2022 NXL Windy City Major Recap

Remember when you were much younger and you were asked to do something by a parent or an authority figure and did it well? Or maybe you showed responsibility/initiative, and did your job/chores without being asked? Most of us were “rewarded”, right?  Or maybe you just wouldn’t get your butt handed to you. Either way, you were basically being taught that, if you did your job and did it well, you would see some sort of return.

Chicago was a little like that.

We know we need to perform well each and every event. I’m a firm believer in that success in this sport is not all predicated on talent as much as it is about team trust, cohesion, culture, reliability, and consistency, topped with necessary improvement. If a team has no ego and understands what it needs to do to improve, they will improve. And improvement will lead to reaching goals. And with each goal reached, you will eventually get to the point where you are winning.

We were not happy with our performance in Philly. We knew Chicago was going to be a make-or-break event for us.

As usual, we would face some difficulties, but then, who doesn’t?  We would head to this event without Mike Brown, who had life events to address. Justin Bailey would also have a life event that would keep him from being with the team the first layout weekend. Aaron Pate would injure himself during the second practice.  We would face bad weather the second layout weekend and I couldn’t nab a pro team to scrimmage either weekend.  Luckily, our good friends on Austin Notorious (ranked 3rd in Semi-Pro) came through and not only gave us some excellent looks but really opened our eyes to some aspects of our game!  (They took 2nd in Chicago!  Proud and happy for them. Ryan Gray is leading those boys incredibly well).

New Orleans Hurricanes and Austin Notorious at LA Xtreme Paintball in Slidell, LA

Coming into this event, I felt confident our approach to the layout would not only work but was, for all intents and purposes, the right way to play the field (at least for the Canes).  However, my resolve would be tested early Friday morning.  We drew the dreaded afternoon bracket (I prefer morning games) but the one advantage is, you get to see how teams are playing the field.  It seemed in those first few sets everyone was pushing the snake… hard. We pushed the snake too but not nearly like everyone else. I was genuinely surprised since, during our practices, our kill ratio for that runner was a high percentage. I thought surely everyone else was having a similar experience and would weigh it. That being said, we decided to stick with the game plan.

Our approach to the field is what military personnel would call a “flying wedge”. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it was a formation used in early warfare, usually with cavalry against infantry.  Imagine cavalry in the formation of a giant triangle charging at your squared formation of infantry (phalanx).  The concept was to penetrate the ranks and split the opposing force.  Now imagine the flying wedge cavalry with mortar fire…  In the case of the Canes, I trust my guys’ guns.  We drill our on the break shots religiously. So, that was the idea. We wanted to establish up the center, turn the opponents’ guns inside, make them contend with us there, then expand outside, bully a single gun, and then take more ground.  But it would require discipline, communication, and solid guns with a good eye for the read.  Simple, right?

ZEN NOTE – to those of you (and there were several) who sent me questions asking why we didn’t attack the snake more often… we did.  And we didn’t.  Calls were made based off statistical analysis and probability of what the opponent was showing as well as our assets.  We had contingencies for when our opponent made the snake as “safety valves”.  They worked.

Out of all the layouts this year, I felt this was one was ours.  A “hybrid” traditional that would allow us to really leverage all our weapons. And for the most part, I was right.  But this would be no walk in the park.  We would be tested right out of the gate.  People keep telling me we won’t be taken seriously until we start beating the elite teams.  Myself and the Canes agree. Well… here was our chance.


VS Heat

I have been accused of not being the brightest guy at times but I’m no dummy.  I knew if we let Chad George take a breath anywhere near that snake, no matter our contingencies, we would have problems.  But I looked over at my man Aaron Smith and I think to myself…  when we shoot George and get Aaron in there… Johnny’s your uncle.  We keyed up on ole George early. But they keyed up on Aaron Smith too. Aaron is a warrior and understood he had one of the toughest spots to play this event. I am really pleased with his growth as a player. Keep an eye on this one.

Obviously running anywhere past the snake can on this field was a risk versus reward scenario.  So, we pushed it on point one to test guns.  Aaron doesn’t make it, George does.  But Stuart Ridgel does the patented “Stu Shuffle” and takes ole George off the board.  However, we lost some gunfights. Point to Heat.  Next point more of the same.  We went snake corner, their guns were good there too. It was at this point I realized they are playing the field similar to us.  And we always train how to beat our own game plans.  They were up 2-0.  They were going to dig in on this field, roll their guns, and let us try and kill ourselves.  We had other plans.  Small bumps with tiny edges. Bully a gun.  Push. And use a guy named Jacob Searight.

We finally shot George.  But we allowed our tandem line to get too long on D side.  Dizon did us a favor though and drew the major.  The game was tied and we were on the power play as Heat would be playing down.  We figured they would take one of the towers early (probably snake side) and shoot for it.  It payed off (happened to be George). 3-2 us when they conceded the point.

The next break was a blood bath.  We shot two and they shot two. Then Tyler Harmon had a Tyler Harmon moment. Tied again at 3-3.  Next point of what would be the end of regulation, both teams did the exact same breakout.  However, Heat established the center first.  This concerned me because they were in position to push in the last 60.  We traded punches, guys held and time expired.

Headed into overtime, we were feeling pretty good.  If it bleeds, we can kill it, and that was our thought headed into that last point.  The pressure was on them so we knew they would go pocket thinking if they can get 5 out alive, they win “on paper” as Matty would say.  But we haven’t read that book yet (heck, we can’t even read).  We decided to push Britt Simpson D side with heavy guns and it paid off.  We got out wide snake side as the point developed after establishing a strong center.  Aaron Pate made a wicked snap on Tyler Harmon, then smoked Ryan Smith and then Ronnie Dizon gets eaten.   Good win for what we had dubbed prior to the event, the revenge tour.

*ZEN NOTE – In the last point, I recall Federov making a gesture after shooting Stu (a kiss goodbye or something) and then I made the same gesture when we hit the buzzer.  I know… juvenile. Just because someone is disrespectful doesn’t mean I will be. I have to be a better example for my guys. 

VS Thunder

We had watched Thunder (when we could) play Uprising and noticed some tendencies. But I did not depend on the scouting as I knew they would adjust their game plan.  The key was going to be identifying the adjustment early… which we did.  It was a back and forth match.  I was particularly proud of my man Britt Simpson in this match as he earned himself a one on one coin in the 2nd point of the match to put us on the board. Three Hurricanes carry those coins now.

A good example of game planning from both teams was the 4th point of the match.  We missed our snake shot (it was going to happen) but we got our inside support kill and took big ground D side.  With snake hot, we went to our contingency plan, and it worked.  But Thunder was a scrappy team and there was still a lot of time on the clock.  For the 5th point, we shot their snake side runner again, but they made a good read, took ground, and established early in center and on D side (something we had been doing).  It paid off for them as they dropped Drew Bell early and picked up our counter through center.  But I felt they had just shown us their best effort.  Next point, we wanted to key up on the wides and the boys did a great job sweet spotting BOTH.  This is a good example of “permeating” the point, something we had discussed as a team.  With the amount of time left in the match, we didn’t have to be in a hurry, especially since we shot 2 and lost 1.  We were also in good field position compared to Thunder.  My guy’s maintained zone control, had a conversation on who has the ball and where we needed to punch.  We burned off just under 3 minutes here.  But then we got a little sloppy, let Thunder spread, and lost two gunfights we shouldn’t have.  Luckily, Thunder did us a favor and drew the red towards the end.  (Aaron Pate shot their center player who continued to shoot).

The next point was another bloodbath break for both teams.  Unfortunately, Thunder got the best of it with that late fill to the snake from home.  We had lost Stu who would have protected against that move.  Britt recognized that, with Stu gone, plan B was to flip the field and got on his horse D side.  But it wasn’t enough as Thunder’s player,I think it was Pat Gleason, got himself two and a buzzer.

It was now 4-3 in our favor with 4 minutes left.

*ZEN NOTE -I heard there was a comment made that we went defensive. That is inaccurate. The intent was not defense but to set up a push. The setup, much like snake on the break, has its risks and has to develop. This sometimes creates an issue getting offensive when you lose key components of the set up. Running into a zoned gun on purpose isn’t offense. It’s stupid.

Thunder made the snake corner on the next break. This was a good call but that also meant his support must come from one of 2 places.  We shot one of them.  The snake fill by Thunder was what slowed this point down.  We had the body advantage, but we had to leverage two of our own to contain snake.  Both Stu and Daniel knew the deal and adjusted accordingly.  Searight understood his role in this as well and pushed D side.  Pate saw the opportunity to reposition to support Searight.  Gleason got clever and took my Rook (Searight).  He got clever again and took Stu who had just positioned on 50 snake.  However, Aaron Pate dashed his dreams decisively.  Daniel Camp smoked the press from center leaving it a 2 on 1,  Pate and Daniel vs Thunder’s snake player.  At this point, I turned and began congratulating my guys in the pit for the good first day. Nothing against the Thunder player, I just knew the statistical outcome of that one with those two gunfighters in.

I would have liked that last point though…

VS Uprising

There was no doubt the other boys from Seattle had an axe to grind after our first meeting (and our first pro match ever) in Kissimmee.  They were showing a highly aggressive approach to the field, but we also noticed some tendencies that we could exploit.  The question was, again, what if any adjustment did they make?  We soon found out that, they didn’t really. 

The first point was gruesome.  There were so many yellow birds in the air… but Daniel Camp finally gave the Canes our first point win (something we struggled with this weekend was coming out strong and winning the first point each match) and gained his THIRD one on one coin.

More solid guns on the break next point. We shot 3.  The following point, we shot the snake again but lost Pate early.  Uprising beat us to the center but this was where their tendencies showed (no I will not share what they are…my secret).  My guys recognized it and acted accordingly making it 3-0.

The 4th point Uprising got the advantage early again.  We tried to take ground early D side but they caught us and we miss our shots.  We recognized the tendencies again but aren’t able to capitalize.  Justin Bailey did an excellent job of killing the clock in a 3 on 1, a minute twenty .  3-1 with just over 7 minutes left.

We decided to give Uprising a different look the next point.  I almost didn’t do it because of an injury Pate was nursing. But the guys are all warriors, and he told me he was fine and could do it.  I went with the gut and it paid off.  We knew Uprising would push center but with our new snake side presence, I knew it would cause them to swivel.  And they did.  Searight took advantage and got onto their side of the field… again.  But, again we let that tandem line get too long.  We had to settle for a trade.  But, Uprising’s tendency reared, we took advantage and Stu finished with a 3 pack.

The next point was a bit sloppy on our part.  Stu looked into a ball and Aaron Smith made the mistake of asking for a paint-check.  Minor on us.

We lost Stu early on the next point but take 3 of Uprising on the break with the help of a minor (it was on their dorito player).  Uprising conceded the point leaving approximately 3 minutes on the board down by 3.

We shot one on the break but lost Pate early again.  Though, once Searight got wide and Stu established in the center, it was simply a matter of time… literally. We knew if we won the point they would let time expire in an effort to maintain point margin.  Funny note and I don’t know if they show this on the webcast but as the guys are standing around watching the clock go down, Searight decided to shoot Stu in the foot… on purpose… But the joke was on Searight as I think the ref called Stu clean LOL

VS Red Legion

Goodness gracious.  The revenge tour almost came to a screeching halt with this one.  But the guys showed composure, discipline, belief, and a whole lot of grit. If there was ever a match to define the New Orleans Hurricanes, this would be it. We never quit.

I can sum this one up rather quickly.  The first point we just lost gun fights.  The next three points of this match, the Russians essentially took our game planning and just did it better than us.  That and we got penalties and they didn’t.  We were also trying one or two things differently since we had already made Sunday.  That whole plan went out the window quick though as things were getting out of hand.  This was the most penalized I think we have been in a match.  I told my guys, back to basics. The game plan was solid, the Legion was simply beating us to the punch.  If we quit getting penalties, we will win this match! That, and our guns on break had taken a dip for some reason.  Down 4 to 0 now but there was a BUNCH of time left in the match.  They went up 4-0 on us in Kissimmee and we brought it back to tie only to eventually lose.  But we are a completely different team from that first event. And this was the revenge tour…

The Heat/Thunder match put us in X-ball rather early which I felt was an advantage to us.  We already knew what we wanted to do and how to do it. 

That 5th point was the game changer.  They put in their 2nd line as if they felt the game was in the books.  But we didn’t get that memo (and remember, we can’t read anyway).  There was just under 10 minutes left after all.  We put one up on the board.  And that’s all we would need to steal the momentum.

It doesn’t go unnoticed that Sergei was playing tall over home on the previous breaks and then filtering to the center.  We decided to turn a gun on him and get the elimination.  Now, I am only guessing but perhaps they looked down on paper and figured their 5 best alive on the break beats us a larger percentage of the time.  We decided to start focusing on taking that snake side tower sooner which would “trap” the Russians and hopefully force them into the kill box.  We had seen them do what we called “double double” before, so we took center early and got a second point on the board.  Letting Berdnikov get out to the snake side was disappointing but we flipped the script D side.  Justin Bailey got to drop the hammer on Berdnikov as a bonus for our 2nd point.…

I did not anticipate them to continue with the double/double… but this is why I make the assumption in the paragraph above that they figured they would just need to get their best 5 out alive and kill clock.  I called a timeout to give my guys a bit of a breather and make sure we all knew the game plan and situation.  We knew that if they didn’t take that snake side tower early, they would most likely concede the gap between the doritos and that first small brick D side.  And if they didn’t take the first dorito looking inside,  that would allow us to take a line through the center undetected.

Strangely, the Legion came out with double/double again (meaning everything stated above could come to fruition).  So Stu took the center-line and got the kill but got caught.  We spread to snake corner drawing guns which allows Drew Bell to do Drew Bell stuff down the D side and trade.  That drew a gun and now Daniel fed the snake.  Daniel shot the last Russian but Aaron Pate decided to run through with the goon hand just to make sure and hit the buzzer with 1 second left. 

Goon hand Pate. Thanks to Trevorwillpb for the shot! Check him out on IG and FB

And this is why I am religious.

Even though we had just had an amazing point, emotions got a little high.  The Canes have several rules about pit control and we all started to break them… but just for a bit.  The disruption was over the 1 second point.  We needed that additional time to get my guys squared away but it almost put us over the edge… not really.  But it could have. That’s on me.  We finally get our decorum back with a little laughter and knew that, with the overtime point, we needed to get back to base play, didn’t get in too much of a hurry, and let the play develop the way we knew how. Once again, the pressure lay squarely on the Legion.

This was a crap shoot point.  Part of my job is to determine what I think the opponent may do.  I was torn here statistically.  Again, in my mind, they were looking at the “paper”… their 5 beats our 5… So we figured they would go safe with a Dorito 1, the two cans and home.  That or their double/double.  When they broke with double double, and we made it out 5 alive, I smiled ear to ear.  We shot one on the break and quickly dropped another…  slow steady grind until they were none and we were three.  Five unanswered points against the Russians in 9 minutes.  Incredible performance from my guys.

VS Heat (again)

This was a chess match.  Best way to describe it.  We made a couple of mental errors here and they ultimately cost us the match. But I think we gained a little respect…

Both teams lost a can on the first point.  Stu made a great center push but we died behind him leaving Pate in a 1 on 2 situation.  Heat struck first.  Heat followed that point up by shooting two of us on the break and we couldn’t generate anything.  2-0 Heat.  Obviously Heat was taking our approach and just executing it better.  Our guns came back into play on the 3rd point and we were back in it with 5 bodies alive.  2-1.

We both broke the exact same way on the 4th point and we struck first shooting Federov.  We also established a strong center with Stu and Pate early.  Monville attempted to wrap and paid for it allowing Stu to trade with Harmon in the Tower. Searight got the last kill and we were now tied.  The execution of the goals on that point were pretty darn near perfect.

Of course, this is where we end up shooting ourselves in the foot a bit metaphorically and literally. The guys decided to let the clock run down a bit (40 seconds if you only count standing at the box).  I was at the net with my arms open wondering what they were doing.  Then Searight decided to shoot himself in the foot…yes, on purpose and for a laugh. I did chuckle. The time loss would be one of a few mental errors that would haunt us later. 

The next point haunts me still too.  We shot two on the break but gave those bodies back with a penalty (top of the pod hit on a dive – it happens – these were our penalties all weekend. Pod or hopper hit penalties). We shot another but we then gave two more almost immediately in exchange.  Devolved into a 2 on 1 in about 30 seconds.  3-2 Heat.

We know we can win the match.  And it looked as if we were going to tie it up on the next point.  We lost a 4 on 3 instead.  But still lots of time on the clock. 4-2 Heat.

We struck first and got Monville then get a shot in on Federov.  However, we spent a little longer than normal filtering but I was okay with it since we were still well above 3 minutes.  Searight caught one but Daniel made it out snake way and we repositioned to close. Stu shot Tyler and the rest fall.  We are one point down with about 2:50 left in the match.

I felt all we needed to do was be a bit quicker with our secondaries.  Thing was, Heat knew that too.  As I watched the next break, it was if Todd and I both had the same conversation with our teams.  We lost two quickly but I am in the pit begging (not too loud of course) for a penalty on Sam.  We got it and it was now 3v3.

What unfolded over the next 2 minutes was… crazy.  Aaron Pate made a WICKED wrap and snap shot on Chad George in the snake at about 30 seconds.  Daniel Camp got on his horse and fed the snake and went to Heat’s side of the field.  He saw Federov who had re-positioned and applied pressure.  Pate cleared and wrapped putting a shot on the back of Ryan Smith’s head before Federov shot him… just as Daniel shot Fedorov.  If Searight had 2 more seconds, we would have hit that buzzer and taken it into overtime… again. Or maybe Ryan gets a major… the world will never know.

5th place for the event.  As I understand it, we are the first rookie pro team to ever go undefeated in prelims and have the first-place seed headed into Sunday.  Not a bad consolation prize, however, we felt that had we got past Heat, the revenge tour obviously would have continued and very well may have culminated in another first in PB history…

We have to take these mistakes (Coming out flat, tandem line getting too long, penalties, clock management, coach not arguing for a call, etc.) and learn from them.  Trust me, they are fresh on our brains.  But I have to say, I am incredibly pleased with how my guys carried themselves. Not just with the way they played, they played great… but they really kept their composure and a “can do” attitude all weekend. I know the goal of a coach/team is to put wins on the board. But the more I watch these men overcome obstacles, haters/doubters, life events, and still maintain a positive and good attitude while bringing their A-game, the more I feel like we are chalking up wins in the right column. We will be better for it.  See you at Cup.  Until then…

Be water my friends.

10 Man Mech and Other Fairytales

If playing competitive 10-man mechanical paintball is like riding a bike, then I’m Joe Biden…

About to play my first match of 10 man mech!

I’m kidding. I’m not that bad.

Zen had the privilege of guesting with the Saints professional paintball program at this past weekend’s Pittsburgh Open Classic held at Urban Assault Paintball in McDonald, PA.  And let me tell you, every paintball player should experience a 10-man event like this in their career.  I highly recommend it, especially for competitive X-ball types.

Besides being there with your boys, you get to see and catch up with old friends you don’t see as often and, of course, make new ones. All while participating in a competitive adrenaline-pumping retro style of paintball.  While those things and the nostalgia were rather intoxicating, I couldn’t help but recognize something else.

I started my paintball career in the woods and have played throughout paintball’s progression from woods to pallet fields, to hyper-ball, to air-ball (I have played scenario games as well and those are a good time too).  But as a player and a coach only participating in “speedball” and/or X-ball the last 22 years, my original skill-sets that were needed for those classic styles of play, I found to have significantly diminished.  And I became hyper aware of this before the end of day 1.

The old man back in ’99 or so.

I am fond of saying Paintball is paintball and I still stand by that… albeit with a caveat or two. I’m not willing to eat crow just yet.  Whereas, yes, the basic principles of field walking, planning, and engagement are similar, there are so many more aspects to this style that make it… well…. larger?  No, that’s not the word… complex?  Yes, that’s it.  Complex.

Obviously, the scale is greater; 10 men instead of 5, and one 10 minute (or under ICPL rules 12 minutes) game to get it right as opposed to multiple points within 15 minutes.  And, of course, there are 4 completely different types of fields to walk as opposed to 1.

I must admit, I was incredibly excited about being a player for this event.  The Saints are led by my friends and incredibly experienced players Kevin Fillers, Adam Smith, and Shawn Terry.  My job was to play paintball.  JUST PLAY!  To do what was asked of me and do it the best I could.  But boy, was I in for an eye opener.

Let’s start with field walking.  Now, I am no stranger to field walking, much less walking multiple fields, or even strange fields in the woods.  But it became painfully apparent it is a perishable skill set.  As I stated earlier, scope and scale were significantly different and requires almost 4th dimensional thinking, specifically on one field.

*Zen Note – for those of you wondering what 4th dimensional thinking is, I am no expert but to sum up my understanding of it and the application of its use in this scenario, it is the ability to see “the invisible”.  To disengage your mind from your 5 senses and use your mind to feel and sense the unseen.  To give the unseen substance.

The event venue consisted of a Hyperball field, a Mounds field, a “Hybrid” field, and a Woods field.

The Hyperball field was pretty straight forward, even with 10 guys out there.  This type of paintball, in my mind, translates perfectly well.  It was obvious from the get go that owning the centers, especially the “D” side early, was paramount to winning.  Our first two matches were on this field.  I was supposed to play the 2nd match but after the boys dominated our first match, I wanted to keep that mojo going.  I sat myself so the team could continue that “momentum” (I put that in parenthesis as I recently read an interesting take that momentum in paintball is bunk.  The take was insightful but flawed.  But I digress).  By the way, this hyperball field had an awesome layout.  I regretted doing this later only because we didn’t get to play that field again.

The infamous “Mounds” field…  This one was my nemesis.  It did not like me, and I did not like it.  Which is funny because almost EVERYONE I talked to; this was their favorite field.  I played the top corner area near the net/road which appeared to have the highest early attrition rate on the field.  Walking this field, understanding threat location and probability, developing codes for it, was very interesting.  The guys came up with a zone/area approach which was brilliant and significantly helped my understanding of in-game data.  Trying to apply my normal process to the field walk, whereas it can work, took some finagling.  Luckily, I had some rather experienced guys there to guide me through it all.  This is the one field where the 4th dimensional thinking would have come in handy. Beware the single ball that falls from the above vegetation to land on your hopper below…in front of a ref. I shot 1 guy on this field… and was one of the first three deaths on the field both times we played it. Needless to say I was…. disappointed in myself.

The mounds field… and where I played. Or tried. Those who played it well are greater men than me.

The Hybrid field I felt I contributed the most to as I could actually see things now (both during the field walk and in game).  Solid Communication on this field was imperative.  Of course, solid communication is imperative in all paintball, but it was really stressed on this one specific to getting data from one end of the field to the other. I also had my best game on this field which is funny because I kept wishing I had got to play the hyper ball field… On this field, beware of players losing their minds at the end of the game (inside joke). Shot a few on this one and even lived to the end on one or two.

Old man back in the late 90’s on a “Hybrid” type field. Take this thing and put it in the woods. That should give you an idea of what it was like.

Finally, we had the woods field.  I thought this is where I would really shine.  And then I realized just how large and odd shaped this particular field was.  Cross field communication would be damn near impossible.  You would have to play 2 or 3 “mini games” on this field and hope things went well for your partners in their skirmish area of the field.  This field really stressed situational awareness of what was in front of you and what was potentially working its way around elsewhere to wreck you. A stream of paint would materialize out of nowhere! Old man had some good and some bad on this one. Helped break one game open which was fun.

Quick summary, the Hyperball field was pretty straight forward – roll your gun, work into important spots, take ground, deny them ground, slow steady squeeze.  The mounds was about taking ground early, showing one thing while actually doing another.  Stealth could win or blunt force trauma could win.  One game was won in about 2 minutes… dude just ran straight through the middle, shot 2-3 guys, grabbed the flag and ran back.  His own team didn’t even know what had happened!  Hybrid field was dependent on which side you got.  One side (the right) was better set up to take ground early on the top side vs the other.  Both had equal centers and bottom ends from what I could tell but the key here was blowing out an access point and then flooding it. The woods field was the one field that you could argue there was an advantage to be had from the coin toss (this decided who got to pick which side they wanted to play).  Best way to describe it would be there was a “top” side where you had the “high” ground and could take key areas quickly off the break.

I also found the aspect of scoring at these events fascinating as well.  The way you played a match may be determined by what was happening in your bracket from a points perspective as well as WHERE you were playing your opponent or where one of your opponents would be playing one of THEIR matches.  Very cool stuff.

The moral of the story is this type of play really pushes a speedball/X-ball player’s capabilities.  It takes you out of your comfort zone.  It makes you use ALL your skill sets and strains them to the max.  It pushes the senses.  I came away from the event thinking I (or even the Canes) need to do more of this recreationally on some off weekends as I think it can really round out your strategic game. We should always try something new to keep things fresh anyway. Who knows… you may find a new respect and love for it.

Beginning of day 2 things had clicked with me and I was able to tap into those old skill sets.  Of course, I had a lot of supportive help along the way from my teammates. And that’s what this is really about. Building the sport up and bringing new players into the fold. Having a good time.

I would like to send a big shout and thank you to my teammates:

  • Kevin Fillers
  • Shawn Terry
  • Adam Smith
  • Justin Bailey
  • Ben Foster
  • Ryan Gibbons
  • Josh Baske
  • Sam Silberg
  • Jason Perse
  • Adam Perkins

I hope I get the opportunity to share the field with you guys again.  You guys made the old man feel welcome, showed me a good time, and how cool this style of paintball can be! Thank you!

And thank you to another one of the best pit crews I have had to honor and privilege to be around! Pete and Isaac, you are awesome!

Be water my friends.

Dream Team

Recently I posted a photo of the New Orleans Hurricanes on social media where I quoted Andrew Carnegie.  He said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Unfortunately, we don’t see this type of thought embraced very often, especially in paintball. 

Everyone was smiling inside this huddle because we had just overcome a tough scenario. Because “team”

This past weekend I was asked by a player for advice on how to eventually go pro.  I have been asked this question quite frequently as of late, in one form or another.  A simple enough question really, but one that has numerous answers depending on who you are speaking with all while also weighing heavily on your circumstances and a myriad of other variables… and my answer is no different. Heck, I just got here.

Here are two more quotes for you from tried and true champions:

 “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan.

 “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

Sensing a theme here?

Big thank you to Cory Andrews of APP Photography

Teamwork is what usually leads to success in most endeavors.  Yes, there are exceptions but let’s talk paintball specifically.  Again, yes exceptions, but one would be considered irrational if you thought any successful paintball team achieved success and maintained said success through the simple efforts of individual players.

Teamwork has to have a strong foundation.  That foundation has to be trust.  Personal ambition can be, in some cases, admirable but it can and routinely does poison teams.  The team that removes ego, the team that puts the organization as a whole above the individual will usually survive longer and do better.  Most successful teams have figured out that if everyone “buys in”, has the same goals and are moving toward those goals together in a unified front, then it becomes a matter of when, not if, success will arrive. 

The strength of any team is made up of the individual members. The “weakest link” and all that… but you can overcome that “weakest link” bit if everyone recognizes that the strength of each member IS the team.  There is strength in unity which should lead to no weak links if everyone contributes in their own unique way.

I did an interview recently with Matty Marshall and he inquired about what we attributed the success of the New Orleans Hurricanes to so far.  The question intrigued me at first only because I realized he understood our goals.  To the outsider looking in, we are not successful.  In our first three events as a professional team, we have only made Sunday once.  We are currently sitting in 10th place for the series (and will probably drop to 12th based off what I see happening in Sacramento).  We have played 13 professional matches and only won 6 of them.  We were outscored at the Sunshine State 15 to 19, did better in Dallas 23 to 21, and fell again in Philly 13/17 for a total of 51 scored and 57 scored against. Hardly a success, right?  So why did Matty assume we were seeing success? 

There are a couple of reasons really.  One, because he is familiar with the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season as well as at each event. We are  meeting those goals as a first year rookie pro team.  And two, by most accounts, we aren’t doing too bad regarding the annals of history. But that still remains to be seen as there are still 2 events left (Chicago and Cup).

But I would be totally remiss if I didn’t state that the success is garnered from the guys being a close knit group, who understand the importance of “team”.  It is ingrained in our culture. And that’s a very important aspect. 

To me, teamwork is absolutely essential and quite honestly, the beauty of our sport.  When you have five guys out there, working as one, communicating, selfless, and in a flow state, man… it is something to behold. Even better if you are one of the 5. But if you missed or flew past the word “selfless” in that sentence, then you missed the most important piece of it.

Team, Squad, Crew, Tribe, Clan… Family

Whether most realize it or not, teamwork is the true definition of efficiency.  After all, 9 or 10 brains are better than 1.  I can’t remember who said it, but it struck me as so very true.  What does efficiency really boil down to other than doing something better than what was already being done?  And that is where we are seeing our success:  in the process of creating efficiencies.  The process of learning, the process of repetition, the process of trusting one another, the process of pushing one another, the process of trying to be just a little better than we were the day before. And yes, the process of losing and winning.

When you make that individual commitment to the team goal, you flip a switch that turns on accountability and selflessness.  When everyone has that light on, man that stuff will shine bright. It will drown out all the noise and hyper focus everyone on what needs to be done, what has to be done.

Yes, it takes time and make no mistake, we have been at this for a while.  But I believe we have kept the focus on the right things.  We always start with fundamentals.  We don’t lapse on those drills.  We don’t phone it in. We don’t go through the motions. We make sure it is productive. There are no attitudes on this team.  If we see something that needs to be mentioned, it gets said.  And no one gets offended (no betas here).

What is my role in all of that?  Easy.  Keep them focused on the important things that paint the big picture.  I recognize the things that may take us off course, that distract from what we really need to be doing, and kill them. I identify opportunities for my guys, push them to be their best, remove them from their comfort zones only to make that uncomfortable place comfortable and then develop strategic based concepts which allow my tacticians (the guys) to implement, make better, and execute.

Old and busted

So how did we get here and where is this all going?  Well, we started with a question from a player this past weekend… how do I become better/pro.

Besides getting out there every weekend and practicing the fundamentals and playing as much as you can?  Be something a team can’t do without.  Find a job or role that no one wants to do and get so good at it, you are the only name they think of when it has to get done. That.. and one other thing…

Be a great teammate.

Be water my friends,

Zen

2022 NXL Mid Atlantic Open Recap

As we headed into our 3rd pro event in Philly, the word for the team and the weekend was supposed to be “discipline”. Unfortunately, the word ended up being “disappointing”. That may sound harsh but sometimes it takes a little tough love to fuel one’s team and wake us up. Did we accomplish too much too fast? No. We are just beginning and I don’t believe we have met our full potential. That isn’t intended to sound any other way than I know what my guys are capable of. We did not rise to our potential nor meet our capabilities this past event. We know we can play paintball at the highest level. Beating those top tier teams as well as the lower tier teams has to happen consistently. We are not there yet as several opportunities were missed.

So here is my recap and my analysis of this past event.

Match 1 vs New York Xtreme

We knew headed into this match that Xtreme had a full and healthy squad. They were missing Jeri Caro and Pat Kraft in Dallas but had them back for this event. With the addition of Corey Hall, we thought their aggressive chaotic style would probably be tempered with some controlled d-side attacks. We were confident with our guns on the break and that was the initial plan. Play pocket with guns up, pivot off positioning, get up the field/expand quickly, and slowly squeeze. Perfect example would be the first point of this match. We kill their wide on the break d-side, take center and expand out d-side, this shifts a gun (or at least allows us opportunity to bully a gun) and we take snake as well… slow, steady squeeze on the throat.

That was how the weekend was supposed to go. That type of execution. It’s what I have come to expect from my guys.

Third point in we showed a hint of what was to come this event. Little dink outs. Getting clipped on a knuckle or the like. Just sloppy enough to give your opponent the advantage. We countered appropriately but squandered position. Justin Bailey tried to get clever and burn additional clock but eventually gets caught. The 4th point is another example of that expansion after we shoot Xtreme’s snake on the break. Xtreme countered well but we owned the “high ground” so to speak. A little slow on our reads for that one. That 5th point was not meant to be a defensive play. However, Xtreme had finally zoned up well and beat us to secondaries. Knowing what Xtreme had seen success with and what they would want, the next two points we decided to get our guns up early, shoot their 1 d-side and their center filter early in the first of those points (forcing them to expand into our already expanded guns). More of the same with next point – good zone control and expansion by my guys. We did play one more point and yes, we did play defensively. Mike Brown once again proved why he is on this roster. He shot Kraft in a 2 on 1 situation and then defended the buzzer. The 35 second point, we zoned up, they ran into guns and got a penalty… Johnny’s your uncle.

Match 2 vs Edmonton Impact

The 3rd time, they say, is a charm. This is not always the case in paintball, or at least if you are the New Orleans Hurricanes playing Impact for the 3rd time in your rookie pro season. I heard it said that we got their “adjustment” game. Their adjustment was to play the field like we did… they just did it better. Get your guns up, expand out through center aggression, back your ones up quickly, bully guns, win.

1st point we got a minor for a hopper hit putting us in a 4 on 3 situation. Stuart Ridgel got creative in the center in an attempt to get the drop and even the odds. He missed his shot and re-positioned to try and catch d-side sleeping. Unfortunately, so had Impact’s d-side (Cornell). They owned the snake and D’s and bullied our last two.

The next point a bad seam read (route/line) and an untimely death cost us. The point after that, we beat them to the punch but lost gunfights.

Next, we went toe to toe with their guns for a quick set up of a 3 on 2. Drew Bell took advantage and pressed the action d-side while Aaron Smith fed the snake. We got on the board but that would be the last time.

We continued to go blow for blow on the break with them. Next point a 2v2 which we lost. Now we are in a position where the clock is part of the equation. We had to take some bites meaning taking ground on a team who has guns like us on the break. Jacob Searight did his job, got in the snake, took ground and dug out some kills. Aaron Smith backed him up but lost a gunfight putting Searight in a bad scenario. However, Searight got squirrelly, almost clipped Zuppa in the corner but missed his shot. Great effort by my guy. We had 5 alive on the last point with one of those being dorito one. We even shot one of theirs on the break but gave Mouse the snake. We secondaried quick and had a chance to “turn” the field since Impact pressed the snake side. We matched them in the snake as well as got support that way. This is a point of contention for me as I feel we should have pressed the body d-side. Right before Stu traded with Mouse, Mouse shot our center push. Chaos ensued and it came down to a 1 on 1 between Aaron Pate and Justin Rabackoff. Pate has won a red coin once already this year but it didn’t happen this time. We needed to consider spread so we let Rab run the clock down.

Tough loss. This spread would end up costing us in the end.

Match 3 vs Seattle Thunder

This is the one that hurts the most from this weekend. Great guys on Thunder but this is a match we should have won.

We started off right by shooting their 1 on the snake side, spread snake corner, filtered center, and just started peeling them off. Next point, we won the break again but then gave them bodies with a minor for a pack hit. 1 to 1. Next, Thunder shot our 1 on D side followed by another quick kill and then took big ground (smart). Slow squeeze… 2 to 1 Thunder. They shoot two of us on the break next point. Thunder did a good job of creeping up to get a shot on Daniel Camp. I have to concede since I know Thunder will just sit with a 4 on 2 body advantage. 3 to 1. Our guns on the break show back up making it a 5 on 3 off the break. Smith made the snake, which allowed Stuart to clock in and find the seam. 3 to 2 now. Thunder took snake on the break. Smith matched him pretty quickly but they filtered to the snake wedge setting the trap. Smith got 1 cross field and eventually got a 2nd before trading with Sakaguchi. Drew Bell got a little sloppy in his bunker which makes it a 2 on 2. But Aaron Pate smoked Thunders D side attacker and between him and Daniel Camp, Scotty Grahams’ time was limited. Tied up at 3 and we have the momentum.

Then things went south. On the next point, Thunder shot our 1 on snake side and filtered very fast to both sides of center to trap us in pocket. What you didn’t know is there was an equipment malfunction on the d-side so we were one gun down. We killed one and missed an opportunity to get another and I have to concede it. 4 to 3. When we made it out 5 alive the next point to own the center early as well as pressed the dorito 3 shortly after, I knew we were going to tie it up again. It was a 5 on 3 our advantage… and then disaster struck. As Stu probed the center, Daniel Camp took a hard bounce and called for a check. The ref came in, checked him, and called him CLEAN! So Daniel got tight thinking time to stay alive and piece it together. He doesn’t shoot his gun. Unfortunately, another ref decided to throw a RED on him. This is where I get frustrated. If the first ref called him clean and you as a second ref decided you see a hit, just pull the player! There was no need for a red flag right there. You even see the first ref who called him clean looking confused… We should have won that point. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. I’m forced to concede and figure out how to score 2 in a minute ten. They zone up, we are forced into their guns, and we lost 6 to 3.

Inconsistent guns, some individual play mistakes, and bad communication cost us that match. After the match we discussed it and were once again, all on the same page.

Match 4 vs San Diego Aftermath

Prior to the event, this was the match I was most looking forward to. I think Aftermath and the ‘Canes match up well. Were I not coaching New Orleans, as a paintball fan in general, I would have wanted to watch this match. Big fan of Mike Hinman’s too so, there is that.

We tried setting the pace by getting an off the break kill and playing our game. We spread the field, Stu made a great trade… then we got a little sloppy D side allowing Aftermath in the snake. However, the one two punch of Aaron Pate and Daniel Camp won the point. Funny note – Daniel shot Thomas Kim cross field with his first ball and didn’t know it. Hence he and Pate trying to find the last body before Aftermath conceded the point. 1 to 0 us. We ended up in another 2 vs 2 the next point after some great counters from both teams. But it was the “Thunder and Lightning” team again of Pate and Camp who pulled off the win. 2 to 0 us.

So both teams survived the next two break outs. Aftermath positioned well in the first breakout with dorito 1 and center snake side brick. We peeled off their 1 on snake side but their center brick got 2 of us in quick succession. We fought back but not enough. 2-1 us. During the second, we took center dorito side first but they owned god and dorito 1. We dropped the first body by looking into a ball but took their god player almost immediately after. Mike Mesa made a great shot on Stu in the center and they built upon that kill pressing the issue making it 2 to 2.

We lost our snake 1 on the next point but countered well on the d-side with Drew and Stu taking good ground. But the clock started to grind here. About 3 minutes in Stu traded with Thomas Kim in dorito 3 but Aftermath made the snake and we didn’t see it. Drew Bell was at the dorito 4. Mesa tried to counter but got caught cross field opening d side up for Drew but not before Aftermath’s snake player wrecked us. I have to towel with just over 2 minutes left. 2-3 Aftermath.

But little did anyone know… I have a secret weapon for situations like this.

Britt Simpson.

In the chaos that ensues after Stu cut through the center, Frank Antetomaso made a mistake. Had he shot Daniel Camp, sat down and just shot cross to protect the box, Aftermath would have won the point. Instead, he ran down the snake and got shot by my boy Britt. This left Aftermath’s back center alone. Drew Bell launched past Britt to trade with the home and Britt, recognizing the opportunity, ran full send train style to follow Drew up and got the buzzer. Overtime. Incredible shot by Britt, incredible read by Drew, and incredible situational awareness by Britt again to keep us in it.

We knew Thomas hadn’t taken a deep route yet so we shoot for the dive. And we got it. Stu, knowing the count and that Aftermath went to snake side brick, understood he had to get that guy off the field. And he did. Unfortunately, we lost Drew filling out. This made it a 3 on 3 within the first 20 seconds of the overtime point. The next 4 minutes and 30 seconds would drive a coach to drink. Mesa started making moves down the d-side but Aaron Smith checked himfrom the god at dorito 2. So both teams are mirrored up snake side but Aftermath is wider with the dorito 2 compared to our home… When Aftermath made it to snake corner, I will admit I panicked a little… my guys saw it but still… until I saw Pate sneak out to the d-side and I was pretty sure Aftermath didn’t see that. But then Aftermath fed the snake! The chess game just got real! Daniel Camp recognized the situation, connected with Smith and sent him to the snake side wedge to bait the snake. But then Aftermath put snake corner into the snake as well! However, Pate took additional ground on the d-side into dorito 3, then dorito 4!! Smith launched and traded with the snake and on that move, Daniel repositioned to the snake corner! Aaron Pate, big gun swinging, smoked Mesa on the d-side! Hallberg decided to go forward and trade with Daniel, and Aaron Pate ran it in to win the overtime point. I decided it was okay to breathe again.

Great match up against a great team.

We end up 2 and 2 with a margin not good enough to snag one of the wild card seeds. We ended up 13th with Infamous and AC Diesel finishing ahead of us in 12th and 11th respectively.

That being said, I had a thought later that day as I watched the scores for the afternoon bracket unfold. As you may or may not know, the two wild cards came from the same bracket. So 4 out of 5 teams in the same bracket made Sunday. The two who won the bracket – Tampa Bay Damage and San Antonio X factor – and then the two wild cards – Portland Uprising and ML Kings. What did they all have in common or why does this matter you may ask? They all got 4 or greater point spreads against the Latin Saints. Particularly Uprising and ML Kings… Uprising with a 6 point win over Saints and Kings with a 5 point win. Just an observation… I am not implying in any way that we should have made it. We shouldn’t have… not with the way we played. But I found that interesting the way it played out.

Key takeaways from this event. The issues that plagued us are not our normal issues. The guys know to take a beat/take a breathe when they make those key bunkers, they know to connect/communicate with their teammates on the field, they know not to play individual paintball or try to do it “alone”, and the twos usually follow the ones up quicker. Oh, and winning those low body situations (3 v 2’s and 2 on 2’s)

We have voiced it to one another and we all agree these issues cost us. But right now, it’s just words. We have to put it into action. And we will. Time to come back stronger for Chicago.

Be water my friends.

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (cont)

Continued from previous blog on May 7th

Saturday

During that first point on Saturday against Columbus LVL, our guns paid off early as we dropped 2 of them on the break. However, we almost gave it up when we let their center player get dynamic. But the boys maintain discipline with comms and we start the match by winning the first point 3 alive. 1-0. We take their snake player on the next point but they shoot our center. Then we lose our snake shortly after. They had successfully moved the skirmish line and, by default, had a better spread. They get a minor but the damage was done. 1-1. Next point we wanted to get eyes up. Knowing they would take center, we went a little short on snake to key up on him with our own short delay to center. It didn’t play out the way I had envisioned it. But hey, that’s free will right? The beauty of this though is, in the skirmish, Mike Brown takes ground D-side and puts them on their heals to close it out (keep an eye on Mr Brown. Great communicator, good field awareness, and solid gun). 2-1. Now, like Heat, we noticed LVL was somewhat conceding D-side so we decide to spread the field early on the next point and try our little bait and switch again for their center… and we get him. During the close, the LVL tower player gets smoked on the elbow and continues to play but it was borrowed time with a 3 on 1. I only mention this because, had he drawn the penalty, we would have been on the power play next point. Woulda coulda shoulda. 3-1. Anyway, lots of time on the clock (somewhere north of 8 minutes) so, we aren’t taking anything for granted. We had just shown them a D-side bite with a short snake and delayed center. We had noticed their center played tall so we were going to take a shot at him and end up getting a shot on their center attacker on the break. However, we let them take ground D-side as well as have the center with a secondary. But here is where our comms came into play. We really have been emphasizing this at practice. Aaron Smith takes snake, misses the center but gets the info across field. The guys also realized LVLs snake side wasn’t pushing which was odd. So it let’s us make a move and get a two for one followed by the squeeze play built off the chaos. 4-1. Still lots of time left in this match though and LVL starts showing why they are a Pro team. Their controlled chaos on the next point made the difference (with a little help from our impatience). 4-2. We anticipated they would want to take ground on the following point and expected us to get guns up and play short. We decide to take a big bite D side in an effort to get wide and make them wary of a hard press. Unfortunately our D-side bite gets peeled off. We sneak a shot on their center but then… a grenade goes off in our back line. Just before my boy takes their side of the field to close out the point, we lose our last in the back… no point and still 4-2. Points like that you have to understand/what happened and move on. And we did. So we know their was around 3 minutes on the clock. 2 point game. Lots can happen and it did. LVL scores the point but not before Drew Bell almost steals it from them and kills additional time off the clock. 4-3. I know that if I can get 5 out alive we will win the point. I guess that LVL, with the amount of time left on the clock, is not going to try to take too big of bites but rather spread to try and make something develop. So we take center, dedicate a gun to D side and shoot the snake. It pays off. Happy for the guys who had never beat LVL in semi-pro to beat them in our first pro square off. Game: Hurricanes 5-3

Lots of trades in the center at this event. If you could do it clean, you had a distinct advantage

We are now sitting at 2-1 with the potential to go 3-1 and punch our ticket into Sunday.

Right before our last match of the prelims against the MLKings, I told the guys in our huddle, “We do not rise to the challenge. That denotes that the challenge is above us and nothing is above us. It is in front of us and we will meet it head on and with extreme prejudice.” And that was the mentality we would use to fuel this match. We knew the Kings had a rather aggressive approach to this layout. They would throw a body on the cross D side to try and slow our own D side, set up in the center to try and contain snake aggression, and then throw body after body at the snake to try and bully and push there. We felt our approach was a pretty good counter to that. Unfortunately, we ended up with a bad start right before point one. It was a broken play and my guys tried to salvage it and almost did but Donaldson and Betancourt had other plans. 0-1. The next point we trade snake players, we trade center players, they get a penalty, and then a heads up read by Betancourt costs us again. 0-2. When the Canes came into the pit after that second point, we took a breath, calmed down, and did a mental reset. We went to bread and butter knowing the Kings would go meat-grinder for the snake. We almost drop the point but head on swivel from my guys saves us. 1-2. Too close so time for the next gear. Next point we went heavy center to get more guns on the King’s favorite approach. We get the first and second kill from the snake, draw the gun to the snake and cut through the center. 2-2. Kings key up on our center finally but we pick another off out of their center. Donaldson should have got a penalty for a spin when Drew Bell dropped the hammer but no flag. Paintball is full of karma and Daniel Camp gets a bounce… don’t give my boy a second chance because the majority of the time he will make you regret it. And he did. He ends up making the most of that second life winning another 1 on 1 coin. 3-2.

Now… I need to explain something about the next point. No, it was not planned and was not a “Zen” rope a dope. What you witnessed was one of the most selfless acts of a player I have seen in a very long time. We had 3 Aarons in the pit at this event. Two players (Aaron Smith, Aaron Pate) and one former player (Aaron Barnes) who was now assisting the team. We are up by one. Some jackwagon behind my guys on the box starts yelling “The Canes have 6! The canes are starting with 6!”. Thinking that maybe two Aarons were called and knowing that if you start with 6 it is an automatic swing point to the Kings, my boy stepped off the box to avoid the penalty and trusted his guys. Because of this amazing deed, and him putting good back into the world, (not too mention our lucky charm and stalwart survivalist Justin Bailey in on the point) the Canes win the 4 on 5 point even with the tomfoolery of our opponent’s pit. That is selflessness and that is what the Canes are about. Trusting each other. Now Aaron said he screwed up and was incredibly sorry. I say he just showed me one of the many reasons he is wearing a Hurricane jersey. 4-2.

Selflessness – great quality in a player

The next point we wanted to spread the field and put ourselves in positions to counter. To some, it looked like a clock kill and, for the most part, it ended up being one. I’m not mad. The goal was to get guns up, place the defense D side for center control, take snake corner to contain and then push. But the Kings were fast on their secondaries which pretty much trapped us. I told the guys in the pit, “They respect our guns.” And I guess they did. Because even when they were on the power play half way through the point and at the 50, we were able to burn over 3 minutes. 4-3 with under a minute to go. Now the kings have to come. We take ground in the center and set up the cross. Love the heads up decision by my guys to go get the buzzer. Game: Hurricanes 5-3

And then there were 8 headed to Sunday.
And we were among them.

Sun Tzu would say, “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” Were he alive today, he would have said the same thing here. It’s about balance.

The hard work, constant pressure to better ourselves, and TEAMWORK had, to this point, paid off. We were happy with our progress but knew there were small mistakes that we could not allow to occur on Sunday. After all, we had pulled Edmonton Impact again and they were looking darn near flawless at this event. They were the only undefeated team in the prelims. We would have to be darn near flawless too. We discussed how the game would slow down… we anticipated some long points and that we would have to be on point each and every one of them. We have the tools to be successful against these top tier teams. But until we beat one of them, it’s just pillow talk.

Point one was a “feeler”. Both teams essentially go pocket trying to get 4 guns up. We lose our 1st snake side attacker and Impact does some quick secondaries. Stu misses his first shot on JC and then trades with him at center. Impact recognizes opportunity and again fills out on snake and d-side, tightening the noose. Impact’s discipline really showed here. This point was a great example of what I talked about above regarding the game slowing down. A three and a half minute point with a slow pressure squeeze. 0-1. Point 2 we see Axel on the field. We drop their snake side 2 (I think it was Resar) and Aaron Pate, who had been a consistent and reliable anchor all weekend, pushes D-side to counter. Regrettably they make it wide on us D-side as well. This is probably because we had 1 or 2 guys doing the same job for a brief second which gave a window to Impact to sneak into dorito 2. However, they didn’t see Drew Bell sneak out snake side and he drops the dorito 2 player for Impact. Once we dropped Axel, it became similar to the first point just with the roles reversed. A 2 minute point. 1-1. We decide to press the pace. We pride ourselves on our ability to shift gears so we take ground snake side, center, AND d-side. Unfortunately, we lose our snake side attacker and they get a quick clean trade in the center. They executed well and we didn’t process fast enough. 1 minute point. 1-2. The next point Impact shows off their gun skills as we lose our d side 1 and our center to his first engagement. Matt Hamilton goes offensive in the snake like a champ and Drew Bell tries to slow the bleeding by taking the center. Impact wins the gun fights though and we are down 3-1. Impact is dialed in on that snake lane as we lose our snake on the break again. They were in the 50’s before you know it and we are down 4-1. At this point, my mind is thinking I have to get 5 guys out alive. I decide to use the snake side tower and get a d-side asset to push the action while getting as many guns up as we could. It pays off as Impact gets a penalty, the guys do our meticulous push polish things off. 4-2. We needed that. It’s a 2 point game with a little over 5 minutes left. We can do this. Then JC pulls a three pack on us (we’re going to get you JC… and your little dog too!).

Soon JC…. soon.

5-2 with just over 4 minutes. Still doable I’m thinking. We take the snake side cube in hopes of catching Impact when they set up to contain and plan for a fast filter. Knowing that the center and the snake side are your fastest access, we put assets in place to find the hole. We make snake, get crafty in center and keep two guns anchored to control counter punches. Not as fast as we had hoped but we score the point. 5-3. Now… we are down 2 points with 2 minutes left…against Impact… who have shot one of us off the break every point. We have to move into their guns. If you watch the point unfold, even us losing the player on the break didn’t matter. We are attacking the snake. We are pressing the d-side as opposed to the center. We get into position and here is where the real disadvantage is when you find yourself in these scenarios. Not a lot of time to communicate data. Don’t get me wrong, you SHOULD… but most of the time your guys are probing for holes in a hurry with limited information. So we work our way into great position aaaaaannnd… my friend Mike Zuppa catches one of us and another player catches Daniel… we concede the point and realize its time to go big. A valiant effort by my boys in that last point. Game: Impact 6-3

Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is always an orphan.

There is a quote by Winston Churchill that I have always appreciated. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And THAT is what the Canes will do. We will strive to do our best each and every time we step on the field, whether at practice or at an event. Hopefully you approach your life the same.

Final comments: loved the venue but please, next time… make the pro pits the same size. I don’t think I have been spackled that much in a long time. I kid… but not really.
Congrats to Tampa Bay Damage! Incredibly happy for Joey and the guys. They looked amazing.
We will get back at it in preparation for Philly. Another incredibly tough draw so we need to come as prepared as we can.
#Rollcanes

Be water my friends

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (Part 1)

We must have walked that field for 5 hours. We were going to leave nothing to chance. We saw the opportunity and we were going to bite it on the ass, develop lockjaw, and get dragged to death.

The two Aarons contemplating a theory from coach. Thanks to NXL media gang for the shot!

Prior to this event, and in anticipation of the blind layout, I was developing a field walking process that utilized a coding system of geometry and statistical analysis that would, in theory, speed up our field IQ. The idea was to pack 2 weekends into 5 hours. We tested it the weekend before the event by throwing up a random field and then trying it out. It worked for the most part. I was pleased thinking this was another tool on our belt. But when it came right down to it, walking the field with my players and getting their input and individual perspective was the key. I have some smart fellas on my crew. The guys provided me with excellent feedback and data which allowed us to develop some solid plans. And their capabilities really shined this weekend too when it came to execution. I got to really coach this weekend and though the stress was high, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Now, before I get into this recap, I want to address a couple of things… First, I want to make a comment about my friend and captain of the team, Stuart Ridgel. If you watched the webcast, you probably heard his name a lot. Stuart played lights out this past weekend, hands down/no doubt. He played the center of the field better than many of the seasoned standard bearers for that spot. But I want to make something perfectly clear… he cannot do what he does without the other 4 guys out there on the field with him. He knows it, I know it, and his teammates know it. I am not taking anything away from my boy’s performance because it bordered on legendary… but next event you very well may hear another name(s). My point is that this team is way bigger than any one player. I have a great team of men under me and their work ethic along with their discipline is a strength I wouldn’t trade for 10 Ollie Langs.

Secondly, I want to address expectations. My expectations are high but reasonable. Always will be. And here is why:
I have some real maturity on this team. My guys are Dads… great dads. My guys are husbands or boyfriends… great husbands and great boyfriends… but they are all working men. Career men. They grind all week at jobs, come home and take care of their families, and then on the weekends, they put that same energy and effort into their grind on the field. They do this because they already know that is what it takes to be successful. We manage our own expectations and focus on our goals. We met our goals at the first event. And we exceeded them at this one. We should be proud of that and we are. But we all know there is much more work to do and it isn’t going to be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. And if we fall short or fail, then we learned and you better keep an eye on us because the more we learn the stronger we get.

Check out Kurrite Photography. Pretty vivid stuff!

A few of you have asked me what are we doing differently to prepare. And the answer is the same… nothing. We haven’t changed anything. We are highly motivated and recognize that accomplishing difficult tasks takes hard work and discipline. We approach everything we can with a positive mindset, we set goals (and write them down), we track progress, we stay focused, we stay humble, we have fun, and we DON’T listen to the “noise”. We are #oneheartbeat.

With all that being said, we understand consistency is key. And it will be tough because this sport and the teams in our division are all tough. This event was a step in the right direction but Philly is just around the corner and there is still a lot of work to do.

Zen note* before I forget…
THANK YOU – Ryan Williams for the feedback and sounding board, Matty Hotard, Andrew Rodriguez, and Justin Spencer for not only being clutch along with the rest of the pit crew but dang if you guys can’t motivate with some speeches. Kellie, Jessica, Brad, and Barnes – you guys are the best!
Pit Crews are often overlooked but not on this team and not on my watch. From the bottom of my heart and the team’s, thank you for your help. Because of all of you, we could focus on the tasks in front of us knowing you had it under control.

FRIDAY

The 1st match against New York Xtreme was interesting. We were the first two teams playing the field so, both teams were feeling things out. As a coach who uses tendencies and statistical analysis during matches, I knew this first game was going to be a grinder. I wasn’t worried about the play calling but was prepared to be flexible. I knew we had good “theories” because that was all they were until execution. The majority of the time, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Planning is important, but adaptability is essential and that was the name of the game for this event. I was confident in our gun placement, laning, and zone development. But the variable was our opponent on a blind layout. Especially given the “chaotic” element of Xtreme. And for the most part I was right. Those first two points, we were just trying to go too fast. I remember telling the guys, take a beat… check off, check in, and execute… and once my guys had those first two points of data under their belts, we were good. No one wants to go down early (something we have got to stop doing lol) but there was still a TON of time left on the clock. We slowed it down a hair, rolled our guns, checked off our threats and used the center to remove pressure from the wings. We wanted to move the skirmish line and it worked. Set up in the center, get the snake to catch up, draw the guns and finally take ground on the D side to close the loop. I kept thinking Xtreme would counter with their own center and was putting assets in place to address but they didn’t do so until late in game. By then, we had a good groove/rhythm going. They may talk on the field but those dudes are some cool cats off of it. Game: Hurricanes 7-4

Not a bad start. Lessons learned.

We had a chance to scout Heat during their match against the MLKings. We knew Chad George and Ryan Moorhead were really going to pressure the snake side 50. So, the first point we set up a trap. It worked with Moorhead taking the bait. Our guns on break paid off as well which certainly didn’t hurt. But it’s Houston Heat. They will adjust and they did. You can’t throw a rock at that team and not potentially hit an elite player. Next point we got a little sloppy in our bunkers. Can’t be doing that against a top tier team or any team in this division for that matter. Next point we conceded the center off the break to get that snake side kill and it worked. Because it worked, it allowed us to take the center immediately after on a delay. Yes, it is a gamble but no risk, no reward. However, this is the one that would haunt us. It is a 3 on 2 but because teams exit the field through the back center, we lost the count. The guys still thought it was a 3 v 3 with an opponent snake side. We let Federov spread to the d corner and allow Monville (I think it was him, don’t remember) to get out of that center laydown to the 1st snake tower. Then they proceed to pick us off. Opportunity squandered and a lesson learned. Next we wanted to go big and see what happened. We knew if we could make the spots, we could control that center much quicker. It worked… but guns on the break and a minor penalty against Heat helped. We knew Heat only put one gun (sometimes two) on the Dside so we decided to take a big bite there while getting our guns up. Truth be told, it was communication and discipline between the last 3 Canes that won that point. Moorhead got crafty on us in the next point. I actually thought Stu saw him and was countering him when he went up… so now it’s 4-3 Heat with 1:43 left in the match. We were in good position but a minor penalty for a pack hit essentially sealed the deal. At this point I am thinking about point margin. It was under a minute, we need to take the loss. And so we did. If you are wondering why we played the 8 seconds left, we thought we might get a little more laning practice in (did you notice how many of Heat we shot on the break?). One or two less mistakes and that is a different match. One thing I learned as a coach is certain elite players will always be given the benefit of the doubt. That’s twice now where an obvious hit turned the tide and cost us at a crucial point in the game. But it is what it is. You move on because that one point isn’t what ultimately decided the game. Game: Heat 5-3

And some more lessons learned… these are the tough ones

Friday night, we did our homework. We had a later start the next morning as out first match would be at 10am so we stayed up a little later discussing our approach to the LVL and Kings matches. We thought LVL would adjust from the previous day and felt we had a good grasp of their game while feeling confident in our planning. ZEN NOTE – In Semi Pro, the ‘Canes had played LVL 3 times and never beat them. This was a driver for my guys headed into this match.

To be continued…. Next week, not next month

Be water


Rec them? Darn near killed ’em!

Recently, I was able to get out on the paintball field with friends for several hours of recreational fun. Here’s what I absolutely love about weekends like this besides the fact I get to play; there is no expectation save one – have a good time. I get to cut up with my friends and play ball. It always reminds me of why I started playing this sport in the first place. The sheer fun and joy one finds playing paintball with your friends. Sure, the competitiveness and excitement of the sport were aspects that drew me to the game but the comradery within those aspects is what has ultimately kept me in the game. Us against them and no matter what happens, we would still win out because, well… we were us and they were them.

I wasn’t there to coach, teach, help (this always happens anyway), or scout new talent (although I do keep an eye on certain players development and take notice of newer players who show promise), run a practice, learn a layout, or drill. Nope, I was there to have fun with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing all those things. And it doesn’t mean if I am asked for help that I won’t. As a matter of fact, I am happy to do so. I am opinionated after all (and that’s all it is, my opinion – my personal view on something). But something my friends constantly rag me about is this; when I am at the field where the goal is to play and have fun, I need to focus on THAT. Unfortunately, I can’t help myself sometimes when I see something that could help someone improve. I want to help. This is not ego. This is genuine interest in helping those who enjoy the game get better at it.

This weekend was more of the same I’m afraid. I sincerely tried to stay mission focused which was having fun. But I did find myself helping on a few fronts. However, I still had a great time!
Interestingly enough, my friends and I chose to have fun during a layout weekend for the upcoming SPL (Social Paintball League). A few teams had shown up to run points in preparation for the event happening the 9th and 10th of April at Big Indian Paintball in Perry Georgia (this past weekend at the time of this writing).

*Zen note – Big shout out to the two teams who were at this practice and focused on the event. My boys on I-75 and Dangerous Toys. The I75 crew won their division in both 3 man and 5 man and the Dangerous Toys placed both 2nd and 3rd in the D6 3 man division!

Our plan was simple. Step out on the field and play against competitive teams even though we hadn’t played together much at all in the last few years. We told ourselves, nothing matters, go forward, attack! and have fun. And we did. It was a blast and we laughed a lot.

But, as usual, I noticed some things and felt inspired to comment on them this month. Three things actually:

  1. Pace – team practices that involve more than two teams are always a little screwy because different teams (hopefully) have set different goals or have different ways of approaching scrimmages. One thing that shouldn’t be different is the pace. Practices that involve multiple teams should be organized prior to the first point run. Establish or agree to a rotation or system that will get everyone playing time. Have someone or a couple of people in charge of keeping the games/points moving. This person (people) needs to understand clock management and be familiar with or have a contact he can communicate with for each team. The point is to get as many points and looks in as humanly possible. Have a game plan, show up prepared with what you want to accomplish, preload paint, get paint and air after every point, and be ready on the box when called.

    Now, there are several subsets about pace we can go into here. Especially dependent on the amount of teams present. Three teams is easy… even four. Practices with more than that can be a cluster but not totally unmanageable. All in all, have a steady pace. 3-5 minutes between points is good. Anything greater than that is boarding on unacceptable.
  2. After point discussion – What is the purpose of scrimmaging teams at a layout practice? If you said to learn the field, you are only partially correct (about a 1/3rd correct actually). But I digress. After you play a point, we need to ask ourselves a few questions:

    What did we do well?
    What did we do poorly/what could we improve?
    What did we learn?
    How do we remedy?

    If you are not having these discussions (or something to this extent) and having them efficiently then you’re missing the whole point of the practice. If all you’re asking is did anyone see the move you made or how you “blasted that fool”, you’re wasting valuable time and energy. Come together as a team or under the coach and have a discussion about what happened and why and then understand what you will try to accomplish with the next point.
  3. Learning the field – this technically is part of number 2 above. If at the end of the day, there is a player that still doesn’t have an understanding or confidence on how to approach certain in-game scenarios, you have wasted your time (or need to consider some other options surrounding that player). The point is to see situations, scenarios, and the like and to understand what needs to happen when you see them at the event. A road map to success so to speak. By the end of practice, players should have a relatively good understanding of how the field plays and what obstacles they will face at the event.

    I am often amazed when I watch a player face the same situation time and time again on the field and they continue to make the same mistake. I actually did this during my time on the field at the recent rec day I was speaking about at the beginning of this blog… I got caught by a blind shot… twice. After that second time, I didn’t get caught again… as a matter of fact, I used that aspect to my advantage.

    The point of all this is simple – manage your time effectively at practice. Not everyone has access to a private field or a closed practice. If you find yourself at a layout practice the weekend before the event with a bunch of teams, have a plan and insist on efficiency. Get your reps. You will be glad you did (usually).

    Be water my friends.

2022 Sunshine State Major Pro Debut

Now that the dust has settled on the first event, and I have somewhat caught up on my real life responsibilities, I wanted to get this written before I got too focused on Dallas. This will be a stream of thought so bear with me.

I will admit, the event was somewhat surreal. That first morning headed into the Uprising match seemed like any other paintball match. It was odd really… it didn’t feel any different, at least for me. We were there to play and do what we do. The only difference was there were people watching from the stands and there were cameras around. It actually all seemed “smaller” than I expected if that even makes sense. Don’t get me wrong. Been on the pro field plenty of times. But I don’t think we let the moment get to us. And that was good.

The New Orleans Hurricanes – Photo courtesy of NXL

We wanted to set the pace in our first match. In other words, be first to key positions on the field. Something else I wanted to do is come out and show we can shift gears effectively. In order to do this, I decided to use two lines for this event. Some questioned my approach but I believe in each one of my guys. They each bring a strength and they all need to be tested. Yes, I believe in running the horses (who is performing best at that moment)… but leading up to this event, everyone showed me they were ready to play. So that’s what I did.

In that first match, the guys executed the game plans well and succeeded in setting that pace. Our lanes were good, our zone control was as good as it could get most points, our aggressiveness and counters were good. No, we were not perfect but that is understandable. The guys were playing their first pro match against a veteran pro team. We wanted to be first to the punch, get our guns up, control the zone, then get on the attack. We were a little sloppy that first point but Stuart Ridgel made a great read to finish it. Point 2 was solid execution from the guys. We knew Uprising would want to take ground that 3rd point as they hadn’t seen success in the pocket so we keyed up and shut it down with some good laning. Things got interesting on the 4th point. We wanted to stay on the gas but by that time Uprising had found a breath. However, the composure and communication from my guys was solid. When we clipped the d-side player, I knew we were going to take the point, at least from a position perspective. Unfortunately, the pucker factor kicked up when we lost Britt Simpson from D side but Justin Bailey made the read and traded with the center. This could have been played a hundred ways but I’ll take it. And of course, that left Aaron Pate in a one on one. Recognizing he needed to protect the buzzer, he did just that. Here’s something you may not know. When Pate went forward and shot Graham Arnold, he did so because he had no paint left. Big shout to my boy for winning a red/gold coin! Our second pucker factor moment was point 5 where we get a penalty. I thought Uprising was going to head to the corner and throw a guy under him. So we keyed up on that lane and got the wide kill. The penalty on us was thrown bang bang..like fast. Luckily, Drew Bell recognizes our situation and presses the issue. Great shift by the team to counter punch in a down body situation. The final point we continued to pour the gas but so did Uprising. Clutch play and zone control won the point though. Interestingly enough, we didn’t know it at the time, but we had just met all 4 goals we had set for this event.

Aaron Pate wins a One on One coinguy goes through gloves EVERY match.

The New Orleans Hurricanes had just won our first match in the Pro division against a seasoned team. But we all knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. We refocused and set our sights on Impact. We would get a chance to scout their one game before we stepped on the field with them.

The Impact match is where I, as a coach, made my first mistake and failed my team. I’ll get to that in a moment. We knew this was going to be a major test of our capabilities. You can say whatever you want at a moment like this to your guys; “Paint breaks on them just like anyone else” and “I don’t care what their jersey says, your jersey says New Orleans Hurricanes and that means you deserve to be here and you play YOUR game”. First point we let them be first and take ground. The second point Impact’s guns off the break were spot on and they closed immediately, essentially cutting us off from a spread. 3rd point was more of the same. 4th point what can you say… we are talking world class guns here from a top team in the sport and Axel was in our snake before we knew the down count. But here’s the thing… at no point did we consider ourselves out of the match. There was still a lot of time on that clock. And we now had a confirmed understanding of their approach. Don’t get me wrong – NO ONE wants to go down 4-0 against Impact. But we figured out how to take their game-plan away. We shifted some guns and found one hole. We dropped Zack Hill and Trevor Reasor got shot on the pack as he left his bunker to trade with my guy. Ref 04 wiped him off after the check. Drew was able to turn the field though. 4-1 now.

I remember thinking after that point …

We knew heading into this event, it was a chaotic field. You can build off that chaos or let it destroy you. Obviously we want to build off of it and go forward. We traded with several bodies in the next point and came out ahead. Matt Hamilton made the snake and did damage which is what we needed. It’s now 4-2. We knew they wanted snake corner and we knew they would go short D side in an effort to bleed the clock counting on gun skills. So we put the guns on the snake, took ground there as well and used the center to slow the d-side in case I was wrong. We beat them to the snake and started digging out the kills. 4-3 and we are within 1. I’m thinking to myself, “if I am Impact how do I adjust?” Then I thought their ego may get the best of them. They were thinking, “Guys, get to your spots and just shoot these guys.” So, I thought we should make them show us those guns again. We gamble they would think we would try to make it out 5 alive with a conservative break to get our guns up but instead we took big bites. It paid off. 4-4, tie game. However, Impact would show us those guns again in the next point. 5-4. Some will say I shouldn’t have conceded the point when I did and that we should have thought about point margin. Trust me, I was thinking about point margin but I also recognized that my boys had dug and fought hard to come back and I was going to give them the opportunity to win this match. We would take the snake wedge but they would beat us to the snake on the next point. Zuppa catches Stu entering the seam but Drew catches Zuppa. This gives us the body advantage as Matt Jackson attempted to cross to d side earlier and failed. And then we had the snake… Aaron Smith gets in there which draws the gun allowing d-side to pressure. This is a pick your poison field and Impact chose theirs…with some help from a ref. Now… this next part is very crucial and where I made a mistake. Justin Cornell of Impact gets shot by Britt Simpson. Justin then proceeds to put paint on Britt and Drew (Britt told me he will never be that nice again and I believe him). What does the ref do when he sees the hit on JC? He simply pulls him and doesn’t throw the red flag. Even the crowd roared their disapproval. A hopper hit is a yellow if you pull the trigger (they didn’t hesitate to pull the yellow on Stu in the Uprising match). A hopper hit and then you shoot my guy much less two of them? That is and should be a textbook red flag. They should have pulled Justin and his snake player and Impact should have played down a body the next point putting the ‘Canes on the power play with 1:08 left. A 5 on 4 headed into that last point… who knows what would have happened. But what SHOULD have happened is I should have marched my Sicilian/Irish butt right over to Jason Trosen and said I want that last play reviewed and I want Impact playing a man down. I didn’t. I got caught up in determining what we should do next and didn’t think to do it. That will not happen again. The only good thing that comes out of it is that my boy Daniel Camp beats Nick Leival in a one on one with one of the coolest matrix-esque moves in paintball and gets a red/gold coin! 5-5. We were in Xball now… hats off to Impact on that last point. They did what they needed to do… 6-5 final with the win going to Impact. We were now sitting on a 1-1 record heading into the next day.

Daniel Camp wins a one on one coin!

We had scouted Diesel and the Russians. My initial thought was, Diesel will adjust. Pocket was not working for them. So let’s take this data we had on them with a grain of salt until we can review their fist match tomorrow. After reviewing our data on the Russians and re-watching their games, I didn’t see them needing to adjust too much. They played a very straight game. Bully a gun with two and take ground. Super fast and aggressive. We knew we needed to fight fire with fire. We thought we had the right approach. But then, everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.

The Red Legion match was the one I was most interested and excited to play. These guys were back to full strength and are a machine. This would be another big test and boy was it. We actually bounced both their wide runners on the break in the first point. Woulda coulda shoulda… they didn’t break so, doesn’t matter. Control what you can control right? But our guns were there. Second point our guns were there again and we had position but the Russians had better field awareness than us. I’ll be honest with you… I don’t exactly know what happened on that 3rd point… they ran guns up wherever they wanted. We stick Kirill but then a grenade went off in our backfield. Jacob Searight tries to save the point with a great counter aggressive move but it is was too late. The next point we were just out-played. It’s going to happen at this level. 4-0. But we had been here before. We knew we had to push the pace harder and we did. We won some gun fights and pressed forward to put a point on the board. The next point both teams shot each others snake side 1’s but we take the center first. Thought we had them contained but we let legion spread out of the D-side can. We continue to press but we get caught each time. 5-1. “Be first, be fast, but check off – there is still plenty of time in this match”. We shot their D-side the next point but draw a minor. 6-1. We are now 1 point away from being mercied. But my guys kept their cool. I started doing the math with us being down by 5 with 6.5 minutes left. We realized we had time and we could still make a game of it. We shifted away from the two line approach, adjusted some line personnel to highlight what we wanted to do. Heavy guns up with a heavy center push to increase statistical survival on break. It pays off and we win the point in under the average time required. I figured we had a minute ten per point and we did it in a minute two if memory serves. We were ahead of the curve. 6-2. We made one more mild adjustment with the guns and it pays off again. 6-3. The guys were feeling it now. We know Kirill wanted to beat us to the center so we positioned for it. We moved the skirmish line to the 40 (save for the snake) and we closed it to within 2. 6-4. And we were still ahead of the average time per point necessary. But now we are in x ball. The Russians call a time out. The point starts and we end up with a 4 on 3 advantage. Then it became a 3 on 3 with just over 2 minutes (hey, the Russians are great gun fighters). Now, I will admit… I was considering point spread as the point evolved. Two small mistakes cost us that point. Again… I almost didn’t towel. But then I looked at my guys, they were composed and we are discussing what had happened at that point. One more baby. Lets go. Say what you want but my guys gave it their all in that last point and that match. I was smiling internally even with the loss.

Be sure to check out Kurrite Photography at https://www.kurrite.com/ and on IG at kurrite_photography

The next 2 hours were a roller coaster. There were some outside factors that may have “iced” our flow. But anyone who looks at outside factors like that and says that’s why we lost is a loser. You have to perform and execute no matter what. By the way, none of my guys let that stuff get them. This was me analyzing as I have a tendency to do. This is paintball. And AC Diesel came to play just like we did against our other 3 opponents. We knew what they wanted to do and we let them do it. We missed shots, played sloppy/loose, and the guys knew it. Hats off to Mark Johnson and his crew. But that is the difference at this level… consistency is key. I remember shaking hands with Diesel and saying to them, “Thank you for the education. Thank you for the lesson.” And I genuinely meant it. My guys are better for it.

Summation of the first event, we played well but we have a long way to go if we want to hang with the teams in this division. There are approximately 200 players who get to play at this level and we deserve to be among them. Yes, we had a good debut but we are not resting. We are learning. And we will continue to learn.

We set 4 goals headed into this event:

  1. Win a point
  2. Connect points (win two points back to back)
  3. Win a match
  4. Don’t get last

We succeeded in meeting all 4 goals at this first event. For that I am thankful and pleased. But there is more to do. More goals need to be added on top of those 4. These 4 will go with us the rest of the season. They won’t change. But goals 5 and 6 will.

A good friend of mine summed up the New Orleans Hurricanes pro debut in a rather succinct and profound way. He said, “You guys ate from every buffet table. You got a 6-0. You got 6-0’d. In bad weather conditions. Got in a close back and forth match against a top team (Impact). And got to play the Russians.”

I want to take a moment and thank Jared Lackey of Tampa Bay Damage (Formerly of Carolina Crisis). John Dresser of JT let me know that he was the one who designed our new jerseys. The jerseys are fire Jared. Thank you.

I want to thank Tim Land of Gi Sportz for taking good care of us at the paint truck. I am, for lack of a better word, a paint snob. Tim gets it. Thank you Tim. You are the man.

I want to thank another Tim but I don’t know his last name. Tim the Tech guy from Planet Eclipse. Dude was right there with us in the pits helping. He was polite, professional, and johnny on the spot. Sure, he is probably in the pits for all the Eclipse teams but it just felt good having him there. Dude was genuine and we appreciated it. If any of you reading this know his name, shoot it to me in a DM so I can contact him.

Shout out to Walker Gautsche from Carbon. Dude is always smiling and is just a pleasant person to be around. Hooked us up with our gear and we appreciate it!

I didn’t get to hang with any of the Virtue crew but thank you too! The hoppers performed flawlessly.

Thanks to Matty Marshal and Rich Telford for the respect. It is greatly appreciated. And a quick shout out to Mike Hinman for the support and after event advice.

Thank you to Matt Engles for making the old man feel like he belongs and to Mikey Candaleria for being a cool cat. A special thanks to George Fava – dude is legit professional and a pleasure to be around.

Thank you to the NXL for a well run event.

Before I close this out, I want to say something to our friends, family, and fans… Thank you for all the love and support. It was overwhelming and we want you to know we will continue to try and do you proud. We are truly blessed to have you all. More to come, we promise.

Be water my friends.

Season Prep Part 2 (be Positive)

The first event of the NXL 2022 season is just four weeks away. Building off last month’s blog, I have continued to received even more questions about my personal thoughts on

1. How well I think we will do

2. How we will prepare

3. What we think about the draw

All legitimate questions and I am happy to answer them to my best ability one on one. However, let me answer as best I can right here:

1 – Simply, we will do our best. And that can mean a lot of things. We have a tough road ahead of us on several fronts. And we will meet it with the same vigor and aggression as before and then some.

2 – We will prepare as we always have: thorough study of layout, apply our strengths to said layout, and develop what we feel is the best approach to game-planning and execution dependent on layout/opponent.

3 – It’s a tough one. Say what you will about recent events, Impact still has tremendous talent. Their depth is substantial and they will have an axe to grind. Reports have Russian Legion back to full strength. That’s scary as hell for any team in the division. We know AC Diesel well and those cats are hungry. They were a semi pro team just 3 years ago and are a top 10 team already. And you can never look past Uprising. They have plenty of weapons on that team. They were a top 10 team as recently as 2019. So yeah, baptism by fire is coming.


It’s interesting because no one really cared when we were Semi-Pro. As a matter of fact, there is a large faction of NXL pro fans who still don’t know we are a professional team. That’s on us. We haven’t done a very good job with our brand. That will change. And it will change because we have decided we need to make that change. Us… the New Orleans Hurricanes. We decided to do better. So we are doing our best to up our exposure. We have decided as a team to take a positive approach to this new endeavor. And this is where we build off last months blog.

Last month we discussed developing SMART goals and how they can lend to creating a positive mental attitude… this month we will talk about what that positive mental attitude looks like from my perspective and how I think others should create or incorporate into their routine and, in essence, practice it.

Competitive Paintball teams devote hours upon hours of practice to honing their skills. At least, serious ones do. The physical aspect of our game requires a lot of training. Talent within that aspect of the game can take players pretty far. But only SO far. There needs to be several other components such as communication, teamwork, chemistry… But something that is occasionally overlooked and required (in my opinion) to maximize a player’s (and team’s) true potential is having a positive mental attitude.

Do you believe any elite players in any sport are successful because they hate what they are doing or have a negative perception of themselves, their team, or their capabilities? Positivity can be that force multiplier to get you where you want or need to be. Physical and mental energy, whether low or high, can and will affect how well you ultimately perform. So why wouldn’t we take note of it?

I believe in a positive culture but one that is ruled by accountability. When you have a negative Nancy culture that’s all finger pointing, no affirmation, dissing each other, and a coach yelling… well… yeah, sometimes that environment can create growth but only for so long. Negativity can promote a drive, sure… but not for the right reasons usually.

Being optimistic is not necessarily the same as being positive but it certainly can help.
I try to build my guys up and I encourage each and everyone of them to do the same. Now, to be clear, should a mistake be made, and made again… and again… well, this is where the accountability “fail-safe” kicks in. Positivity is obviously not working… now it’s time for tough love. But be honest in that tough love and be sincere.

So what are some of the things that affect us in a negative way? Besides the obvious, like injuries, making the wrong read, giving bad data/communication during a game that costs you the point or match… think there is anything else?

For me, I sometimes get adversely affected by something I read or perhaps a family friend’s troubles (or my own) or all sorts of awful things present in the outside world (of paintball). But I have taught myself to recognize that and try not to bring that into my “other world”. I don’t always succeed and when I don’t, I make sure my guys know. And they usually know too before I say something.

One of the ways I use to defeat the negative creep is by (stand by for something that is going to sound crazy in 3…2…1…) talking to myself. I’ll turn my thoughts around and pump myself up by reminding myself of who I am, where I come from, why I am here in the first place. Or sometimes it is as simple as saying one of my family’s traditional Christian prayers. You can make one of your own – create a “catch phrase” or maybe words from one of your favorite songs, hell, listen to the damn thing if you have one of those little boxes with earphones that plays music (phones can do that now too, yeah?). When I’m feeling particularity spicy, I’ll reach back into the old man’s repertoire… I have been quoting Conan the Barbarian for quite awhile (movie came out in 84 I believe):

“Conan, what is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

Of course, sometimes just seeing my teammates lifts me up. Just takes that one to realize the camaraderie you have with these men.

Anyway, I find this an effective way to manage any negativity that can get in the way of me doing my job well.

As a matter of fact, research has shown that this technique not only helps reduce anxiety but effectively improves performance. Constant practice of this over a long period of time was shown to be more effective than just physical training alone. Start incorporating it into your training. You will be glad you did.

How many of you have used visualization? I talk about this all the time and tell my guys before each match to play the game in their heads. Visualize what you will see, what you will do, how you will do it, what it will all look like. I use to do this all the time when I was on the field. Still do actually… that is when I find myself on the field which is rare these days. Something I hope to remedy.

A positive attitude can not only help you stay motivated but help you meet any anxiety you may have head on. Listen, it doesn’t happen overnight. As with all change, it can take time. But I promise having a good attitude vs a bad one will positively affect your performance. Create that new mindset and see where it takes you.

Thinking positively before an upcoming and important match is a necessity to grow whether you win, lose, or draw. Self-affirmations have to be there. You have to believe you belong there. You have to believe you earned it. And that is what we will do in preparation for the first NXL event.

We did earn it. We do belong here. And we are going to do our best to be a positive force in the NXL pro division.

I value positive mental attitudes. I currently have 10 under me. All 10 know how to pump themselves up. All 10 know how to control their demeanor. All 10 have confidence in themselves and each other. And all 10 trust me and each other. That’s powerful stuff. But that is only half the battle. It will require us executing, playing as a team, communicating, hitting our shots… but you gotta start somewhere. You have to believe that you can do all those things. And if things go south? Okay – what did we learn? We know where we stand and we will just have to work harder and harder…

Failure is not a catastrophic end. At least not in this sport. But it can be a powerful motivator… as long as you stay positive about it.

Be water my friends.

Season Prep Part 1 (Be SMART)

Since the New Orleans Hurricanes won the pro spot in the NXL, I have been asked more times than I can count, “How do you think you will do your first event/season?”

A goal achieved

Don’t get me wrong, I am not upset by the question. As a matter of fact, I welcome it. It gives me an opportunity to try and explain something many people appear to lack these days. Understandably so if you really look at the world around us.

And now I get to explain in length and detail as opposed to my 5 minute elevator speech.

“We are going to do our best.”

But how?

Simple – by utilizing the one thing many appear to be lacking today: a positive mental attitude.

I am going to give you a glimpse of how I personally create a positive attitude.
The first step is, in my opinion, to set a goal. That’s right. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, no matter what I am doing, I set a goal(s). When we do this, it helps us focus on the things that are important to meet the goal. When you know what you are after, you’re more likely to stay on task to reach it. In addition to that focus, it should provide motivation. If I genuinely want to reach it, I will. Each goal should act as a stepping stone to the next.

So how do I identify my goals? This might be a good time to talk about the SMART system (work smarter, not harder). SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It is widely used in the business world. However, I have found it just as applicable in paintball/sports. I personally use these criteria to help identify and focus on my own goals. But I have seen success using it among the teams I have coached over the years.

First, if you are SMART, you will clearly define the goal. This will help map out a path to success. The more detailed you get, the easier it becomes. Make it very clear. Be definitive. Avoid vagueness or ambiguity. Make it SPECIFIC.

Next – give yourself a way to track progress. Set minor goals within goals or perhaps develop a way to record gains. In other words, know how you will see progress towards your goal. Make it MEASURABLE.

The goal has to be attainable. Ask yourself if you have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal. Have others been able to do it as well? A D4 team consisting of 4 guys who live in the Bob Marshall Wilderness saying we will be the next pro team in 2 years is ridiculous. Make the goal ACHIEVABLE.

It should also be legitimate. Don’t be unrealistic with it. Make it relevant to your path in life. Can you reach it with what time, resources, and capabilities you have on hand? Make the goal REALISTIC.

Finally, give it a timeline. There has to be a due date or a “drop dead” date. If you have a good timeline (a realistic one) that is clearly defined, it will create urgency. That will also help with motivation. Make it TIMELY.

Some goals achieved along the way

Reaching our goals, reaching success is not a matter of luck or chance. It is quite frankly, a matter of choice. You don’t WAIT to be successful at something, you don’t WAIT for something good to happen… you have to go out and get it! And that starts by being SMART.

I have set very simple yet clear goals for the ‘Canes leading into this season. Here they are (high level – I have further detail elsewhere):

  1. Win a professional match point
  2. Win connected professional match points (2 points in a row)
  3. Win a professional match
  4. Don’t get last at any event
  5. Represent our family, friends, fans, communities, and sponsors well by showing a positive and noble approach on and off the field to the game and our opponents (no matter how they behave).

So – what I have essentially done is created 4 sub goals… of which goal #5 is the real goal.

By creating these sub goals it will help ensure we’re following the plan and that we’re on the right track. Remember me talking about “little wins”? There you have it. This will allow us to track our progress more efficiently.

So we have the plan – and we have the season to accomplish it. Obviously, there will be considerable obstacles to these goals – specifically the other 19 professional teams – many of which more than likely will not respect us at all. And that’s to be expected. In their eyes, it is up to us to earn their respect I would imagine. Challenge accepted. No doubt there will be setbacks but we will adjust accordingly. And in some cases, it may be us! Like the Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” we will visualize and attack! This is where the Positive Mental Attitude comes into effect. We will learn from each set back. We will learn from each defeat. We will stay motivated because that’s who we are. We will maintain focus and composure. We will keep our eye on the prize because we know when we achieve these goals, we will have had a successful season. And we will have fun.

Everyone on this team, past and present, are positive minded individuals. When you merge a groups of positive minded individuals into a team? Yeah man…

Something worth mentioning here is that while it is important to have a positive mental attitude it is just as important to have the right positive environment. We will surround ourselves with like minded people. Those who are interested in our success and who genuinely want to see success with us. We will not get distracted. We will make sure our culture remains the same – after all, it is what got us here.

As I stated earlier, reaching our goals successfully is a matter of choice. You have to go out and make it happen. You have to go get it!

That’s it for now… Next month in Part 2 I will share what a positive mental attitude really is and how to create one to achieve success.

Be water my friends.