We’re going to talk about a topic that I don’t believe too many address when giving advice in paintball. I have found myself saying this more often as of late. It may be due to my age. But I believe there is a significant benefit derived from this one thing when it comes to improving your paintball game.
I have said several times over the years that, once I am no longer effective on the field, that is the day I hang up the jersey and walk away. I have tried to stick to that particular statement for some time now. But I noticed something happening earlier this year. That statement or rather the reasoning behind, began to evolve, just as many of my perspectives have over the years (ask me about 9mm vs .45 sometime). Yes, I am competitive and want to give the very best I can, every time I step on the field. Not just in matches or games, but in practice, drills, teamwork, etc. However, the evolution of the statement was subtle. I play paintball because I enjoy the game. It is fun to me and has several elements that attract me to the sport. And so, the statement became this: The day I stop having fun while being effective on the field is the day I will walk away.
Don’t get me wrong. Winning is fun, right?
“Just have fun!” Yeah, sure, sounds simple enough, yes? But is it? Almost every competitive paintball player I know wants to win and winning is fun. But admit it, those events you travel to with your teammates, your friends… you want to have a good time. Of course, you are traveling there to win! But you want to have a good time, a good experience yes?
It is easy to get caught up in the moment, become so serious, that you forget to have fun and instead stress yourself out to no end. Trust me, this is something I have a lot of experience with. Some of you may be asking yourself, there is no time for fun if you are serious about winning. And that very well may be true… for you. You are probably thinking, there is no time for fun when the game is on the line! And this is where I would say, “Well then, you’re doing it wrong.” The having fun part that is.
See, the fun doesn’t start when we get to the tournament. It starts right now. It started when you decided to put time and energy into paintball. How many of you started playing paintball to win a tournament? Chances are you started playing to have fun with your friends. It was FUN to play. The tournament part came later.
I am currently researching sports psychology articles that support my theory but I firmly believe that you garner more from practice when you are enjoying yourself. I feel you have to enjoy practicing before you can truly enjoy competing. You have to want to be there. You have to want to be there because not ONLY do you want to get better but because getting better should be enjoyable. If frustration sets in during practice, we need to refocus you on the task at hand. See, frustration is in your head. If you are always frustrated with a drill or skill set, you are training wrong mentally. You don’t have to be frustrated to get better. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to be miserable to get better at something you enjoy. Read that last sentence again and let it sink in.
If you end up leaving the practice field feeling as if you could have done better or trained harder, you didn’t have a good time in my opinion. Recognizing that you are getting better should be enjoyable. See, too many times we get to the field and we get so caught up in our mistakes we don’t recognize what good came of them. Practice is where you are SUPPOSED to make mistakes. Better there than the tournament, yes? A great practice should be one where, we can make mistakes, learn from them, recognize the mistake and why it is one, and forgive ourselves. If we constantly beat ourselves up over the fact we are still making mistakes, that is not conducive to getting better. It’s going to happen, you’re going to make a mistake. Recognize that as part of the process of getting better. Think about it, you can’t give more than you can give, right? If you are giving 100% and doing your best every time you pick up the gun, then you are doing what needs to be done. Having fun is allowing you to make mistakes and forgiving yourself for these mistakes. You can’t give more than everything you have in training, and you can’t undo what’s being done. When someone tells you to have fun, what they are saying is: “Do your best because your best will do.” Even when your “best” is not enough to “win”, you can never win if you don’t believe you deserve to be there or want to be there. Who spends that amount of time and money to go to a tournament to lose? No, you want to give it your best and have fun doing it.
During my research about enjoyment/fun and the correlation to success, I came across a statement that I wrote down. It actually became the catalyst for deciding to write on this particular subject matter. Check it out: “Fun without excellence can actually work against you because the credibility is not there.” It made me start thinking about my own successes at work or paintball or leadership. I realized that, over the years, there was a common theme to certain successes in my life; humor. If I did my job well but was able to work some fun into, maybe take a serious topic or moment and figure out how to inject some humor into it, it appeared things went more smoothly or were more impactful or effective. So let’s look at it from the perspective of process. Each process has steps that are followed in order to gain a desired result. Ok, let’s start there.
Practices should be designed as a series of processes (drills, scrimmaging, etc.) in order to improve our individual and team abilities. If we take each process and analyze what we don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work, then we can identify a way to make it better. I bet if I were to survey most players, the majority of them don’t necessarily enjoy certain drills. However, almost everyone knows that drills are designed to improve our skillsets. So, if drills are necessary and required to get better, what can we do to make them more enjoyable? Interesting question, no? See, we have more control over how we improve than most people realize. It just takes a little creativity. And if I know one thing, PB players are a creative bunch.
I think that the biggest challenge most of us face would be that we aren’t good at recognizing how good (or bad) we really are. I see it pretty often, a player will overestimate how good they are at a particular skill set (I’m starting to sense another blog post topic…hmmmm). However, if we are able to decipher input from our own practices and recognize where we struggle, then add input from our teammates, we should be able to understand what we truly need to be working on and what we need to improve. And that doesn’t have to be depressing, that can be fun! Understanding where we are helps us realize where we need to go. Once this happens, we can begin setting aside a certain amount of time each practice and really focus on those skill sets. But make it fun.
The point of all this is to say that; I believe that you retain more and learn faster when you are having fun. Does that make sense? So coaches and players, have fun out there. Work hard, play hard, and have fun.
Okay, that wraps this one up. I hope it makes sense. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the matter. Until next month…
Be water my friends