Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Kick start Floorball in the USA

This is the deal: Floorball is large in Europe - and in some countries it is a massive modern movement.
So how can we get USA involved in this movement. Let us take a closer look on the reality here...

"A Tentative Suggestion or The Missionary plan"

First - Why is it important to get Floorball going at a larger scale in the USA?

This basic question raise several components worth a discussion.

A) The most obvious is that the sport might become Olympic by 2020 and since Chicago missed its bid for the summer games in 2016 and Minneapolis may be a strong contender for the 2020 games - it may make the question rather urgent...
Other components to this question is that it is hard to consider USA as a country among any other smaller country in the global perspective. This is more about a continent - maybe one must target or treat a few states within the USA in the same way as other countries are being supported in the larger International perspective?


Further - there is a strong Ice Hockey culture in the USA as well as a living Field Hockey ot Floor Hockey culture. This also means that several forms of more odd emulations of hockey takes place here - as well as in Canada as You use your European eyes, see also comments under F.

B) The US national Floorball teams and Olympic organization needs a basic foundation to build strong national teams here in America

C) For the sake of good International Floorball - numbers like 28-1 at w WFC games, last December between Sweden-USA, is not sustainably healthy for the sport - in particular - in the good sportsmanship global dimension of the sport

D) The US school system, churches other organizations etcetera needs a though sport that is motivational fun and increases physical workout in the school system and also fights over weight and obesity - as an extra and additional health tool

E) The potential market is almost larger than life

F) The US Ice Hockey operation will most likely need the same basic sport in school as the vehicle of introduction to Hockey - as in Europe without foam blades or other raw versions of off-ice hockey rules and balls/pucks as it looks like in USA as of today. This might also be a fall pit. First, many schools in the US or similar organizations do believe that some current emulations of Hockey might be dangerous and have the potential to destroy or damage Gym-floors. Something that sadly carries over to Floorball too. Second, the other component is that this strong tradition of Hockey emulated Floor Hockey (or other versions) might be so founded in conservative thinking that even if it seems like a slam dunk to introduce the sport of Floorball - maybe this market demand much more to be won? A situation that might bring fierce competition from these activities to the plate.

G) In the case of Floorball being introduced to the US school systems there is further an opportunity to mandate the use of protective eye wear - something that could contribute to minimize the annual number of some 40000 eye injuries from other sports (8500 related to basketball only) in the United States every year. This if the case is that protective eye wear would be available and mandated to all pupils in the school system.
It might be tricky to sell Floorball as the safer school alternative. Floorball can as many other sports be linked to eye injuries and knee injuries in females after puberty. A certain number of people is hurt as they step on a stick and fall.
However as a comparison to the four large US sports American Football, Baseball, Basket and Ice Hockey. Only Basketball looks like a match to the safe features of Floorball and both being non contact safer sports.
This is an important issue since some local legislation in USA is related to if a sport is considered to be contact or non-contact.

The main idea in any introduction plan must therefore be to include eye wear to make them mandatory in the US as you play Floorball in school settings - cause this would not add one new activity with additional risk for eye injuries - instead it would have the potential to lower injuries from Basketball in the US too - if protective eye wear becomes readily available in school settings - 8500 eye injuries per year is today the estimated and rather high number related to Basketball only in the USA.

Who owns the question of a broad introduction of Floorball to the US School system?
It is the utterly most important part of this suggestion text and the part that needs to be developed first. At this point we do not have the answer to this.

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The Missionary Plan
This is a viable solution that asks for development, management, control and it needs a few instruments of information/communication. Most things to be used is already in existence and/or place - it all must only to be linked together and managed.
Yes, time must be devoted to this project.

The entities we mention in this suggestion is IFF - the International Floorball Federation
USAfB - the Corresponding US Federation, others mentioned should be known by the reader.

Religion has been spread by missionaries - Floorball can do exactly the same thing in USA. The missionaries are already in place - or on their way - all the time - as exchange students. It is just to capitalize on the reality by formalizing and secure a few routines as well as to quality assure these routines.

Step One)
IFF asks four of the dominant Floorball nations and their National Federations to investigate the following in respective nation:
Identify 25 young players in each country that play Floorball at a decent high level. These young people must meet the following two criteria:

A) They are either on their way as exchange students to USA or have plans to do so in the very near future.

B) They must know the sport well and they must be able to hold a presentation in English about Floorball. This means that they are able to "apply" for positions as "Floorball Missionary Individuals" to the USA.The recruiting process should further be aimed for students with plans to study at a College or University with either an Ice Hockey or Field Hockey Team playing for a school in USA (a cultural link). High schools must also be considered.
The "certification" of these students can be done by the local national club that the same student is a member of. He or she must perform a Floorball presentation in English in front of their own club to pass this test and become authorized. The student must also be equipped with presentation material - to be preferred on-line presentations that can not disappear or get damaged in transport or travel, like Google documents videos from You Tube or similar places. A set of printed material would also contribute to the success of this mission - and "the learn start play" printed matter from IFF is essential. Most of this material are interestingly enough already in place.

Another option is to ask American exchange students in the USA to apply for a Floorball Missionary certification as they study in Europe. Or actively search for American students in different Hockey groups or similar target groups in the US and actively recruit these American students to like schools in maybe Sweden with Floorball as a part of education? This solution should probably be owned by European Floorball Schools or Universities.

Ideas for Step One)
There are several Floorball schools in Sweden. Students in these programs appear like the perfect hunting ground for a few of these first Missionaries?

Since we talk more about a continent, than a single country, as we discuss USA a suggestion would be to focus this activity - to start with - towards four dominant "US Ice Hockey States" with close proximity to each other as well as to Ontario in Canada, since Floorball is growing steadily up there.
Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan plus the state of New York looks perfect for this mission.

One way of doing this would be to let each European country be responsible for one state: and even let them compete in some fashion?

Step Two)
An official letter is sent out from IFF as well as from USA Floorball Federation (both are official senders) to each school (To the school Principal as well as to the Athletics director) to inform them that they have an incomparable opportunity of change and the possibility of introducing a brand new International "school sport" - maybe to be Olympic sport - at their campus and at other Elementary and Middle schools in their local school area. All this since a special trained student will study at their School for a semester or a year. This letter should also link to a website introducing Floorball or the learn start play PDF material from IFF.

This letter should be sent out two months or so before the student leaves for USA.

This letter should further point out that the only cost for the introduction of this new sport would be a set of school Floorball sticks (and protective eye wear - if they does not already exist) it is recommended that the school have this in place before this student expert arrives. As well as a pair of small goals. It is further recommended that a PTO or other funding system at the school is used to cover for the costs of this introductionary PE material. In this letter also an order form for these products should be available.

It might be optional that IFF or the USA federation promises to buy back that set at 50% of the initial cost if the school would find the sticks worthless after six months as some kind of a guarantee of the success of this program. It will also ensure that a set of sticks is not lost and can be used again for another missionary activity. These recycled sticks needs only to be stored at some Floorball club in the US to be used by the next student again in the same state - now at a discounted price.

Step Three)
Just as the student has arrived to a school a new letter of recommendation is sent to the same Principal and the Athletics director - now from maybe USA Hockey? Stating that Floorball may be a good sport in School for Ice Hockey too.
This suggestion is at least worth a try. Since this action will put much more pressure on the local school.

To secure the letter to be sent at right timing this should be "mailed" by the student. A signed letter template must be available online.

Step Four)
After the student arrives he or she is supposed to link up with any already pre-existing Floorball activity in that part of the USA - if there is such a thing. If this is the case, then this already existing Floorball activity, may together with the "missionary student" arrange a scrimmage game against invited PE teachers as well as they can aid the student with the presentations of the game etcetera at the school. This linking to active Floorball clubs might work better if another set of US states is selected. However the missionary action would in this case be more spread out and not as concentrated as in the suggested states as of above. Maybe a concentrated missionary plan is to prefer?

Step Five) The student is linked up with a local US vendor as an affiliate to sell equipment - and make maybe 10% on all sales - as the carrot for the student to work hard on his/her mission. The local vendor should also provide the student with his own little web solution for local sales.
This to be announced as there is a living Floorball local activity at the school. But it should be prepared for as soon as the student arrives to the USA.

Since this step is about driving and motivational factors for the individual Missionary student one can also consider an academic score, points or part of an degree from either the "European" school or maybe as something set up in conjunction with the US school (however much more complicated). The best way would probably be to set up an academic degree to be taken online by the student at one of the Swedish or other European schools that specialize in Floorball, it could grant a successful missionary student an academic degree of Honor. Or something similar? The fact of this matter is that the student goes from being a student to become a teacher.

In all material that communicates to these selected students they must also be made aware that they are personal instrumental parts in the global change and future of Floorball in their mission. In particular in the state or town their are working. Not many can say on their C.V. "- I brought a new sport to Indiana in the USA".

Step five is actually three reinforcement deals to "push" the student to do a good job.

Step Six)
The USA Floorball Federation should after a few months ask the school, by an official letter, if they are willing to get Floorball onto the curriculum for the school and how they or the student may aid the school in this process - this should take place 2-3 months after the student first introduces the sport - if this action has not yet been taken by the school. This can also be aimed at and discuss other local Elementary and Middle or High schools in the same local area.

Step six is where this plan locks Floorball into a school curriculum and provides "the local Population" with the sport.

Step Seven)
The USA Floorball Federation or a local club must do some kind of a questionnaire follow up as the missionary student gets ready to leave - something that should be followed up with a new questionnaire a year later to provide all involved parties feedback and return on this action.

Summary and Questions
Is this possible? - We think so.
Is it "expensive"? - not if you see the invested time and put it into a perspective of possible return. Most of the material needed is already available. This is more about the matter of investing time into a project like this.
Would it be too much to start with 25 x 4 students as a first test?

IFF mentions earlier Missionary activity in their own material so this is nothing new. The new thing is to formalize this actions with a fixed set of procedures. It also calls for a goal or aim to get the sport onto the school curriculum in school districts in the US. Something that spells that we do know on how to get the sport handed over to "the local population" i.e. to get the sport onto the curriculum in several school districts. This solution would also call for strong incentives to the students to do a good job.

The procedures should be described and quality assured like what many producing industries is doing as they quality assure different functions of their own operations in like standardized quality control systems like the ISO 9000.


The Dough
I want to leave this at the visionary stage for now. This must be considered as a dough that has to be worked out and baked by insider professionals.

The main question is about who is the ultimate owner of an activity like this?

There is also hands on problems to deal with. The first step must be to list problems and possible solutions to these possible problems.
As an example, one problem can be to find good local, accessible venues to play at, especially if there is a prominent basketball team in charge of it. How can this problem be solved? However if the student can not solve this more local kinds of problems through the school system, the YMCA, maybe at the military, scouts, churches or other commercial courts as they come and wave a letter of recommendation from a few athorities - then this plan might be a dead issue?
Additional things needed might be Facebook groups and other supportive means of communication for the student. But most of these things can be done cheaply or free of charge it is just that the student must know what to do and when.

The development of this plan could maybe be done as a student project at one University in one of the stronger Floorball countries. However this approach might delay initial action.

Let us do some more speculative numbers though. Lets say the national federations in SWE, FIN, CZE, and SUI is able to ship out 25 from each country..missionary students every semester. That would mean that about 200 school districts a year might be affected by Floorball in the US and with 10 yrs to go to 2020 .then maybe 2000 school districts - to start with in four states like MN, WI, MI and NY may have caught the Floorball bug.

For a lonely wolf to start to approach school board after school board here in the USA to try to introduce the sport is in my judgement a dead issue. He or She would only end up in the classic salesman's dilemma stuck in hours of travel. We need a sales force here and there is one out here - it is just that we have to use them!

To win USA a plan is needed - a plan that is tailored to suite this giant market. You tell me what you think and how to go from here.

Why do this?
Well the US School system needs this
The US Hockey operation needs this
And the sport of Floorball needs this
For the sake of health and fun for the Future of Floorball.

Let us know what You think!
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The content of this material is only reflexions of our own ideas with crucial contribution from a few sources. This material has not yet been discussed in any formal setting - to our knowledge.
We have so far never claimed our own copyright on any part of material posted at this site before.

In this case we however must claim full copyright to the text above - due to certain circumstances.

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Caution

Research suggest that eye-injuries are more common in Floorball as compared to Tennis, but less common as compared to Squash (similar to Racquetball).
To minimize this risk of injury Floorballcentral recommend: Use certified protective eye-wear (mandated in many European areas for the youth). Do not lay down on the court. Follow the rules strict on stick height.

Also if you get addicted to this sport - do not blame us!