Hulk Smash!

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley

Some may be surprised I am quoting a pacifist but then, he has a point here.  In order to improve ourselves, we must first recognize that we are the purveyors of the act.  We must understand that it starts and ends with us and we must initiate the change but only after we recognize that we must or want to improve.  Whether it be physically, mentally, spiritually, at work, at home, whatever the case may be, we have to begin.

Okay, where am I going with this.  Recently, one of my good friends and a talented player became incredibly frustrated at practice.  He wasn’t hitting shots he thought he should hit, was getting shot when he obviously had the better position, was getting dinked out on key moves, etc.  He. Was. Mad. Furious, he cursed and bemoaned the game and himself.  Mad to the point where he didn’t want to hear what could be done better or what could be done to improve the chance of success.  No, he just wanted to believe he sucked and would never improve.  Filth flam flo blah!

Who has felt this way before during practice?


After he calmed down, and certain things were explained (missed your shot? Don’t stay out in the open gun battling and don’t use the top of a dorito since it is the smallest portion of a bunker out there.  Got shot when moving into position?  Next time let your teammate know what you need him to do to improve success.  Did you check off your danger bunkers?) it struck me how refocused he was.  As the day went on, he began to become more methodical, not overly cautious, but smarter about his approach.  I made a mental note of it to address this topic.  And so here we are…

Why do we get angry about our performance on the paintball field?  The simple answer is we are all competitive and want to win.  Why else do you play, right?  But at practice?  Why get angry there?  Practice is where you are supposed to make the mistakes, where you are supposed to learn.  So listen very carefully… practice is exactly where you are supposed to get angry with yourself!

Now, I am not saying you should always get angry.  This is more of a “if you are the type who…” blog about understanding and dealing with people like this.  Or perhaps it is you who does this.  Either way, hear me out.  First we have to understand why we get angry in the first place.

Is this your happy place?  It can be mine.  Sometimes it isn’t though…

There is always some sort of event that happens right before someone gets angry that serves as the catalyst.  In most cases, players have a tendency to say things like, “That dude is totally cheating” or “I shot him first but this paint sucks and didn’t break.” The idea is that a specific occurrence caused the immediate and harsh behavior.  The truth of the matter is, there were probably a lot of factors taking place prior to the incident that led to the angry outburst.  People rarely go 0-90 with a single offense.  And if they do, I would certainly avoid them…

Obviously, all of us have different triggers (oh, how I hate that word these days… but in this case, it is applicable).  What then, are the other elements that cause our anger? In the case we described above, the person was cheated or the paint didn’t perform.   But was that all?  There are actually two things happening when a person gets angry: the persons own personality and the environment they are in at the moment.

People’s personalities weigh heavily into this equation.  Competiveness, frustration, and other traits can certainly affect who, how, and why we get angry.  It makes sense that a competitive person is playing competitive paintball yes?  So too, it makes sense that they may get angry when not winning or performing.

Some guys are happy, some are overheated…


Okay, so we have a competitive or easily frustrated individual playing a highly competitive team sport that involves consequences when failure is introduced.  Failure can equate to a ‘pain’ aspect of being shot with a paintball.  So now we have a competitive or easily frustrated player who failed at an aspect of the game and they are “rewarded” with a painful reminder of said failure.  No, we will not trail off into classical conditioning.  Maybe some other time we will… I digress.

What about the environment or what was happening prior to the event?  How was work that week?  How is their relationship with their girlfriend/wife/kids?  How hot is it outside?  Did they get enough sleep?  We’ve all been there before.  When we are tired or upset or anxious because of other events off of the paintball field, or we are physically uncomfortable due to heat or an injury… we are much more likely to respond with anger.  Not everyone has that reaction and to those that are able to center themselves and refocus immediately following the “failure” more power to them.  “My apologies Wyatt, you are an oak.”


As a leader, a captain, or even a good teammate, we should (operative word here is “should”) recognize these personality traits and the environment at practice.  Check in on that guy you know is that way.  Stay positive and recognize tendencies.  Anger can cloud one’s learning.  But if you can refocus the energy of a player, congratulations and well done.  Identifying issues prior to them coming to fruition is a sign of a great leader and friend for that matter.


Now, recognizing this behavior should not rest solely on the captain/teammate. No, if you recognize that you have these tendencies, you have won half the battle.  It is ultimately YOUR responsibility to address your issue.  Be a man and own up.  Take steps to be a better teammate.  Evaluate yourself prior to and during practice regularly.  You never know how your attitude will affect those on your team around you.

I am not advocating for a snowflake team where everyone is nice and pixies and fairy-dust and everyone is happy.  Utopian paintball teams are extremely rare and will eventually dissolve. Why? Because some conflict in some form is necessary for growth. The sooner the younger ones among you recognize this, the better for the rest of us.

Back to my friend who got angry, frustrated, and downright pissed.  He calmed down, recognized he was being his own worst enemy, and refocused on the task at hand… learning.  I’ve know this gentleman for a while now and he is one of my good friends.  He and I have a mutual understanding that we have come to.  When he gets this way, I recognize it, he recognizes it, and he doesn’t need me to “talk to him”.  No, a simple comment about “you see what you are doing?” and bam! He’s back on point.  The environment he finds himself in is a supportive one but not to the point of being coddled.  When you reach that point, you’ve lost.

I like to give more than receive

For those of you who want the scientific reasoning for this particular article need to look into a guy by the name of Dr. Deffenbacher and his writings on “cognitive appraisal”.  Cognitive appraisal is this:  a theory which states that a person’s emotion nal evaluative judgment (or appraisal) of a situation, event or object determines or contributes to his or her emotional response to it.

I think there is an important aspect to remember when evaluating others or ourselves though.  A person’s interpretation or appraisal of a situation that leads to their anger isn’t necessarily wrong.  That person very well may have cheated or that paint bounced.   In other words, his reaction may have certainly been justifiable.  But we need to recognize all the factors involved, solve for it and move on.  This is to ensure that everyone gets the most out of the day, not just that individual. Does any of this make sense?  I hope so.

Be water my friends,


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