FLOORBALL. NEVER heard of it, you may be thinking. Neither had I until I reached the ‘F’ section of YUSU’s A-Z list of sports clubs as I searched for my next Nouse Tries venture. So I was absolutely turning up to floorball’s first training session of 2018 with little more than the assumption that it must involve moving a ball around a floor. Despite this, I am told by my co-editor that I did not look completely incompetent among the other 19 floorballers as he snapped shots of yours truly from the sidelines. Luckily, I had energetic captain Francis Overton-Eccles to fill my knowledge gap.
Floorball is a Scandinavian sport which originated in 1970s Sweden and is probably best defined as ice hockey but without the ice. Sticks are used to manoeuvre lightweight perforated plastic balls around an indoor surface and into 160 x 115cm goals. The club’s short history is remarkable. Founded just three years ago and with less than ten members in its first two years, floorball has seen a tripling of its membership in this latest academic year.
The club has also ventured into competitive matches, culminating in a premier Merrell team of the week award last term. The club does not compete in BUCS or Roses (I’m told Lancaster are too scared to field a team), but they arrange friendly matches and one-day tournaments with other universities. The club’s small nature makes it akin to a small country village: everyone knows everyone and that is one of the club’s greatest features. It also means that there are lots of opportunities for beginners.
Speaking to as many members as I could amid the fast-paced session, some said that they joined through a Give It A Go session, others because they wanted to partake in a sport that would tire them out (they sure got what they bargained for), and one could not refuse joining after winning a year’s free membership.
It was then time for the session to begin with a light warmup. Francis, who has been playing since the age of ten, having been born in one of the very few English floorball hotspots, armed me with the equipment needed to work through basic control and passing drills. We then joined the rest of the group for a shooting drill, in which I had the pleasure of embarrassing myself in front of the group as I fluffed my inaugural shot at goal.
However, I think I regained some dignity when I nutmegged the same player twice. With this quick crash course under my belt, we then progressed to a match. Teams are mixed gender with six players including a goalkeeper. Roll-on subs were a luxury in this energy-sapping game. As for tactics, there didn’t seem to be any other than run around and engage in mini stick wars for the ball. There didn’t seem to be any boundaries either, with players continuing play behind the goal and right to the very edges of the arena.
The ball is very lightweight but don’t be fooled into thinking it won’t hurt if you happen to be in the path of a powerful shot. The copious amounts of padding and caged helmet worn by the goalkeeper is testament to that. I was worried about getting hit at pace with the ball only to experience greater danger from the side-lines, as one ultimate frisbee player came crashing into me through the arena divides.
The session finished with penalty practice. These are not like penalties in football where you hit a stationary ball from a specified distance. In fact, they are much more interesting. Penalties in floorball involve moving the ball forward (and only forward) from the half-way line and shooting from any distance. Although, don’t get too close as the goalkeepers have a brave and remarkable ability to steal the ball from you. The more advanced floorballers took this as an opportunity to showcase their skill as they rounded the goalkeeper before scoring. I, on the other hand, was just aiming to get a clean contact on the ball.
Overall, I managed to survive the 90-minute energetic session relatively unembarrassed. It proved exactly why we do Nouse Tries – to find hidden gems. The floorball club is an inspiration to smaller sports teams: the club consists of friendly and inclusive people, and is a wonderful outlet for the growing sport. It is not hard to see why the club is going from strength to strength.
If you fancy giving it a go, the club enrols new members all year round, and there could not be a better time to join this up-and-coming club. If you would like to know more, or if you’re interested in floorball contact [email protected]