I Feel the Need…

… the need for speed!

When Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards’ characters delivered this line in 1986’s Top Gun, it was quotable gold to my 14 year-old mind.  Go fast, go hard, or go home.  It serves our hero well early on in the film.  But as we all know (Okay…Spoiler alert!) and much to everyone’s chagrin, that strategy eventually gets the lovable character “Goose” killed… and our hero learns the value of teamwork and controlled precision.

top gun
Classic.  And a total paintball analogy…

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, what in the world is Zen talking about?  More than half of you reading this probably haven’t seen Top Gun and probably weren’t born when it came out.  But then, you would seriously be missing out.  Why?  Well, it should be painfully obvious had you seen it.  Top Gun is a perfect analogy for competition paintball teams.

Speed kills.

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” – Lucius Seneca

Let’s start with lower divisional teams.  But before we do, I want to get something off my chest.  Everyone started somewhere.  If you are one of those people who judge a player by their APPA ranking; stop.  You want to know how to improve the “speed” in which someone gets better?  Try helping them.

Okay… moving on.

Fast, aggressive lower divisional teams, in my opinion, almost always have the advantage over their competition.  I am not talking about every member of the team running a 4.4 Forty (although, that would certainly help).  No, I mean aggressive, get up the field, imposing pressure, in the other team’s face, risk versus reward, speed.  Early on in paintball careers, most beginning ballers aren’t thinking three dimensionally.  They usually have tunnel vision, engaging only the guy in front of them or only those they see.  They aren’t “zoning up” and they haven’t learned how, as a team, to plug the holes.  It’s probably worth mentioning that most teams haven’t learned to recognize the holes yet either.  They usually guess or force it.  How many D5 or D4 teams have you seen when a player takes a big bite and makes it clean and the opposing team does what?  They panic.

“50 snake! 50 snake! I said 50 snake! OMG 50 snake! Oh dear lord! 50 snake! Is no one listening?! Dear lord, we’re all going to die! 50 snake!”

An underrated 90’s film that is another great analogy for lower divisional teams…don’t step off the gas!

And then what usually happens? All the guns turn to the snake.  I mean, EVERY gun.  What should (and occasionally) happens then?  The D side players of the opposing team take ground.  Obviously this is a broad brush but I think you understand my concept.  Speed and aggression kills the bad guys at lower divisions.  Speed and aggression win paintball games.

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

As players and teams progress up the divisional ladder, things begin to change.  I think the general concept of speed kills essentially still holds in D3 but now we start to see other variables coming into play.  For instance, the layout starts to play more of role and has a more definitive impact.  A slow layout may be the nemesis of a fast team.  D3 camping teams do well on slow layouts, and D3 aggressive teams do well on aggressive layouts.

D2 and up you need to start seeing a shift.

Higher division games, speed still kills, but usually when a team only has one speed, fast.  And it usually means your demise.  Having one speed and not understanding how to shift gears, well… that will get you killed fast.

Don’t forget the clutch when shifting! (See what I did there?)

This is when you really start to see teams who understand the game.  This would be the perfect segue into “controlling the pace of the game” but we are going to save that for another blog.  How many times have you heard me or someone say, “Make them play your game”, yeah that. (maybe the next one).

Anyway, so how can teams improve their ability to shift gears from fast to slow to fast to whatever?

Here are just a two suggestions.

Two Scouts

The fastest way between two points is a straight line, yes?  Efficiency is key.  So we need to be prepared.  You need quality eyes.  What I mean by this and it may seem difficult for some teams to accomplish, is having two types of scouts.  Most teams, when able to scout a team, have someone tracking where their opponent is going off the break each and every point.  That’s a given.  But what do they do with the data?  We should be looking for two things here; patterns and statistics.  The pattern aspect will show you a rhythm to their plays.  The statistics will show you where they like to push from and where they are winning from.  As Bruce Lee use to say, “In order to hurt me, you must move to me, which offers me an opportunity to intercept you”.  Same concept here.

The second set of eyes are tracking where their guns are on the break.  If we can identify where they are zoning on the break, where they are putting their assets, we can then identify/recognize the “holes”.  We can develop our plays to counter.  We can speed up our progress down the field with risk vs reward maneuvers.

See????   Too fast….

Situational Drills

How many times have we talked about processing speed?  How many times have we talked about field walking?  How many times have we talked about identifying specific bunkers having specific roles?  How many times have we talked about clear, concise communication?

If you identify key bunkers for key jobs, utilize solid communication to get there as well as understand who is where (threat vs asset), recognize what to do when you get there, the speed of which you make things happen will leave the opponent a step behind.  I say this all the time when coaching little league baseball.  “Know what you are going to do with the ball when and if you get it.”  Same thing applies in paintball.

The fastest way to improve those abilities is situational drills.  After running several points on a layout, you will start to recognize patterns.  When you see them, recreate them in a situational drill and figure out what has to happen in order to improve your chances of success.  The most common one teams run into is “breaking the cross”.  This is when your opponent has two players in key bunkers who can defend each other.  You have to cross lines of fire/kill zones to dig them out.  Done enough, you start to recognize exactly what needs to happen when you run into it at the event.  You have just improved your processing speed.  Well done!

“The more complicated and powerful the job, the more rudimentary the preparation for it.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.

Watch the pros at the upcoming NXL Dallas event if you have the opportunity.  I’m sure you will be able to recognize the difference in “processing speed” between particular teams.  It’s not that the teams who are losing are bad teams.  It’s simply their processing of situations is not as good as the others (among other things).  Some teams have worked and played together for so long that their “game speed” is easily recognizable.  They know how to downshift and when to shift into high gear.  It is truly awesome to watch.

Finding the path

That’s it for this month.  Don’t forget to comment or reach out with questions.  Would love to hear from you.  In the meantime,


Be water my friends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s