The 2019 paintball season is a wrap. The NXL World Cup has come and gone and the carnage left in its wake is magnificent. Now it’s time to return to the “other life” or what most rational people call the “real world”. No doubt the off season silliness will begin soon enough. I, myself, plan on taking a hiatus to spend time with family and friends and refocus on some things that fell to the wayside during this wild season. Like my snap shot…
I don’t think many would argue that competition is almost always a good thing. Those who would argue, probably believe that socialism works and will no doubt vote democrat in the next election. Competition IS good. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly in anything is usually bad and renders people complacent only to become satisfied with mediocrity (see socialism). I personally enjoy competition. I find that I enjoy challenges in the spirit of competition. And that is how this whole adventure with CEP began.
When I was first asked to coach CEP prior to Chicago 2018, I asked my wife if she thought I should do it. I was skeptical because it would mean time away from the family again. I don’t half ass anything. She looked me square in the eye and said, “You’re the one always preaching about how if teams would just follow the process, they would do better. What better team to see if it really works than with that one? I think you should do it.”
She had me there…
So I agreed to come and coach for Chicago.
What kind of leap would the team see in just one event and a couple of practices? You had come off a 2017 season where you had won 1 match out of 16 matches played. The 2018 season wasn’t going that much better. After 3 events you had still only won 1 match out of 12 matches played.
So we had a challenge facing us; how could we become a competitive team in the NXL’s division 2? We started with the very foundation. We tore everything down and rebuilt it from scratch… not the personnel mind you, but the culture and the mindset. The approach the team had learned from others was detonated and blown to smithereens. No longer would it be allowed near you because it was toxic to success and counter intuitive. Once we established what the environment would be – one of accountability, work ethic, and order – then we got to work on the implementation. It was a trial by fire for sure. Not an easy task… there was kicking and biting and gnashing of teeth, but we would get there. We would restructure practice, we would drill till you were sick, we would discuss do’s and don’ts, we would talk about the WHY, the HOW, and the WHEN. Then we would do it all over again.
It’s been said that the best competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort. And that’s what I saw with each of you. You each brought a specific strength to the game along with some…well…not strengths (and that’s okay). The goal was to leverage those strengths based off our roster depth, how each of those strengths could be applied to the layout, and finally, how each of those strengths could be used in conjunction with each other to achieve a goal on the field. We would “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what was uniquely our own”. (You better know who said that!)
We also implemented a theme in Chicago – “Win the point”. Too many teams look past the moment or cling to a past moment; especially you guys! No, we would be IN the moment – that one point – that’s all that would exist until it was over and we heard “Point approved”. Not the previous point or a future point. The existing point, that’s where we would work. And it paid off. You made your first Sunday in Chicago going 3-1 in the prelims. We would then be faced with another diabolical challenge: you had afternoon bracket games for the prelims and now you had to be up early to play at 8am Sunday morning! This was new territory for the team. You had never been in the top 12 before. You lost a close game in the Ochos taking 9th at the event. But now you had tasted it…and motivation grew again.
I thought my job was complete but you had other plans. So we decided to team up again and prepare for World Cup. We would need a new theme and I had just the one.
Besides changing the culture and our approach to practice and events, we had to change the mentality of the team. Why are we here? What are we doing this for? What’s the goal? There were certainly times I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall with this part of the process and I am positive there were times you thought I was difficult, overly critical, cranky, and maybe even harsh. But I think deep down you understood.
We went to World Cup in 2018 and on day one you came out swinging by mercying the first two teams 5-0 each. The next day we would tie our next match and win our last. Our second Sunday had arrived but this time it would be different. We would mercy the team we played in the ochos 6-1 then win another hard fought match in the quarters. We would face a solid team who moved on to Semi pro the next season and take them into overtime only to lose a long hard fought 2 and a half minute point on a layout that was averaging half that. And then it happened… you quit on me. Realizing you weren’t playing for 1st but now for pride and a 3rd place finish… you quit on me. You didn’t care anymore; it was all or nothing with you. You wanted too much too fast. Only two or three of you even wanted to play the next match. The team we tied in the Prelims would turn around and mercy us! To say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the year. I couldn’t fathom a team that wouldn’t give 150% every match, especially one coming off such lackluster performances in earlier seasons/events.
So, when I received the call to coach you for the entire next season, I was not interested. My wife would once again play an integral role. I wasn’t going to do it and I told her I didn’t think I could coach guys who quit when it counted. That’s when she said, “Sounds like you are being called to toughen them up.”
Sometimes this woman…
So I accepted the job again under a few strict conditions and we were off to the grind once again.
The season would prove to be a rollercoaster of a ride. And I must admit, I am happy I agreed to coach you for the season. Each of you I have grown to appreciate and call friend. I think we have each taught each other several lessons over this season. You would go on to make another 5 consecutive Sundays and now you are the 2019 NXL Division Two Series Champions for a reason. Because you faced Las Vegas “Together”, you had “Trust” in one another while in Dallas, you kept your “Focus” when we were in Philly, you showed “Discipline” in Chicago, and “Strength” at World Cup (maybe we should have switched the last two? Lol). And you did this even though the team was spread out over 4 states and could only get together on layout weekends! Imagine what this team could have accomplished if we were able to get together on off weekends as well!!?
Gentlemen – I prayed for the words every practice and every event while I led you this year. Sometimes the words I had worked and sometimes they didn’t. But I promise you, they always came from the same sincere and honest place. Words can be a powerful force. We can choose to use them constructively or destructively. I always chose the constructive approach because I genuinely want the best for you, not just in the paintball arena but in the “real world” too. We can use our words to help, to heal, or hurt, or humiliate. Use them to better yourself and those around you. Have your teammates back and stand your ground for what you believe.
Enjoy your series title but never forget what it took to get you there. The work ethic, the mentality, and the culture you experienced with one another is all vital to success. It’s ingrained in history now and no one can take that away from you. The question is, what will you do next? Because let me tell you…Semi Pro will require twice the energy and effort you put in this year. So, should you choose to continue, you better be willing to get after it twice as hard because that is what it will take to be competitive and win.
Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” That was CEP this year. If you can build a little more consistency, you guys will be solid. You all did what was necessary most of the time ;). If you all continue to focus on what you can control and do the small things well- together you can win.
To the World Cup team -Christian Cifuentes, Aaron Barnes, Ryan Gibbons, Keaton Rhodes, Justin Bailey, Daniel “Ronny” Tiner, Collin Cherry, and Wes Ward – Well done!
And to members of the team from 2018 to prior to world cup – Jacob Bright, Sean Gronning, Chris Kent, Matt Wilson, and especially Casey DeRossett for all the behind scenes work– Thank you!
God Bless and be water my friends
PS – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible service and partnership we received from #Pro-Shar paintballs and #Carbon Paintball.
I mean, it was outstanding! And we can’t forget all the amazing photographers – Michael Mohr, Dane Hawkins, Sean Snell, Soulless Photography, and Fava
BONUS FEATURE – The Zen kids get a lesson!