“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
- Thomas Jefferson
We have all met him; the super star of paintball, the unsung hero who pulled off a 5 pack when he used to play with that pro team against that other pro team back when pro teams were pro teams and before all the hubbub… except he isn’t unsung. He is singing right in front of you and the rest of your team at try-outs, talking about his glory days. You listen intently and politely knowing he was never rostered with said pro team and that the scenario he is describing is complete fiction, especially as he moves on to explain all the (fabricated) reasons why he isn’t in the realm of paintball stardom amongst the greats. Hollow excuses that make no sense, and should you decide to call him on it, you know it will just get dumber so you don’t waste your time. You decide to let his game talk and true to form, he doesn’t disappoint. He is about as talented and successful at paintball as OJ Simpson would be at speed dating or Hillary Clinton staying sober on the most recent election night.
On the opposite spectrum, how often do we look in the mirror? Where do we feel we stand as a player? People like the one described above are easy to spot and even easier to deal with on the field. But what about us? Are we really as good as we think we are?
Let’s talk about self-assessment.
Self-assessment is a necessary evil in all walks of life. We have to understand where we stand, in real time, in relation to our goals. Those goals can be at work, in our relationships with significant others, and of course, our performance on the paintball field. Self- assessment is important quite simply because it should always lead to self- improvement. Ah-hah!
First things first, when we recognize our mistakes and understand why they happened, we can then begin the process of improving. Now, you’re probably saying, “Sounds about as obvious as it can get”. And, for the most part, you would be right. We have to admit to ourselves WE made the mistake. As we become better at doing this, it eventually becomes a habit; habits that will over time make our lives better in all things, not just paintball. The great thing is, the better we get at doing this, the better person we can become. Why? Think about it… who are we going to for “self-help”?
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that self-assessment can be a bit of a pooch too. The key to its success is being honest with you. Let’s face it, most of us avoid honestly assessing ourselves and there are several reasons for this. We tend to distract ourselves from the objective of self-assessment, never fully commit to it, and we have a tendency to make excuses. Heck, we are human after all.
Be advised, when done wrong, self- assessment can be more damaging than helpful. We must be careful not to take it too far and do it too much, eventually creating a dismal outcome for ourselves no matter what. Understand that, we should still strive to confront ourselves on and off the field regarding our strengths and weaknesses. As long as we keep it within the realm of controllable capability (focusing on things we can control as opposed to outside elements) we can work towards making serious improvements. But lets not beat ourselves up. Let’s recognize the process and why we did it to begin with… to improve.
Here’s how I see a beginning assessment regarding competitive paintball going down:
How do you spend your time at the field? What does a normal practice day look like for you? How is your snap shot? How is your laning? How is your run and gun? How is your communication? Do you leave the field feeling accomplished? How is your physical being? Are we in shape? Are we hydrated? Do we enjoy practice? Do we like our teammates and trust them? Do they trust us? What do you consider your best trait on the field? Why? What do you consider your weakest? Why? Where do you think you need to devote more time and energy?
And now for the biggun’. How do we measure ourselves against all these things realistically?
Ask yourself those questions and answer as genuinely as possible. Remember, the trick is to assess your strengths and weaknesses honestly. Once we do this, we can move forward by focusing on correcting the weaknesses and strengthening the strengths. Don’t look at your weaknesses as failures; rather look at them as what they are: Opportunities for improvement. Get it? But don’t limit yourself to just those questions. Take it further!
Let me shift gears here for a bit but stay within the same realm of relevance. Once you realize there may be some things that need to be improved or possibly even re-learned, you need to hop on them immediately. One thing I have learned over the years is that, those who learned paintball by just playing points, are the most difficult to help adjust/improve. However, it isn’t impossible, especially if they remove the ego from it and recognize it needs to be improved. Relearning something doesn’t have to be a monumental feat. It just takes patience and training. Learned behaviors are a lot like taking your dog out for a walk. You take the same path every day, day after day after day. One day you decide to change it up but he hesitates on the leash. However, over time, the more you take the new path; he will eventually start making that turn with you as the behavior is relearned. So don’t get discouraged. It will not happen overnight. Recognizing this from the first will help. Oh, and no, you’re not a dog. But you can learn new tricks…
Once you have conquered yourself, then it becomes a simple matter of applying the same concept to the team. Coaches, you should do the same… to your selves. Self-assess regarding your coaching and your own abilities. Maybe share your own findings with the team for increased feedback. Trust me; it pays off in the end.
I’ll close with an example of myself. I feel I am adept at laning, run and gunning, snapping and other gun fighting skillsets. Where I struggle the most is communication and being overly aggressive. My communication is good the beginning of the point but my mid game and, to a lesser extent, my closing coms can (and should) be much better. My aggressiveness comes from making and seeing reads on the field as things unfold and I like to take opportunities. Regrettably, I don’t always communicate that to my teammates. So, leading up to World Cup, I really emphasized my own coms by challenging myself to communicate better mid game and tried to play a little slower. The best part is I got to work on these things with the team I was playing/coaching and we grew together. My guys helped me by letting me know what was good and what wasn’t. And we watched a bunch of tape too… but that’s another blog.
So, this off season, take a good look at you. Find the chinks in the armor or whether you’re wearing armor at all and get to improving yourself and your abilities by taking a good hard look in the mirror. Promise to try, do, and be better than the old you. Improve yourself. Become you 2.0 or, in my case, 47.5 beta version. You will thank yourself in the end.
“Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” ― Confucius
Be water my friends,