Adapt or Die!

“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.” -Bruce Lee


Adaptability is the capacity to modify something for a new use or purpose.  In other words, it is the ability to adjust to new conditions.  That is, by its very definition, one of, if not the most valuable trait of a paintball team (players and coaches as well for that matter).

The need for adaptability on the paintball field has never been greater than it is has been with the advent of the X-ball format.  With some of the crazy field layouts the NXL and other leagues have been putting out as of late.  Don’t get me wrong, the 10 man days when you had to walk 10 fields certainly pushed a team’s adaptability among other things but let’s not digress.

Anyway, the ability for players and teams to adapt for each layout, to stay competitive, and circumvent any aspect of diminishing returns (not improving but getting worse) is, in my opinion, a defining characteristic and necessity for teams who wish to be competitive.  And not just competitive, its crucial to see any form of success in paintball.  Not just throughout the season, or at each event, but for each match, each point…  There are many levels of adaptation that we can discuss.  We will dig into a broader sense of it this month with World Cup right around the corner.   I am writing this while waiting for the World Cup layout to drop actually.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking


To see success as a paintball team, you need to think and act in an adaptive manner.  As a team, you need the right people in the right spots /positions based off their strengths and the environment in which you find yourselves.  But what drives that decision making?  How do you perform that process to become adaptive?  And then, the real question, are you really willing to commit to that process.  Can we as a player shift gears so readily?  Can the coach recognize his players’ ability to adapt to the point where he is comfortable in game making the appropriate adjustments that are required?  The scenarios are endless, hence the importance of being able to adapt.  It obviously is more than we will cover here but this should at least start the conversation and get us down that path.

We’ve all seen it.  We’ve all been a part of it.  People don’t like change.  Why fix it if it isn’t broke?  Keep running it until they stop it!  So on and so forth.  This is prevalent in life.  But it doesn’t have to be in paintball.

Okay, what will you do when they do stop it? What do you do when the next team you play scouted you and stopped it off the bad (another discussion of course?)

“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” – Nolan Ryan


The unwillingness to try something new at a practice can be an issue for teams looking to up the adaptability factor.  This usually stems from a complete misunderstanding of what is necessary.  A lot of teams/coaches/players lack situational awareness, have an ego that gets in the way, or have a lack of accountability, or maybe all of it (yee-gads that would suck!).  I was talking with a friend of mine (a solid paintball player) and we were discussing how certain teams have “identities” or rather a specific style of play.  You have your “campers” and your “aggressors” and your “holy hell what was thatters”…  It’s the teams that you can’t peg that are the anomalies.  Sure, there are teams that lean towards their strengths… as they should!  But sometimes a layout can prove to be difficult with a certain style.  This is where adaptability and a willingness to “push the envelope” come into play.

So what do you do increase adaptability or, in essence, adapt the team?   I read an interesting article not too long ago that was talking about how to evolve in business or work life.  It really seemed to translate well so let’s see if we can’t do that.

First, we should experiment.  We don’t know so we need to know.  To adapt we have be open to change, which means you must willing to face the unknown, to face uncertainty, and crush it into little bits no fear style.

One thing I have always tried to do as a coach, especially on layout weekends, is look for (and hopefully find) opportunities where others won’t look.  Adaptation is growing, changing… and in order to do that, you have to recognize there is more than one way to skin a cat.  You can’t be stagnant.  This is a struggle because we are essentially trying to change “habits” that have defined previous success.

“Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.” – Marcus Aurelius


Creativity usually rules the day in paintball yes?  So get creative. Be resourceful.  Instead of getting stuck on one solution to solve a problem, develop a contingency plan or even several plans just in your first plan hits the skids.

Let’s throw in one that is near and dear to my heart.  Quit bellyaching!  Adapt and move on.  Or don’t.  But if you choose the latter, go do it on another team.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Just because you are trying something or learning something new, doesn’t mean you don’t retain the old.  It is still useful.  Don’t forget it.  You have to keep those roots.  We are simply building on top of them.   Bruce Lee use to teach that one should discard what may be useless…but don’t forget it.  Just because you probably wouldn’t kick to the head in a street fight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to kick to the head… you never know.

It’s been said gabillionzillion times.  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  But it is also a great form for learning!  There is no adaptability without the initial interest or the original curiosity that drove the decision in the first place.  Adaptable teams learn and then they keep learning. It doesn’t stop.  So watch other teams, watch paintball videos, watch the pros.  Grayson Goff and I had a great conversation many moons ago about how you can learn from watching ALL levels of paintball from D5 to pro.  I tend to agree with him.

You have to be open to new ideas.  If you or your coach or your team isn’t willing to listen to others’ points of view then you have already limited your learning capacity which ultimately leads to limiting your adaptability.  The more you listen and observe, the more opportunities you will have to find something that may work.

Finally, you have to believe in what you are doing.  The choice to change or adapt or try something new or whatever we are going to call it, it isn’t easy.   However, neither is losing.

So how does your team do it?  Or do they?

Be water my friends.

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