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?