Are you ready for the next big thing to hit the sporting world? Meet floorball, a fast-paced sport that combines aspects of hockey, lacrosse, and soccer into a versatile team sport. It’s made its way through Europe and is now expanding to an excited new audience—the Special Olympics.
What is Floorball?
Created in Sweden in the 1970s, floorball is popular throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It is now spreading to North America, where it is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. There are more than 300,000 registered players throughout the world, with professional leagues in Finland and Sweden. In some countries, floorball is a common recreational sport, with kids learning to play from an early age and continuing through adulthood.
The game is played in an indoor arena similar to floor hockey. Each team fields five players at a time, plus a goalie. Each player, except the goalie, uses a stick shaped roughly like a hockey stick with a shorter handle. The end of the stick is lightweight plastic with holes or netting similar to a lacrosse stick. Using a plastic ball with holes, similar to a whiffle ball, players pass the ball to each other and try to score on the opposing goal. The ball is dimpled to make it aerodynamic and quick, creating a fast-paced game of constant movement. Matches are played with three twenty-minute periods, at the end of which the team with the most goals wins.
Because the sport is so new, the rules are fluid and constantly evolving, even though they were written down in 1979. Players are allowed to push shoulders with opposing players, but they can’t check like is allowed in ice hockey. Most floorball leagues follow contact rules similar to American soccer, where players can check and push to improve their position to the ball, but not to take another player out of the game. If a foul occurs, the opposing team gets a free hit at the net, similar to a free kick in soccer.
Floorball in the Special Olympics
Floorball will become an official Special Olympics event in 2017. It first came to the Special Olympics as a demonstration sport at the World Winter Games in 2013 and was received with great enthusiasm by players, coaches, and fans. Special Olympics athletes play on a slightly smaller court with three players plus a goalie on each side. The Special Olympics Cyprus team, sponsored by Alvexo, will play in a floorball tournament at the Pascal English School of Larnaca in September. Athletes from the team have been practicing for months in preparation of this exciting tournament.
With its rapidly increasing popularity around the world, floorball hopes to become part of the 2020 Summer Olympics. In 2008, the International Floorball Foundation and the sport of floorball were officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee; recognition from the Special Olympics followed in 2009. The IOC added the IFF to the Recognized International Sports Federations in 2011, which puts it on the path to enter the official sport program.
Floorball represents an opportunity for a new generation of athletes, including those in the Special Olympics, to get involved in an up-and-coming sport that builds skills and confidence. Be on the lookout for floorball—it’s coming to a community near you and possibly the Olympics!