Division Decision


One of the most important aspects of being a good paintball player or coach is preparation.  Come tournament time, you will face some teams that are not much of a challenge and your game alone will suffice in being victorious.  But then there are those teams who will be the real test, the real challenge.  The ones that will make you dig deep. The knife fight where someone is coming away bloody, maimed, or dead.  THOSE are the games you prepare for.  THOSE are the games where data, feedback, perception/recognition, execution, paint, etc. all must be on point to win.  As a coach, it is your job to make sure the team is prepared to address THOSE teams.  As a player, it is your job to be able to address the needs of the coach and help him find solutions to the issues at hand.

With all that being said, an interesting phenomenon has occurred the last 3 months.  I field it at least once a year but for some reason this season, I have had several conversations with different players regarding what division to play.  Or rather, what division they WANT to play.


It’s a topic that is always out there in some shape or form.  And there is certainly nothing wrong with the topic or having that conversation. But I want to be clear about something; this is not in reference to those players out there who care more about a rank next to their name on APPA or who think they are better than others because they have a higher rank.  I don’t have time for people like that.

No, this is for those who genuinely wish to know where they need to be.  For the record, those I have spoken with recently about this topic are in the latter end… genuine.  They are not the “I’m cool cause I’m this D-rank” crowd.  Yep, you’re a “D” alright… just not the way you think.

Here’s the conversation in a nutshell I have had recently with a few different players:

“We are looking to play (insert next higher division rank here) at the national level.”

Really?  Curious as to why you would do that?     

“I think we are ready.  I think we could be competitive.  What better way to learn faster?”

Have you won in (insert the division right beneath the division they wish to play) nationally?



And there’s the rub… you haven’t won nationally at the division you are ranked.  Why would you then decide to compete above that level?  And how do you know you are ready for the next division?

Let me get something out of the way… do I believe teams in lower divisions can be competitive in a higher division?  Absolutely, yes I do.  Do I believe they should compete? Sure, in some instances.  However…

Let’s break the argument down into its components.


Many players are in a hurry to see improvement in their game.  Some players have natural ability and things come to them quickly, some have to work at it, and still others may not be suited for the game (doesn’t and shouldn’t keep them from enjoying the sport we all love though).  But paintball is a team sport…

Here is my question to the statement “I think we are ready.” –

Based off what?

It’s a simple enough question and one that a truly prepared team would have the answer for almost immediately.  “We won our division at the Las Vegas NXL, placed in the top 5 the last two events, and have been holding our own when we scrimmage this top higher divisional team.”  Or perhaps “We have placed in the top 4 the last 3 events in our division at NXL” or something to that extent.  I would even consider “We won the series title in our division at this Regional event landing in the top 4 every event, have the financial backing, practice every weekend and are really gelling as a team.  We made Sunday and took top six in our division at our debut at NXL.  There are a few more things we need to hone, but we are well on our way.”  Hmmm… not a bad response.  Still, why not try to improve that 6th place first?

Winning an 8-10 team regional event or a 4-5 team local event is not indicative of how well you will do at a national event.  There are lots of factors to consider before making the jump and lots more than just a few wins at small venues here and there.



What is your team’s definition of competitive?  Do you consider it competitive if you were to go 2-2 in prelims and just miss the cut?  Is that acceptable?  Maybe tying a team in the division above you denotes being competitive?  What does it mean to be “competitive”?  Not losing every match?

There is a word in there that should catch everyone’s attention – “could”.  Don’t you mean “would”?

Here is my question to the statement “I think we could be competitive” –

Based off what?

When I travel to a national event, I’m not going to see if I can be competitive, I’m going because I know we are.  I’m going to win… not compete.  If you are confident that you play above your divisional ranking, then you need to prove it.  Put your money where your mouth is and go show everyone that you can play above your pay grade by winning your division.  I believe that in most cases the top teams in any division at the end of a season should be competitive in the next division the following year.  Sure, there are some anomalies but not many.  Look at just the examples from 2018 to 2019.  Semi Pro to Pro: Aftermath; D2 to Semi Pro: TBD Jits, Gulf Coast Hurricanes; D3 to D2: Grit, Padres, Royal City, Blastcamp, Vintage; D4 to D3: Paintballfit.com.



I have always been a proponent of playing better teams in order to advance the learning curve.  Taking the time to bang with a better team will show you holes in your game pretty quick, especially if you are practicing with a team that believes in sharing knowledge.  There are always those teams that feel it is a privilege for you to share the field with them and therefore don’t share anything but the ass whoopin’.  Not cool but hey, that’s going to happen.  Take what you can from it.

Here is my question to the question “What better way to learn faster?” –

You’re basing this off what?

Here’s my thought on this – If you wish to compete at a higher division to “learn” faster, then you obviously have money to burn.  I would suggest scrimmaging not just a higher division team, but a winning higher divisional team to better know where you stand.  Otherwise, you are about to have a rather expensive practice called a tournament.  Enjoy spending all that money on plane tickets/rental cars/entry fees/hotels/paint/food, etc. to play 4 matches.  Instead, how about taking that money you have burning a hole in your pocket and spend it on more paint for practice?  Spend more time at the field shooting it in useful ways, learning, and getting better. Put in the work to EARN the bump up as opposed to just declaring it.

Now, remember at the beginning of this blog we talked about being prepared.  As a firm believer in preparation, it simply makes sense to understand the level at which you SHOULD BE prepared no matter the arena.  We have talked about it before.  Working harder now saves you even harder work later.  Preparation is a continuous improvement process.

Remember, there are two things to prep for: the expected and the unexpected.  Obviously, the expected is the easier to prepare for.  There are countless examples of how to do this in paintball.  As you can imagine, if we don’t spend the time prepping for the most basic of things (laning, practicing a layout, etc.), this will more than likely lead to disaster at an event.   That being said, not prepping for what we can’t perceive can be disastrous too.

If you aren’t prepared for the unexpected, then you didn’t really prepare now did you?  That goes to the nth degree when you bump divisions.

Coaches get shot too… oh and we will have new merchandise coming soon

Here’s how I look at it overall.  If you haven’t really proven you are prepared for the higher division, don’t return from a failed event attempt with excuses.  If you didn’t take the time to prepare appropriately – e.g. KNOWING you have the capability to win because of your preparation and experience – then don’t do it.  You’re just hurting yourself in the long run.

In my opinion (and that’s all it is), if you haven’t earned it, if you haven’t prepared for it, then it really didn’t matter to you anyway.  Ultimately, you have a duty to come prepared for anything that matters to you. There are no excuses.  When things matter, you should want to be prepared. It shouldn’t be a choice.  It just is what it is.  Do the hard work of preparing for the expected and the unexpected. There aren’t any shortcuts.  Put in the time and do it right.  In the long run, you will be happy you did.

Be water my friends.



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