Keys to Starting a Floorball Program

You’ve recently found Floorball in some fashion.  Maybe you heard about it from a friend, saw a video on youtube, or social media.  If you’re reading this you’ve found what I’m doing in regards to Floorball so welcome.  I’m hoping that in your quest for knowledge you’re starting to develop an interest or maybe fostering a passion for Floorball.  If you’re like me, when you saw Floorball you wondered about why you hadn’t heard about it before.  You may also be wondering how you get involved. These are great questions to ask, but will take you on a journey of discovery.  In the end what you do with this new found knowledge will depend on you.

Unfortunately for most you probably don’t have a developed Floorball program in your area.  If you’re a person of action that will likely fall on your shoulders.  You can try to approach other organizations hoping they’ll see what you see and start a program for you.  The likelihood of that is small, not out of the question, but not as easy a sell as you might think.  I’m not saying this to discourage, but to inform given the experiences and lessons I’ve learned through my own journey.  I hope you can learn from my mistakes and failures and successes.

I want to tell you the secret to success.  You may or may not want to hear it, and you may disagree with it, but in all honesty it’s a sure fire way to expand and grow Floorball in your local area.  The question is are you willing to act on it.  Are you ready?  The most effective way to grow Floorball everywhere is youth programming.  What I’m referring to is a multi-step process and will take time to implement.  First, you’ll need to invest in some equipment (say, $500 to start) that should get you enough sticks to start.  Second, you’ll want to connect with the local City Parks and Rec.  Offer your services as a 1099 employee to run a brand new program and that you’ll be the instructor.   At the same time you’ll want to negotiate the rate of pay.  Personally I’d avoid an hourly rate and work off a percentage split based on the user fee.  As your program grows you make more money as does the city.  They get to offer a brand new sport without having to do much of the work.   You can also leverage their marketing power to build your program.

When programming you’ll want to be mindful of marketing schedules.  Some cities offer a new guide every quarter, while others do biannually.  If you miss the deadline you miss out on the marketing impact.  Make sure to stay on top of that.  The nice part about a partnership like this is that you’re both vested in the program.  If it becomes a success the city will see that and may be able to help you with the next phase.  The next phase is leagues for youth and adults.  Use the classes to fuel the leagues, and over time you will have developed a sustainable program.

Here’s the tough part.  It’s going to take time.  It won’t happen overnight and you won’t likely see a lot of interest in the beginning.  From a class perspective parents and kids come back because the like the sport or activity, but they’ll for sure come back if they like the instructor.  Its hard work being an instructor, and it’s not always that much fun.  It’s way more fun to develop leagues because you get to play.  It’s less fun just teaching and not getting to play, so to a degree it’s a bit of a sacrifice.  If you want to see your program grow you’re going to have to put in the work and make the sacrifice.  In the end if done right you will see the reward of your efforts in the end.

New Year, More Floorball

2019 is upon us. Welcome to the New Year! 2018 saw a lot of great things happen, and we’re excited for what 2019 has in store. 2018 saw a lot of that from traveling the US speaking at conferences, coaching the US at the U19 Women’s World Floorball Championships in Switzerland, various classes,clinics, and leagues formed over the year. The highlight of the year being the Men’s World Floorball Championships, which saw a record attendance for the event, and record attendance (16,276) for the final between Finland and Sweden.

There is a lot to look forward to as we head into 2019. The Women’s qualifiers and championships happen this year along with the U19 Men’s tournament, and a continued ramp up to the 2021 World Games in Birmingham, AL. Floorball has seen recognition with a variety of organizations and events as the link between hockey and floorball continues to grow. It’s an exciting time for the sport of Floorball and 2019 is lining up to be another great year full of surprises.

At Floorball Guru we continue to work hard raising awareness, developing new and unique content, teaching, instructing, and starting new programs. The highlight for us in 2018 was the completion and publication of our book The Floorball Guru Primer which is a great resource to help anyone learn about Floorball, but more importantly how to teach Floorball. This was part of our focus to provide more opportunities for everyone to learn the sport, and have something tangible. There’s a lot of content inside to help grow the game, and we’ve been excited to hear about how it’s being used. During the fall of 2018 we were afforded opportunities to speak and engage at a number of conferences throughout Washington State and Arizona. Leading into 2019 we’ve been invited to a number of conferences to speak about Floorball, most notably the SHAPE America National conference in Tampa, FL. We’re excited about the opportunity to run a train the trainer event for physical education professionals through this event. Hopefully it will be the start of Floorball being taught in schools throughout the US.

A year and a half ago we launched Floorball Guru. In a short amount of time we’ve been blessed to have made an impact on our local community and in the communities around the country. In our own area we started youth instructional classes and a 3v3 youth/adult league that are both growing. What we’ve been creating can be replicated just about anywhere and we hope to be an example for others to start programs. We’re a huge proponent of getting active, and if you’ve been thinking about starting a Floorball program now is the time. If you need support or help we will do what we can. While getting Floorball into schools has value we believe that true growth happens through individuals willing to put in the work to teach, form clubs, form groups and opportunities to play. For everyone reading this we thank you for following along on this journey. We hope that the content we’ve created and continue to create brings you value.  This is only the beginning.  

Defensive Strategies

When I first approach someone about Floorball the question always comes up.  What’s the difference between floor (ball) hockey and Floorball?  In its simplest terms I break it down by saying different equipment, and different rules.  While there is clearly more to it, that’s a very simplified answer.  When I instruct a new group, one topic I spend more time on, and one that is harder to teach is effective defense.

Effective defense is in and of itself an art form.   It requires all parties to understand their role and position in their space while being acutely aware of who and what is around them.   To further complicate matters defensive players must also recognize body language and other non-verbal cues in order to decipher what is coming at them.  How a defender responds will vary depending on the situation and how one responds the first time may not work the next time.  Knowledge and skill will come with experience, but it’s important to create situational challenges during practice to help simplify the defenders decision making skills.   When I’m working with defenders I encourage them to regularly scan what’s around them.  What I am trying to do is get my defenders to know where they are at all times, especially in relation to the goal.  I will encourage them to find markers on the boards, or floor that can be quickly used to identify where they are in space without always needing to look.  By doing so they have a better chance of being in the proper position.

                             Figure A.                                                                                   Figure B.

 

It’s a good idea to remind players that their role on the court will change and evolve.  At times they’ll be a defender, and others they’ll be a forward.  It just depends on the situation.  If the group on the court is thinking in this manner as the defender moves out of position into an offensive role another player will see that they need to adjust to match the situation.  In figure A, if the defender chooses to go for the ball they will need support from the center and forward on that side.  If they’re playing to maintain a shape of a box then the player near the ball becomes the “free” player.  If the ball is in the corner the defender closest to it will choose to pressure the ball or to seek a better position of defense.   In this situation with the ball behind the end line the player with the ball has a low percentage of scoring.  From here they will be looking to press the ball behind the goal, along the boards, or attack the goal with a pass or shot.  Ultimately they goal of the offensive player in this position is to draw out the defender and slot the ball into the middle to a crashing forward.   Statistically most goals are scored in an around the front of the goal box.

Get out there and start training, pushing, and learning to get better in all aspects of your game.

Art of Zorro In Floorball

You might be wondering to yourself, what is zorro? Zorro is a floorball unique floorball skill, which involves lifting the ball onto the blade that mimics the same movement of lacrosse.

The goal is to rotate the stick quick enough and at the right angle so the ball effectively sticks to the blade.  Zorro has also been referred to as airhooking or skyhooking.  Over time the art of zorro has evolved into a form of juggling, like that of soccer juggling.  Players have begun to push the boundaries of what can be done by adding their own personal flair.

While zorro moves are not new to the world of sports there are examples of this in hockey.  To me the clearest example comes from 1996 and the University of Michigan Hockey; Mike Legg scores a decisive goal lifting the puck onto his stick and scoring from behind the net.  As zorro has developed, more and more player has gravitated to the skill and fun involved in learning and trying to one up each other.  At the same time, social media has helped showcase players’ skill and creativity.

If you’re paying attention to floorball and the rules you’ll notice that many zorro moves being showcased on YouTube are beyond the rules of the game.  While during a match players may not touch the ball with their stick above the knee, zorro moves do have their place.  It takes a skilled player to effectively pull off a zorro move during competition, but when done right can be devastating to goalies.

Despite the positive qualities that zorro can provide on the offense there are some drawbacks to it during a match.  To complete a zorro move during a match a player will need to use a blade that is designed to cradle the ball.  The drawbacks to the blade is that it will affect other areas of the players’ game including shooting and passing.  Another drawback is the that being able to use the skill at speed during a match is very difficult, and can be used in limited scenarios.  Thus, most floorball players do not play with a zorro blade.

Zorro is a great skill to learn and its flashy characteristics bring a unique flair to floorball. Whether you choose to learn and the art of zorro for building skill in control and hand eye coordination; or you use it to enhance your game on the court the best part about it is it’s fun.  Get out there and learn what you can to get better.

Youth Programming

To grow the sport of floorball there must be a continued focus on various factors.

The first step is educating people about the sport and the benefits that is has for them.  In the US kids are already being taught floor hockey through physical education.  This is usually done in smaller lessons over a short period.  Students are taught basic skills and rules of the game.   Growing up this was always my favorite P.E. activity, yet the equipment was always lacking.  Over the last year I’ve spent a more concerted effort educating P.E. teachers about floorball and why it is better suited to teach and play than floor hockey.  Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time, energy, and resources to inform and educate people and get them involved.  The second step will be focused on developing a youth system.

The great thing about kids is that they tend to be open to new experiences.  If you throw in a stick and a ball it doesn’t take much to get them involved.  In my experience when I’ve introduced floorball to kids they’re normally very excited to get their hands on the equipment and start playing.  To develop players, we need to get them in front of the sport.  One way to do that will be to offer classes within school, and through outside instruction.  While some areas may be able to jump right into building teams and competing the majority will not be able to readily do so.  It will be important to teach the proper rules and game play to ensure that players are learning and playing the sport in accordance with the International Floorball Federation.  This will help in the long term as more players begin to compete in organized events and international tournaments.

As the saying goes, kids are the future, and with them the sport of floorball will grow dramatically.  Floorball provides options for kids and parents looking for more opportunities to learn, develop, and get involved in sports.  There are several challenges need to be overcome to build the sport.  For many learning about the sport they may feel apprehensive in learning and starting a new sport they may know little to nothing about.  In doing some research there are a few programs out there available to help along the way.  In some cases, there are floorball curriculums that have been developed for this specific purpose.  The beauty of sport is that you can be creative, and you can draw on a wealth of knowledge from those around you to make this happen.  This is one of main reasons I started writing these blogs and started Floorball Guru.  I want to use my knowledge and expertise to work with other like-minded people who see the value in floorball that I do.   If you’re interested in getting started please reach out to me and let’s create partnerships to grow the sport.

Understand Benefits Of The Game

Focus is a primary driver for any athlete. It creates a beneficial structure that allows enhanced muscle memory to take over during play.

The game of floorball has revolutionized the ability for athletes to focus. Beyond the stick itself is a game of strategy. While floorball is usually compared to hockey, athletes in basketball, baseball and football have all see their focus enhanced through playing floorball.

When you take away the ice in hockey, you allow players to assess pinpoint focus as well as build their overall stick handling, teamwork and movement in a level playing field. This creates communication between teammates, allowing for more control in a player environment which reduces injuries. Creativity in floorball play fosters athletic enhancement in their own sport, as the adaptation crosses back and forth within the lines of communication.

In taking this a step further I’ve begun to engage collegiate athletes playing sports such as volleyball, basketball, and track and field.

During the pre-season for basketball the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams for Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA reached out to me looking to change up their workout routine.  From that I was able to come in and run a 2 hour session for the athletes.  While the focus was to educate them about the sport the foremost goal was team bonding.  However, don’t let the “fun” atmosphere distract you from the fact that I made them work.  Floorball on its own is a very good workout, which was appealing to the coaches, and I made sure to mix in the fun too.

I worked with both teams and designed a short program that would fit their needs.  For the guys the focus was on the scrimmages.  I had already done an introductory program with them in the past so we focused on game play.  They wanted to add goalies so we used 4×6 nets with goalies wearing masks, but they wanted to keep their stick.  While it wasn’t the traditional goalie look they loved it.  Because they’re collegiate athletes it doesn’t take long for the competitive drive to kick in.

For the Women I had a little more time to work with them.  After the basic rules talk I played a few stick handling games as a warm up and then we got right to scrimmaging.  The guys’ format for scrimmaging was changing out after every goal in sort of a king of court format.  The women were broken into three teams and played 5 min matches.  We played for over an hour rotating on that format.  Needless to say they were very tired, but most seemed to prefer this exercise to their traditional exercise program.

Between the two teams maybe one of these athletes had ever heard of or touched a Floorball stick, and that one athlete came from Sweden.  What stuck out to me was seeing highly skilled and competitive players step out of their comfort zone and have fun together.  The program met the coaches’ goals of building “esprit de corps” while ensuring a high level of fitness.  It is likely that as a result of this program that I’ll continue to work with these teams in in the future.

Alternative Training

Training for many is a mixture of love and hate. Floorball has shown improvement with athlete training, because it differentiates how modern athletes build up their skills with a cardio-vascular exercise.

There are always aspects to training that people enjoy and don’t care for.  While it’s important to focus on stick handling techniques, the work done away from the court is just as important.  It’s easy to forget the less glamorous or fun aspects related to training.  However, these exercises and activities are a vital component to the overall development of players.  Adding alternative training methods such as barre fitness and yoga will help players develop smaller muscles that will help them with strength and stabilization throughout their body.

Yoga is a well-known training method across the fitness world.  When done properly yoga can help improve your overall performance including power and endurance.  Yoga has a variety of styles which can focus on relaxation and meditation to strength and flexibility.  Improved flexibility is beneficial for all athletes by helping to restore the body to its natural state.  A body that is working correctly will allow players to perform and feel better while helping to lower potential injury.  The goal in regards to the body is to improve overall mechanics and movement.  The use of yoga as part of a training regimen will allow players to be more efficient and effective in their movements.

Another training method to consider is barre fitness.  You may be wondering what barre fitness is?  As the word implies barre does refer to the use a ballet barre as part of the program.  Barre fitness classes are ballet-inspired utilizing a mix of ballet barre routines, Pilates, dance, yoga and functional training.  You won’t be doing dynamic moves and running around, but a mix of stationary exercises that are focused on activating and developing the smaller stabilizing muscles, specifically in the core.  While this training is beneficial for field players, it is particularly valuable for goalie training.

While lifting weights and cardio are all important aspects of a training regimen and will help in the overall physical preparation for competition it’s important to mix things up.  Using alternative training methods players will increase all aspects of their athletic performance, while helping to minimize potential injury through training.  While it’s important to be training don’t forget to add in rest days.  Rest days are an important aspect in any training plan, and should not be skipped.  However you choose to train be open to new techniques and methods because they can add value to your training program.

Pressuring Your Opponent

In Floorball, when playing defense means adding pressure to your opponent. Its really the name of the game. If you do not pressure your opponent, you are not playing the game to its fullest potential.

While a key component to the game is being able to hold, and control the ball; another large aspect is the ability to pressure on defense and recover the ball.

The rules of floorball make prohibit attacking the stick of the offensive player through stick checking or stick lifting.  Both are common choices in hockey to dispossess your opponent.  However, in floorball this would result in a foul (free hit) or potentially a 2-minute penalty.  Defensive players are also prohibited from using their stick to reach for the ball between the opponents’ legs.  This action would result in a 2-mintue penalty.  To dispossess the opponent of the ball there are a few things that can be done while reducing the potential for giving up a free hit.

It’s important to first understand where the ball is on the field as that will determine the amount of pressure needed to be made on the offensive player.  Let’s assume the team Red is on offense and team Blue defense.  If the ball is in team Blue’s end of the court team Red can choose to be more aggressive when dispossessing the ball from team Blue to create a turnover and a quick counter attack.  Since most goals scored tend to fall in this scenario this is one area where it’s safer to give up a potential free hit and makes more sense from a tactical standpoint.  If the ball is lost in the offensive zone it is important to stay aggressive and pressure the opponent to create a turnover.  Sometimes when players lose the ball their first reaction is to give up on the play or immediately drop back on defense.  If the ball is lost players need to make smart decisions on when to pressure, and when to drop back to disrupt a quick counter attack.

If we imagine the roles are reversed now and the ball is in the defensive zone with team blue on defense and team red on offense.  This time team Red has the ball in the bottom corner of the court.  In this situation, the defense has a variety of decisions to make on how and when to pressure the offense.  Depending on where the ball is the defense doesn’t want to give up a goal, or give up a free hit in a dangerous position.  On the court, there is an imaginary line that runs between the corner dots and the goal line.  Any foul committed in this area will place the ball at the corner making this area a somewhat safer area to give up a free hit if necessary.  A player with the ball in the corner is not as big of a threat to score from this position.  It is important to no be sucked out of position while pressuring the offense.  Defenders near the goal line will likely move back and forth between pressuring the offense and backing off to defend a pass to one-timer shot option.

Every person and every team has differed on how they choose to play tactically, and some players choose to be more aggressive than others.  In many cases the choice on how aggressive to pressure the player with the ball will differ depending on the location of the ball, the score, how much time is left in the game, the tactical strategy of the team, and the experience of the player.   The key is to be smart about how you pressure the ball so you avoid needless penalties or give up potential scoring opportunities for the opposite team.

Avoid Ego To Build The Game

Anger only wins when you feed it. Competition is fostered through the belief of winning together. Floorball is a sport that is still growing, and needs active participation from every coach out there to consistently improve and broaden the game.

However, since getting involved in floorball I’ve noticed a few things crop up that confuse me.

One of the main things that I’ve seen is a sense from some that they’re focused on competing with other clubs or states trying to plant the proverbial flag as the best in the country.

This notion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially when there isn’t a whole lot to base that off of.  Making a statement that Idaho has the best floorball players in the country, and they’re the best state in the country for floorball is silly.  Not because they are or aren’t, but that fighting over a statement like that doesn’t matter.  If teams want to prove it on the court that would be the area to stake claim to those statement.  There are a variety of tournaments for floorball, but the number of teams and overall quality is somewhat lacking in development.  While there are established leagues throughout the country they are not the norm at this point.

If floorball is to gain acceptance and growth then the entire floorball community needs to get behind each other and support each other.  Current leagues and clubs that have been established should be more focused on supporting new and developing leagues and clubs.  Growth in the sport is beneficial to all and will help improve the number of players, quality of players, and the amount of competition at tournaments.  I believe that at some point we’ll likely see more tournaments spring up across the country, and it is inevitable that there will be one or two premier tournaments around the country.  However, the top tournaments in floorball will still be the World Floorball Championships, World Games, and hopefully the Olympics.

In order to develop the sport in the US we need to all band together use our resources to the benefit of all.  Arguing about which club or organization is better does nothing to further the cause and development of the sport.  If we all use our collective experiences we’ll be better off in the end.  If you want to prove you’re the best go to as many tournaments that you can and prove it on the court.  The biggest challenge with the US is how large it is.  Not everyone can afford to travel across the country to compete in tournaments on a regular basis.  It’s a challenge enough for every other sport to do that as it is.

As it is, there’s enough of a gap between people who’ve played to those who have never played that the emphasis should be on helping each other instead of tearing others down.  Complaining or arguing about who’s better isn’t the answer.  Dropping egos and working collectively to find solutions is what will help us move the needle forward in a positive direction.  Those are the people we need to get involved and help improve the sport in positive ways.  We can’t forget that we’re still new to the game and we have to have patience to learn not only how to play, but how to play the game properly.  Be part of the solution and not the problem.

Bring The Goalie

You have a floorball program up and running, you have players, teams forming, but you don’t have any consistent goalies.

That is pretty normal problem for any sport that involves the position of a goalie to play.  While there are alternatives to have a real goalie such as using a shooter trainer in front of the goal, or by using smaller goals with no goalie, nothing is quite the same as having a live goalie in the mix.  Playing with goalies changes a number of aspects of the game on the defensive and offensive side of the ball.  However, there are some barriers to that mainly the cost associated to purchase the necessary protective equipment.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a shot you know how important it is for goalies to have the proper equipment.  If you’re lucky and have someone who’s dedicated to the position they’ll invest in getting the equipment needed to play.  While having head to toe protection is nice there are a number of options out there that can do that job to get by.

Where you’re an individual looking to buy gear or a program looking to have gear on hand the top three pieces of equipment that are a must have are a helmet, knee pads, and chest protector.  Aside from the helmet you can pretty much piece together the rest to make it work.  If you’re looking to have equipment available for multiple users, such as at a facility, you’ll want to purchase multiples and take into account sanitary and cleaning procedures.  In some cases you might already have some of this equipment if you’re moving from ball hockey to floorball.  There’s nothing that says you can’t use the same helmet and chest protector.  Depending on your situation the catcher style chest protector might be a better financial option for your program. Sometimes you use what you have to make it work, and for recreational purposes that works just fine.

When you’re looking at goalie equipment there is a lot out there online and for the most part it’s all very similar.  Like any product floorball goalie gear is focused around protection, comfort, and the ability to absorb energy to control the ball (think minimizing rebounds).  One thing to note is that a floorball goalie helmet is not the same as an ice hockey helmet.  While there share a lot of the same characteristics floorball helmets are considerably lighter, and are very similar to street hockey goalie helmets.  Pricing will vary as any other piece of equipment, but depending on what your needs are or your personal preferences there is a variety out there to meet your needs.  The same goes for knee padding.  A number of floorball companies sell knee pads, but floorball knee pads vary from volleyball pads.  Floorball knee pads are typically large and provide more complete protection around the knee.  In some cases they will also extend down to the middle of the shin for additional protection.

The biggest thing is don’t worry about the initial cost.  You don’t need every piece of equipment right off the bat, and in many cases those who like playing goalie will go out and buy their own gear.  Just don’t be shy in using goalies or getting some minimal piece of gear to get things going.