Private vs. Public Sport Development

There’s no doubt about it, but the landscape of youth sports has clearly changed. There are pros and cons to that development, and depending on the situation I’m a bit torn by it. On one hand I’m in favor of business and the role private business plays in the economy. On the other side, I think we’ve gone too far with privatization and as a result it’s creating a system of those who can afford to play and those who can’t. There are a number of reasons why this has happened, and I think that we’re on the cusp of going one way or the other.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s the landscape of youth sports was still developing. You had travel teams, but it wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent as it is now. If you wanted to play you likely went to the plethora of youth sports leagues that were offered by the local parks and rec, or other government entity. The programs were affordable and thrived. It seems that somewhere along the lines that changed, partly because of lack of funding to parks and rec over time, but also with the growth of “elite” clubs and travel programs all promising to take players to the next level.

Fast forward 15 -20 years and the market of elite programs and clubs that was once small have largely cannibalized the youth sports market. I don’t fault businesses for doing things to grow their product, but in doing so a growing number of kids are either not playing sports as they get older, or aren’t even starting. In many ways they’re being priced out.

I’ve always been interested in this process, and I’ve been in and out of it throughout the majority of my life and professional career. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to watch, and while I disagree with the direction it has gone, I think in the long-term it will not last in its current format forever. I think people are getting a bit more wise to what’s happening, and I think there will be a bit of shift back to more emphasis on recreational based leagues and programming.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to put a league together, and if you’re going through the process it should be worth that time and effort. I’m seeing more and more programs pop up that are offering something different, and I believe in the end it will be beneficial.

I’ve been going through this myself as I’ve developed my instructional classes, leagues, and camps. I’m really aware of what I’m ultimately trying to do. I’ve created partnerships with my local parks and rec to offer low cost programs. It’s two fold. On one hand I want to get people engaged in the sport of Floorball, and on the other I’m hoping long-term it grows into something bigger. Right now as it sits my costs are pretty low, and I can keep it that way. It works for me and it works for the parents.

The cost of the program is below other similar sports programs or it’s priced right in line with others. I know my market and that plays a lot into how I price my programs. It’s a fine line to walk, and in the early stages of program development I think it’s important to strike that balance. I could make more money not going through the parks program, but there are a number of important parts to doing so. The main one is providing value to the parks by offering a new program, and providing parents with more options to keep their kids active.

If Floorball is to grow we need a mix of both private and public organizations getting involved. However, in doing so they can’t price it the same way they’re able to price more established programs. We need to make it affordable to get people in the door and develop the product accordingly. The price should cover costs, but shouldn’t too high. There’s always ways to get creative in this process, and if you’re a private organization think about how you can effectively bring this sport into your world in a way that helps it become sustainable and grow. If you need help with that reach out to us.

Stick Sizing Matters

One of the questions I seem to get more often, especially from new players, is what size stick should I get? This is a pretty basic question but is an important one to ask. I see a general assumption among newer players that a longer stick is preferred. But why?

It’s an interesting phenomenon really. If you put a stack of sticks in front of people they’ll generally grab a larger stick. Is the assumption that a longer stick equals a better stick? Or, is it an educational piece that they just simply don’t understand. I think for many they’ve been inadvertently conditioned to think that a hockey type sport should have a similar size stick. For many when they think of hockey they think of the hockey stick that is as tall as they are, especially in comparison to a Floorball stick.

If you’re starting out or are teaching Floorball for the first time you’ll quickly see this process play out if you have multiple sizes of sticks. However, the bigger is better idea doesn’t always work in Floorball. While a hockey stick is typically sized to around the chin, a Floorball stick is sized to around the belly. Don’t forget that the hockey stick is longer because you’re also standing on skates.

What matters is the height of the player in relation to the size of the stick for a proper fit. Too long and they player is unable to access the full performance of the stick. Too short and they will struggle physically with the sport. Both put the body out of optimal movement which reduces effectiveness and overall fun for the player. The challenge for taller players is there are limits to the length of the stick, but the International Floorball Federation does have allowances for longer sticks, though they’re harder find.

By having a short stick, in comparison to hockey, the player is able to control the ball in tighter space. By having the ability to keep the ball close to the body it makes it harder for the defense to steal it. It also allows for quicker movements in motion to move the ball, and it allows the player to flex the stick to generate optimal power. These are the basic concepts that should be implored on everyone when we talk about education of the sport. We need to make sure that people know and understand why a stick that’s properly fitted will improve their development, but also their overall enjoyment of the game.

When I teach this is one of the first things I discuss. While I don’t hand sticks out I separate them accordingly and tell players which sticks to look for. Inevitably I get kids who grab a larger stick than they need. I don’t always correct them. I’ll let them work with it, and usually they struggle. At this point I will encourage them or hand them the proper stick and ask them to tell the difference. It doesn’t take too long for them to realize which one is the better fit. It’s about education and it may seem like a small thing, but the more we can educate the better understanding players will have; which only adds to their own learning and hopefully enjoyment of the sport.

Floorball Stick Sizing

If there’s one question I get from people it’s usually around what stick they should buy. That question isn’t always an easy one to answer because everyone has preferences. As you begin to search for floorball sticks you’ll likely find any number of sticks with varying prices and functions.  Beginner sticks tend to fall in a price range of about $30-50 and tend to have more flex in the shaft.  This information can be found sometimes in the description of the stick (Salming 32, etc.).  On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find professional level sticks fall in a price range of $150-230.  What’s the difference and why would I spend that kind of money?  The main reason to purchase a professional level stick is that it does provide an increase in performance.  As you develop as a player you’ll begin to find what works for you and a professional level stick will help increase your skills and playing abilities.  A professional level stick will also have a variety of options from stick flex, type of grip, and coupled with the right style of blade can make a positive impact in your game.

If they happen to know a few things like their style of play it’s easier to direct them. However, a much easier question to answer is what size stick is best for you?In an instructional setting, it is important to take time to properly size the stick to the participant and ascertain whether the player is right-handed or left-handed.

When introducing this concept some players may already know how they hold the stick; if not, there are a few tricks to quickly assess this in a large group setting. The key is comfort for the player. They may assume they are right-handed, but they may be more comfortable playing left-handed. Have players grab the stick. If their right hand is closest to the end of the stick the stick will fall to the left side of the body, meaning they use a left-handed stick. Talk to the player and encourage them to find out what is most comfortable for them to play with. At the very lest have them try one and see what happens. Doing it this way can make it a bit more obvious which side they prefer.

Choosing a stick is an investment in the sport and you want to make sure you have the proper tools to be successful. A stick that’s too short or too long can hamper the learning process because you’re not able to maximize your play. You can get buy with a bit longer stick, but it’s much harder for taller players to play with shorter sticks. Be thinking about that as you plan out what you’re looking to buy. If you’re buying a stick for your kid err on the side of a little bit longer knowing they’ll likely hit a growth spurt in the relative future. It should be at their chin, but if it’s a bit above the belly it’ll work just fine. Go out and find that stick for you. If you’re looking for your first stick check out what we have to offer for individuals, schools, and programs in our online shop.