You may not believe this but I am an extraordinarily competitive person. However, I don’t show it very often. And when I do, it isn’t usually or immediately apparent. I internalize it mostly. But let me be clear… I’m not necessarily competing with someone opposite me. I’m competing against myself. How many of you are like that?
“But don’t you want to win?!” Yes, certainly… and with integrity thank you. But there is something else you need to know. I want you to read this very carefully and let it sink in…because it took me a long time to realize as well.
It’s not about winning for me. It’s about preparing my guys, helping them see the vision to playing a layout or a specific team, trusting one another, building each other up, creating strong character, confidence, and giving 100% at all times. And if done well (which is the GOAL), then winning is usually the result. Does that make sense? Winning IS A RESULT. Read that again and again and again until you understand. Yes, I will make mistakes in the preparation, the vision, trust, etc. (that’s what makes winners BTW…prep among other things).
We have a finite amount of time on this earth. I want to live it well and if I worried about what others thought of me all the time, especially in paintball, I would be miserable and damn sure wouldn’t be writing this blog. I don’t let “the noise of others’ opinions” drown out my own inner voice (I made that mistake once…okay…several times… but I have learned from it and moved on). That’s the part you don’t see or hear. If you did hear my “inner voice”, you might try and sell it to Hollywood as a horror film or the first 20 minutes of a Full Metal Jacket reboot.
It would be dishonest of me to say this concept isn’t sometimes pushed to the limit. That happened at the most recent NXL event near Philly. No, I am not speaking about the field conditions. Although, if you want a comment on that – we found them manageable – and we used the elements to our advantage on day 1 of play. We decided to play the field a little differently: we noticed one side had a better lane snake way which we leveraged dependent on what side we played. And we used the dust that was kicked up by opponents to let us know where they were… then changed things up on Day 2. But I digress.
No, this was more about the first match Sunday morning. Our Ocho match on Sunday morning at 8:40am versus the New England Hurricanes. We have met the other Canes 3 times in the past. First was in Chicago 2019 (prior to my arrival as coach) where we tied them 3-3. We met them again at World Cup 2020 on Day 1 besting them 5-0. And finally, this latest match in Philly where we beat them 10-5. Do the math on the last one since we play 15 minute matches… 60 second average per point. It was epic! Don’t let the score fool you. It was back and forth until the last 6 minutes. Now, internally, I wanted to DESTROY them. I wanted there to be no doubt about when these teams meet, we have the upper hand. I kept a calm demeanor, coached my guys, they executed, and we got the win. For the record, the “guys up north” are a great team and there is a lot of history there.
Now… where am I going with this?
How many of you know what “extrinsic incentive” is? It’s a psychology term. “Extrinsic” simply means the motivation to act or behave a certain way is decided or rather created by external means as opposed to internal means. In other words, you act or behave a certain way because you will be rewarded for said behavior.
Competing is fun but make no mistake… I believe winning is more fun. I don’t like to lose but I have been on the receiving end of the latter outcome more than I can count. Someone has to lose. We have seen it throughout the history of organized competitions. From the first Olympic Games to today’s organized pro and collegiate sports. The NXL is no exception. But how come we keep seeing the same teams performing well almost every event? The top 10 professional teams in paintball haven’t changed much in the last 5 years, would you agree? Sure, there is the occasional outliers each event and the last 2 years have seen some shake ups… but why?
I promise to bring these two streams of thought together… the Hurricanes match and the top Pro’s consistency… hang in there. First, a quick detour that should lend to the journey:
Paintball players/teams don’t have to be high level athletes. They don’t have to have the best gas tank or the best snap or guns on the break. No, I have coached teams who had none of those things but still saw success. Why? Because they gave great effort. They gave their absolute best that day and at practice. They competed well when it was important. Remember? RESULT…
Competing at the highest levels(Pro and Semi Pro) in our sport however requires much more than just hard work and preparation. The teams that always make it deep into Sunday will have done much more than just practiced hard.
They play every game as if it is the championship, as if they are up against their toughest opponent, every point. They are giving 101%. They put in the EXTRA work mentally and physically. But it is the mental game they win every time before every match.
See, not every player is always 100% mentally or physically. But the BEST, the ELITE, well… it doesn’t matter if they are or not. Why? Because even if they are only 75% physically, they are going to give all 100% of that 75% in that point, in that match. That’s the difference. No one can give 100% all the time. But they can give 100% of what they have when it matters.
How many of you before a game realize you aren’t 100% and just figure, whatever happens happens? You’re injured or feeling sick…your girlfriend is mad at you…whatever. Because of these things you subconsciously give up before you even step on the field. But what many of you don’t realize is that you don’t have to be 100% to beat your opponent. That’s right, you don’t have to be your best to win. You just need to play better than your opponent. So, to increase the likelihood of winning, you must learn to play your best with what you have. As I stated above, if you’re only at 75%, play at the full 75%. I think you will find that it will be enough to meet the goal. And if not, well, you shouldn’t have any regrets. You literally gave your best.
And that is how simple it is most of the time. Those who play best win. And that was my thought headed into the Hurricanes match. We chose a few things we were doing well at and stuck to them. We didn’t get complicated, we kept it simple. We capitalized on their chinks in their armor by leveraging our strengths. We went with what we did well, executed the game plan, and it prevailed.
Look, it is simple but it isn’t easy. You shouldn’t expect competing at the higher levels to be. Hell, that’s the whole point! Yes, there will be matches against teams in your division where you will ask yourself, why are they playing this division? But don’t let those matches fool you. Every match is against Heat, or Impact, or X Factor, or Russian Legion, or Dynasty (choose your top pro team). Every game is your tournament life on the line.
The point of sports is to challenge ourselves. It should be hard, it should be difficult. Tell me… if you destroy a team that you outclass in every way, how do you usually feel afterwards? Accomplished? Perhaps entitled? Doubtful (and if you do… you probably suck and that was the only match you won.)
Winning the mental game is a big deal. Before that match Sunday morning at 8:40am, myself and the team had already won in our minds. Because there are two games we play. The mental game and the actual match. If you haven’t won the former, you won’t stand a chance winning the latter. And that, my friends, is the key. Given equal capabilities and the same playing field, whoever wins the mental game will usually win the real game.
Remember, stay focused from the moment you wake up on game day to the moment you leave the field to go eat. Keep your mind and body in the game from start to finish and don’t let up. Give it your all and I think you will find it is usually enough. And when it isn’t? That’s okay… try harder next time.
Be water my friends