Importance of focusing on youth development

I’ve tried really hard to consistently evaluate Floorball and where I think it’s going in order to best prepare, plan, and make the right moves to push it forward. It’s funny when this process happens at times because I don’t usually just sit down and think about it. It’ll come up as I’m doing something else, or if I have time to let my mind wander. Working in and around sports for the majority of my life has helped shape my view on some of this stuff. While many are trying to figure out how to grow the sport, I think the best answers are usually the simplest ones. It should come as a surprise, but for some reason this answer is difficult for some to grasp. I believe if you truly want to grow Floorball you have to develop it at the youth levels.

Simple right? Makes sense when you think about it, but then why isn’t more emphasis placed on it? Some will immediately jump to putting the burden on schools and having them running it in P.E. class. We’ve been seeing a number of NHL teams jump into Floorball and offer it in a variety of ways. Don’t get me wrong this is great to see, but what we’re not seeing in return are clubs or organizations created and developing Floorball programs to push things along as well. That’s a potential problem.

One of the things I believe is key to success and is something missing are businesses popping up to teach the sport, start leagues, and grow the game from that standpoint. The business models are already out there from other sports the question is who is willing to put in the work to do it? I venture there are a number of people out there willing to take advantage of the untapped opportunity, but many will just sit on the sidelines and see what happens. They will be happy to talk about how the sport should be here or there, but not as willing to put in the work to make it happen. That’s one of the things that’s more frustrating to me and is a lost opportunity. I think we’ll see pockets of things happening, and eventually it’s going to catch on.

Like other sports and the clearly lucrative youth sports segment I’m amazed that more people are trying to tap into this purely from an economic standpoint. I’m not even talking about the retail potential, which will eventually become crowded, I’m talking about people being able to somewhat corner a market in their area or region if they so choose. Soccer is a great example of this. In the early years you saw maybe a small handful of businesses teaching soccer classes, but mostly camps. Now it seems like everyone is doing some sort of soccer camp or program. Floorball could become that, and I believe that through the youth focus it will. Just watch in time, you’ll start to see more and more things pop up regarding Floorball. The question is are you going to be part of it, or the one playing catch up when, not if, they take hold?

Outside forces and their impacts on Floorball development

Floorball, like all developing sports are fighting tooth and nail for recognition and validity in the sporting world. It’s the struggle for all emerging sports. If you spend a little time digging you’ll likely be amazed at the plethora of sports that are out there in the world. While some may only focus on the more worldwide popular ones (American Football, Football (soccer), Basketball, Baseball, Cricket, Hockey, to name a few) there are so many other emerging sports that could change the landscape of popular sports. 

Floorball is one of those emerging sports that is pushing to become mainstream world-wide. It has all of the ingredients of being a success, and in some ways it is, though in its current form hasn’t quite pushed into the upper echelon. I think that a key portion of it’s long-term success lies in North America. What can be done?  How can Floorball push through the noise of other competing sports and steal a larger share of the market?

What’s the best way to attract a larger group of people to anything? In the digital age it’s all about going viral, and the impact that viral content can generate. Floorball has seen some of that attention online, specifically through zoro or trick videos. Some of these videos generate thousands of hits and help draw some attention to the sport. However, it’s not the game changer the sport needs.

The best method is to look at what other sports are doing well and copy it. I’m not saying don’t get creative, but there’s one surefire method to grow an emerging sport. To get as many kids playing as possible. This should come as no surprise if you follow me. I firmly believe this wholeheartedly, and carry this out myself. Here’s the catch. Other sports won’t like it, and won’t welcome the new competition for resources, kids, or space. However, in North America Floorball pails in comparison to awareness, education, player and coach development as other sports.

In my ideal world I would be able to get in front of large groups of people around the country and train them on the sport, and how to be successful. There are times I’m able to do this, but mostly I can’t. As a collective we need to be creative. We need to be creating more resources to break down barriers. We need to be looking at what’s working and figure out how to build it out at scale. It boggles my mind that more Floorball companies aren’t popping up, or that established ones, specifically those overseas, aren’t investing in Floorball development in North America. It’s probably one of the last and largest markets to grow heavily. I think it will happen, but I think a lot of people are just watching to see what will happen before they decide to get involved.  

Floorball is already a stick and a ball sport so it’s got that going for it. Like other emerging sports it has a huge potential to steal market share, but it needs to think small before growing big. I think focusing on grassroots development and supporting that through basic recreational play, classes, and leagues are what will make Floorball a household name. While it will take some time to happen it’s exciting to be here on the ground floor working to do just that, and see how it will evolve over time.

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.