Discover The Game Within

Let’s say you’re new and you’ve just found out about floorball.

You have a general understanding of the sport, rules, equipment, and now you’re ready to get involved.

If you’re fortunate you’re already in the process of purchasing equipment to get a program going.  What now?  When starting any new program, or event you’re going to need to create a culture that buys into what you’re doing.  How do you that?  What does that look like?  You can have the greatest product in the world, but no one knows about it you’ll likely fall flat on your face.  In order to make change in this way you need to be the initial driving force pushing for your new program to get out there.  While some people may look at and brush it aside all it takes is one more person to join you and take up your cause.  Now that you have support there is some sense of legitimacy to what you’re doing, and now that you have momentum it’s a matter of time before more and more people join you and things flourish.

I’ll use hockey as an example.  Initially, and in many ways is still the case, hockey coaches and administrators in the US upon first glace look at floorball from one lens.  This isn’t hockey, or it’s similar to ball hockey so why bother?  I’d argue that in many cases from my experience this is a common occurrence for non-hockey people as well.  However, all it takes is one person to see the value in floorball and how it is a useful tool for off-ice training, or engaging and attracting new players in a similar sport for it to take hold.  All businesses, organization, and teams are looking to engage new members and grow their base.  Without regular engagement and new blood in the system facilities, organizations, and team will struggle in the long term.

As a facility recreation program manager at a University I introduced floorball on campus.  In the beginning I spent a lot of time promoting and educating students about floorball.  I hosted events and did other giveaways to entice students to come out.  I engaged them on a personal level and encouraged them to give this new sport a try.  Once I was able to get a few students engaged in the sport it grew from there.  Over time I became less the driving force behind it, and students had taken reins for themselves.  With their involvement and ownership we have an intramural league as well as informal pick-up games that happen on a regular basis.

As with many new programs it will likely take time, and the development and growth of any program will vary based on a number of factors.  Some areas will be able to take floorball and seamlessly integrate it into what they’re already doing.  Others will see slower growth, but in the end I encourage anyone looking to grow a program to stick with it, and if you’re passionate about the sport and what it can do for kids and adults the growth will come.

Play Above All Else

The notion of play is a simple yet complex aspect of our lives. I respect Floorball because it allows us to play, as much as compete. With few “legacy” players coaching Floorball, it allows our young athletes to have equal participation, minus the pressure that other sports provide of having to compare to another athlete who came before them.

Play part of the foundation of who we are a people, and helps us develop a number of skills when we’re younger.  Growing up in Washington State in the late 80’s and 90’s the youth system for youth sports was vastly different from what it is today.  Too many kids and parents are running around with visions of athletic grandeur in their eyes, and miss the realities in front of them.  At the same time there are an equal amount of sports administrators and boards who create and absorb other organizations for the monetary benefit it brings them.  All of this is focused around two things.  Kids and parents hoping they’ll get a college scholarship and get to the big leagues, and the clubs and organizations who gouge them along the way.  Another aspect we’ve found from this has been sport specialization at younger and younger ages and year round play.  Both are a detriment to the athletes and science has proven to be fact, specifically before a certain age.  The athletic world is seeing more and more cases of overuse injuries, a term and condition that has become more common.

More recently there has been more literature and studies written talking about players being sport specific, and the impact it has on their development.  What people forget is that kids are constantly growing and developing across the board.  At the same time there needs to be more direct emphasis on letting kids rest.  I’ve seen it time after time where coaches gripe about players missing a tournament or training during the off season, and feel like they don’t care enough.  A sport season is long and tiresome and it’s important to make sure that kids are getting that time to recover.  The fitness world has done an excellent job over the years emphasizing the importance of recovery, noting that recovery time is when the body grows and develops.

Floorball for instance is in an interesting place in its development as a sport in the USA.  I see it currently positioned primarily as a recreation based sport for youth and adults.  The main reason is that it still needs to attract and develop players beyond the introductory and intermediate levels.  Ultimately we’ll likely see players settle between intermediate and advanced.  In the current progression of the sport some will have an initial advantage, primarily in stick handling ability.  However, that is a skill that can be readily learned and those athletes coming from other sports will have an advantage in speed and agility that will allow them to catch up and surpass.  Again the aspects that will allow that come from those athlete who have skill in multiple areas.

Floorball is very similar in movement and game play to sports like hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. Players who are playing in these realms can mentally and physically adapt to the sport and be effective.  Through their prior training they’re already learning how to move, avoid, and adjust their bodies based on a variety of situations during game play.  While these skills can be taught to a degree the majority of the time it’s learned through unstructured play.  It will be interesting to see how floorball develops in the USA.  While I know it will spawn club and travel teams, I hope it equally evolves through a more recreation and unstructured form too.

Defensive Tactics in Floorball

(photo credit: Adam Troy)

Understanding the tactics of defense in Floorball can open up the game to a broader audience. Floorball is a fast-paced, competitive sport, with many opportunities on the offensive side of the goal with quick counter attack measures.

However, unlike ice hockey, players in Floorball are not allowed to check their opponent. This creates a strategy differential in how defense is played in Floorball.

Defenders need to be aware of their stick, body position, offensive players and the flow of the attack coming at them.  It is important through the development of youth players that they understand some of these concepts related to defensive play in order to be successful.

Floorball’s rules of play prohibit stick checking, stick lifting, or contact with the stick prior to contact with the ball.   A defensive player may not go through the offensive players stick in order to obtain the ball.  Doing so results in a free hit, which is similar to a free kick in soccer.  However, based on these rules there are some strategic moves defensive players can make in order force a turn over.  A defensive player may pressure the ball and in doing may force the offensive player into a turnover without fouling.  This method can be effective at both ends of the court.  However, defenders must be mindful not to foul, especially in the defensive zone, which requires the defender to be aware of their body positioning to the ball and player.

Body positioning and awareness of the spacing on the court is important when defending.  When on the defense it is important for all players to understand these concepts.  The entire team must work in sync and understand their roles in the defense and know what to do as the offense moves the ball around.  In many cases the defense will form a box in the defensive area with each player responsible for a specific zone.  Each player should be communicating with each other as offensive players move the ball, but should equally be aware of offensive players’ movement without the ball.  This is important as most offensive plays are built on quick passing and movement into open space between the defensive box.

When teaching the concepts of defense to new or younger players it’s important to emphasize zones to start.  In many cases younger players that are playing defense want to hang back as play moves into the offensive zone.  It is best to encourage them to move forward to at least mid-court emphasizing the importance of keeping the ball in the offensive zone.  With regards to body positioning introducing the defensive tactics concept can be as simple as staying between the ball and your goal.  At the beginning this will be a challenge and there are a number of other drills that can be done to help teach defense, but it will take time and patience.  While everyone wants to score the goal spending time focusing on the importance of defense will help solidify the team aspect of the sport.