Most people understand the concept of defense. Stop the other team from putting the ball in the net. Even at the very basic level kids can be taught to understand this concept. If they’ve played or been introduced to other sports they likely have an idea of what this means. However, in Floorball there are some key differences on how to play proper defense as opposed to similar stick sports.
Floorball, unlike ice hockey, does not allow players to stick lift, stick check, or body check their opponent. In fact players are not allowed to go through their opponents stick in order to steal the ball. This creates a strategy differential in how defense is played in Floorball. Teaching these skills at a basic level requires some patience and some reminders.
One of the first things I teach players, regardless of age is that the stick is a weapon and that they must be in control of it and themselves at all times. As a defender players need to be aware of their stick, body position, offensive players, and the flow of the game.
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. 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.
While I’m teaching these skills I try to focus on telling kids what not to do in a situation, but rather emphasize that they need be reading the scenario in front of them and make decisions accordingly. Every situation presents a new approach so it’s important that players are learning to read body language while anticipating what the opponent might do, and read where the ball is and where it is going.
This approach helps players be more thoughtful when they play, and it reminds them that the games is not mindless but very calculated. The goal is to improve a player’s game IQ in the process. As players evolve up the ladder they continue to build on these skills.
When teaching the concepts of defense to new or younger players I like to emphasize zones as a start. Young players all want to get the ball and are usually more focused on being the one to hit the ball. If we’re looking teach positional play we need to make sure we’re emphasizing that. While teaching the basic physical skills of the game it’s important to add it a broader understanding of how the game is played.
While it may be on a more basic level, and kids won’t always get it right away the important thing is to start the process. We all started at the bottom, but once we learned we grew and in doing so the game was better for it.