2023 NXL Lone Star Open Event recap

Perseverance isn’t always about winning and losing. I believe it’s about showing up, saying “I am”, rising to the occasion, and doing well. As my friend and coach of Austin Notorious Ryan Gray said, “Don’t worry about being better, just be good.” But this is professional paintball… and to stay on the map you’ve got to keep showing up and being consistent. Our draw for this event would be what I deemed, “Crucible, The Sequel”. When you are facing a determined Tampa Bay who has pulled two seconds the last two events against Dynasty, the super star line up of AC Diesel, an intelligent and chip on their shoulder Baltimore Revo and your tier 5 team is the Russian Legion, it’s going to be a tough event.

But I think this team strives on “tough”, we live for that pressure. That’s why we are here, to see where we stand. And there is nothing more exciting than standing in front of those odds and saying “We’re right here. Come and get it.” We are showing up at every practice, putting in the work, pushing each other, enjoying the process and the journey. I know this because of the HUGE problem I had headed into this event. And quite frankly, I hope to have it EVERY event… Every one of my guys were playing well at practice. So well in fact, I had no idea who I was starting. I was getting production out of everyone and as a coach, this makes it difficult to call line positioning. In other words, it is a good problem to have.

We scrimmaged Blast Camp and the Latin Saints the weekend before so we felt we had seen a good amount of looks. We were about to find out in our first match.

VS Baltimore Revo

It’s rare to have an opportunity to scout your first opponent. But that’s what happened leading up to our first match. We were able to scout the Revo vs Russians match. Matty Marshall had asked me to commentate that set actually and, at first, I thought no, I need to scout with my guys and stay on the same page. But then a conversation between some of us helped me decide, what better vantage point to scout from! Of course, we had the team scouting the game as well. When I got in the booth, I saw that I would be commentating with the legend himself, Colt Roberts. I decided right then and there, just let these two legends talk and I’ll throw some color in here and there. Colt is a solid guy and I have enjoyed getting to know him more. Oh, and for the record, you can’t see the 50 from up in that booth.

*Zen Noteone of my personal goals this season was that if I ever got invited into the booth to commentate, I would not embarrass myself or sound stupid. Not sure if I can mark that goal off just yet.

Even though we were allowed to scout Revo, they lost. This meant they would have to adjust in some way unless they told themselves it wasn’t the game plan, it was the individual play. But we felt very good about our game plan based off what we saw.

We wanted to apply pressure the first point. We knew Revo used some of the bunkers similar to us so we thought, let’s be first. Our scouting appeared to show a hole with Revo’s approach. They seemed to know what bunkers to leverage but not necessarily how to use them, what job was what and when. So I knew there would be opportunity. We made our spots, quickly pressed our secondaries, kept up the pressure and played what I would consider the best point of our event. Not a bad way to start. We struck first with 5 alive.

Next point, our guns off break were solid. We shot the snake side “can” who in turn got a minor. Revo’s snake player either left early or wasn’t touched up. Either way, kill 3 on the break. However, Revo’s two remaining players made a good read. One made it wide dorito side and the other took the snake side “brick”. In doing so, they peeled off 2 of my guys making it a 3 on 2 (advantage still Canes). Jacob Searight clocked in and countered dorito way. The snake “brick” player had to fight too many fronts, eats one, leaving it a 3 on 1. We know where the last player is, it’s a matter of time, and Revo quickly conceded.

We felt they would want to spread the field a bit but the question was which route. We shot their first D side attacker on the break (we chose wisely) but allowed Revo to get in the snake and get to dorito corner. We gave them a body of our own dorito side when we didn’t check off and then we lost a gun fight snake side. But as the scramble starts, Justin Bailey saw an opportunity and took full advantage. He shot the snake insert bunker which was acting as over watch on snake and then traded in spectacular fashion with Revo’s D side “two” leaving just Revo’s snake player. My guys stayed disciplined knowing the situation. We were up points and up bodies. No need to go get this guy. They kept him contained and let the clock be our friend. We shot their last player as he tried a tactical retreat out of the snake and Revo conceded the point.

Revo had great guns off the break shooting two of us on the snake side at the beginning of the 4th point. We tapped their first snake player but Revo did a good job of containment and winning guns fights. It was a 4 on 2 and we were going to make them hit the buzzer. Revo did hit it to put a point on the board.

We returned the favor the next point with our own guns on the break and flooded the snake the moment the yellow flag went up on Revo. Nic traded with Revo’s snake making it a 4 on 2 advantage Canes. Justin Bailey once again makes a great read in knowing the situation and took over snake duties in front of Daniel Camp. However, Mr. Camp said, “Can’t have you taking all the kills this point Bailey” and scalped his friend and teammate. We let Revo get through the monster truck gap D side. However, Mike Brown said, “Not today – please exit the field” and got the kill leaving only Revo’s snake player yet again. Revo’s coach obviously wanted to give his player some time to make something happen. When he retreated, I remember thinking, “Good. Play defense and let the time go.” Their ears must have been burning because they conceded the point.

We were in X-ball now with a little over 4 minutes on the clock. We each traded bodies on the break but Revo got into that D side “brick” on the break. We had a communication mix up here with a code being called that was not accurate. This caused one of us to be peeled off looking into what he thought was a safe zone and we were lucky that same call didn’t get Nic popped as he took the snake insert. Nic loses a gunfight, followed shortly by another mistake by us. Not to take anything away from Revo but they didn’t really win that point as much as we just simply shot ourselves in the foot. Sloppy.

We shot one off the break in what would be the last point of the match. We knew where we wanted to be and each player knew their role. We successfully set up when we got Drew Bell into the snake side wedge and Mike Brown into Dorito one. I loved how my guys maintained zone control, let Revo kill themselves, then recognized the opportunity to go get the additional point for spread. We won the match but there were some obvious small issues that we would need to improve if we wanted to do well this event.

We had a team discussion after the match and felt prepared for Diesel. But it was not to be. A severe lightning and hail storm came in. The NXL made the right call to shut it down and make an adjustment to the schedule for the next day. The Canes would have to play 3 matches Saturday with one set between each. First Legions, then Damage, and finally AC. We would have to be on top of our scouting/adjustment game.

VS Red Legion

I felt Legion was going to try and slow it down a bit and suck us into gunfights. We also knew they gunned heavy for the snake side. You have to respect the Legion’s guns off the break. But I’m still going to test them. Low and behold, they shot our snake runner on the break. However, we were in this situation a lot at practice and we stuck to the game plan with my guys making the appropriate adjustment. Mike Brown got wide D side, Drew Bell filtered up to snake side “wedge”, Daniel Camp filtered into the snake insert allowing Stu the freedom to play a little. From there, it became a game of communication and zone control. We took the body advantage somewhere around 5 minutes in (4 on 3). Stu got caught probing but Legions D side launched to trade with Mike Brown. I watched as my snake side starts eating that player up before he got to MB. Sure enough, flag in the air which pulls the remaining Legion players. We go up one after an almost 7 minute point. Unfortunately, that would be our last point scored for the match.

We went short and planned on working our way into the snake after our initial set up. The Legion made it into the snake on the break though. Normally, not an issue as that player can be somewhat contained with our set up. However, the wind kicked up and created an opening (bunker blows to the side) that allowed a ball through on one of my snake side guys followed by another death from our “god” a few moments later. 5 on 3 advantage to the Legion who also had the snake presence. Now we have a problem as this is not… how should we say?… optimum. Drew actually bounced the Legion player in the snake if I recall correctly which would have relieved tremendous pressure (woulda coulda shoulda). Shortly after, Stu got a shot on Khiril. He got shot as well though. Then disaster struck with Jacob Searight catching a ball too after having taken ground D side. Now its a 4 on 1 advantage Legion. Drew made a valiant effort but got caught. Even match now with just under 5 minutes left.

I thought we would get crafty and have Nic line up as normal but send him to snake wedge instead. The plan was to establish that gun early, work Daniel out snake way and let Bailey’s gun filter behind Daniel. Unfortunately, Legion went heavy pocket, getting all guns up and shot Nic on the break. Like I said, you have to respect their guns. Just didn’t see that one coming (statistics aren’t perfect). We were able to get out of the pocket… just not all of us. Daniel mirrored up the snake and Bailey got behind him. Stu had an untimely death. As soon as we lost Mike Brown, I felt it best to preserve the time. There was 3:30 or so left and I felt that was plenty of time for us to get that point back.

We had the game plan. We know the line to take. We know Legion will go for our normal set up. But if I am Legion, I would risk the body to the Dside corner to control inside while having my snake insert on the cross keep the mac truck gap full of paint. Because we know this, we know the hole and we exploited it. We got wide on both sides and Stu made the center to start the line. He shot the D side corner. The next step was crucial. He had to trade with the snake insert. He went to make the shot, and just missed it. Now… he should have stayed posted and let his teammates take the advantage created by his presence there. That snake insert had to call for help or fight him. Either way, this should mean that Mike Brown will only have one gun to beat in order to turn the field on the D side. Instead, Stu pulled back to the snake brick and tried to get creative inside. He ended up getting eliminated. I’m telling you, had he landed that shot on the snake insert who was cross, the probability of the Canes tying the match would have gone up exponentially. But I don’t and can’t blame Stu. It was a solid effort. There are four other players out there who are just as capable, too. We lost Mike Brown shortly after but got one back. We were now tied on bodies with both teams having 3. Once we hit the 1:30 mark, it was ride or die. The margin was imperative. Drew Bell made a huge play but made one small mistake. He cruises down the D side and shoots two of the three Legion players in the back but continues to get Malloy. If Drew shot the first two then stopped in his bunker before engaging Malloy, Nic would have shot Malloy in the back with enough time to get the buzzer. However, Drew got caught and Malloy had the wherewithal to put the home “aztec” between him and the snake side attack he knows is coming to get a ball on Nic. Then he hit the afterburners to increase their spread. So close. Not upset with my guys at all. We definitely learned some important lessons in that match.

VS Tampa Bay Damage

Before I get into this next one, I want to say that Joey Blute was one of the first big names in paintball to give the Canes some respect. I personally will always be grateful for that. Someone forwarded me a podcast he was on and he had some kind things to say about our program. And we appreciated it. With that, I have been looking forward to this match up for some time. I knew it would be a great test for us to see where we were on our journey. How can you not respect what Damage has accomplished? They are a talented program that plays great paintball. Not to be presumptive but both teams have a similar style and it was never more apparent than at this event. We were approaching the layout in a very similar fashion. But once we settle into an approach, we always ask ourselves, how do you beat it? We had scouted them and felt we had a good grasp on their tendencies. We had also discussed what went wrong in the Legion match… we weren’t moving and closing together as one. What I like to call the “scramble” was off timing wise. That was going to change and we were about to find out if our counter worked.

Damage came out with the double home/pocket break getting those solid guns of theirs up the first point. They ended up shooting our snake “one” off the rip… but we learned something there. We would change that route now since we had shown only two so far. During this point, Damage’s snake side “can” took one to the pack… no ref was in position but the one by the start box eventually saw it. The yellow flag went up on Damage. We stopped the bleeding with a reposition snake side and settled in now that we had the advantage… or so we thought. Two sloppy deaths by the Canes caused Drew and Daniel to have to force the issue. Daniel got picked off leaving Drew in a 1 vs 3 situation. I always give my guys a chance to pull something off but I didn’t like the set up. I conceded the point and Damage struck first.

After a polite request of my guys to play a little tighter, we returned to the box. This time we shot their dorito one attacker. He drew a minor penalty but we followed up with another kill giving us a 5 on 2 advantage. I heard the code for Chill Out Find the Last Two Bodies…good, very good. Once my guys identified that the last two Damage players are in the snake “tower” and the snake insert, they knew just how to turn the field. This is what situational drills gets you boys and girls. My guys perform it flawlessly. Stu pulled back with the data and began the quarterbacking. The guys provided a quick clinic on working together with repositioning to close the point out. We re-positioned to pressure the tower while the two others bully the snake insert to get a body through the gap. Then bully again, all while our snake presence kept them honest. Stu launched and johnny is your uncle. Tie match.

The next point was an interesting one. Stu looked into a ball and Damage took that 50 D side “brick”. But Damage doesn’t have a gun protecting the D side gap which was surprising (missed assignment is my only guess). This allowed Jacob Searight to land undetected just shy of the dorito 50 and he began peeling bodies. He got four of the 5 with the 4th being the last Damage player trying to run him down. Searight stood his ground and took the Damage player with him. The remaining Canes on the field made the decision to let time click and force the concession.

We decided to switch Stu off his role and gave him a little freedom to play. We placed Drew Bell on containment. We shot Damage’s D side once again on the break. Then we immediately took a center presence, quickly followed up with a shift to the snake side brick. With our presence there, we could shut down D side with one gun (you concede the 100 but that’s about it) at least long enough to get some action going snake way. We were somewhat foiled when our D side corner took a ball (he was contingency). No matter, we fed the snake and went for another set up with two in the snake (the “two” spot can hold the cross now while the snake “brick” is over-watch allowing snake one to go to work). We matched them D side to keep them honest. We were now in position and I was feeling confident. Damage would have to press the issue eventually. That or they would try to suck us into gun fights (a lesson learned in the previous match). Survey said they press but over-watch worked (Hope Agent Smith’s Testicles are okay). The slow steady squeeze paid off and Damage conceded the point. Up by 2

We went with a base play to get guns up off the break. They shot one of ours off snake side but we shot two of theirs off the snake side as well. We shoot a third and then spread. We knew the situation and closed together. I told the guys prior to the point, when we win the point, make them concede. As the clock ticked away, I thought to myself, they are doing the math and thinking margin, this is why they are letting the clock roll. They finally conceded with about 1:30 left.

Because of the score, we decided we wanted to go aggressive and try something. Like I said earlier, we train scenarios. We knew Damage wanted to get wide. So we snuck Stu into the snake side “brick” to look D side (back up is Searight in the Snake insert on the cross). It paid off with Damage’s two D side attackers going into the meat grinder. Stu heard the gun on the other side of his bunker as he had company and decided on the trade. The rest broke down with Damage throwing their last two bodies down the snake side. Searight traded with Lackey to leave Justin Bailey and Aaron Pate on the field with one of the Edward brothers. Bailey saw the opportunity since Edwards had to contend with Pate right in front of him. While Bailey drew the gun, Pate snuck a ball in and turned on his own afterburners to get us a slightly bigger margin. I felt like the reverse Ryan Brand as I was holding my hand up to say “wait until 5 seconds” lol. Pate waits until under 5 seconds to hit the buzzer. Great match against a great team.

So now our fate is in our own hands. The goal we set for ourselves was to make Sunday. The top 20 teams in paintball would not make this easy. We were about to face off against AC Diesel who had just beat Red Legion. But we had a chance to scout them 3 times. Interesting fact: I was asked what I thought their adjustment would be and I said, “If I’m coaching, I’m not necessarily changing the game plan as much as I am moving Mouse back to the snake and putting Rabackoff behind him.” It appeared that they did this… I think. Anyway, based off the three previous matches, that would be the only real offensive push they would have or so it felt. That, and they didn’t seem to be connecting cross field either. Sometimes you have to listen to that gut. So we decided to play a patient game, get the key spots, get the key eliminations, and press…slowly. Margin didn’t matter to us at this point. We really just needed the win.

The first point we matched up with identical break outs but each with a different emphasis. We wanted to fill the Snake wedge again but first stopped off in the tower to try a bounce shot. Their D side “can” was playing inside and the bounce was meant to kill that. It didn’t pay dividends though so we got back into main purpose mode. With Mouse on the field and in the snake, we had several contingencies if he made the snake 50. We weren’t going to give him a shot and, while difficult, you can make life miserable for the snake on this layout while continuing zone control. When Mouse came to our side of the field during that first long point, we went with one of the contingencies. Stu launches on the inside from the snake “wedge”. He actually hit mouse with his first ball through the gap as he launched (drills people… this is why we do drills). This also put Stu in an improved position in order to address Rabackoff who had fed the snake. Stu then scalped JRab. Now that we were up bodies and we had burned plenty of time off the clock, Stu tactically retreated back to snake “wedge” to communicate the situation and close the point out with his teammates all next to him. I think after that, we landed a shot on the god bunker and Diesel was forced to concede after an almost 6 minute point.

The next point we risked Nic on the deep route to snake insert and he made it. Diesel got in the snake fast to slow our roll D side but it began playing out like I suspected. Their only real attack was snake. They didn’t appear confident in a center or D side risk. So we kept assets on it. But then something incredible happened. JRab pulls a Daniel and shot his own snake player… right when he got on our side of the field. This made it a 5 on 3 advantage for the Canes with about 4 minutes on the clock. Some one on the Canes is living right or maybe all that praying I do for the guys is paying off. At this point, I was not upset with our positioning (I was concerned about it and wanted us to take at least one, maybe two secondaries sooner). About a minute later, Diesel had seen enough and conceded the point leaving them just under 3 minutes to score one for the tie or two for the win.

The last point was chaos. Nic took a relatively early walk when Mouse got in the snake fast and early. Mouse then snagged himself another Cane from snake “tower” and someone shot our back center “home” (if I had to guess it was Jrab who secondaried behind Mouse into the snake). But no one on Diesel accounted for Daniel “Danimal” Camp who stomped out that fire with a fury by clapping Mouse. But Danimal wasn’t done nor content. It was a 5 on 2 advantage Diesel but Daniel shot not one, not two, but THREE MORE Diesel players after he clapped Mouse. Mike Brown got taken out and it came down to a 1 on 1. I thought FOR SURE Daniel was going to get his fourth 1v1 coin and maybe even win play of the prelims. He knows to protect the buzzer. I am pretty sure he put a ball on Mark Johnson but I guess it didn’t break or maybe it did. Either way, he isn’t eliminated. Mark ends up slipping a ball onto Daniels foot and Diesel was on the board with under 10 seconds.

Diesel wants to play it so we play. They get one of us, we get all five of them. The sequel to the “Crucible” was over… and we were top of our bracket.

So there we were… Our second Sunday in a row at the second event of the year of our second season as a professional team. It has been said that, discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. I feel my guys showed that this event. The discipline and composure (our culture) continues to be our strength.

We understood that we would be playing the winner of the wild card match between Dynasty and ML Kings. We went home and did our homework on both teams. Then we showed up early to the field to see what adjustments, if any, the two teams had made. The match started out rather fast paced. But that second point would be the determining factor. Kings were in position but when they lost their snake attacker and the remaining Kings failed to produce or show urgency, they concede the point with a little under 2 minutes. On this layout, on Sunday, against Dynasty, two points in two minutes would prove to be a herculean task. And that would, in fact, be the case. We would be playing Dynasty.

This would be our first time playing Dynasty. But we were all genuinely looking forward to it. If you want to be a contender, you have to beat the best and they have certainly proven to be one of, if not the greatest team to play the game. We felt it would be a good match up. And for the most part, it was.

The first point was a great give and take. We ended up with the body advantage (4 on 3). We made one small tactical blunder I feel. We were in the snake, the snake “wedge” and the snake side can (dorito one as well). My snake side “can” saw that our “tower” was eliminated. We had been using this to slow D side progression. Dynasty had gotten a body wide d side, so he felt it may be more important to fill that role instead of backing up our snake one and getting in there with him. Understandable, but I feel we should have pressed the body advantage here. Dynasty did get two in the snake which made things difficult for our snake “wedge” who, eventually caught a ball. At the same time, I think Dynasty got through our defense on dorito side which now created additional pressure in this 3 on 3 situation. Our snake finally lost a gun fight and just like that Dynasty turned the table to a one body advantage (3 on 2). I let it go a little longer than I should have. My D side player was showing body language that he was going to do something. But when I realized he wasn’t going to try and make something happen, I concede the point.

Next point, we executed the set up well. We positioned well on our secondaries and we knew the line. Stu does NOT miss his first shot this time and took that super important snake insert out of the game. Unfortunately, he looked into a ball from the snake can as he wrapped the inside to try and get the drop on the D side. Our snake got shot shortly after giving the body advantage to Dynasty again. But Jacob Searight and Drew Bell pieced together an offensive push to even it up again on the D side. Excellent execution there. With the chaos that Searight created by advancing onto Dynasty’s side, Aaron Pate made the RIGHT DECISION to run down Ryan Greenspan in the snake. Greenspan’s over watch was looking D side. Pate recognized this and launched. But Greenspan somehow understands the distraction and that he doesn’t have his over watch. He popped the top and put one ball on Pate’s hopper. Pate obviously doesn’t feel it and finished his run to shoot Greenspan. Major penalty drawn on Pate. This pulled our remaining players and we had to concede the point. And THAT is the chess game. Chess with guns. Greenspan’s processing speed. And that is the small difference that makes a big difference. If Pate got him clean or perhaps sits another second, it may have been a different point. Either way, we are now down by 2 with 3 minutes left. Not much different than the Kings save for an additional minute…

We had to go aggressive and we always have a few tricks up our sleeve. We CAN play fast. We got to where we are today partially by doing that. We took the 50s and Ridgel knew he had to get that snake insert off the field. He traded his body to do it. Bodies everywhere. We missed their D side but Daniel Camp once again knew the score and got to the buzzer beating Dynasty’s D side runner trying to do the same. We were on the board.

We went aggressive again because, well, we are down 1 with a little over a minute and a half. We had to take ground EARLY because of the way the field plays and where we knew Dynasty wanted to be. We lost Nic at snake 1 but we snuck Mike Brown up the D side to dorito 4 as well as established the center presence with Stu. Stu lost a gun fight which was essentially the first domino to fall on this come back. We had to press with under a minute. Daniel, Mike Brown, and Drew Bell all made valiant efforts at the 50s to make something happen.

There appeared to be a little tomfoolery that point with two dynasty players. I say this based off what several VIP watchers told me but hey… it is what it is. 6 seconds left down 3-1.

We decided to play the point. At first we told ourselves, no penalties, go have fun but then it became… you know what? I don’t care if you get a penalty. You make sure you put paint on as many of them as you can. Our way of a last hurrah, charge of the light brigade kind of thing to say, “we are not afraid”. We of course draw the penalties and they get another point but… it sure was cool. My guys still showed sportsmanship after the point because we are well raised southern boys.

After we lost to Dynasty, Daniel Camp put it all into perspective and I can’t thank him enough for laying it on the guys. He said, “We are climbing Mt. Everest. What we are trying to do as a team in the pro division is supposed to be hard. We are going to have some “cold dark nights on the side of Everest” as we try to get to the top and we should expect that and not be disappointed or deterred by it. We are on the right track and have to just take the wins and losses in stride. It’s what we signed up for and success only is going to come after failure.” Love that dude…. so very true. Couldn’t have said it better.

He’s right. Mindset is key. We are always working to improve, and we’re always going to be critiqued on our next performance. In this sport, it isn’t necessarily about what you’ve done but what you do next. There is always room to grow. Here’s the thing, we will always have a goal every event and we will always have a plan (or three) to meet that goal. We have to be willing to take risks and make mistakes but also do what we can to mitigate them. And we have to do it as a team. That’s where we have seen our greatest successes, when we have done it together.

We are stronger together… and that includes all the Hurricane family, not just the guys in the jerseys. Our pit crew, our scouting crew, our family, our friends, our fans and our sponsors. We couldn’t and wouldn’t be where we are now without them. And we can’t thank you all enough. It’s coming… we just have to keep up the perseverance.

Be Water My Friends.

NXL Sunshine State Major 2023 Recap

When the draw was first released, I was very pleased. I knew that if we could get through that crucible of a prelims to start the season off, it would not only be a good event, but set the stage for the rest of the season for the squad. Getting tested early is always a good thing.
Here is how I looked at it. Heat was the #2 team in the world headed into this event and I wanted them first. They would be a great test early on for our unorthodox approach to the layout. We had Revo next. I also wanted to catch them early. Revo is one of those teams that usually the deeper you meet them, the better they are. Obviously Mark Johnson’s power moves in the off season with AC Diesel would make for a rather difficult test for our sophomore debut. And finally, my friends Shane Pestana and Mike Paxson coaching and rebuilding the Ironmen was going to be a “hum-dinger” for sure.

There were two ways to play this field successfully in my view. Knowing where your opponent is and where he wants to be is an important aspect of the game (duh). My approach to this particular layout was you either took ground early and aggressively, then permeated and let your opponent fight his way to you, forcing moves, or you sat back, let things develop a little, and then threw a well planned/timed counter punch. This concept of mine was initially met with some consternation from my guys. And that was understandable. We like data and knowing where people are for zone control, counter punching, and offense. But you couldn’t always know where an opponent was on this field. Sure, you had an IDEA…but you didn’t really know for sure until you did and even then, he may have switched positions seconds later. So, we had to make fear of the unknown our ally. And we did. We did this through intelligent assumption (we will say deductive reasoning) and focusing on our communication. With the right discipline and comms, the guys would discern the data.

Vs Houston Heat

We wanted to get a little aggressive the first point. We pushed dorito side. The penalty on Stuart Ridgel was absolute horse manure. I watched him from the pit because he and I discussed getting his gun up and moving from center up into the center aztec to make a read. When he went into the bunker he steps on a ball and it squirts paint up on the back of his left thigh. I know this because I watched it happen. I thought the ref was headed in to wipe him off…
Anytime you are in a 2 body deficit against Heat, it is grim. Time was important on this field (I had determined 70% “slow” and 30% “fast” at the previous weekend’s practice) so when we lost Britt almost 3 minutes after the penalty, I figured I’d give my guys a few seconds to dig a surprise kill out, especially when the two are Drew Bell and Aaron Pate. Heat did press but I decided to get 5 guys back out there and start fresh. 0-1.

Our guns on break and zone control gave us a 2 body advantage on the next point. Then we began our slow meticulous squeeze. My guys didn’t get in a hurry, understood their roles and what needed to happen when we drop the d side. On this field, just because a side was blown did not mean there were not threats. However, we also know that if you are in that position, you will want to spread if possible. We positioned appropriately and made Heat fight too many fronts. 1-1.

The next point ultimately decided the outcome of the match. Both teams traded bodies early from key positions creating a 4 on 4. Heat established a center presence early but Mike Brown’s discipline on his job was outstanding. Unfortunately, MB got caught (hey, it happens) creating a 3 on 3 scenario. And this is where I feel the deciding factor took place in the match. Sam Monville’s patience can only be described as extraordinary. It’s almost as if he was wearing a Canes jersey. He became a part of that bunker. And, as was apt to happen on this field, we lost a body in the scramble and didn’t piece his position together. The guys would tell me later where they thought he was. The clock continued to dwindle. At one point, I got pretty excited because Sam did come off his post and went inside for a moment. When Nic did decide to go, I thought to myself, he knows and is going to stick Sam! He did not.This point I feel would be completely different if Nic traded or we knew where Sam was to begin with. Lesson learned (and discussed at length)

We were now forced to press into the guns with 1 minute left. We actually made our spots but our snake side attack looked into the first ball once there. The coup de gras was another minor, this one legit. A good chess match but penalties killed us. Two penalties and a loss by two. Coincidence? Probably not. But that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Britt Simpson would have pulled off a point stealing run if there would have been 2-3 more seconds on the clock in the final breakout. Heat wins 3-1.

Vs Baltimore Revo

We never played Revo in our rookie season last year. I always thought it would be an interesting match up of styles. We only had a chance to scout their match against AC Diesel, and even then it was while we were playing. Even with the limited data, we were able to extrapolate a rough conceptual idea. Then it was a matter of addressing that concept with our own approach. Like I said earlier, Revo is one of those teams that gets better as the event goes. Revo liked to get those guns up D side with a pocket shooter (I think they used Benny Carrol for this) so we thought on the first point, we should take advantage of that. Revo won some first engagement shots though and went up bodies early. They were quick to their secondaries too, much faster than in their first match (good adjustment). They made some good reads and upped the aggression. My guys quickly adjusted to slow things down and assess that first point but Revo found the hole. 0-1.

Next point we wanted to spread and see. We lost one on the break but we get one back due to an over eager Revo player. Coupled with the data we already had, this was really the point that gave me the insight we needed. They wanted to control the center. Zone control with over-watch gave us another kill. First engagement issues continued to plague us but we closed the point out. 1-1

The next point our play goes a little south as we lost two on the break but we evened it up almost immediately based off the hole Revo showed. Then Stuart Ridgel did some Stuart Ridgel stuff. This man is quickly becoming elite and if his dissection of that close out didn’t show it, I don’t know what else you have to do. 2-1

*Zen note – Just a personal opinion here and I am obviously biased but my thought is he should have got move of the prelims and the $500 cash. It is move of the prelims, not “scenario move” of the prelims. Nothing against Askren but if you don’t know to run your ass down the field with 10 seconds left to try and steal a point, your PB IQ is deficient. But if you can single handedly figure out how to do a 3 pack clean against Revo… that’s DOING something and shows a high in game processing speed.

I decided to get aggressive snake side and see Revo’s reaction. They reacted well but this allowed us to put an asset in position right behind our initial goal and create tension for the center, which is what Revo wants to control. But, best laid plans seldom survive first contact. We peeled one off but lost Nic. Stu played savior once again and traded. Even if he hadn’t, it’s a 2v2 and we were in position where we could burn the clock since we were up 1. However, it was not necessary as Stu did get his trade and we closed it out. 3-1

Still plenty of time on the clock. As the Hurricanes have proven several times this year, the clock is an integral part of the game. Knowing Revo wanted to get that extra gun up, we wanted to try pressing the issue again D side and it paid off. We got a kill on the break and established a heavy D presence off the rip. The beauty of this was, if/when my D side attacker makes it, now they HAD to contend with his presence and they could only do that from one of a few locations (based off their breakouts). If he wasn’t successful, I still felt confident we would kill off time. Couple that with Revo having to push, this would offer us opportunities to intercept them. The asset up front in conjunction with the spread created a win/win scenario. That successful D side run and the short snake presence allowed us to really stymie any aggression from Revo. Then the “Bash Brothers” pull one of their patented “make coach pee himself a little” moves… but it actually ended up working out. Revo doesn’t see Drew join Britt in his bunker. Britt’s gun was inside making Revo think, okay, there he is, and allows Drew to peel two off. 4-1

Revo called a timeout since they only had 3-4 minutes to score 3 points and/or reduce the point spread. There was a small misunderstanding on the box for the Canes. Yes, we had a conversation about it in the pit afterwards but as a coach, you certainly don’t want to let your team dwell on something like that. Especially since I felt I was accountable for not being more clear and concise in my explanation of what I wanted. Move on, next point. Revo did a good job and took advantage to get the point with just over 2 minutes left on the clock. 4-2.

In the final point of the match, we wanted to contest them with a center presence and take the corners in case it didn’t work out. We shot two on the break but they eliminated our center presence. At that point I knew it was in the bag because of positioning. My guys don’t have to engage but can control a zone. A Revo player tried to get creative D side, it didn’t pay off, leaving the two remaining Revo players with a heavy lift of pushing into 3 disciplined Hurricane guns. A trade happened snake side leaving it a 2 on 1, Hurricane’s favor. Pate re-positions to snake corner and Johnny’s your uncle. Canes win 4-2.

One and one for the day. Both our matches were afternoon (2 and 4pm). The next day though we were looking at an 11:20 am match followed by a 4 pm match. That is a LOT of downtime. So we got together for a team meeting, did our homework on Diesel and Ironmen, and then developed our logistics for the next day. We also knew we would have an opportunity to scout the Ironmen one more time. With our plans set, we went to sleep feeling rather confident.

VS AC Diesel

I felt like Mark had respect for us and would not be flippant about our match. We anticipated a slow grind. We wanted to set the pace and drag them into the deep end of the pool with our style of play. We had a good understanding of the field and we wanted to leverage that. But we also felt like they would adjust. It is always a crap shoot day 2 on what your first opponent on day two will present. First point, we got our guns up, got 5 out alive in an effort to assess and counter. As expected, when Diesel saw an opportunity they capitalized. We lost some gun fights but now we were smarter for it. For this particular field, you didn’t necessarily have to engage. We decided to spread and assess again. Small hiccup to begin with but it pays off. Tie ball game. 1-1

We knew there was a statistical probability they were going to spread the next point, it was just a matter of who we were going to pick on off the break. The paint shot straight and true and we found ourselves with a 4 on 2 advantage pretty quick. Knowing we had the higher probability of going up a point while burning clock, Diesel smartly conceded the point to get 5 fresh back out there. And why wouldn’t you? On paper, you had to think to yourself, “AC’s best 5 versus the Canes best 5, AC wins the majority of the time.” But people said that all last year to us. We would just smile and think, keep telling yourself that, it’s eventually going to bite you in the ass, develop lockjaw, and drag you to death. 2-1 Canes

Again, we determine Diesel wanted to stack that snake side. We decided to spread the field with a free wheeler. Their stack would determine where our free wheeler would become a force multiplier. Sure enough, Diesel conceded the d-side, content to hold and stacked the snake side. We contained d side essentially with one gun (a risk but based off 2 days of playing and watching the layout, it seemed worth it). Once the widest D side fell, it forced their home to plug the hole and turn a gun from snake side to contend. Thing is, we weren’t in a hurry. We had the advantage and we were going to make them work for it at this point. And our free wheeler never had to really commit to anything. My guys won some good gun fights too. 3-1

It was obvious now, even with the time left, they would now try to get out D side. Nico was out there so we were confident in the call. We put two guns on it and it paid off. Interesting fact, I am pretty sure we shot that player in the D side can 2-3 different times but the ref could never find the hit. The guys didn’t get rattled though, maintained composure and let that clock roll while nullifying any potential counter push. Spicka tried a desperation move up the center. No go. I was hoping Greg Pauley would let it go a little longer but he is too smart for that. 4-1.

Up by 3, there was still a lot of time on that clock. And with the roster we were facing, you couldn’t count them out. So we had to be smart. We were in X-ball and felt confident in the game plan. But again, that’s where things can get sideways sometimes. And this would be one of those times. We knew they would be aggressive off the break to an extent. We decided to shoot wide and set up to contain. We lost one of our containment shooters on the break though which allowed them to get two bodies to join their center push from the break. We made a valiant counter but not quite enough. 4-2

We had to ask ourselves an important question, would it be best to get 5 bodies out alive and concede ground or fight fire with fire? We chose fire. We make our goal for the point by getting wide and far d side which should slow any progress through center/snake. But we lost Pate on the break from a key spot for the game plan. This made Stu have to come off his assignment and get snake way to help Nic. Either way, once we were set, I felt we were really in position to dictate the point. The break down happened when our D side presence comes off his assignment (he was asked to check something and he trusts his teammate). Once that happened, it allowed two Diesel players to reposition. We actually bounced the one who shifted out to the dorito… it’s a different point I feel if that ball broke (woulda coulda shoulda). We picked up A-rod’s move to get wider on D side. But Britt had to get small at first and was forced to re-engage Mark Johnson in the center. Mark got a ball on him which opened the hole. They got lucky again when Nic bounces Mouse at the snake 50. How lucky? With Mouse’s second life, he peeled off Drew Bell creating a 2 on 1. Mark closed the point out with about 50 seconds left. 4-3

Now they had to come. What would a team’s best access points be down the field? If you aren’t practicing 60 second points, you’re doing it wrong. We knew what we would do in that situation so we prepared to repel it. We made positions 5 alive and once that happened, I knew we were solid with the win. We shot one on the break which helped as well. I preach discipline to the point of nausea. If they were able to get through a line who only had one job, I would be impressed. We hold on with 5 alive and they lost everyone. 4-3

What I didn’t tell my guys was how, inside, I was a little disappointed we had tossed that spread away from a seeding perspective. Would have been nice to have a plus 6 at the end of the day… that’s called “foreshadowing”.

VS Ironmen

My guys were focused during the downtime , staying hydrated, getting some food, keeping out of the sun, and watching some games. We had to beat the Ironmen. We had watched Heat send Diesel home earlier that afternoon. If the Ironmen beat us, they would take the heads up and go on to Sunday. We had data on them but they were kind of everywhere. There were holes in their game but they were random and difficult to pinpoint. We felt that we had better comms and discipline though and decided to leverage that. We tried a goal oriented play D side first point. Interestingly enough, they ran an almost identical play. The only difference being we took advantage first. They did appear to have had two of their players doing the same job though. What didn’t help was my friend on the Ironmen, Mike McGowan, slips a shot in on Britt and in an effort to fill the spot before the men can react Drew Bell quite literally pulls a Goldberg from WWE and speared Britt on his way into Britt’s former bunker! This caused Drew to get shot. So now our D side presence was blown. Ridgel pulled the “get the hell out of dodge” card but gets it declined at check out while Nic decided, hey, we got nothing to lose – full send! Point one to Ironmen. 0-1.

After a short discussion about a PB show from a few years ago called “The Short Bus”, I got my guys refocused on the task at hand. We understood where the domino fell and went back to basics. We would spread and make the appropriate reads/counter based off the Ironmen. Low and behold, we have the same idea again as both teams spread but the Ironmen struck first shooting our wide D side. However, Ironmen dropped a zone and we got back out wide to contest as well as get an asset in place to support. At the same time, we took just enough ground snake side to keep their D side wary. It seemed as if the Men forgot the shadows get long at this time of day (as a team we had discussed using this). Aaron Pate did use that to make a counter digging out a kill from the center. Then it appeared the Ironman in the snake side brick panicked a little and tried a desperation run through to dig out Pate. But over-watch by Drew Bell snuffed that idea out. Head on a swivel, Pate took up zone control and caught another Ironman over extending. We were now in a 4 on 3 body advantage and were in position to counter push which we did. A mistake by the last Ironmen player got them a major. This not only tied us up but put us on the power play next point with a two body advantage. 1-1.

I knew the moment they lost the first body Shane and Pax would concede the point giving us the 2-1 lead with 4-5 minutes left. So I told my guys to go out, make the primaries we have identified and make the point last. We actually shot their D side runner on the break (damn it!) but the concession didn’t come. Or so I thought as it did about 10 seconds later. I got that they were hoping we would get into a feeding frenzy and run down to our deaths or draw a penalty. When it became apparent we weren’t going anywhere, they conceded. 2-1.

With just over 5 minutes on the clock and Shane/Pax at the wheel, I found myself honestly a little stumped. I decided to take a little ground snake side and put my other guys in position to contain and counter easily. Sure enough, the Men took snake brick, the center wedge, and the d side wedge. I watched the Ironmen player wrap inside the snake brick and launch to our center/snake wedge. As he did this, I saw a hit come off his shoulder. I don’t know if it was one my guys or one of his own. But what I saw did, in fact happen, since a ref ran in and a flag went up. This left the Ironmen with one body up the center and two across the back line. My guys now understood we are up 5 bodies to 3 with a 1 point advantage. We don’t have to force the issue but allowed the Men to kill themselves as the clock dwindled down. The Center brick got crafty but his shadow gave him away. He made the mistake of popping the top and got eliminated. The remaining two Ironmen were still in the back. With the body advantage and the lead, Shane/Pax conceded the point leaving about 2 and half minutes in the match. 3-1.

With just over 2 minutes left, we knew if we could get wide, we should be able to seal the deal. We got out 5 alive and I looked at everyone in the pit and said, “Game”. We had a single snake side gun controlling the snake side entrance and an Ironmen ran into it. Their home decided to spread wide going behind the first D side can to the d side corner. He and his teammate in the inset D side can both get eliminated. This left snake side wedge and the snake side “block”. Wedge (Gomez maybe?) moved to snake side brick. So, not only are they down bodies but essentially linear. Turns out that snake side block was Al Fernandez and he moved to snake side wedge. No longer linear but still not optimum (what can you do though?). We shot Gomez and then Al. With the heads up play, Nic Ripple rushed in for the point to help with margin.

Vs Los Angeles Infamous

We went home and did our homework. We had set the goal to make Sunday for this event. Now that we were there, the next goal was to win our first match. We had made Sunday twice last season but lost our first match each time. We were determined not to let that happen again. The more I looked at Infamous’ tape, it was obvious they were highly aggressive on this layout, taking ground early and with speed. And why not when you have that type of speed. But after further study, it became apparent their approach essentially consisted of wanting to use the two center bricks to cross up defensively and let their other three “play around” in the back. Remember at the beginning of this, I said their were two ways to play the field? Yeah, they were most definitely the first approach. So we decided to take Lao Tzu’s approach to this match. “An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.” We decided to concede that positioning since it appeared the way they played was to simply take away the head of the snake and the dorito 2-3 gap. Okay… we won’t go there. We will set traps since you are basically taking two of your guns out of the fight leaving us 5 guns to pick on the 3 behind them.

I know what you are thinking. Boring! Yes, you are absolutely right. But our goal was to win. If I see something we can exploit, a win is a win. Say what you want about that match but it was a controlled chess match. The guys executed perfectly. And we had the pieces on the board standing at the end of it.

We knew our basic set up was a good way to control the Infamous approach. So that’s what we did. Sure enough, Infamous came out hard straight to the snake 50 brick. They also positioned the center/d side wedge player would who want to go inside to the center 50 brick. The easiest to isolate was the wedge and he was the first to die. We then spread because, with that wedge eliminated, the snake side brick can’t stop the counter very well. The risk was worth it. We let them spread D side too though. Because we know that snake side brick wanted to control the 2-3 dorito gap, we snuck into the dorito side to keep their dorito player honest and ensure that Snake side brick STAYED that way allowing us access to him. Stuart made the read, saw the opportunity and got the elimination. If that hadn’t worked, the goal was set to get another gun out behind our first dorito and bully the crossed snake side gun (there was a bounce shot). Their dorito presence somewhat stifled that though. Stu then carefully set another trap with a tactical retreat. Regrettably, Infamous got crafty D side and dug one of our dorito side attackers out. Stu got clever too but just a little too much as Brusselback wrapped on his blocked out creeping. But in order to get that shot on Stu, he exposed himself and gets eliminated as well.

What took place next is textbook. We didn’t have to worry about margin. A win was a win at this point. So we took our time piecing things together with our snake corner staying in reserve if necessary. Infamous had both corners. We owned the snake, the snake corner, and Dorito 4. I’m pretty sure Pate became aggressive because he was out of paint. I’m pretty sure all 5 remaining players were as well as the shooting was quite sporatic. Comment of the event though was the question posed by Nic to Pate. “Pate, do you want me to get in the snake now?” In typical Pate fashion, he responded with, “Hell yes I do”. This is because Nic was no longer needed for reserve and we could now press the advantage. Mike Brown’s presence was a thorn so Infamous smartly tries to progress down the D side but Nic had begun crawling forward and had the infamous player’s side. Nic scalped him. This happened at almost 10 minutes in! This put it into a 3 on 1 and Travis was quick to towel. 1-0

We knew this is when Infamous would send Sam and Zack to the two center bricks. Were the rolls reversed, this would have been the play. It was time to implement and execute our preplanned response. I gave the audible from the pit to the box when I saw Sam and Zack line up (we had a call ready for this). They went right where we called it. Their two center players shot a lot of paint at gaps that no one was going to go through. And because we knew to control the wides behind them, they couldn’t really generate an attack. It also allowed our back center to play tall, pick shots and see the field. He shot their snake side tower followed by the dorito corner. Three Infamous players now had to push into 5 zoned guns and they got chopped up. We actually had the time to hit the buzzer but it wasn’t necessary. We wanted to be respectful.

Milestone and goal #2 reached.

Vs New York Xtreme

Similar to Infamous, Xtreme really played the layout aggressively and fast. Yyou had to respect it because it appeared they were doing it with significant success. They really worked in the off season and it showed. It was like a whole new team out there. But we had scouted them and felt we had the right game plan to beat them.

And our game plan looked solid the first point in. 1-0

That second point was a friggin bloodbath of a knife fight but Nic Ripple said not today satan. 2-0

Nothing is ever in the bag, especially with this layout, with that much time left, against a Sunday quarters pro team.

The third point we know they will go center brick with the route through the center. I put Drew bell off the right hand side of the home to shoot that lane. Xtreme shot our dorito corner runner but we definitely shot their center brick runner. Our entire pit saw it happen. Ref runs in and calls it rub… jeez. Okay. Fine. We tied the body count up by shooting Cantor. About 3 mnutes went by and we ended up losing our dorito side can when Corey Hall and Drew trade. But Xtreme has Cantor in our 40. He could have closed it out sooner as our center line was exposed (I was chewing gum vigorously hoping he wouldn’t think of or see the line). Around 4 minutes left, Cantor and Caro figured it out. Both Pate and Camp got peeled quickly followed by Nic. They hit the buzzer with 3:45 left. 2-1

NYX’s guns were solid on the next point as we lost two on the break. We took Pat Kraft out of the center too. But Xtreme capitalized on the kills by quickly and efficiently taking ground. My boys held tough and Drew Bell took 2 of them with him. We both decided to wait the clock out and let the overtime point decide it. 2-2.

I felt confident we were going to take this match. The play call was good, we were set up for success. Lot to dissect on what happened that overtime point… but not today. This is long enough as it is.

Congratulations to NYX making top 4! A tremendous amount of growth. Mad respect to that crew. And of course, congrats to Dynasty.

I have this theory that I was told sometime ago. It is called the ratio of thirds. It’s for when you are chasing a goal or doing anything difficult or hard:

A third of the time you’re going to feel absolutely great… on top of the world, all is going well, you are seeing what you want and need to see.
A third of the time you’re going to feel “okay”… not great, not bad, its not a bad spot or a good spot, you’re just kinda there.
And then, a third of the time you’re going to feel like crap. Nothing is going right, you’re frustrated, you aren’t seeing or feeling or hearing what you need.

It’s a cycle and it repeats… sometimes. But I would argue that, if you maintain this ratio, you’re actually doing pretty well.

You might think the Canes are feeling “okay” about this event or maybe even “crappy”. But you would be wrong. We feel great. We finished last season in 11th place and a 3rd tier team after working our way up from 5th tier. We made Sunday this first event and met another milestone by winning our wild card match on Sunday morning. Lots to be happy with. We know there is more work to do but we look forward to it. We are up for the challenge and can’t wait for the next test. See you in Texas.

Be water my friends.

The Evolution of Zen Coaching

I believe it was Thomas Sowell (the economist) who said, “The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly.  Only when you do something is it difficult to do without mistakes. Therefore, people who criticize can feel both intellectually and morally superior.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”


Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do”.


In order to achieve excellence, we have to create good habits.  Good habits alleviate chaos in our lives. The goal is consistency… doing things every day to recognize potential. Now hang in there, I am getting to a point.

I see so many bad habits out there among players, but none are more debilitating and crushing than those with the wrong mental attitude.  Unfortunately, it is more prevalent than we probably realize. Changing a layer’s mentality and behavior is not very easy once they reach a certain point. 

Listen carefully, becoming good at paintball doesn’t happen “naturally” or overnight. 

If I have said it once, I have said it 1 million times.  The mind is the weapon…

And the body is the ammunition.

Jacob Searight is an excellent example of brains and physicality

If you are constantly feeding your brain with good data and taking care of yourself physically, you are more prone to succeed in something that requires you to think while being physical… say something like paintball. 

I have talked about motivation a lot here at Zen but I have come to believe that this is only part of the equation… and it is the weakest part.  The strongest part of the equation is discipline.  When you can develop the right habits that lead to improvement, no matter how repetitive or routine it may seem, but you stick with it, that is discipline, and it will lead you to where you want to be. I get it, discipline can be tough for some.  There are, often, internal and external factors that make things difficult for some. Sure. We all struggle with SOMETHING.  But I wouldn’t look at it as a personal failure. At least, not always. We will all have setbacks.  But if you do encounter a set back or worse, several, then I would suggest changing your approach to becoming more disciplined. I would try to create discipline in myself through “smaller wins”. Build to it, with smaller more manageable goals. Then build upon those. See, it isn’t you who are necessarily failing to be disciplined… it is your tactics, your strategy to said goal. Make sense?

I have found that the key to creating a lasting habit is to ensure I “like” it. I have to enjoy something about it. What benefit and enjoyment do I or will I get from this new habit and make that my focus. And I need to make sure that the benefit encompasses the whole process, otherwise I have all but ensured failure. Wanting to do something and actually doing it are not the same. Wanting to succeed at something and continuing to do the things required for that want are not the same thing. Wanting alone will not create the habit much less allow for it to endure.

Bruce Lee taught, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”

The brain learns best through small, repeated measures set in the right environment.

How many of you are familiar with the S.A.I.D. or “SAID” Principle?  It is an Acronym for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands”.  I stumbled across it recently during some research in sports psychology.  The concept is very simple.  It essentially teaches that to improve in a specific sport, you should practice the specific skills and “moves” used in that sport.  But in its more complex version, it is all about adaptation!  Adaptation does not and will not happen in a vacuum.  Adaptation occurs in a response to a specific stimulus or demand imposed by the environment.  I know, this is getting deep.  But this is what I tried to explain to Matty Marshall about teams becoming more academic… why they are becoming more competitive.  Why the Canes were so successful our Pro Rookie season. I just didn’t articulate it well.       

As a coach, I need to leverage my assets (players) to the best of their abilities.  But I also need to create continuous improvement in them and ensure that it is obtained regularly.  How do I do this?  When I have said in the past that my role as a coach is to put my players in positions to succeed, that means playing them in a role that meets their skill set to a specific layout.  And from there, I begin the individualization of their training!

If one wants to replicate success in PAINTBALL, then coaches must train their players beyond the fundamentals and physicality of the sport.  They must be taught the game.  That includes the tactical and the strategic for each and every layout within the parameters of TEAM while emphasizing their individual strengths and abilities… We have to train the brain! 

Most coaches are caught up in execution and not the WHY we do the execution.  They want to teach “when you see this, you do this.” If A then B paintball (a good concept).  This is a speed factor, an efficiency creator… but it is only half of the potential for making great players.  However, the more we teach, explain, understand the concept behind the why, that process of learning will get faster each time, with each layout.  Their own cognition will take over and their individual understanding will assert itself leading to even greater efficiency and use of time.

Asking and understanding why.

Too many coaches simply teach the fundamental aspects of our sports without emphasizing why.  Sure, a lot of it is self-explanatory.  And don’t get me wrong, the foundation of our sport is certainly important.  But too many take this as the only concept required.  Anyone can pick up a clipboard, call a line with your 5 most talented guys, and ask them to win.  That is not coaching.  That is managing. Great job PB manager.  But what are you doing to continue their growth, to make them elite?  Think about it, if that were the way, there would be a lot more elite players in each division.  But there isn’t… so, in my opinion, it is about the individualized attention and growth plan that must be discovered and then implemented.

Do I know how to do this every time with every player?  Absolutely not.  This is something that will require a lot of trial and error.  And something I started personally about 6 years ago and I am still navigating.

I am a firm believer in training as a TEAM but affirming and supporting that effort with individualized concepts.  None of this is a science.  But we can all be scientists by experimenting and studying results.

I guess my whole point is, as a coach, we need to look at our players in a much more holistic manner.  Their diet, their workouts, their READING, their home life, ALL OF IT… instead of just the one size fits all approach to practice in our sport. They will be better for it, you will be better for it, and the team will be better for it. Who knows, you might be surprised and start winning at a lot more than paintball.

Be Water My Friends,


NXL World Cup 2022 Recap

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

When Hurricane Nicole showed up the evening before World Cup, the NXL was forced to make some tough decisions. One of, if not the largest Cup to date, they had to figure a way to get 560 teams scheduled into 3 days as opposed to the original 4 day plan. One way they did this was to reduce the amount of prelim games for the pro division and, in the interest of fairness, redraw the brackets. The New Orleans Hurricanes kept Tsunami and NYX from our previous bracket, but replaced LVL and NRG with San Antonio X-Factor. We would have 3 chances to get it right…no wild card for this event. Win a minimum of two or go home (unless you are Russian Legion – wild how that bracket shook out).

We only had one match on Friday and it was against the new comers from Columbia, South America, Tsunami. We had no real data on them save they had beat 4 other teams to get this spot at Cup. Most south American teams I have come across are highly aggressive and like to play the attack forward game. Tsunami was different. When I saw these gentlemen prior to our match, they seemed mature and athletic. I could see why they won the coveted spot. They seemed to understand how the field played but were a little off on their zone control. Processing speed was there at moments but not near consistent enough to be competitive at this level. Good group of guys though.

We wanted to show pocket and not much else in this match if we could. And for the most part, that’s what we did. Pretty much the same play 7 of the 8 points we played. We won by mercy rule 7-1 but I couldn’t help but notice a few issues during this match. The one point we lost was a 5 on 4 power play because we were forcing some issues instead of letting them develop. And we were a little off on a few other smaller things… I commented this publicly on social media after I had a talk with the guys. It was these issues that would come back and haunt us on day two.

Saturday rolled around and our first match was against New York Xtreme. We have gotten the better of them each time we met this year. We have beaten them by 3 each time. We won the first time we met at the Lonestar Open 7-4. We would beat them again in Philly 5-2. However, we knew they would be hungry, especially since they could very well be relegated if they didn’t show up. That can be a powerful motivator. We understood they had scrimmaged some of the best teams in the league prior to this event so we knew they would be well prepared. We scouted their first match against X-factor. Not a lot of data to extrapolate from just a 4 point match but enough to determine they were playing “different” and seemed to have a good grasp on how to play the field. Someone told me that Rich Telford stated they knew how we would play the field from our first match against Tsunami… And that’s what we had hoped they would think. Mission Accomplished, or so we thought.

As expected, it was a knife fight. Unfortunately, we would not live up to nor meet our own required expectations. That falls squarely on us. There are points in there where you see Hurricane paintball. Steady, disciplined, well executed grinds. The points we lost? Uncommon individual mistakes that created holes that allowed NYX to capitalize. A good example would be the 5th point of the match. Mistakes were made. And that happens. We will grow from it. However, as the Coach, I take full responsibility as I should have prepared my guys better. I also share in the accountability of the last point before overtime. The call wasn’t bad and it wasn’t necessarily wrong (the set up) but I could have changed one asset that may have saved that point more than likely. I almost called a time out to run on the field and change it so that is completely on me. NYX were due one. Congrats to them on a match well played.

We had now put ourselves in a do or die situation against an elite team in X-Factor. X-factor was showing a slow and steady pocket press approach to the layout, very similar to our own. They were just doing it with uncanny discipline, composure, and communication. Something one would expect from the talent on that team. We knew it was going to be a steep hill to climb. You can’t help but respect the members of X-factor. Those cats are no joke and play a composed game. We decided to take an offensive approach to them. It did not work. The way the field played, at least in my opinion, was you establish your center presence, try to turn guns inside, create opportunity (and sometimes chaos), then spread and bully a gun. X-factor simply beat us to that approach almost every point. Of course, getting a major our first point didn’t help set a good pace. However, the second point we showed why we are here. That being said, X-Factor’s guns on the break were just dialed in and we were playing in a deficit most of the points. Hard place to fight from when your tournament life is on the line. The 5th point saw a great counter by my guys but a minor penalty stole it from us putting us in an even worse position. Drew Bell has a big boy point but too little too late. Not that it matters, but I felt Daniel Camp clearly shot Billy first in the final point exchange. Billy continues and puts a ball on Daniel. Should have been a major putting us in a 4-3 score/position with a minute left. Didn’t get the call, it happens, 5-2 X-factor. They played an excellent match.

And with that, our rookie season came to an end. Not how we wanted it to go obviously but it is what it is. We now have next year to focus on. We have to take the many lessons learned and use them to make ourselves better.

But first, a few first season take-a ways/thoughts…

Our goals heading into the season were simple. Win a point, win/connect two points in a row, win a match, and don’t get last at any event. We accomplished all of these goals at each event. There was another goal we had set at the beginning of the year. Be in the top 15 for the series. However, I personally set a goal for the team which was to be top 10 for the series. Headed into cup at 9th was a good place to be. However, at the time of this writing, they haven’t posted series points/scores yet. I don’t believe we will meet my personal goal of top 10 but it will be close (my guess is 11th). I know we
easily met our top 15 goal as we never finished worse than 14th all season.

We were pretty much written off at the beginning of the season and not without merit. We were unproven among the pro ranks, no one knew any of us, or our potential. History would dictate that we get knocked around. But we weren’t going to let that happen. You were at least going to know you were in fight. I tried to explain that in interviews to whoever would listen. We made two Sundays… I believe we could have made 3 and probably should have made 4 but that is on us. It is ALWAYS on us. I don’t care what the other team did. One solid take away is I believe we are the first rookie pro team to go undefeated in prelims and enter Sunday as the 1st place seed (Chicago/Windy City). With Legion and Heat in our bracket for that matter. Not a bad accomplishment even if I do say so myself. I want the guys to know they are capable of much more. But we have to prove it, we have to show it. It will require more hard work, more time, more repetition, and a lot of study.

We won 86 of 170 points played meaning we won 51% of the time we stepped out on the field. That will have to improve if we want to remain relevant. We placed 14th, 6th, 13th, 5th, and I believe 14th. You could argue there is a small component of consistency in there worthy of notice… But again, I think we are capable of much better.

There are 5 memories from our rookie year that will stay with me during the off season… perhaps I should call them lessons. Either way, I will study them one last time, and move on with my new knowledge.

  • The Impact game at Sunshine State Open
  • The Heat game at Lonestar
  • The Thunder match in Philly
  • The Heat match on Sunday in Chicago
  • And of course, this last NYX match at Cup

All lessons learned and all will simply make us better in one way or another.

Real quick, a little analysis/comparison.

Since its most recent inception, the NXL has seen 8 teams make the jump from Div 1/Semi Pro to the Professional ranks. Seattle Uprising would make the jump in 2016 placing 13th out of 16 pro teams at the time, never making Sunday. In 2017, after winning the semi pro division, PC Katana would place 14th out of 16 pro teams never making a Sunday. In 2018, the NXL would grow the pro divsion from 16 teams to 20 teams. The four new teams would be Sacramento DMG, New York Xtreme, Scottsdale Elevation, and MLKings. DMG would make their first Sunday at World Cup taking 9th at the event and placing 11th overall for the season. Xtreme would take 12th that season making two Sundays but having such low appearances in the other events, it drug them down. Elevation with an incredible debut performance would falter and take 14th followed by MLKings at 19th.

2019 saw the addition of San Diego Aftermath after Chicago Aftershock was relegated. After an absolutely stunning debut at the first event, Aftermath wouldn’t win another match the rest of the season taking 15th for the year.

2020 (the covid year) would see the departure of 3 pro teams; Scottsdale Elevation, PC Katana, and Boom. AC Diesel had won the Semi Pro division thus earning their pro spot. I believe members of Boom would merge with 12th place semi pro team NRG Elite taking a spot and finally, Columbus LVL, the 4th place semi pro team would buy PC Katana’s spot. With the 2 event season, AC would shock the world with a 5th place finish at Cup giving them an 8th place overall. LVL and NRG would finish 14th and 16th. The following season, with no relegation due to the short season, we would see AC take 10th, NRG 13th, and LVL 15th. Interestingly enough, the Hurricanes won the Semi Pro division during the covid season with a World Cup win.

I mention all of this only because I am a bit of a history buff. That, and I wanted to see where we stood in regards to the annals of PB history. With our 11th place series finish, we fall in with the two most successful rookie debuts in paintball history. We tie DMG with the 11th place finish. Do you count the AC rookie 2 event season and their 8th place finish? I guess we could average those 2 events from 2020 and add the next 2 or 3 finishes to give them a season. They would have had an 11th, 5th, 6th, 11th, and 14th. Almost sure to have been a top 10 team (and they did pull a top 10 finish their sophomore year). So I feel AC Diesel keeps the title of most successful Rookie pro team with DMG and the Hurricanes sharing the 2nd place spot. Although I guess you could argue with our Chicago event (undefeated and 1st seed headed into Sunday) and the two Sunday appearances, we would edge DMG out for that 2nd place… just pontificating…

Congratulations to the original boys in blue, San Diego Dynasty. Absolutely incredible performance all season long. Well earned and well deserved. And to all the other coaches and players in this division – I don’t know many of you but I know a little something about you… we all love this game and in order to grind at this level, you have at least one trait I like – perseverance. I look forward to learning from all of you in one way or another.

There are so many people we need to thank…

First and foremost I want to thank our fans. You guys are 100% legitimately the best fans in the sport. Respectful, kind and generous. Don’t think we didn’t hear you at Cup! We did (and so did the rest of Osceola county)! It means the world to us. Thank you and God bless you. We will continue to give and do our best for you! We draw strength from you!

To our families – words won’t and can’t do justice to what we owe you for your continued support and belief. From Parents, Wives, Aunts and Uncles, Siblings, Children, Family, friends and Girlfriends, we are simply blessed to have you. Allowing and supporting this dream of ours with your own sacrifice is nothing short of inspirational. You mean the world to us because you are our world. The Hurricane family is large and powerful and it is one of our greatest attributes as a team.

To our sponsors – I know we are the new kids on the block but we appreciate your thoughtfulness and professionalism. GI, the paint was stellar all season long. Planet Eclipse, no one doubts you have the best marker in the business (and your techs are johnny on the spot man!). Carbon, your support and service has been nothing short of extraordinary just like your products. JT, the masks are classic and we received nothing but compliments on how good we looked in our swag. Virtue, the hoppers were durable and never once the whole season ever let us down. Finally, to Drew Bankston and LA Xtreme Paintball, our home field in Slidell, LA… You. Are. The. Man. Love you brother!
Thank you all!

Until next season.

Be water my friends…

S.C.U.D. (Sustaining Concentration Under Duress)

The NXL’s Mid Atlantic open was June 17th-19th.  The next NXL event (not counting the Golden State Open) was the Windy City Major held last month near Chicago from Sept 9-11.  There was a 12 week, or an approximate 3 month time frame between the Mid Atlantic and the Windy City events.

In paintball, that’s a long time.

So, what are the Professional teams doing during those 3 months?  If you are the New Orleans Hurricanes, you are working your day job (in some cases, two jobs), ensuring your career is still on track, taking care of family and significant others, balancing the checkbook, paying bills and taxes, and then shoring up individual and team paintball skill sets at every opportunity.  Because we are so spread out as a team, members get to the field when they can to work drills and teamwork.  If a member of the team can’t make a practice, they are practicing local to where they are.

The everyday life grind coupled with the paintball grind can be difficult.  Priorities for one tend to interfere with priorities for the other.  And that is understandable.  After all, this is the only professional sport that I know of where the pros (or at least a large portion of them) must pay to play at this level.  We are husbands, fathers, sons, and men first.  Our priority and ultimate responsibility is to our loved ones.  We must be solid and good on that front first and foremost before we can be solid and good on the field.  I truly believe this is one of our strengths.  Our support system is a large part of our relative success.

Focus. One voice at a time. What’s the goal and how do we execute/accomplish it?

Okay, but what can we do when your team’s focus appears to be a little blurry?  What can you do if the life grind is interfering more than usual with the paintball grind?  How do you maintain the team’s focus?

How many of you are familiar with the 80/20 rule?  Also known as the “Pareto Principle”. It essentially means that, 80% of your results come from about 20% of your work. More specifically that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. So how do we apply this?  It should be obvious, we should focus on that 20%… work the stuff that matters and don’t get distracted by the feeling of “we have to”.  In other words, we should prioritize the 20% of factors that will produce the best results.

I see teams fall into this trap quite often.  They over plan.  Whereas, having a plan to begin with is important, and most certainly helps with goal setting, direction, and success, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Do not create an environment where, if you don’t do something, it will cause the team to feel they are not prepared.  No need to hamstring the team by developing a “to do” list that isn’t manageable or practical.  It isn’t necessary to get too detailed.   Understand, details are terrific and important but it is a fine line that must be walked.  If we get too detailed, we can get bogged down and miss out on what the real issues are or will be. Efficiency is key. Try not to do something just because other’s do it. Focus on what YOUR team needs. Is this making sense?

Focusing on teamwork and execution of job sets will lead to success.

All that said, try to identify your team’s key needs and best assets. Then try to shore them up in an efficient manner so you get the maximum value added. Now… this is a concept. A rule rather and not a law. What do I mean by this? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since the 20% gets priority, then the other 80% can be ignored!

We should also recognize the difference between individual and team planning.  As I sated earlier, efficient use of time is really the key to all of this.  When we do have the time together as a team, I want to emphasize very specific team-oriented material as opposed to the individual aspects.  I might mention to an individual player something I see or want them to work on at a team practice and will keep it in the mental Rolodex (maybe discuss during a short break but not spend a lot of time on it)… but the emphasis is, and always will be, on the team dynamic when we are together.  This isn’t to say that individual attention doesn’t happen. It most certainly and almost always does. However, at this level, the individual issues are usually smaller or fewer and less dire.

I will almost always have a specific agenda in mind and time frame for each item on the agenda before a practice.  However, that agenda is fluid in case I see something that needs to be re-emphasized.  The domino effect is very real at practice.

What do I mean by the domino effect?  Well, it’s the whole point of this blog.  Staying focused on the goals can easily be derailed if we allow things to fall off or pile up.  We get off on a tangent and now the tangent becomes the focus as opposed to the intended goal.  At the end of the day, you can’t always control the results.  But you can most certainly control your effort to meet them and focus on them, yes?

When you get down to it, your team is simply a collection of people with a common interest (hopefully). Not to get too high brow but I was recently reading a little Thomas Hobbes. He nailed the concept, at least in my opinion, of what a team is in his book “Leviathan” (well, really government or an organization of civilization… social contract theory… what have you).  He uses the concept of the biblical Leviathan, a giant sea serpent, as a metaphor for the state.  Essentially the creature’s body is a giant body made up of ALL the bodies of its citizens in the literal sense.  The same concept can be applied to a team.  Team, very similar to the different states here in the US, are made up 3 components;  the people, the processes, and their systems.

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


Focus on what you can control.

Ultimately, my main goal for the Canes at a practice is to function as one.  How can we be more efficient and ensure we are all rowing in the right direction with the same desire or outcome in mind?  Our focus – acting as one, a single entity with very specific goals in mind.  What do WE need? Having everyone on the same page is as simple as getting everyone to agree to a very specific list of goals.  Then create acceptance and agreement among the team on how best to get there… as a team.  Identifying and developing focus for the team can be finite.  But alignment on all of it is paramount. 

You have all heard the line, “Trust the process”. If the process leads to small successes over time then it is having the desired effect.

So stay focused on the task at hand, whatever that may be.

And remember…

Be water my friends.

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,


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


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.

Be water my friends