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.

Steps to Building Floorball

From the beginning of my Floorball journey I’ve been focused on developing the sport through stages. For me the current progression of stages includes classes, leagues, and camps. Through this process I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Stage 1 – Classes

I think the foundational structure to the success of Floorball is to teach the sport. I’ve always promoted this as the most effective way to create long-term sustainable programming. Teaching the sport takes a lot of time and effort, and isn’t glamourous, but it is vital. Some of the challenges you may encounter include learning the sports ins and outs and turning it into a teachable format. A lot of this will vary depending on the audience. For young players new to the sport you may find that they lack developmental awareness related to using and moving with a stick. It’s important to spend time working on the very basic skills while providing challenges along the way to encourage growth and development. Sometimes I have been frustrated with students in this aspect because I want them to be further along in their development than they are. I regularly check myself and my expectations for my students and make sure that I’m recognizing where each student is and identify how to support them. 

Stage 2 – Leagues

From the beginning I had the goal of starting a Floorball league. For many getting into Floorball starting a league tends to be their first stage into the sport. When I look at my own goals and program development I preferred to push this stage later in the lifecycle. By developing a platform and customer base interested in Floorball I was ready to move on to stage 2. If you’re wondering about the timeline between the two stages, it was about two years from when I started teaching regular classes to when I launched my first league. The timeline isn’t necessarily important and will vary for each individual and program.

My goal for developing my league format was focused on youth between the ages of 7-14 and adults. I can tell you that for me the adults have been more challenging than the kids, but I’ve been working on that. More to come. I chose kids 7-14 because this tends to be a very active age group in sport development, specifically 7-11. This age group is typically when leagues are formed for many sports. After 11 I’ve noticed a big drop off, which I attribute to competing sports. One thing to think about for your league is that players may be familiar with the sport, or it may be their first time. As such you need to be prepared to help teach and educate players on basic rules and safety guidelines. I tend to use the first week as a preseason where I will teach this information as players play. I have found this to be an effect method to setting the stage for the rest of the league.

Stage 3 – Camps

Having spent the time to develop the previous two stages I felt it was time to develop camps. I focused camps around the same ages I did for classes and leagues. Everything I’ve been developing has a purpose. I’m not thinking short term but long term. While I could have started with camps the likelihood that they would succeed is rather small. One feeds the other. While I tend to pick up kids along the way there is a core group of kids and parents involved in the process. This builds a following to keep growing. The challenge is to ensure enough opportunities for kids to grow and be challenged. While many will tout the importance of their camp and how kids will develop, and that’s true, in reality, camps are basically daycare for many. Knowing that I build my camp to make sure that it’s more than drills and scrimmages. I try to make sure that kids are engaged throughout the whole program, which is not easy.

I’ve spent years developing this process in my area. It’s taken some time to get from point A to B. I encourage everyone looking to develop their own programs to really think the process through. The path I chose isn’t for everyone, but I do encourage you to follow it if you can, while thinking about the long term. Setting up a solid foundation will ensure long term growth and success. If you need assistance doing so I’d love to help you reach those goals.

Approach to Positional Play

One component I really enjoy when working with sports is the opportunity to make an impact. Most of the time I don’t get to choose what that impact is, and at times I’m surprised what it is in the end. Kids seems to latch onto different things for different reasons. Sometimes you have very concrete thinkers and sometimes not as much. A big part will depend on the age of the player. The fun part is creating a space where everyone can learn and grow.

The more opportunities I’ve had to teach the more I’ve learned and improved how I approach teaching. One thing that I’ve tried to focus on and teach is positional play. All classes I teach cover this topic. Some might try to avoid it with younger kids, but I think it’s important to spend time on. I think all players, especially developing players need to have a foundation in how the game works. Once they understand their role in the moment on the field they can then start to branch out which is where creativity can flourish.

Some kids are going to struggle with this concept. Some might grasp it right away and quickly realize how they fit into the flow of the game. Others, our concrete thinkers, will learn and try to understand their position and play it accordingly. They won’t deviate from what they’ve been told, and will likely get frustrated with the flow of the game. Depending on where you are in your teaching you may or may not have covered the topic of flow. Meaning, while a player plays a position, they may change positions in the moment based on the flow of the game.

Through this movement players may start as a defender, but end up as a forward and vice versa. If you haven’t covered that component you may see some frustration in some players as a result. Take note of it, and if needed address it. It’s important to somewhat manage frustration, but sometimes the struggle is purely developmental.  The more they learn and grow players will grasp concepts being taught.

Remember that everyone learns and processes information differently, and as an instructor we must remember to present information in different ways.  Some of these tools include using verbal cues to describe what is needed.  In other cases coaches may use a white board to map out the movement on the field.  Other tools may be a physical demonstration walking players through the process.  Many coaches use all of these tools and more to help teach their players.

Remind yourself and your players that for many this is a new sport, and that you’re all learning together.  Find any success and make sure to praise it.  As your players progress you’ll see an overall better style of play come out in the end.

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.

Does changing a sport change its core?

Floorball has been getting more exposure in recent years. A lot of it is due to an increase in awareness that the sport exists. It’s seeing more consistent exposure through highlighting the marquee events the sport has. The World Floorball Championships are a big focus for the sport, but the biggest event so far has been the World Games. Floorball was included in the 2017 games in Poland, and will be in the 2022 Games in the United States. All of this is focused on paving the way for Floorball to be included in the Olympics.

Floorball has a lot going for it making it a great sporting event, but there are some challenges ahead as the sport continues to develop.

One of the largest challenges to the sport is the size of the field. A standard Floorball field is 40×20 meters (132-66ft approx.). The size of that space make it increasingly challenging for developing countries to regularly play on a regulation field. On top of that finding a facility to house that space is equally challenging, especially in the North America.

A field that size would take up the entire gym space at most recreational facilities, and would be far too big for most school gyms. Some might argue that a solution is making the field smaller while playing with less players. While I’m an advocate of this, because you use what you have. However, at the highest levels of the sport, does this ruin the product? Could it possibly help?

A great component to the sport is that it is malleable through a learning curve, available space, and development of the players. However, if developing countries are to have a chance competing at the top levels they have to be comfortable playing on the traditional field. It’s one thing to play basketball on a high school court, but different when you transition to college or pros. Things are just different from space on the court to distance to the basket. The same rings true with Floorball. While in the U.S. program, leagues, and clubs can develop, if they don’t regularly play on a traditional field they will always be at a slight disadvantage.

Part of the question Floorball faces as it develops is, does it need to change, and if so how does it change? The IFF is looking to make some changes to the sport as it progresses, obviously looking to fit the needs of events like the World Games and Olympics. There is talk about shortening the match time from 20 to 15min periods. One potential change I could see would be to shorten the field and have less players. (note: I don’t know of any proposal or conversation from the IFF about this, just my opinion).

However, as mentioned before does changing this sport change its core? There’s NBA basketball, and International Basketball. NHL and International Hockey. These sports are playing a similar game, but there are differences to the game, including size of the playing surface, and thus style of play.

I’ve tried to think about this from both sides. On one hand you have organizations, clubs, and leagues who have been developing Floorball into its current form for decades. While change can be tough and usually not greeted well it can help. I’m not sure what changes would be needed if any. I like the current format as it is. I think the sport has all the ingredients to shine as a power sport.

However, on the flip side, as someone who is working to develop the sport at the beginning stages and build players to compete internationally it’s tough to train and have the necessary equipment and space to do so. There is ample access to high school or college space, but that tends to be smaller than what is needed. That’s not the sports problem, but creates initial hurdles in player development. Who knows where things will go, but I hope changes that are made benefit the sport for everyone in the long-run.

Floorball boards are crucial to growth

Floorball has some great components to it that make it a fun and exciting sport to play and watch.  Like hockey and indoor soccer, Floorball is played using a rink.  The rink is built using a portable board system.  The boards themselves are comprised of plastic and fiber glass. They are light weight and compact.

A full rink at 40×20 meters will have approximately 52 individual pieces and four corners.  The size of each board will vary slightly but will fall around 2 meters long, while the height of boards reaches around 50cm.  To connect the rink together each board uses variations of tongue and groove construction and is latched using bungee cords.  By connecting the rink in the fashion, it allows the boards to move or break apart.  Unlike hockey a Floorball rink is not anchored to the ground.  Due to how light and portable the boards are a Floorball rink can be set up just about anywhere on any surface.  This is an important piece to the development of Floorball because it opens doors to where it can be played.

There is one key component to the growth of Floorball in North America that I feel must be addressed for it to really take off.  The cost to purchase a rink is expensive.  Right now, in the US you can purchase a rink for about $6,000, before taxes and shipping.  Shipping cost will vary but plan on 400-800 in shipping depending on how far away you are from the source.  You will also find options overseas, and while they may be a bit cheaper you’ll have to do some research into the process.  I’ve seen quotes for one rink for just shipping land anywhere from $1,100-2,500.  Depending on where you can source a rink from your total cost could be pushing $8,000-10,000.  I don’t know lot of businesses or organizations that can afford to spend that kind of money on a new sport.

With Floorball still growing the ability to convince a boss, or board of directors group to spend that kind of money is a challenge, and one that is an uphill battle.  We need to figure out how to bring the cost of a rink down to a more manageable cost.

People want to play a sport the way it is designed to be played.  One of the struggles I run into is distinguishing Floorball from floor hockey.  You’ll hear comments referring Floorball to P.E. hockey, when someone sees Floorball being played in a gym.  A rink is the clearest way to show that difference.  Having a rink also adds some excitement, especially for kids.  Kids are already excited about Floorball.  I’ve yet to find a group that has completely pushed it aside, even at the high school levels.  We need that excitement.

We need to capture it, grow it, and sustain it.  If we can’t show people how to play the sport as intended we’re missing a huge opportunity.  If we’re going to get Floorball into schools and businesses we need to figure out an effective solution to this problem. Doing so will greatly help the long-term growth of Floorball in North America.

Importance of Floorball Goalie Positioning

Player development is crucial. While many focus on offense and defense too often they forget about the goalie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for teams to have a solid understanding of offense and defense, but to negate development of the goalie is done at your peril. Goalkeeping is a specialized position and most don’t have the same knowledge to teach it properly. One other challenge is that on a team of 15 you have one maybe two goalies. Too often the training for the goalie is relegated to just putting them in the net for practice, but not actually training them on their position.

Body Positioning

A goalie has the difficult task of taking in a lot of information in a short amount of time. They must always know where they are in relation to the goal based on the location of the ball. This skill is one of the more difficult one to master and is crucial if the goalie is to be effective. The intent is to place yourself in between the ball and the goal to maximize coverage of the goal while minimizing available space for the ball. In truth it’s about cutting down the angle the ball will travel from the shooter to the goal. By cutting down the angle you improve your chances of saving the ball. A Floorball is rather small and can squeeze through some small spaces. As such, it’s important to minimize that space by using your body positioning. So how do you teach this concept?

What you need to do is try and get your goalies to understand their position conceptually. If use the two posts as a guide they should imagine an arc going out from one end to the other. Use the reference points around the goal to help players understand their positioning in relation to the goal. As the ball moves in relation to the goal so should the goalie.

The key in this process is to be situated to that the shooter sees as little open space of the goal as possible. Players tend to shoot for what is open, and by minimizing that space you increase your chances of a save. The more proficient a play is in their body positioning the more proficient they will be as a goalie. One key to remember is that players may be too focused on the ball and may become out of position.

An offensive player’s goal is to encourage this. One good coaching point is to stand behind the goal and watch how the goalie moves in relation to the play. When they are out of position stop and address it. The goal is rather small so big movements may not always be needed to be in the proper position. The more players understand this the better off they will be.

This skill is a foundational component to every goalie. Their understanding of how to move in the crease and know where they are in the crease matters. The more goalies can understand this the better they will be in the net. As a coach it is important to not shy away from training your goalies. Do what you can to understand the position and support them as bet as you can.

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.

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.