport to the USA. I asked one of the professors how easy it would be to introduce a new sport and make it big here. To my surprise the answer was slim to non existent. That did not discourage me, but I bought a enough sticks and goals from Finland to start playing during our Finnish Association activities with mainly returned missionaries from Finland.
However, after getting my undergrad from BYU-Idaho we spend three years in Finland and then I needed to start floorball all over again in Houston, TX as my got a job there after my masters degree in Finland. I wanted to continue my childhood hobby that I had played with my friends and brother over the year. We started out with 6 people on a small carpeted church gym. Then I decided to start a business so I could focus more on floorball and we moved to a bigger court, bought boards, started kids and adult league on a rented basketball gym. We started attending tournament and took the 2nd place in SWIFT tournament during our first appearance and then the 1st place the second year. We also Hosted tournaments in Houston. 2014 Texas them sent a team to CO US Nationals and we took the 4th place, being the best co-ed team.
What compelled you to start a Floorball program?
JK: I came to a point that I needed to decide where I wanted to grow floorball. Houston or Utah. I had a strong impression to move to Lehi UT, where we are currently living, half way between Salt Lake City and Provo. We have lived in Utah since 2015 and I needed to start all over again. This time everything went a lot faster as I had learned from the past experience what works and what does not work.
What make Floorball appealing to kids and adults in your area?
JK: What makes floorball appealing in Utah is that it is a inexpensive sport that gives you a great cardio. Utah also has a fair amount of hockey players that will bring a lot more qualified and technical players to floorball. Utah also has a great recreation centers that can accommodate floorball. Utah has a surprisingly many Finnish, Swedish and Swiss families living in the area who have played floorball in their home country and want to continue playing. Utah also has a large population of returned missionaries from Finland and Sweden who have learned about floorball during their mission in that country. I believe that the key to floorball growth will happen through intramural leagues at Universities. We have three large universities: BYU, UVU and University of Utah within one hour from each other and once floorball gets to one of them, then they can start competing against each other.
For kids it is a sport that they can enjoy and everyone starts at the same level. It is also nice that you don’t have to be the strongest or the biggest kid to be a great floorball player. The parents appreciate that floorball is easy to learn, fun and save sport to play. Also, there is a low threshold to play in the national level. Utah had 6 players under 19 to play in the Golden Gate Cup this year. The general manager for MU19 is from UT and we had a player who played for WU19 in Switzerland this year.
What are some highlights so far from your Floorball program?
JK: Some of my highlights for floorball was to start a teams in Houston and Utah and to play successfully in tournaments, play for team USA in Latvia in 2016. Get over $5,000 in donations for floorball and get floorball started in +18 schools in Utah due to donations from local companies. Get Orem Fitness center to invest in floorball by allowing me to organize leagues and tournaments for kids and adults as well as supporting the floorball movement by getting their own floorball boards. It really has been a great pleasure to be part of the grass roots of starting and growing floorball and growing a developing a team that can compete against the best teams in the USA. Our first out of state tournament as the whole team from UT, we placed 4th in the Golden Gate Cup, 2018.
What does the future hold for Floorball in your area?
JK: We are looking forward for the future of floorball in UT and developing a team that can’t compete for 1-3 places in US Nationals this year. We are hopeful to collect donations this year to purchase brand new set of boards, so we can host bigger tournaments in Utah, or combine our boards with neighboring states during their tournaments. Our players are really catching on the fire with youth development and adults alike. Floorball has grown from a one man show to organized club with responsibilities according to talents and interests of our team members. Only the sky is the limit where floorball can go from here in Utah. Our goal is to provide players for U19 teams as well as men and women national teams in the future world cups and to be part of the growth and the development of floorball in the USA to make it a main stream sport, whether it took 5 or 10 year to get there.