Play Above All Else

The notion of play is a simple yet complex aspect of our lives. I respect Floorball because it allows us to play, as much as compete. With few “legacy” players coaching Floorball, it allows our young athletes to have equal participation, minus the pressure that other sports provide of having to compare to another athlete who came before them.

Play part of the foundation of who we are a people, and helps us develop a number of skills when we’re younger.  Growing up in Washington State in the late 80’s and 90’s the youth system for youth sports was vastly different from what it is today.  Too many kids and parents are running around with visions of athletic grandeur in their eyes, and miss the realities in front of them.  At the same time there are an equal amount of sports administrators and boards who create and absorb other organizations for the monetary benefit it brings them.  All of this is focused around two things.  Kids and parents hoping they’ll get a college scholarship and get to the big leagues, and the clubs and organizations who gouge them along the way.  Another aspect we’ve found from this has been sport specialization at younger and younger ages and year round play.  Both are a detriment to the athletes and science has proven to be fact, specifically before a certain age.  The athletic world is seeing more and more cases of overuse injuries, a term and condition that has become more common.

More recently there has been more literature and studies written talking about players being sport specific, and the impact it has on their development.  What people forget is that kids are constantly growing and developing across the board.  At the same time there needs to be more direct emphasis on letting kids rest.  I’ve seen it time after time where coaches gripe about players missing a tournament or training during the off season, and feel like they don’t care enough.  A sport season is long and tiresome and it’s important to make sure that kids are getting that time to recover.  The fitness world has done an excellent job over the years emphasizing the importance of recovery, noting that recovery time is when the body grows and develops.

Floorball for instance is in an interesting place in its development as a sport in the USA.  I see it currently positioned primarily as a recreation based sport for youth and adults.  The main reason is that it still needs to attract and develop players beyond the introductory and intermediate levels.  Ultimately we’ll likely see players settle between intermediate and advanced.  In the current progression of the sport some will have an initial advantage, primarily in stick handling ability.  However, that is a skill that can be readily learned and those athletes coming from other sports will have an advantage in speed and agility that will allow them to catch up and surpass.  Again the aspects that will allow that come from those athlete who have skill in multiple areas.

Floorball is very similar in movement and game play to sports like hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. Players who are playing in these realms can mentally and physically adapt to the sport and be effective.  Through their prior training they’re already learning how to move, avoid, and adjust their bodies based on a variety of situations during game play.  While these skills can be taught to a degree the majority of the time it’s learned through unstructured play.  It will be interesting to see how floorball develops in the USA.  While I know it will spawn club and travel teams, I hope it equally evolves through a more recreation and unstructured form too.