Preparation H

I have been talking with a few captains and heads of programs recently about preparation. Discussions have ranged from preparation for an event to preparation for a season. Both are important and not mutually exclusive.

So let’s break this down for a season. What should we be looking at? What are some of the factors we should address up front. Understand that, if you have read my blog before, you know each of these steps should ultimately have a goal, a set of factors that must be met. This will ultimately determine what your vision of success should look like. Here are the 5 factors to consider:

  • Personnel
  • Practice
  • Coaching
  • Sponsorship
  • Budget

Let’s just go down the list, shall we?

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

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Personnel – One thing I always tried to do was lead by example. I never asked my guys to do something I wasn’t doing. I believe leaders must promote and exude integrity as well as be trusted by the team they are leading. You do this by setting the example and WHEN you do this, you are setting the standard. I was the first guy to that field and a lot of times the last to leave. I took initiative and promoted it among the guys. Something every team needs is a list of expectations for the players that need to be recognized before donning the jersey. Write them out and hand them out at try-outs if need be. If a player can’t meet the requirements, thank you for coming, the door is that way. If it is discovered they can’t meet the expectations later and live up to the understandings set forth from the beginning? One word – cut. This will ensure you have the right band of merry warriors who are down with the cause. Does this always work? Excellent question. You can’t force loyalty but you can identify like-minded people and that’s something.

Remember, you are not paying the players (maybe you are… send me a PM and let’s talk). They are willingly giving of their time so the environment has to be one of mutual respect and drive. You all should want the same thing; to succeed; to win; to promote the team brand. If the team isn’t on the same page about this one simple thing, chances are you will not meet your overall goal much less have any longevity. What does your team stand for? What does it represent? Does the entire team agree?

We’ve talked about it before. Do you have talented players? Be advised, talented individuals do not make a team. Are they coachable, do they get along? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really believe he/she is a talented player? Why?
  • What are his/her strengths and weaknesses and how do they fall within the parameters of the team?
  • Is he/she loyal to the cause/team/teammates? How?
  • Is he/she respectful of others? Does he/she show up on time?
  • Does he/she have their equipment and is it working? Is he/she always borrowing stuff?
  • Is he/she financially capable of carrying his/her own weight?
  • Has he/she shown potential for improvement?

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

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What are some other factors we should look for? What about honesty or accountability? How do they take constructive criticism?

There has to be a motivation or incentive to make your team want to be there and work hard. This is imperative if you are serious about winning.

Practice – This is a no brainer. I genuinely believe that a team’s practice regimen dictates their capability as well as identifies their drive to win. Now, we can discuss quality versus quantity when it comes to practice by why would you not strive for both? Yes, it is hard with everyone’s schedules to do this sort of thing. That’s why you look for this ability in Personnel…

Practice needs to be more than just the layout practices too. The team needs to get together a minimum of one other time a month to continue the gelling process and work on fundamental aspects of the game. Practices should never be just about the layout.

I am a huge proponent of videoing practices. I believe there needs to be a “film day” or “night class”. If possible, watch the footage as a team and leave the egos at the door. At the bare minimum, if you can’t watch in the same room together, start a private thread on social media or in email. Everyone needs to have input and everyone SHOULD be giving input.

Also, schedule a good team to scrimmage. If possible, schedule against a higher division team. If you must scrimmage a lower division team, ensure they are a serious competitor in their division or handicap yourself in some way.

“You hit home runs not by chance but by preparation.” -Roger Maris

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Coaching – Having a coach is so much more than having a guy who “tells us what to do”. There are coaches, there are captains, there are even managers. They all have certain responsibilities and those responsibilities need to be crystal clear. “Coach” is such a generic term in paintball. Is this the guy who runs practices? Chances are he is a coach then. Is this the guys who calls lines, plays? Probably a coach… Is this the guy who scouts opponents and brings actionable intel to the team and how to beat them? Maybe an assistant coach. The guy who handles logistics for the team, books the hotels, manages where everyone is and the schedule, makes sure small details are addressed… perhaps a team owner or manager, yes? What I am getting at is get past the semantics of it and recognize who has what responsibility. Make sure stuff gets done. Anytime you have good organization of a team, you have a serious advantage. More time can be focused on getting better. But make sure it is well thought out and delegated. Don’t expect one guy to do it all. That is folly. I am a firm proponent of a coach, an assistant coach, and a manager. Having all three sure makes things easier. Obviously not every team can have this but if you have the capability… you should make it happen. Efficiency is key here and overwhelming someone can be bad. Look at the successful pro teams right now. Each doesn’t have one dedicated coach but a secondary who assists. Bart and Dave, Alex and Ryan, Rusty and Fraige, the Russians… you get the picture. Not to mention all the other important support staff. Maybe this should go under personnel but have a good pit crew too. Pod runner, paint people, you get the picture.

Oh, and while we are on the topic, field preparation, to me, is a lot more than just playing the lay out for two weekends and telling players what they did wrong when they don’t play well. I love breaking a field down to basic components and then building it back up based off a team’s strengths and weaknesses.  I also really enjoy the challenge of finding bunkers everyone thinks can’t be used effectively and turning them into assets.  Coming up with breakouts and plays that push the envelope.  Which leads to the next portion…

You’ve heard me talk about “processing speed”. The top pros are top pros because they have incredibly fast processing speed or rather they recognize what needs to happen when. They have this processing speed because of experience and practice. So how do you make up for that? Good coaches figure out how the player learns. It’s like our education system today. If a player can’t learn the way we teach, perhaps we should teach the way the player learns. Coaches can’t be hammers all the time. Sometimes it needs to be a scalpel or a needle. Coaches need to know their players and they need to generate a cohesive and trusting atmosphere.

Sponsorship – This is an odd one and here’s why…paintball companies and usually any other entity that is going to supply you with goods and services already have a brand image. And chances are, they are getting everything they need out of you at very little investment. But it is worth the conversation. What is it about the company you are sponsored by that drew you to them? Did they have the best deal, do you just like their stuff, or both? What drew them to you? Were you just a sale? As a “sponsored” team, do you feel appreciated? What kind of relationship do you have with them… is it with the sales rep or someone higher? Is it completely transactional/business? Is there a friendship/trust there?

There are two things to look at basically. What you do for them and what they do for you. Is it mutually beneficial or does it favor one or the other? If the answer to this is that it is mutually beneficial, then you are golden. If it favors them, which is the case 90% of the time, it may need to be addressed if you feel you are giving a whole lot more than you appear to be getting (be careful and don’t flatter yourself). If it favors you, you are a winning team and have longevity in their eyes with a sizable social media impact on sales… that, or something is terribly wrong.

“Preparation is a mentality… With wrestling being my background, I’ve always learned to overwork, overwork. Work, work, work, work. It’s not always the talented that wins, but it’s the one who puts in the most preparation and thought into things.” – Dominick Cruz

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What I am getting at here is, what is your image and why? What does the sponsorship you have say about you and your team and your worth to the sponsor? Sponsorships should help your guys compete. The goal of them is to shift some of the financial burden to a company that believes in your brand. And you should rep them hard. The programs offered by the paint companies are impressive these days. It’s fascinating in the fact that the industry has come a LONG way.

Budget – This ultimately guides your sustainability. And that’s something most paintball teams don’t even take into consideration… sustainability. How long can we keep this up? And How? My rough estimate of running an unsponsored team for a season in the NXL would include entry fees, lodging, and paint. So let’s take a high level look at Semi Pro. Newflash – it ain’t cheap. Obviously, it will be a little cheaper at the lower divisions due to entry fees being less, paint consumption, etc. Just the same, I would imagine a season for D1/Semi Pro would be around $30-40K annually. Or essentially $6-8K per event. This is based off the following:

  • $2800 entry fee per event ($14k for season)
  • ($1200) $100 room average per night for 3 rooms over 4 nights ($6k for season)
  • Figure 40-60 cases of paint per event per preliminaries, figure 12-15 additional cases per match for Sunday (4 matches so another 48 to 60). Let’s use the average of 50 cases for just prelims. That’s 250 cases of paint annually at events ($10k)

Here’s the kicker. I’m not including practice paint, flights, gas, and food.

The question is what assets do you have in place to meet these financial responsibilities? A paint sponsorship can certainly go a long way in helping alleviate some of the costs. What other aspects do you have? How much does each player contribute? What are some other methods of finance?

Okay, so based off this quick high level simplistic guide to preparing for a season, do you think you have what it takes to put together a sustainable winning team?

Be water my friends.

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