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.

Starting A Floorball Program? Now What?

Starting anything requires not only knowledge, but strategy. Simply getting the Floorball sticks, ball and potentially goalie equipment is not enough.

As with anything, the more expertise you have in your undertaking, the better result you will achieve.

Floorball is starting to catch with communities, who are browsing online, asking questions, and considering starting up their own team or league. Whether you happened to discover the sport online, through a video or blog post, the game of Floorball has many facets you should consider in order to build a team or league correctly.

If you had the opportunity you went out a played a scrimmage, or you watched a video purchased a stick and a ball.  You may have even begun to develop a passion for the sport.  You see the value of floorball as a viable sport for yourself, your kids, and your community.  Now what?  Where do you begin?

Fortunately you’re not alone.  Like any newer sport the opportunities to play can be somewhat limited.  However, the beauty of the sport is that it doesn’t need to be confined to space, facility, people, or organizations.   Fortunately the cost to get into the sport is relatively cheap.  You can purchase an entry level stick for $30-50, buy a ball and goals and you’re set.  If you’re wanting to invest a little more into equipment there are floorball companies like Generation Floorball out of New York that sell packages of sticks for groups, teams, etc.  However, in many cases you’ll be the first one with a stick and need to grow your group through your contacts.  Initially you’ll spend a large amount of time educating friends, family, coworkers, and anyone who’ll listen about the sport of floorball.  My experience has been to focus on small gatherings in order to help teach the rules, game play and ensure a fun experience.  For the most I’ve been focused on the informal process to get people coming and playing.  Once people get a hang of the rules and how to play the level of play will increase accordingly.

Whether you’re looking to start a weekly pick-up game, or a full-fledged league the biggest challenge will be finding space to play.  The beauty of floorball is that you can play almost anywhere.  If the weather is not (not raining at least) go outside and find a community basketball court, or tennis court to play in.  Thankfully for most cities there are plenty of both to set up shop, and they’re free.  If you’re looking to go inside you’ll want to contact your local parks and recreation department to rent, or if you’re able to use them to create a partnership in order to offset the facility rental.  Once you have established a consistent space use your contacts and social media to create a club that can be found by anyone.  The goal is to get people playing and the more interest for your club or group the easier it will be to determine if you should begin looking at a league.  For collegiate intramurals you can use your facility to host one day demo sessions to gain interest and gain feedback from your students.  Based on that interest you’ll have a better idea of how to frame your intramural league.

However, you decide to start or grow your group don’t be discouraged.  It’ll likely take some time to get people connected and aware of the sport.  Keep pushing and talking about what you’re doing.  If you’re able to you might want to think about running youth classes as a way to grow the sport in your region.  The important thing when starting out is ensuring an inclusive and fun environment for all to partake.  Now get out there and start your group.