Happy New Year! The season is soon to begin and in some instances, has already begun. Coaches, captains, and players alike are all getting in on the “grind”, preparing for what could be their most challenging season yet. Preparation, as we have discussed several times in the past, is multi faceted. There are several elements that go into preparing, training, creating, in order to roster a winning team. Just like in other sports, it is critical to have the right mix of talent on your paintball team. I thought, since it is the beginning of the year, we should look at a specific aspect of team building.
A team/coach needs to understand not just the fundamental level of talent but how that talent is spread out and in what areas. In other words, what is the depth of your roster? This is the topic of this months blog – roster depth and recognizing talent.
In all team sports, every serious team looks at their “depth chart”. This is usually a list identifying the starter in each position. So, a starting player would be listed first or at the top of said list, while back up or second string is listed after or lower on the list. The list is developed and based off capabilities or who is better at what when.
Now, before I go any further I want to explain my stance on paintball players and their positions. I’ve had this conversation several times lately but I feel it bears mentioning due to our topic.
Yes, I believe in developing a paintball player versus a snake player or a dorito player. If you identify as a snake player, dorito player, or as a cat, you have already limited your abilities on the field and my ability to utilize you in a game setting. I prefer to use the terms 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. In its most simple form, it would go like this; if you are a “snake player” – you’re usually fast and a good gun fighter (hopefully). These basic precepts apply to dorito players too (I would hope). So if I have a fast gun fighter, why shouldn’t he train for both environments? Playing from your feet, knees, stomach, should all have the same basic principles, yes? Take into account the field layout and how a player does based off its shown opportunities…well…
I believe that it’s solid for players to cross train anyway, to try different positions on field, especially given layout changes. This is in hopes to better understand what the opponent can and cannot see. It also gives the player a better perspective and understanding of how their opponent may act in certain circumstances. I also am a firm believer that layouts will dictate player’s capabilities by highlighting strengths and exposing weaknesses.
Couple this with the fact 2’s (mid players) should be able to play both front and back and that 3’s have to be able to take the 2’s spot and clean games up, that means they should be familiar with the 1’s and 2’s capabilities/knowledge set too. Translation? Everyone needs to know how to play everywhere. Does that mean you don’t have “specialists”? Not at all. Can you have specialists? Certainly. Especially at higher levels. So it’s not an outright disregard or disposal of the thought process. Simply a different look or approach to training and improving ones skill.
Okay… moving on.
When we look at roster depth, at least in paintball, we should be looking at several factors.
- Experience – How have they learned/grown from their experience? Are they knowledgeable. Can they articulate it? Just because someone has played a long time doesn’t instantly make them “experienced” by the way.
- Physicality – Are they physically fit? Are they durable, have good cardio, think clearly when tired? Injury prone? Are they fast, slow?
- Skill set(s) – What are the players strengths over all from a fundamental perspective? Good laner, snap shooter, gunfighter, communicator, head for the game?
- Character – Are they coachable, do they listen, are the respectful, are they loyal, are they a team player, do they get along, fit in the culture?
How do you measure these things and how do you develop your own depth chart? This all begins by understanding the difference between “recognizing talent” and “picking talent”.
Now, most paintball teams happen organically. What I mean by this is most teams are a group of friends or acquaintances who attend the same field or know each other in some common manner. It isn’t so much about the “draft” so to speak but working with what you got. Honesty is a big part here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize what you have, take a serious look at your roster depth, and plan accordingly.
Where was I? Oh yes…
Picking talent is easy. “That guy is a good player. I just watched him get two consecutive 3 packs and no one has stopped him. And he seems like a cool guy. We should pick him up.” Easy.
Recognizing talent is a little more nuanced. I would go as far as to say an “art”. This is the evaluation of how good a player can be based off their existing capabilities. In other words, you are predicting whether or not a player will grow in the future based off their current physical, technical, and psychological qualities shown.
The major difference between the two is that one will probably get you better results starting day one. The other will more than likely (if done correctly) build you an elite player for the future of the program/team and get you results down the road.
Several teams I have encountered over the years have the “win at all cost” mentality. This is usually what leads teams to actively searching out better existing players (picking talent). Not many have the patience, desire, or even capability to farm talent. And that is understandable. When you focus on building a team based off picking existing talent throughout the area (or even more so, outside your area), you are basically picking team members to start the winning process right away. This, of course, includes cutting those team members/try outs who do not help with the winning process. This will certainly lead to short-term successes.
However, teams that do this have a tendency to be short-lived or see sporadic success. They didn’t invest in the culture, they didn’t invest within the team name, all topics we have discussed in past blogs.
Now teams that choose to identify talent and farm it have a tendency towards a little more longevity. They certainly have a healthier culture (in my opinion) and are usually the greater “team”. Paintball is, in fact, a team sport so I don’t see why that wouldn’t be an advantage. Is this always the case? No. Same with the paragraph above. From my experience, it is true more than not.
I will say that I believe this is where solid coaching comes into play. Not just in recognizing talent but ensuring the creation of an environment in which players can thrive and learn. The coach must be able to know what that player needs to work on, how they need to work on it, how they learn, and recognizing what motivates them (and not necessarily in that order). A coach must target the physical, psychological, and technical components of a player then identify if a player does indeed have what it takes to become a great or elite player.
Talent recognition is obviously a long-term approach to player selection and development since it mainly emphasizes training players instead of cutting all but the best ones and finding better players to fill the gaps. Of course, identifying a player who you think has what it takes , investing the time, and then learning you were wrong can be a bummer. It happens. But that almost always lies with a misidentification of that players attitude and willingness to learn or the culture that exists around them (environment).
Some teams have farm teams, usually lower divisional teams, that they try to build. Of course, some programs use these teams to fund the higher level team (I can’t stand this if it isn’t mutually beneficial.) One advantage of having farm teams that is often overlooked is, you can transfer players up and down (barring APPA rankings). A player doesn’t have to be cut if they are just learning at a slower pace. Its like having majors and minors in baseball. We’re not cutting you, we are putting you on this roster until we get you up to the speed we need you to be. Of course, you have to be careful as sometimes other teams will scoop them up. You also have the issue of your top players, if the culture isn’t sound, feeling they are not growing, or you surround them with sub par players, you run the risk of them leaving for another team.
The key is balance. If you help the less skilled ones catch up technically to the proficient ones, you are in a win/win environment. Your talent book just doubled in size as did your roster depth.
We need better coaches in our sport too. But that is a blog for another day. Better and more educated coaches in our sport will lead a better understanding of the difference between picking and growing talent. Hopefully more decide to teach and encourage players to develop rather than try to win at all costs. Again, not that there is anything necessarily wrong with the latter…
Be Water My Friends…