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.”

Facts

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

Amen.

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,

Zen

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.”

    Aristotle

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,

Zen

2022 NXL Mid Atlantic Open Recap

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

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

Match 1 vs New York Xtreme

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

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

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

Match 2 vs Edmonton Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match 3 vs Seattle Thunder

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

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

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

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

Match 4 vs San Diego Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

Britt Simpson.

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

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

Great match up against a great team.

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

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

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

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

Be water my friends.

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (cont)

Continued from previous blog on May 7th

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Selflessness – great quality in a player

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

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

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

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

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

Soon JC…. soon.

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

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

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

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

Be water my friends

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Kurrite Photography. Pretty vivid stuff!

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

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

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

FRIDAY

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

Not a bad start. Lessons learned.

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

And some more lessons learned… these are the tough ones

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

To be continued…. Next week, not next month

Be water


Rec them? Darn near killed ’em!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Be water my friends.