Size of Space Doesn’t Matter

It’s interesting to me the excuses thrown around in regard to starting something. For some the excuse could be money, resources, knowledge, or access to space. All of these can be overcome if you’re willing to be resourceful. I think the most challenge of these is finding consistent space to play.

If you’re looking to start a group to play regularly you’re going to need a place to play. However, don’t let the size of available space deter your from playing. Don’t let anyone tell you that to play Floorball, or any sport for that matter, that you must have the exact field dimensions to play. What I love about sports is that they are malleable and adaptable to the situation and space. If you can imagine it, you can do it. Having that mindset has allowed me to open my mind and see opportunities when they present themselves. It’s that mindset that has afforded me the opportunity to run various sports programs in some interesting locations.

One such location was a church where I was invited to work with a group in Federal Way, WA. The location was a small church in the area where kids had been getting together regularly to learn and play Floorball. The size of the space was rather small, but that didn’t matter to anyone. In fact, given the space and number of people in the space it worked just fine. What stuck me from the beginning was the energy in the room. Every square inch of available space was used. The competition between the players was high, and the future of the sport in the area is encouraging.

This is how the sport grows. It grows in small spaces with eager people looking to learn, grow, and find something new. To explore more about themselves. Right now, people are searching. They’re looking for something to latch on to. They’re looking for purpose, and for many we’ve found that purpose through sport. Floorball can play a part of that process.

I encourage anyone who is looking to play Floorball to look at what’s around you and use what you have. Starting small is just fine. I’d rather start a program with 10 dedicated and enthused participants wanting to come back time and time again, than 100 participants who show up once and never again. Go out, be resourceful and make a difference. Things that start small and are given a chance to grow can indeed make a huge difference in the end. I come back to the line in the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come.” So, get to it and start building.

The Way Forward

Our world as we know it has been effectively turned upside down. So many facets of our lives have changed, and we are not certain when, or if, it will return. How will things like sports look? When will they return? There are so many questions with very few answers. Floorball is no different but then again, we are all going to be starting behind where we were.

I had plans. In a not too distant past, I spent would have planned out several things. Given we are in July I’d already be in the middle of summer programs with Fall scheduled and waiting. I’d be actively marketing and competing with every other summer program and event to grab parents, and kids, attention. For the past three years things were starting to take off.

When I started Floorball classes in my local area it started from scratch. No one had heard of the sport and I had no clue how many would even show up. Fast forward three years and we were getting a consistent and growing group of kids into the instructional classes. Depending on the age group we were bursting at the seams! It was exciting to see the growth and engagement of kids and parents. It had taken some time, but I felt like we were meeting the needs of kids in the area looking for something different to do. Then COVID-19 happened.

I had just started my spring programs when everything shut down. Even as we have come out of quarantine things haven’t really returned. I had laid out a plan for summer programs I felt the format and adaptability of Floorball was a great fit for the guidelines we were given. Unfortunately, that all fell apart too. I work full-time so to run programs during the day are pretty much impossible. I even found staff who could run summer programs, but in the end it all fell apart. I was back to square one.

That is where I am currently with things. Back to starting over. The biggest challenges I see for businesses like mine will be finding adequate space. In my area we do not have dedicated recreation facilities, specific to indoor sports. Most programs are run out of the public-school system. The hope is students will be going back to school in the fall. However, I have an inkling that schools will be less inclined to let outside groups use their facilities after school. This presents a clear challenge to things right now. How to run programs without a facility?

Tennis courts are always an option, but not as much when it rains. The likelihood I’ll be able to run my classes and leagues this fall are looking slim to none. It’s likely that I’ll have to just wait things out and be ready to move should things open. In the meantime, I’ll continue to my mission to educate others on the sport, help them learn and grow, and build the sport of Floorball. It will happen. It will just take longer than I had anticipated.

Engage the Moms, you Engage the Whole Family

I’ve spent the better part of three years developing and distributing content as part of my vision for helping the sport of Floorball. Other than my book, and including my book depending on what you use, all my content is free for everyone. I don’t think that the info should be kept to myself by shared. I know I don’t have all the answers and the process I’ve gone through isn’t for everyone. However, I hope that in some ways people can grab bits of information and use it to take the next step in developing Floorball.

I’m going to drop some knowledge on what I think the most effective and under-utilized strategy to grow Floorball. It’s a simple concept but is a powerful one. Here it is. Are you ready? Are you sure? If you can engage the moms, you engage the whole family.

While I may be speaking in generalities this concept is crucial. For many families, moms run the show. She tends to make a lot of the decisions related to activities within the household. If there is something out there that interest their child, or they believe will benefit their child they’re all in for giving it a shot. They see the value activities bring and encourage their children to get involved. If they enjoy the sport, and more importantly, see their child enjoy the sport they will do everything in their power to keep that going. There is another component to this as well. If moms buy in to the product they quickly become your biggest advocate, and becomes a far better advertisement that any paid ad.

Time and time again I’ve seen this play out in a positive way. I’ve been fortunate to have some great parents engage in my programs, and they keep coming back in one form or another. While the parents have become engaged in the sport their children are as well. One of my goals is to take things a step further. I think that to create more positive engagement I need to engage the moms through the sport. Too often the parents stick to the sidelines for a number of reasons. One of my strategies is to develop a moms (or women) only programming. This allows moms to engage in the sport in a more personal way and develop skills and hopefully a passion for the sport that they can share with their child.

Floorball should look to harness the power of the group fitness world. Women tend to be more engaged in group fitness classes for several reasons. Again, I’m somewhat generalizing on a larger scale, but I’m seeing this played out through my programs and work in the field of recreation. I think a large part of it has to do with opportunities to play. By developing female only programs around Floorball I think it opens the door to more awareness, engagement, and development of the sport. Floorball is in a fight to grab attention of families around the world. There’s a lot of noise out there, and the ones that are winning are built on foundation of education and awareness.

There’s a lot of strategies out there to market, promote, and build a program. I think a lot of them are universal across the board, and there are proven methods. I also believe that when possible it’s best to think outside the box. It’s about creating opportunities. If you can use Floorball to build a sense of community, you reach beyond the basics of the sport into something deeper. I hope you’ve all experienced some form of that, and I think that this can be one really effective way to do that. Remember, if you can engage the moms, you engage the whole family.

What’s your vision for Floorball?

When I found Floorball something clicked. In reality I stumbled upon it by what some would call a chance encounter. I tend to believe that I was exactly where I needed to be. From that I’m working to continue to learn, and use my own skills and knowledge to make this a reality. There are a lot of people out there pushing the sport, and frankly that’s awesome!

The more people talking about the sport, and the benefits it brings the better. I don’t care who you are, if you’re talking about Floorball in a positive light and working to improve the game, and get people active I’m all for it. That’s the fun part about grassroots sports. You’re usually talking about a smaller community of like-minded people all, hopefully, working towards the same end.

That end may look different for each person, but that’s ok. We need all of it right now. In fact, the sport of Floorball needs you! We need you to see the larger vision of what the sport is and what it could be. That can be tough for some because we tend to want to see the fruition of our labor right away. Here’s the fun thing about Floorball, while it will take a decade to happen, it can and will happen. Think about that. How often do you get to be on the ground floor of starting something new? It seems pretty rare nowadays doesn’t it? It’s all possible with Floorball.

Where to begin?

Step 1: Investment

This step is a hurdle. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Starting anything new takes an investment. It will require you to invest time and money into this new venture with the likelihood of not seeing an immediate return. Like all investments you’re better off playing the long game. That’s the mindset you have to have. If you think you’re going to fly in with a new Floorball program and it’s going to take your community by storm you’re in for a rude awakening. I’m not saying it can’t happen, just not likely right out of the gate. Honestly, for you I hope it does take off, but for most I’d plan on a two year cycle.

Make a plan and you’ll be better prepared mentally for what’s ahead. There are creative ways to find money through grants and other sources, but for me I chose to teach. It was a way to explore my passion for the sport and share it with other. Through that process I launched Floorball Guru, which has required more investment along the way. I’ve started youth programs, camps, leagues, run events, demos, and routinely promote the sport in my way. That may not be your path. I encourage everyone to seek their own path.

What’s it going to cost? Costs will vary for a number of reasons. Every state is and location is different and requires different things. However, for most it’s doable. Between licensing, insurance, equipment, and other ancillaries you’re looking at an initial investment of around $1500 usd. That can fluctuate for each person, but I’d say that’s a decent starting point. If you’re looking to add Floorball to your current programming it would be less. The beauty of the sport is a stick and ball is all you need to get started.

Step 2: Development

Once you’ve figured out your path, or how you’re going to build your venture you’ll want to make sure you develop a timeline. I call it a method to the madness. Do you know what you want to get out of this venture? Do you know how you’re going to attain it?

For me, when I launched my Floorball classes I had a goal in two years to start running camps and leagues. I saw the challenge of starting something new on my own and the time it would take to promote and educate people in my area about Floorball. I’ll tell you that after two years I accomplished both goals. I will also tell you that in that time they were not what most people call a success. The only question you have to answer is what does success mean to you and focus on that.

However, I saw them as huge successes. I had achieved the goals I set out and was able to make positive impacts on the lives of kids in my area. That’s a win in my book. The more you do something the clearer the vision becomes, and that’s an important part of the process. You have to have a vision of where you are going. Over time you will continue to hone and develop that vision into clarity. It requires a consistent effort.

Step 3: End Game

I’m a big picture person. I’m able to see what’s happening now, but plan and see what I want for the future. I’m not touting myself, I’m just stating fact based on results. It’s not always an easy process and it’s rife with success and failure. I’ve seen both, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way. However, I hold fast to the end game for me. I see the future of Floorball in my area, State, and Country and I’m excited for what’s happening and what’s to come. I would say my biggest focus is helping others get to where they’re going. If you’re in need of help please reach out as I’d love to help.

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.

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?

Physical Literacy and Floorball

In the field of recreation, fitness, and physical education there are some terms or buzz words that get thrown around with some regularity. One of the particular buzz words is physical literacy. Some of you may know what that means, or be able to deduce the meaning from the word itself. It’s not intended to be rocket science, but the more and more you think about it to be physically literate is something we should all strive for. Floorball is just one more tool that can be used to help others develop and improve their own physical literacy.

What is physical literacy? For the purposes of this topic we’ll use the following definition.

Physical literacy is the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.” (Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk & Lopez, 2012)

Let’s look into this a bit further. As children we are in a constant state of development. It’s talked about on a regular basis, and in many ways is the core to our existence as people. If you break it down it’s essentially asking you to develop a wide array of skills to move. This could include throwing a ball while moving, standing on one foot with the other in the air, and so on. This notion is not a new thing, but the problem is that as we’ve evolved in different ways we’re missing out this development.

From an athletic standpoint more and more youth programs are specializing in one sport at younger levels it’s hurting a players overall physical development. This lack of development is being seen at the highest levels of competition. Players are so focused on one sport, skill, and movement that they don’t know how to move. There is so much more to dive into on this specific topic, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Coming back to physical literacy and Floorball. For many, the concept of using a stick to control, move, defend and play with is a foreign concept. Or, at the very least is not something they do on a regular basis. In teaching the sport I’m somewhat astonished at the lack of skill in this area. It shouldn’t surprise me too much given a lack of opportunity for kids in my area to use a hockey stick. We just don’t have it, unless they happen to play floor hockey one week out of the year in school. However, as they develop those skills their confidence increases, and their level of skill increases in a number of ways.

If you’re a teacher and you’re wondering if floorball will meet standards it does. I talk about that in my book Floorball Guru Primer, as I wanted to make sure it would. Think about the motion of swinging the stick, stopping the ball, dribbling using static and dynamic movements. All of it fits, and I would argue giving kids opportunities to do things they’re not used to will help them improve in other ways beyond the physical. At the very least the great thing about Floorball is that it’s really hard to stay still and not be engaged in the game. I encourage you to check it out.

Outside forces and their impacts on Floorball development

Floorball, like all developing sports are fighting tooth and nail for recognition and validity in the sporting world. It’s the struggle for all emerging sports. If you spend a little time digging you’ll likely be amazed at the plethora of sports that are out there in the world. While some may only focus on the more worldwide popular ones (American Football, Football (soccer), Basketball, Baseball, Cricket, Hockey, to name a few) there are so many other emerging sports that could change the landscape of popular sports. 

Floorball is one of those emerging sports that is pushing to become mainstream world-wide. It has all of the ingredients of being a success, and in some ways it is, though in its current form hasn’t quite pushed into the upper echelon. I think that a key portion of it’s long-term success lies in North America. What can be done?  How can Floorball push through the noise of other competing sports and steal a larger share of the market?

What’s the best way to attract a larger group of people to anything? In the digital age it’s all about going viral, and the impact that viral content can generate. Floorball has seen some of that attention online, specifically through zoro or trick videos. Some of these videos generate thousands of hits and help draw some attention to the sport. However, it’s not the game changer the sport needs.

The best method is to look at what other sports are doing well and copy it. I’m not saying don’t get creative, but there’s one surefire method to grow an emerging sport. To get as many kids playing as possible. This should come as no surprise if you follow me. I firmly believe this wholeheartedly, and carry this out myself. Here’s the catch. Other sports won’t like it, and won’t welcome the new competition for resources, kids, or space. However, in North America Floorball pails in comparison to awareness, education, player and coach development as other sports.

In my ideal world I would be able to get in front of large groups of people around the country and train them on the sport, and how to be successful. There are times I’m able to do this, but mostly I can’t. As a collective we need to be creative. We need to be creating more resources to break down barriers. We need to be looking at what’s working and figure out how to build it out at scale. It boggles my mind that more Floorball companies aren’t popping up, or that established ones, specifically those overseas, aren’t investing in Floorball development in North America. It’s probably one of the last and largest markets to grow heavily. I think it will happen, but I think a lot of people are just watching to see what will happen before they decide to get involved.  

Floorball is already a stick and a ball sport so it’s got that going for it. Like other emerging sports it has a huge potential to steal market share, but it needs to think small before growing big. I think focusing on grassroots development and supporting that through basic recreational play, classes, and leagues are what will make Floorball a household name. While it will take some time to happen it’s exciting to be here on the ground floor working to do just that, and see how it will evolve over time.

It will happen, but it won’t happen overnight

The development of any sport, program, business, or ventures one that takes a lot of time. Too often we fall into the trap that unless things take off right away they either won’t work or are a failure. In the conversations I’ve had over the years there seems to be a bit of frustration about the development of Floorball. Many who have found Floorball see and know its potential, but they also want it to be main stream now. While in some ways that would be wonderful in others it would be difficult to sustain. Plus, on top of that you have to have the support and framework behind it to be sustainable. By rushing the process you not only hurt the product, but potentially make it harder to sustain it in the long term. It will happen, but it won’t happen overnight.

The sports landscape is an ever increasingly challenging one. It’s a challenge sometimes just to keep up with the latest trends, or even know what some sports are. Take a look at the World Games Sports lineup for 2021 and I’ll be you’ll find a number of sports you didn’t know existed. This makes any sport looking to grow difficult to break through the noise. People will also try to compare other popular sports with where they think Floorball should be.

In a conversation once, someone tried to link the success soccer has had in the U.S. and wondered why Floorball wasn’t as popular. There are a number of reasons for that, but people tend to forget the path soccer has had in the U.S.  They forget that it wasn’t a popular sport for almost 30 years. It’s only in the last 10 years or so, caught on to some degree. However, even now as it’s become more mainstream it’s still fighting to keep players, fans, and grow in the U.S. Time will tell on the long term development of soccer in the U.S. and I believe that the same will ring true for Floorball.

I believe that the sports landscape is shifting in a different direction than it has in the past 20 years. I think that as many mainstream sports (basketball, soccer, football, and baseball) have become so exclusive that people are open to trying new things. We’re pushing kids at younger and younger ages to be sport specific, and then trick them and their parents into believing that paying boat loads of money to travel year round is what’s not only good for the player, but necessary. This has slowly created pockets of athletic players who can’t afford to play, or are phased out as opportunities to compete diminish at the higher levels.

This is where Floorball can step in. The best thing going for it is that people are willing to try it. There are not developed travel teams and exclusive leagues. This is an opportunity for Floorball to try and capitalize on that. What it requires is hard work, patience, and diligence. Over time it has the potential to become something bigger. I’m actively doing this in my city and county. It has taken years to get from one step to the next, but I feel in time that will pay dividends.  I think as a whole Floorball will see positive sustainable growth if they plan for the long-term and set up a solid foundation throughout the U.S. The question is, will you join me in this process?