The Unappreciated

It’s actually happening.  Barring some catastrophic event, the NXL World Cup is scheduled to occur on November 11th-15th across the street from the Gaylord Palms resort in Kissimmee, FL.  Now, seeing as how this is 2020, I’m not ruling out the asteroid hit… but let’s not worry about such trivial things.

With the largest and most prominent paintball event about to go down, teams are doing all they can to prepare or rather, should be.  In this blog post, I am going to talk about an often overlooked yet incredibly important aspect of prepping for an event: 

Your pit crew.

That’s right – the unappreciated, the overlooked, the human afterthought, the shadows… the people who make paintball player’s lives a lot easier and they don’t even realize it.

If you have not done this portion of planning well in advance, you are not doing what you can to properly prepare for the event. Time and time again here at Zen we have discussed and emphasized efficiency in all things we do.  Not just “economy of motion” (physical) but economy of time, energy, and thought.  In this case, we are looking at two points of efficiency – getting your pit crew established ahead of time and how an effective pit crew creates efficiency at an event.

Mo often pitted for Professional Team Damage at the NXL event. I’m no dummy. When he asked if he could help, I said, “Absolutely”

Okay – so let’s establish our reasoning.  Let’s look at what being “efficient” is really about.  Efficiency is “a measure of the extent to which input is well used for an intended task or function (the output)”. Said another way, it is the capability of a specific effort to produce a specific outcome with minimum amount of energy expenditure.  Got it?  So based off that definition, let’s get into efficiency as it relates to event prep.

First and foremost, establishing a definitive pit crew needs to be on your checklist of things to do well in advance of the event.  Along with booking your accommodations, logistics, and practice schedule, planning your pit crew is one of those tasks that you want to get off your plate early so that you and the team can focus more on actual game/event prep (you know…playing well).  Get it done so you can focus on your game and not worry with details like this which have a tendency to add stress.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have run across a team begging people the day before an event for help in the pits. It was an afterthought and then someone finally said, “Hey, who do we have to run pods?” 

Yeah, you’re guilty 😉

A good pit crew is there to help and should help…they are the help!.  They are there to make that long walk from where you parked manageable.  They are there to make your pit manageable.  But most of all, they are there to make your life as a coach or as a player, easier.  And for that, you should take their selection serious.

This is Willi. She’s awesome. So is her husband

Now, a good pit crew needs to encompass, in my opinion, these 3 capabilities:

  • Choreography (efficiency)
  • Game/player Knowledge
  • Be Autonomous

Let’s break these down real quick.

Choreography is pretty self-explanatory.  They need to know what to do before, during, and after a match. This can be something as simple as knowing where to set up in the pit in relation to the team’s movement and where to place pit tables.  I like to have a minimum of 3 pit crew members.  The usual breakdown is 2 pod fillers (supplemented by team members when possible) filling pods and 1 pod runner (this is the cat who runs out between points and ensures the team’s pods stay with the team).  They can, and should, swap occasionally when necessary.  They should be aware of the fact they will be porting some things to and from the pits.  Carrying pod bags with pods or pulling the “paint wagon”.   Understanding their responsibility is a huge must.  The last thing a coach or captain wants to deal with is a pit crew asking, “Hey – what do we do?”  That is not a pit crew.  I decided to reach out to one of the best pit crews I have ever worked with (they are an amazing married couple – shout out to Willi and Cam) and they said the following:

“Understanding the flow of the pit is important.  Once you know it, it is important to be everywhere you need to be, when you need to be, but never in the way.” 

Game knowledge is imperative.  Nothing worse than a pit crew member storming out on the field to grab pods and getting your team a penalty because they didn’t wait for the “point approved” announcement.  A good pit crew will recognize how the game is progressing and understand what needs to be done.  Is the team burning through paint quicker than normal?  Is the team dominating or struggling during the match?  But an even better pit crew is one who not only recognizes those things but KNOWS the team, knows the players.  Keep in mind, many of the best pit crews are paintball players themselves.  Like Willi and Cam again:

“Get to know the team.  Not just them as a person but their tendencies as a player and where they play on the field.  Know how many pods they normally take out.  Know if they like them “up or down”.  If you don’t know these things, ask!”

That’s Cam in the background (camo headband, olive drab shirt) gettin’ after it

Now, the last but certainly not least (as a matter of fact, it very well may be the most important quality of a good pit crew) is that they are autonomous.  They are capable without direction.  They don’t need to be told what to do, they already know.  They know when to be at the pit, when to start cleaning pods, when to start loading paint, when to tell coach/captain the team is getting low on paint (*see previous comment about game knowledge??*), when to clean a player off, where to place extra pods and guns in case they hear “I need an extra pod”, or the dreaded “GUN!!!” when team members are chrono’ed on the field.  They do all of this on their own without instruction.  When you have a crew like this, it is a huge relief to a coach/captain and the team for that matter.  Like trusting your teammates on the field, if you can trust your pit crew to know what to do and when, that is one less thing you have to worry about.  And make no mistake about it, that pit crew IS part of the team.  A comment from Willi and Cam that I couldn’t agree with more:

“You’re part of team (the pit crew).  You need to bring the same energy level as though you are stepping out on the field with them.”

Jeez, I love that mentality.  I wish all paintball players had that type of understanding about roles.

When the team wins, we all win!

Which brings me to a few closing notes…  One, let’s lose this moniker of “pod bitch”. Sure sure, it’s a funny jab amongst friends.  But honestly, if I am volunteering my time and energy to help you for no other reason than to be a good person, and you drop that on me?  I walk.  Who’s the bitch now, bitch?

 Now, I believe in compensation.  If you are paying someone to pit, and I think all pit crews should get something for their work if they are worth their salt.  Some suggestions:

  • Let them stay for free at your place
  • Buy their lunch or dinner for the day
  • Pay them in cash/paint/product

Give them SOMETHING to acknowledge the fact that you appreciate their assistance and effort.  If you don’t, then you sir/madam, are a pudnugget.

Be water my friends.

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