Let me set up a scenario for you. Tell me if you’ve heard this one… You’re just returned from a tournament and the team didn’t perform well. You thought for sure this was your event. Sure, you struggled the first 3 events of the series but this time was supposed to be different. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. What now? What next? What do we do?
Who has been there, done that? Probably 80-90% of the tournament teams out there actually.
“Mindset is what separates the best from the rest.”
Staying motivated after spending time and money to compete and not seeing results can be one of the most difficult issues to overcome for a paintball team (well, for just about anything really). Motivation is ultimately what leads people to try harder, and more effort usually leads to gains/production for people. But more importantly, it will lead to eventual wins. Winning leads to all sorts of good things, which leads to growth in a team’s capability. On and on the cycle goes… most of the time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic bullet or drill or strategy that will make all this happen. Motivation, for the most part, comes in a multitude of ways. I’m willing to bet that almost every member of your team is motivated by something completely different from one another. Everyone has unique values and ideas… which leads to a conundrum sometimes. What motivates one may not motivate the rest. If you are going to be successful in motivating your team to stay the course, then you have to create that motivational environment (we’ve talked about the culture before yes?). Nothing will beat hard work, especially when all the hard workers want the same thing. If you don’t have that luxury of having a team that all rows in the same direction for all the same reasons, then It will take multiple concepts. Here are a few I have found out over the years that have seen success. Some you have read about her in the past but it never hurts to have a refresher course:
Set an example
If you are the captain or the coach or the manager, be a leader. Set the pace, be the example, set the bar! If you are pointing and telling instead of showing and going, players will not respond well. You set the tone of the practice, you set the tone of the team, you set the environment. It can be one of positive growth and affirmative accountability or it can be one of negativity and laziness. Which do you think a solid good player is going to actively search out and respond to? Your work ethic and the values you hold dear to your team will determine its longevity. By setting the right example from the get go and maintaining that example, you will have a meaningful impact on the team’s willingness to follow. YOU will be the motivation. For instance, if you drill hard and stay optimistic about everything, even in the face of defeat, or at the bare minimum take an intellectual approach to problems and issues as opposed to just identifying failure, your team will likely do the same. If you set the example with positivity and understanding, your team will mimic you, and the entire culture of the team will become one of motivation. That’s an environment that IMPROVEMENT will thrive in.
“Don’t Talk. Act. Don’t Tell. Show. Don’t promise. Prove.”
Honest Communication is Paramount
This goes hand in hand with setting the example. Everyone needs to feel comfortable giving input. It is the leader’s job to focus input but everyone should feel comfortable enough to comment on matters of the team. If a player is afraid to ask a question, it stifles growth and promotes an environment of frustration. Frustration leads to anger which leads to the dark side. But here is the biggest impact open honest communication will lead to; it leads to trust. When people understand that leadership isn’t hiding anything, when they understand what is driving the decisions, when they understand the motivation, they are much more likely to trust in the process and the deliverer of the message. If you openly communicate, you should gain respect. But that communication has to be both ways. Open communication and trust lead to clarity of vision and that is really important with a paintball team both on and off the field. Players who feel appreciated for their input will create opportunities to identify potential problems before they even blossom. Earlier we said everyone is unique. They can also be unpredictable. Know that, no matter how flawless you implement your motivational concepts, not everyone will get it. But also recognize that one out of 8-9 players doesn’t mark failure.
While teamwork is important, it is hard to beat some good ol’ fashioned individual attention, especially when it comes to motivation. In a paintball team environment, it is easy to get “lost in the shuffle”. Taking time out to speak to a player alone and on a personal level can change a player’s attitude almost instantaneously. It doesn’t have to be about paintball even. “Hey man, how’s the family? Good?” Then do something that is even more important than asking about them… listen. In order to motivate someone, knowing them, really knowing them will give you tremendous insight in how to do so. What ails them, what scares them, what they like, don’t like. Know it, learn it, and then use it to help make them a better player and person for that matter.
When a player does something well, comment on it openly. It will not only make them feel appreciated but it will also let the other team members know that, if they do well too, it will be recognized. The domino effect if you will. It can be contagious. But probably the most important aspect of this motivational technique is for when someone is struggling. They are beating themselves up or they haven’t had a couple of good practices, or what have you. Letting them know you see it, and you want to be an asset to help, can be just the right motivator. It also demonstrates from a leadership role that you have best interests in mind. Even if it means cutting them.
We all do it. We get into a routine and soon that routine becomes just another motion and the benefits of the routine become lost. They become… well… boring.
Throwing in some things to break up monotony of practices or setting specific goals for the team (or even each individual player) can be a big win on the motivation search. I have found “No position is safe” is a great motivator; then couple it with cross training. Have my 1’s play the 3, a guy who usually specializes on the snake play the d side. Have fun with it, create a little bizarre world and see what unfolds. Who knows, you never know, you might discover something about a player or players you didn’t know before.
Besides, you all know I believe in making paintball players… not a snake player, or a back player… etc. (although having a specialty player isn’t necessarily bad, I would just prefer everyone know how to play everywhere). This is a great motivator too if you have a feeder team or players who hang out looking for an opportunity. Give them the shot.
“It’s a slow process but quitting won’t speed it up…”
Take a break
HOW you create the environment is just as important as it will determine WHAT the environment ends up as. Like we stated at the beginning of this blog post, how you go about creating the environment will affect the overall “vibe” of the team. Be advised, again, there is no right or wrong way… that will all depend on your team’s make up of players. It’s going to be different for every team. I have always preached that the teams getting after it will always surpass the teams who don’t. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do other things than paintball together. Eat dinner together, go play putt-putt or something stupid together. I personally like to take guys to the shooting. Something that will build comradery and teamwork while having fun outside of the normal reason you get together as a team (practice or events). Trust me, this one is worth it. And who knows, maybe you and the team will learn something…
Trying to separate your paintball team from your social circle just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, it can work, but I think a lot of successful teams break bread together among other things. I’m not saying everyone on the team should be best friends. But that doesn’t mean you can’t associate outside of the field. Being at least friendly and cordial is important especially on the trust front. I like cook outs. Brew and meat. That’s awesome.
…Here’s the thing and I will leave you with this. The key to ALL of this, whether you are a coach or a captain or what have you, is simply focus. That’s right, motivation is ultimately finding a way to focus on a goal. If I can focus you as a player or a team on a specific goal and arrange it to where you are all moving in that same direction with the same intensity, you will see results. Simple right? No, but it becomes easier if we follow the topics we discussed above.
Okay…I will shut up for this month. Thoughts on the topic? Agree/Disagree? Let me know in the comments.
Be water my friends.