Bet Your Assessment

Here is a link to my sad attempt at this written blog in a video format.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPwa_tOzHio

This month’s topic will be on Assessment or rather, how to assess from a coaching perspective. Now, players, don’t tune out just yet. Read on since this will essentially be giving you your coach’s insight on how to judge you…

As a coach, it is my job to develop and assess the strengths and weaknesses of my players. And not every coach is comfortable doing this. And why should they be? No one is getting paid to play this sport of ours. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to bet most of you reading this pay to play. Yes, there are certainly some players outside of the upper echelon of the pro division who don’t pay to play but they are quite the minority.


I am always trying to take my “process” and find even greater efficiencies. How can I improve my own skill set as a coach while at the same time, identifying opportunities to help my players? My biggest concern right now is plateauing.


Zen note* – plateauing is when a player is no longer improving or progressing. They have plateaued; leveled out… not going any higher so to speak. They are at their maximum potential. This is more common than you probably think.


And this happens to a lot of paintball players and coaches. I know some guys right now, God love them, who have been playing 10-15 years and are still D3 level and I’m not talking APPA ranking. They will never get past that skill level. And that’s okay! They are having fun and don’t have the desire or need to get out there and grind every weekend. But that’s not what I’m about and I doubt that is what most competitive national tournament level players are about either.


Doing what you love only gets you a quarter of the way. In other words, having the passion for our sport is great but it doesn’t make you good at it. Showing up and working hard? Now that gets you further down the line. But ultimately, working harder than others and creating a consistent and highly developed skill set takes you even further. There was a quote I read recently from an author that I think sums it up perfectly:


If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.” – Cal Newport from the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You


So, how do we stop plateauing? There are two ways in my opinion:


⦁ Mix up your training/keep it fresh and new
⦁ Have good coach


Now we won’t get into the first one. But let’s talk about that second one. I genuinely believe the best results are derived from players who have coaches who know how to assess them accurately and honestly, who recognize specific details. Not all of us have this skill nor will we ever develop it. That’s okay! Half of us are out there guessing anyway.


A quality coach, especially in paintball, must have a skill set too. I personally believe that basic psychology is a bare minimum requirement but don’t get me started down that path. Theories are great but there is nothing better than seeing it in action and having your own real-world experiences with it. You must be a critical thinker.


Besides being a player myself for several years, competing at a high level, and being coached by some great men, I also have a degree in communications, studied psychology, coached some martial sciences, coached little league baseball (don’t’ laugh at this. Those of you who know, know), and taught shooting safety and fundamentals. I also have a successful professional career as a Strategic Planner.


I borrow from all of these other realms and experiences where I saw success. I use these experiences and success to guide my coaching. I try to apply them to my skill set as a paintball coach. Assessment is one of them. It is a key component to success.
No matter what you have read, watched, learned, theorized, conceptualized, thought of, dreamed or had a vision about, …as a coach, you are only as good your ability to recognize and observe capabilities of your team and individual players.


Summed up, your “process” is only as good as your skill at cognitive recognition. Does that make sense?


Whether it’s a players gunfighting capabilities (all aspects of it), their athleticism, their communication, or in game processing, your ability as a coach to recognize a player’s strengths and weaknesses is paramount.
Not only to recognize those strengths and weaknesses but your ability to articulate them to the player as well. This must be followed by a coach’s capability to maintain or increase the players strengths while nullifying their weaknesses.


If you can’t communicate well, you will struggle as a coach. That’s over half of what coaching is.


So – how do we assess? What should we look for?

Here are a few I look for:

Physicality – How fast are they? What kind of shape are they in? What’s their gas tank like? Are they breathing heavy after 2 points? How quick are they? How coordinated are they? Do they move well? In other words, what is their athleticism like? Having a guy who can run a four four 40 is awesome but having a guy who can do it over and over again is better.

Gunfighting – This should incorporate snapping, laning, run n gunning, bunker awareness (that’s their positioning in a bunker as it pertains to threats), anticipation, and instinct. If they are good at one but not the others? Weigh that against their position on the field and how you will leverage them on a layout.

Communication – This one is often misunderstood. A lot think its just talking on the field. Nope. Are they providing accurate in game data? Are they being heard? Can they communicate in game data back to the coach after the point? Can they joystick others? This is what wins games. If a player or players can’t do that well? You may have issues.

Durability – Are they injury prone? Do they have past injuries that manifest themselves occasionally? Did he pull his muscle at the layout practice prior to the event? You must take this into account.

Attitude – This one is really important to me. Do they WANT to be there at practice? Do they want to improve? Are they open to criticism? Are they coach-able? Do they lose their minds if the team is behind or are they positive? This also lends itself towards the social aspect. Do they get along well with everyone else? Do they fit with the culture of the team? A toxic player will ruin a team fast.

Finally, the key component to all of this is knowing when to “coach” a skill and knowing when to let a player do their thing that works for them. And knowing is half the battle


It isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be taking a shot at it. And the list above certainly isn’t exhaustive as there are plenty of other factors that go into my own personal process. But this is a good start and represents a lot of what I believe coaches should consider. I’m a huge proponent of performance-based assessment and coaching versus outcome-based assessment and coaching. If you want to learn more about that, go to Zen and the art of paintball.com and search for the blog I wrote called “It’s Einstein genius”. Hey, he shot a pan 10 times in a row – yeah, well, the pan didn’t shoot back. Would it have been 10 out of 10 if it did? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? The world may never know…


Start with developing a regimen that incorporates a players ability to practice when and what is necessary, allows you to observe them, and then assess them from a performance aspect as opposed to an outcome aspect. This should lead to a vast improvement on all fronts. Unless of course, you screw it up. So, don’t screw it up

Be water my friends.

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