2022 Sunshine State Major Pro Debut

Now that the dust has settled on the first event, and I have somewhat caught up on my real life responsibilities, I wanted to get this written before I got too focused on Dallas. This will be a stream of thought so bear with me.

I will admit, the event was somewhat surreal. That first morning headed into the Uprising match seemed like any other paintball match. It was odd really… it didn’t feel any different, at least for me. We were there to play and do what we do. The only difference was there were people watching from the stands and there were cameras around. It actually all seemed “smaller” than I expected if that even makes sense. Don’t get me wrong. Been on the pro field plenty of times. But I don’t think we let the moment get to us. And that was good.

The New Orleans Hurricanes – Photo courtesy of NXL

We wanted to set the pace in our first match. In other words, be first to key positions on the field. Something else I wanted to do is come out and show we can shift gears effectively. In order to do this, I decided to use two lines for this event. Some questioned my approach but I believe in each one of my guys. They each bring a strength and they all need to be tested. Yes, I believe in running the horses (who is performing best at that moment)… but leading up to this event, everyone showed me they were ready to play. So that’s what I did.

In that first match, the guys executed the game plans well and succeeded in setting that pace. Our lanes were good, our zone control was as good as it could get most points, our aggressiveness and counters were good. No, we were not perfect but that is understandable. The guys were playing their first pro match against a veteran pro team. We wanted to be first to the punch, get our guns up, control the zone, then get on the attack. We were a little sloppy that first point but Stuart Ridgel made a great read to finish it. Point 2 was solid execution from the guys. We knew Uprising would want to take ground that 3rd point as they hadn’t seen success in the pocket so we keyed up and shut it down with some good laning. Things got interesting on the 4th point. We wanted to stay on the gas but by that time Uprising had found a breath. However, the composure and communication from my guys was solid. When we clipped the d-side player, I knew we were going to take the point, at least from a position perspective. Unfortunately, the pucker factor kicked up when we lost Britt Simpson from D side but Justin Bailey made the read and traded with the center. This could have been played a hundred ways but I’ll take it. And of course, that left Aaron Pate in a one on one. Recognizing he needed to protect the buzzer, he did just that. Here’s something you may not know. When Pate went forward and shot Graham Arnold, he did so because he had no paint left. Big shout to my boy for winning a red/gold coin! Our second pucker factor moment was point 5 where we get a penalty. I thought Uprising was going to head to the corner and throw a guy under him. So we keyed up on that lane and got the wide kill. The penalty on us was thrown bang bang..like fast. Luckily, Drew Bell recognizes our situation and presses the issue. Great shift by the team to counter punch in a down body situation. The final point we continued to pour the gas but so did Uprising. Clutch play and zone control won the point though. Interestingly enough, we didn’t know it at the time, but we had just met all 4 goals we had set for this event.

Aaron Pate wins a One on One coinguy goes through gloves EVERY match.

The New Orleans Hurricanes had just won our first match in the Pro division against a seasoned team. But we all knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. We refocused and set our sights on Impact. We would get a chance to scout their one game before we stepped on the field with them.

The Impact match is where I, as a coach, made my first mistake and failed my team. I’ll get to that in a moment. We knew this was going to be a major test of our capabilities. You can say whatever you want at a moment like this to your guys; “Paint breaks on them just like anyone else” and “I don’t care what their jersey says, your jersey says New Orleans Hurricanes and that means you deserve to be here and you play YOUR game”. First point we let them be first and take ground. The second point Impact’s guns off the break were spot on and they closed immediately, essentially cutting us off from a spread. 3rd point was more of the same. 4th point what can you say… we are talking world class guns here from a top team in the sport and Axel was in our snake before we knew the down count. But here’s the thing… at no point did we consider ourselves out of the match. There was still a lot of time on that clock. And we now had a confirmed understanding of their approach. Don’t get me wrong – NO ONE wants to go down 4-0 against Impact. But we figured out how to take their game-plan away. We shifted some guns and found one hole. We dropped Zack Hill and Trevor Reasor got shot on the pack as he left his bunker to trade with my guy. Ref 04 wiped him off after the check. Drew was able to turn the field though. 4-1 now.

I remember thinking after that point …

We knew heading into this event, it was a chaotic field. You can build off that chaos or let it destroy you. Obviously we want to build off of it and go forward. We traded with several bodies in the next point and came out ahead. Matt Hamilton made the snake and did damage which is what we needed. It’s now 4-2. We knew they wanted snake corner and we knew they would go short D side in an effort to bleed the clock counting on gun skills. So we put the guns on the snake, took ground there as well and used the center to slow the d-side in case I was wrong. We beat them to the snake and started digging out the kills. 4-3 and we are within 1. I’m thinking to myself, “if I am Impact how do I adjust?” Then I thought their ego may get the best of them. They were thinking, “Guys, get to your spots and just shoot these guys.” So, I thought we should make them show us those guns again. We gamble they would think we would try to make it out 5 alive with a conservative break to get our guns up but instead we took big bites. It paid off. 4-4, tie game. However, Impact would show us those guns again in the next point. 5-4. Some will say I shouldn’t have conceded the point when I did and that we should have thought about point margin. Trust me, I was thinking about point margin but I also recognized that my boys had dug and fought hard to come back and I was going to give them the opportunity to win this match. We would take the snake wedge but they would beat us to the snake on the next point. Zuppa catches Stu entering the seam but Drew catches Zuppa. This gives us the body advantage as Matt Jackson attempted to cross to d side earlier and failed. And then we had the snake… Aaron Smith gets in there which draws the gun allowing d-side to pressure. This is a pick your poison field and Impact chose theirs…with some help from a ref. Now… this next part is very crucial and where I made a mistake. Justin Cornell of Impact gets shot by Britt Simpson. Justin then proceeds to put paint on Britt and Drew (Britt told me he will never be that nice again and I believe him). What does the ref do when he sees the hit on JC? He simply pulls him and doesn’t throw the red flag. Even the crowd roared their disapproval. A hopper hit is a yellow if you pull the trigger (they didn’t hesitate to pull the yellow on Stu in the Uprising match). A hopper hit and then you shoot my guy much less two of them? That is and should be a textbook red flag. They should have pulled Justin and his snake player and Impact should have played down a body the next point putting the ‘Canes on the power play with 1:08 left. A 5 on 4 headed into that last point… who knows what would have happened. But what SHOULD have happened is I should have marched my Sicilian/Irish butt right over to Jason Trosen and said I want that last play reviewed and I want Impact playing a man down. I didn’t. I got caught up in determining what we should do next and didn’t think to do it. That will not happen again. The only good thing that comes out of it is that my boy Daniel Camp beats Nick Leival in a one on one with one of the coolest matrix-esque moves in paintball and gets a red/gold coin! 5-5. We were in Xball now… hats off to Impact on that last point. They did what they needed to do… 6-5 final with the win going to Impact. We were now sitting on a 1-1 record heading into the next day.

Daniel Camp wins a one on one coin!

We had scouted Diesel and the Russians. My initial thought was, Diesel will adjust. Pocket was not working for them. So let’s take this data we had on them with a grain of salt until we can review their fist match tomorrow. After reviewing our data on the Russians and re-watching their games, I didn’t see them needing to adjust too much. They played a very straight game. Bully a gun with two and take ground. Super fast and aggressive. We knew we needed to fight fire with fire. We thought we had the right approach. But then, everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.

The Red Legion match was the one I was most interested and excited to play. These guys were back to full strength and are a machine. This would be another big test and boy was it. We actually bounced both their wide runners on the break in the first point. Woulda coulda shoulda… they didn’t break so, doesn’t matter. Control what you can control right? But our guns were there. Second point our guns were there again and we had position but the Russians had better field awareness than us. I’ll be honest with you… I don’t exactly know what happened on that 3rd point… they ran guns up wherever they wanted. We stick Kirill but then a grenade went off in our backfield. Jacob Searight tries to save the point with a great counter aggressive move but it is was too late. The next point we were just out-played. It’s going to happen at this level. 4-0. But we had been here before. We knew we had to push the pace harder and we did. We won some gun fights and pressed forward to put a point on the board. The next point both teams shot each others snake side 1’s but we take the center first. Thought we had them contained but we let legion spread out of the D-side can. We continue to press but we get caught each time. 5-1. “Be first, be fast, but check off – there is still plenty of time in this match”. We shot their D-side the next point but draw a minor. 6-1. We are now 1 point away from being mercied. But my guys kept their cool. I started doing the math with us being down by 5 with 6.5 minutes left. We realized we had time and we could still make a game of it. We shifted away from the two line approach, adjusted some line personnel to highlight what we wanted to do. Heavy guns up with a heavy center push to increase statistical survival on break. It pays off and we win the point in under the average time required. I figured we had a minute ten per point and we did it in a minute two if memory serves. We were ahead of the curve. 6-2. We made one more mild adjustment with the guns and it pays off again. 6-3. The guys were feeling it now. We know Kirill wanted to beat us to the center so we positioned for it. We moved the skirmish line to the 40 (save for the snake) and we closed it to within 2. 6-4. And we were still ahead of the average time per point necessary. But now we are in x ball. The Russians call a time out. The point starts and we end up with a 4 on 3 advantage. Then it became a 3 on 3 with just over 2 minutes (hey, the Russians are great gun fighters). Now, I will admit… I was considering point spread as the point evolved. Two small mistakes cost us that point. Again… I almost didn’t towel. But then I looked at my guys, they were composed and we are discussing what had happened at that point. One more baby. Lets go. Say what you want but my guys gave it their all in that last point and that match. I was smiling internally even with the loss.

Be sure to check out Kurrite Photography at https://www.kurrite.com/ and on IG at kurrite_photography

The next 2 hours were a roller coaster. There were some outside factors that may have “iced” our flow. But anyone who looks at outside factors like that and says that’s why we lost is a loser. You have to perform and execute no matter what. By the way, none of my guys let that stuff get them. This was me analyzing as I have a tendency to do. This is paintball. And AC Diesel came to play just like we did against our other 3 opponents. We knew what they wanted to do and we let them do it. We missed shots, played sloppy/loose, and the guys knew it. Hats off to Mark Johnson and his crew. But that is the difference at this level… consistency is key. I remember shaking hands with Diesel and saying to them, “Thank you for the education. Thank you for the lesson.” And I genuinely meant it. My guys are better for it.

Summation of the first event, we played well but we have a long way to go if we want to hang with the teams in this division. There are approximately 200 players who get to play at this level and we deserve to be among them. Yes, we had a good debut but we are not resting. We are learning. And we will continue to learn.

We set 4 goals headed into this event:

  1. Win a point
  2. Connect points (win two points back to back)
  3. Win a match
  4. Don’t get last

We succeeded in meeting all 4 goals at this first event. For that I am thankful and pleased. But there is more to do. More goals need to be added on top of those 4. These 4 will go with us the rest of the season. They won’t change. But goals 5 and 6 will.

A good friend of mine summed up the New Orleans Hurricanes pro debut in a rather succinct and profound way. He said, “You guys ate from every buffet table. You got a 6-0. You got 6-0’d. In bad weather conditions. Got in a close back and forth match against a top team (Impact). And got to play the Russians.”

I want to take a moment and thank Jared Lackey of Tampa Bay Damage (Formerly of Carolina Crisis). John Dresser of JT let me know that he was the one who designed our new jerseys. The jerseys are fire Jared. Thank you.

I want to thank Tim Land of Gi Sportz for taking good care of us at the paint truck. I am, for lack of a better word, a paint snob. Tim gets it. Thank you Tim. You are the man.

I want to thank another Tim but I don’t know his last name. Tim the Tech guy from Planet Eclipse. Dude was right there with us in the pits helping. He was polite, professional, and johnny on the spot. Sure, he is probably in the pits for all the Eclipse teams but it just felt good having him there. Dude was genuine and we appreciated it. If any of you reading this know his name, shoot it to me in a DM so I can contact him.

Shout out to Walker Gautsche from Carbon. Dude is always smiling and is just a pleasant person to be around. Hooked us up with our gear and we appreciate it!

I didn’t get to hang with any of the Virtue crew but thank you too! The hoppers performed flawlessly.

Thanks to Matty Marshal and Rich Telford for the respect. It is greatly appreciated. And a quick shout out to Mike Hinman for the support and after event advice.

Thank you to Matt Engles for making the old man feel like he belongs and to Mikey Candaleria for being a cool cat. A special thanks to George Fava – dude is legit professional and a pleasure to be around.

Thank you to the NXL for a well run event.

Before I close this out, I want to say something to our friends, family, and fans… Thank you for all the love and support. It was overwhelming and we want you to know we will continue to try and do you proud. We are truly blessed to have you all. More to come, we promise.

Be water my friends.

Season Prep Part 2 (be Positive)

The first event of the NXL 2022 season is just four weeks away. Building off last month’s blog, I have continued to received even more questions about my personal thoughts on

1. How well I think we will do

2. How we will prepare

3. What we think about the draw

All legitimate questions and I am happy to answer them to my best ability one on one. However, let me answer as best I can right here:

1 – Simply, we will do our best. And that can mean a lot of things. We have a tough road ahead of us on several fronts. And we will meet it with the same vigor and aggression as before and then some.

2 – We will prepare as we always have: thorough study of layout, apply our strengths to said layout, and develop what we feel is the best approach to game-planning and execution dependent on layout/opponent.

3 – It’s a tough one. Say what you will about recent events, Impact still has tremendous talent. Their depth is substantial and they will have an axe to grind. Reports have Russian Legion back to full strength. That’s scary as hell for any team in the division. We know AC Diesel well and those cats are hungry. They were a semi pro team just 3 years ago and are a top 10 team already. And you can never look past Uprising. They have plenty of weapons on that team. They were a top 10 team as recently as 2019. So yeah, baptism by fire is coming.


It’s interesting because no one really cared when we were Semi-Pro. As a matter of fact, there is a large faction of NXL pro fans who still don’t know we are a professional team. That’s on us. We haven’t done a very good job with our brand. That will change. And it will change because we have decided we need to make that change. Us… the New Orleans Hurricanes. We decided to do better. So we are doing our best to up our exposure. We have decided as a team to take a positive approach to this new endeavor. And this is where we build off last months blog.

Last month we discussed developing SMART goals and how they can lend to creating a positive mental attitude… this month we will talk about what that positive mental attitude looks like from my perspective and how I think others should create or incorporate into their routine and, in essence, practice it.

Competitive Paintball teams devote hours upon hours of practice to honing their skills. At least, serious ones do. The physical aspect of our game requires a lot of training. Talent within that aspect of the game can take players pretty far. But only SO far. There needs to be several other components such as communication, teamwork, chemistry… But something that is occasionally overlooked and required (in my opinion) to maximize a player’s (and team’s) true potential is having a positive mental attitude.

Do you believe any elite players in any sport are successful because they hate what they are doing or have a negative perception of themselves, their team, or their capabilities? Positivity can be that force multiplier to get you where you want or need to be. Physical and mental energy, whether low or high, can and will affect how well you ultimately perform. So why wouldn’t we take note of it?

I believe in a positive culture but one that is ruled by accountability. When you have a negative Nancy culture that’s all finger pointing, no affirmation, dissing each other, and a coach yelling… well… yeah, sometimes that environment can create growth but only for so long. Negativity can promote a drive, sure… but not for the right reasons usually.

Being optimistic is not necessarily the same as being positive but it certainly can help.
I try to build my guys up and I encourage each and everyone of them to do the same. Now, to be clear, should a mistake be made, and made again… and again… well, this is where the accountability “fail-safe” kicks in. Positivity is obviously not working… now it’s time for tough love. But be honest in that tough love and be sincere.

So what are some of the things that affect us in a negative way? Besides the obvious, like injuries, making the wrong read, giving bad data/communication during a game that costs you the point or match… think there is anything else?

For me, I sometimes get adversely affected by something I read or perhaps a family friend’s troubles (or my own) or all sorts of awful things present in the outside world (of paintball). But I have taught myself to recognize that and try not to bring that into my “other world”. I don’t always succeed and when I don’t, I make sure my guys know. And they usually know too before I say something.

One of the ways I use to defeat the negative creep is by (stand by for something that is going to sound crazy in 3…2…1…) talking to myself. I’ll turn my thoughts around and pump myself up by reminding myself of who I am, where I come from, why I am here in the first place. Or sometimes it is as simple as saying one of my family’s traditional Christian prayers. You can make one of your own – create a “catch phrase” or maybe words from one of your favorite songs, hell, listen to the damn thing if you have one of those little boxes with earphones that plays music (phones can do that now too, yeah?). When I’m feeling particularity spicy, I’ll reach back into the old man’s repertoire… I have been quoting Conan the Barbarian for quite awhile (movie came out in 84 I believe):

“Conan, what is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

Of course, sometimes just seeing my teammates lifts me up. Just takes that one to realize the camaraderie you have with these men.

Anyway, I find this an effective way to manage any negativity that can get in the way of me doing my job well.

As a matter of fact, research has shown that this technique not only helps reduce anxiety but effectively improves performance. Constant practice of this over a long period of time was shown to be more effective than just physical training alone. Start incorporating it into your training. You will be glad you did.

How many of you have used visualization? I talk about this all the time and tell my guys before each match to play the game in their heads. Visualize what you will see, what you will do, how you will do it, what it will all look like. I use to do this all the time when I was on the field. Still do actually… that is when I find myself on the field which is rare these days. Something I hope to remedy.

A positive attitude can not only help you stay motivated but help you meet any anxiety you may have head on. Listen, it doesn’t happen overnight. As with all change, it can take time. But I promise having a good attitude vs a bad one will positively affect your performance. Create that new mindset and see where it takes you.

Thinking positively before an upcoming and important match is a necessity to grow whether you win, lose, or draw. Self-affirmations have to be there. You have to believe you belong there. You have to believe you earned it. And that is what we will do in preparation for the first NXL event.

We did earn it. We do belong here. And we are going to do our best to be a positive force in the NXL pro division.

I value positive mental attitudes. I currently have 10 under me. All 10 know how to pump themselves up. All 10 know how to control their demeanor. All 10 have confidence in themselves and each other. And all 10 trust me and each other. That’s powerful stuff. But that is only half the battle. It will require us executing, playing as a team, communicating, hitting our shots… but you gotta start somewhere. You have to believe that you can do all those things. And if things go south? Okay – what did we learn? We know where we stand and we will just have to work harder and harder…

Failure is not a catastrophic end. At least not in this sport. But it can be a powerful motivator… as long as you stay positive about it.

Be water my friends.

Season Prep Part 1 (Be SMART)

Since the New Orleans Hurricanes won the pro spot in the NXL, I have been asked more times than I can count, “How do you think you will do your first event/season?”

A goal achieved

Don’t get me wrong, I am not upset by the question. As a matter of fact, I welcome it. It gives me an opportunity to try and explain something many people appear to lack these days. Understandably so if you really look at the world around us.

And now I get to explain in length and detail as opposed to my 5 minute elevator speech.

“We are going to do our best.”

But how?

Simple – by utilizing the one thing many appear to be lacking today: a positive mental attitude.

I am going to give you a glimpse of how I personally create a positive attitude.
The first step is, in my opinion, to set a goal. That’s right. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, no matter what I am doing, I set a goal(s). When we do this, it helps us focus on the things that are important to meet the goal. When you know what you are after, you’re more likely to stay on task to reach it. In addition to that focus, it should provide motivation. If I genuinely want to reach it, I will. Each goal should act as a stepping stone to the next.

So how do I identify my goals? This might be a good time to talk about the SMART system (work smarter, not harder). SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It is widely used in the business world. However, I have found it just as applicable in paintball/sports. I personally use these criteria to help identify and focus on my own goals. But I have seen success using it among the teams I have coached over the years.

First, if you are SMART, you will clearly define the goal. This will help map out a path to success. The more detailed you get, the easier it becomes. Make it very clear. Be definitive. Avoid vagueness or ambiguity. Make it SPECIFIC.

Next – give yourself a way to track progress. Set minor goals within goals or perhaps develop a way to record gains. In other words, know how you will see progress towards your goal. Make it MEASURABLE.

The goal has to be attainable. Ask yourself if you have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal. Have others been able to do it as well? A D4 team consisting of 4 guys who live in the Bob Marshall Wilderness saying we will be the next pro team in 2 years is ridiculous. Make the goal ACHIEVABLE.

It should also be legitimate. Don’t be unrealistic with it. Make it relevant to your path in life. Can you reach it with what time, resources, and capabilities you have on hand? Make the goal REALISTIC.

Finally, give it a timeline. There has to be a due date or a “drop dead” date. If you have a good timeline (a realistic one) that is clearly defined, it will create urgency. That will also help with motivation. Make it TIMELY.

Some goals achieved along the way

Reaching our goals, reaching success is not a matter of luck or chance. It is quite frankly, a matter of choice. You don’t WAIT to be successful at something, you don’t WAIT for something good to happen… you have to go out and get it! And that starts by being SMART.

I have set very simple yet clear goals for the ‘Canes leading into this season. Here they are (high level – I have further detail elsewhere):

  1. Win a professional match point
  2. Win connected professional match points (2 points in a row)
  3. Win a professional match
  4. Don’t get last at any event
  5. Represent our family, friends, fans, communities, and sponsors well by showing a positive and noble approach on and off the field to the game and our opponents (no matter how they behave).

So – what I have essentially done is created 4 sub goals… of which goal #5 is the real goal.

By creating these sub goals it will help ensure we’re following the plan and that we’re on the right track. Remember me talking about “little wins”? There you have it. This will allow us to track our progress more efficiently.

So we have the plan – and we have the season to accomplish it. Obviously, there will be considerable obstacles to these goals – specifically the other 19 professional teams – many of which more than likely will not respect us at all. And that’s to be expected. In their eyes, it is up to us to earn their respect I would imagine. Challenge accepted. No doubt there will be setbacks but we will adjust accordingly. And in some cases, it may be us! Like the Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” we will visualize and attack! This is where the Positive Mental Attitude comes into effect. We will learn from each set back. We will learn from each defeat. We will stay motivated because that’s who we are. We will maintain focus and composure. We will keep our eye on the prize because we know when we achieve these goals, we will have had a successful season. And we will have fun.

Everyone on this team, past and present, are positive minded individuals. When you merge a groups of positive minded individuals into a team? Yeah man…

Something worth mentioning here is that while it is important to have a positive mental attitude it is just as important to have the right positive environment. We will surround ourselves with like minded people. Those who are interested in our success and who genuinely want to see success with us. We will not get distracted. We will make sure our culture remains the same – after all, it is what got us here.

As I stated earlier, reaching our goals successfully is a matter of choice. You have to go out and make it happen. You have to go get it!

That’s it for now… Next month in Part 2 I will share what a positive mental attitude really is and how to create one to achieve success.

Be water my friends.

An Off and On Relationship

I love this time of year.  Always have. And for obvious reasons… I love Christmas. The sights, sounds, smells… ah…

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

― Calvin Coolidge

The paintball season is over, I can focus on family and friends and really get into the spirit of it all.  Yes, as a coach, I still watch tape and even get out and play myself.  As a matter of fact, I recently had the opportunity to compete in a local 3 man and it was a blast.

Zen getting in some 3 man action – Thank you to Thomas Do of Dot Media for the snap

Now, I have a belief that usually rolls in this time of year. No, it isn’t about a baby born in Bethlehem (although some of you should certainly take the time to read up on that one). I find myself having this type of conversation with several players… it’s become a bit of its own tradition. And some of you may disagree with me.  That’s perfectly fine.  “There is no off season!” – CORRECT.

But…

What do you do during your off season? Do you try to find a clinic?  Maybe you go to your local field as often as possible and hop in with whoever you can to stay sharp?  Perhaps you practice gun skills in your back yard every day?  Or hopefully, you have team practices still.

The point of an off season is for players to work on the holes in their game or make strengths even stronger.  You want to head into next season being a better version of last season.  You want to be better than before.  Sharper, faster, smarter. 

Unfortunately, some of you will find yourself recognizing zero “gains”.  You will be the same player you always have been and there is no improvement.  And if you struggled this past season, you are heading into this “off season” with the mental attitude of “why bother”.  All that work and for nothing.  Frustration sets in.

And this is why I am a proponent of the “take a breath” approach.  Motivation is important but if you don’t have the mental gas tank and are running on fumes from the season, your work ethic and gains will suffer.  We need to be prepared to upgrade so to speak.  We have to have the capacity, the RAM, the gig space to accept our new programming. 

That’s why I think you should take some time OFF.  That’s right, I said it.  But let me type that again with the appropriate emphasis this time.  Take SOME time off.

We all need to re charge the batteries.  I think the best way to do this is to legitimately step away from the sport.  Back away and do something else for a few weeks.  Go hunting, go fishing, go skiing, snowboarding, camping, heck… go bowling.  Make up for time spent at the field grinding all season… take that special someone on a date again. Do something other than paintball. 

Some will argue that while you are taking a break, the competition is working hard and outpacing you.  And they very well may be right.  However, I believe that if you are mentally exhausted, you will more than likely just end up grinding gears.  And if we start grinding gears, then we get burnt out or worse… injured.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Taking some time off lets you recover both physically (what paintballer isn’t injured by end of season?) and mentally.  Come back with a fresh perspective as well as a fresh set of legs and a frustration free mind ready to learn.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I think this certainly applies here.  I also found that, when I did take a short break and returned, there was a new me on the field ready and rearing to go… more aggressive, more aware, acute…  It’s a great feeling. 

What I love about this is, it also gives you a chance to look at the previous season, re-evaluate it, learn from it.  This lets you focus on the areas of you and your game that need the most attention.  Once you have identified those areas, you can set some new goals and decide the best way to go about improving and meeting them!

With the season behind us, whether it was successful or not, we can relax and focus on making progress towards these goals. 

The season, whether we admit it or not, takes a toll on all of us.  By stepping away for a brief period, reconnecting with other things and people in our lives (you know, the “other world” – the real one) we can essentially create a clean slate, ready for the new input.

The best way to have a good “next season” is to start it fresh and prepared.  The best way to have a good “off season” is to take some time off.  This will lead to the former.  It will allow for a clearer assessment.  A clear assessment leads to truths.  Truths lead to recognition. Recognition leads to focus.  Focus leads to improvement. 

And that’s going to do it for this month. Keeping it simple. Take some time off. That’s what I plan on doing for the most part. Oh, and I’ll be celebrating the birth of that Bethlehem baby too 😉

Be Water my friends.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

Go Pro

The New Orleans Hurricanes are the newest team in the NXL’s pro division. Honestly, it’s a bit odd writing that sentence but, at the same time, a little satisfactory. Now, I have always believed that setting goals is the first step in making the impossible possible. And this team is no different. We set out to accomplish two specific goals this season. The first was to be in the top 4 every event. It was funny because we took 4th at the first two events and I let the guys have it – jokingly of course – about how I didn’t mean 4th every time. We were on task to pull it off but unfortunately, we fell just short of that specific goal this past event (World Cup) by placing 5th. As you can imagine, the second goal was to win the pro spot. Most people would say, “Hey, that’s pretty good.”

Meh… it could and should have been better.

I didn’t write that last sentence with disdain, disappointment, or any negativity. I wrote it because I know what this team is capable of. We hold ourselves to a high standard. I know each and every one of these guys well, their wives, girlfriends, parents, siblings, children… Each and every one of these guys (including myself) sacrificed a tremendous amount this year. We overcame some pretty incredible challenges; injuries, medical emergencies, life events, roster changes, and a real life hurricane (Ida) and still found a way to stay competitive and ultimately win the series. And not by just a little…by almost 30 points (29.42 points to be exact). And not by just a little… by almost 25 points (24.75 to be exact).

It would seem scores were changed… odd. As is the new scoring used for the final event…

And I guess, maybe that is what bothers me… the public education system.

The ignorance of systems, process, and math… emotional responses (as opposed to considering statistical probabilities) from paintball teams is sometimes quite staggering.

But don’t get me started. That’s another topic completely. And frankly, it doesn’t matter.

After winning the series in 2020 (the Covid series as I call it) and winning World Cup that year, the New Orleans Hurricanes were focused and prepared to win the series again, leaving no doubts. Granted, we wanted an event win for the cherry on top. But I think consistency says a lot about a team as well. We won 2020 World Cup, something many are quick to forget, and came into 2021 taking 4th at the first event of the 2021 season (the Sunshine State in Kissimmee). We would go on to take 4th at the Mid Atlantic (Philly), and 2nd at Windy City (Chicago). None of the other top 5 teams for the season had done that (been in top 4 every event) up until that point headed into cup. A-Team took 12th at Chicago. New England had a 10th place at Mid Atlantic. Blast Camp had a 13th at Sunshine and Crisis had an 18th at Mid Atlantic.

Season rings waiting to be claimed.

Here is another interesting note – each event we were knocked out – it was by the team that won the event. Well, save for Sunshine in Kissimmee. Crisis took 2nd there. A-Team knocked us out at the Mid Atlantic and won. Obviously Blast Camp knocked us out at Windy City. And finally, Crisis knocked us out again at Cup.

Heading into Cup all we cared about was the win. We weren’t thinking about the series as much as we were just laser focused on the event itself. We wanted that back to back Cup win bad. We had good momentum and were feeling motivated after the 2nd place finish in Chicago. Hell, Drew Bell had found a two dollar bill after Philly. And if you don’t understand that, I can’t help you. The team felt prepared and had some excellent practices prior to the event (shout out to Austin Notorious for their series win as well – keep an eye on those young men – with Coach Ryan Gray at the helm, they’re coming to a nightmare near you in semi pro next season). Of the 21 matches we had played over the last 3 events, we had won 48% of them by mercy (That’s 10 for those of you doing the math). We had won 64% of all points played (110-62). The 2nd place team headed into Cup had only won 57% on average (80-61 I believe) with only 2 mercies. But why does any of that matter? It doesn’t… just pontificating…

End of a great layout weekend with Austin Notorious and Utah Bro Army

Of course, heading into Cup, we knew this was a chaotic field and anything could happen. We had shown promise not only controlling the chaos and using it to our advantage but creating it as well. We were even happy about our draw. Even though every team in our bracket got a free win with a D4 team deciding to play Cup in Semi Pro (shout out to Midwest Bandits – I heard the story as to why you played up and if true, that’s really cool of you. Well done!), we knew we would be tested early. And we were tested by some great teams. We still went 4-0 and won our bracket. I like being tested early in events and coming out on top. It almost always prepares you for the Sunday grind. And we had some Sunday matches in the prelims.

However, we drew Carolina Crisis for our quarters match. Crisis is a team that has been on the verge for some time. Whereas, it was another knife fight and we almost tied it at the end (had I conceded a point earlier in the match, we would have) they played a really balanced game and prevailed. Woulda coulda shoulda. At the end of the day, you have to execute. The team and I made one too many mistakes that match and they capitalized. Congrats to them and well played!

You can’t be a winner without knowing how to lose. Learn from it each and every time.


All that being said, I wanted to do a quick recap of some of the teams I think need to be recognized. After all, it was a helluva season and when you really think about it, they helped us progress.

Annapolis A-Team – This team took 2nd in the Covid series last year and finished this season strong with another 2nd place finish in the semi pro series this year a 3rd place finish for the year. This is the 2nd most consistent team in the division if you really look at it. They had three top 5 finishes this year with a win in Philly and a slip up in Chicago. There is some real talent on this team and there is no doubt teams will be scouting them next season. Ignore them at your own risk. Don’t be surprised when they hit you upside the head and don’t stop hitting you.

New England Hurricanes – They took 15th in the Covid season (we gave them their only mercy rule loss at 2020 Cup) but started this season off right with a win in Kissimmee. They stumbled in Philly (we sent them home again with another mercy in an epic match) and at Cup. They have some great players and a lot of experience on this team. You have to respect them or they will punch you hard and fast. They have the components to win but consistency has proven to be elusive for what should be a consistent team. That being said, a motivated NE Canes team will be a tough draw next year.

Blast Camp – I can’t say enough good things about this team. I don’t know if that is because of what I have seen with my own eyes at events or their amazing social media talent. Their communication is top notch on the field and they have a very academic approach to layouts (something we strive for). And, of course, they are young. This team has a great facility, gets to bang with members of Heat on the reg, and they have tremendous support. When you play them, you are also competing against the energy of that group outside the nets. They will be a major force to reckon with next season. Trust me on that one.

Carolina Crisis – Now, I know a few of the cats on this team and their coach from back in the CFOA days. I think everyone saw a tremendous growth out of them this season. They started the season strong and ended the season even stronger. I think that trip up in Philly really motivated them. Some weaknesses were exposed and they said, hell no, we’re going to shore those up. Which they obviously did. That’s the sign of a team to watch, one that is self aware and understands what needs to be fixed (and actually does it). They showed a real balanced and controlled approach to this layout. The question is can they do that on every layout? I bet they can.

… and NEW Professional team!

I was actually going to do a breakdown of the top 10 teams but then this would be a book and not a blog… All of them had great moments this season. To finish out the top 10, shout out to Wolfpack, Noobies, Brawl, Brooklyn Bears, and Indy Mutiny. I enjoy watching different teams/coaches and how they approach the layout, their styles, personalities, etc. Whereas most people look at the teams in their division as the opponent/enemy, when it’s all said and done, they are paintball players just like you and me. They have a love of the game and are trying to do something in it. I can’t dislike someone for that. Sure, some of them will say some truly asinine things but I don’t get caught up in all that “noise”. You want to run your mouth about stuff instead of performing, be my guest. Doesn’t bother me or change anything. Oh, but I understand that I may have to explain the differences in southern slurs to some of you LOL. Maybe someday I will… but let it be known, we are not “hillbillies” 😉

Now, as far as the New Orleans Hurricanes are concerned, we understand what is in front of us. It will be a tough and difficult season full of challenges and learning. We have already set some pretty simple goals for the 2022 season. I believe that successful teams will always maintain a positive focus no matter what is going on around them. Winning teams stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures (although they don’t forget them), and on the next action steps they need to get them closer to the next goal. We can’t afford to let all the other distractions cloud our vision. And we won’t. I don’t believe we have to be better than anybody else. I believe we have to be better than we were the day before and the day before that. And then, eventually, better than we ever thought we could be. Then and only then will we see the results we are after. Constant improvement will be the name of the game. If we can’t continually up our game each event, it’s going to be a long season. No one knows that better than us.

Thanksgiving is just two days away… and no one in the paintball community is more thankful than we are currently. We are thankful not only for the opportunity to now compete at the highest level, but for all our friends and family who have supported and sacrificed for us over the years. We are thankful for our awesome sponsors who legitimately supported us all season long- GI Sportz, Planet Eclipse, Carbon, Virtue, and JT Paintball. We use their products because we genuinely like and believe in them. We are thankful for Gulf Coast Paintball in Slidell, LA for the facility to hone our skills. We are thankful for all the teams that came and scrimmaged us over the years, you know who you are! We are thankful for our opponents, especially the ones who beat us and taught us what we needed to learn. And finally, I am thankful for each and everyone member of this team… there isn’t another group of guys I would want to do this with. None. Zero. Nada. Zip.

So let me wrap this up by telling you something about these “hillbillies”… We may not talk like you, act like you, or meet your perception or expectation of what a pro team should be… but that’s alright because at the end of the day, we are who we are and I am damn proud of that. We are the New Orleans Hurricanes, the newest professional team in the NXL. And we out here. Roll ‘Canes!

Be water my friends

The gang – every member of this crew has the love and admiration of each other
Consistency

Help! I’ve fallen… and I CAN get up.

Another month has passed and I am sitting here staring at this blank Microsoft Word document, the cursor eerily mocking me as if to say, “What? You ain’t got nothin’! Bwahahahah!” So I typed that opening sentence you just read to spite it…

I believe that it is safe to say that pretty much every person who has ever seen success had an obstacle or two along the way, maybe more. Challenges always exist when we are striving to accomplish a goal, to succeed. It’s never THAT easy. Sure, there is the occasional “will you look at that” moment… but for the most part, people like Mark Zupan, Frederick Douglas, and Bethany Hamilton faced some pretty amazing challenges and issues. Granted, those three are extreme but they should certainly give your 1st world problems perspective before you read on.

How many of you have heard the term, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well”? Of course you have! If you haven’t, you’re welcome.

I was asked to speak on a topic this month and, whereas I believe I have spoken on it before, I will give it another shot. Sometimes we just have to let some things out. Recently, I have witnessed several of my friends struggle with their own personal issues… so when I was asked to write about this topic, I saw it as a sign. I am no expert by any means but let me say I have certainly seen my fair share. We’re talking about overcoming adversity … and not necessarily in paintball. Sorry – I don’t know who needs to hear or read this… but I felt called to do it.

Took a lot of patience to get here

If you want the topic in reference to paintball specifically, you can check these other blog posts out that touch on the subject as well.


https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2020/09/29/observe-and-report/

Smells like rain…

and to a slightly lesser extent but more of a specific example of how it hit me in the face a time or two;

Whippersnappers and Adversity

Okay… here we go.

Life itself can be a difficult thing. There will always be hills and valleys. Some of us spend a lot of time on the hills while others spend what seems like an eternity in the valleys (that’s ups and downs for those of you who don’t always comprehend what I’m saying/writing). No matter where we are on our journey, we should always take the opportunity to learn and grow from how we got there, where we were exactly, where we think we are going, and what it teaches us.

“Those who wrestle with us strengthen our nerves and sharpen our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” – Edmund Burke

Pay attention -periphery vision in life is important. See it coming


The best way to beat or rather, deal with adversity is to conquer it before it happens. How? Simply prepare for it. Anticipate it. Be ready. It’s coming… we all know it. Why are we so surprised when we encounter it? Whether it is through preparation/recognition of what could be an issue or simply mentally preparing ourselves for the job ahead, understanding there will be adversity is the first step in defeating it.

But what if you didn’t prepare? What if you didn’t anticipate all contingencies?

Fair question. First and foremost, don’t panic. Maintain discipline. “Embrace the suck” as our military brethren have taught us. Don’t get overwhelmed – take a breath, step back and use the same enthusiasm you began your journey with to defeat the new adversary. Use that same zeal, that same positivity you started with to overcome.

Look – stuff happens. Too many of us get caught up in thinking “woe is me” and that life sucks; it’s all rainbows and unicorns for everyone but poor ol’ me. Recognize that, in many instances, these moments are gifts! They are opportunities for us to grow, learn, and become stronger than we were before. Level up! Those of you who focus on the negative or blame others for your adversity are — well …. weak. That’s right, I said it. And you will remain weak and you will continue to fail until you DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Be accountable, take responsibility, take stock in what you have, and use it to push forward. Evaluate what happened and why. When you do this, you will then be able to determine how you can prevent it from happening again!

Forward… always move forward

I have been blessed with encountering some absolutely amazing human beings in my brief time. Whether they are successful fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, athletes, employers, employees… you name it. They all have something in common. They all recognize that once you are good or adept at something, it doesn’t stop there. It is a continuous journey seeking continuous improvement. They recognize that there is always room to do better and improve.

“If better is possible, good is not enough.” – unknown

Overcoming adversity is about being honest with yourself. Take stock in your capabilities, your strengths (we all have strengths) and where you may not be as strong. Where are the holes? Once you identify them, do what you can to shore them up. This will lead to more confidence and more capability of defeating your adversity.

Now, some of you reading this may be thinking, “Easy for you to say.” That’s true. It is easy for me to say… but it wasn’t always. I overcame some things and made it happen. I didn’t whine and feel sorry for myself (sure there were times I wanted too… I’m man enough to admit it). But I said, nope, gotta do better and it has to start with me. I was real with myself. I had a very real conversation with me, took stock in what I had and decided to make a change. Someday I will share that major turning point in my life. In the meantime, know that we have to be real with ourselves and we have to stay positive. I know, I know… the positivity part can prove difficult. But if you surround yourself with the right influences and support (family, friends, mentors, etc.), its much easier than you realize.

“Don’t give up – when going through hell… keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Alright, I’m going to close this out with another quote. I find it the perfect summation for the topic. It comes from Thomas Edison when he was inventing the light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to people. Be patient, be positive, grow, become stronger. We can all do it. Even those of you who think you can’t. You can. Trust me on this one.

Be water my friends.

The Case of The Windy City

2020 was a pooch. But there was one thing that came out of that season that I remember with great affection. The New Orleans Hurricanes won the coveted World Cup of paintball in the Semi Pro division. I call it the “covid cup” because we were neck deep in the pandemic and only had 2 events that year. 19 teams showed up in the semi pro division for that event, down 6 teams from the Vegas event, including Camp Factory (TonTons). The team went 4-0 in the prelims outscoring our opponents 22-7 which included Annapolis A team (4-2) and the New England Hurricanes (5-0). On Sunday, we would outscore our next 3 opponents 17-8 winning against TCP machine (5-4 in quarters) Indianapolis Mutiny (6-3 in Semis) and the finals match against the New Jersey Jesters (6-1).

2nd place

I was aware of the legacy I had joined. The history of the N.O. Canes (Formerly the Gulf Coast Hurricanes) is quite storied. Believe it or not, the team is 5 years old. There is a pedigree there that some may not be familiar with. Players from Rock-It-Kids, Warped Army, Chicago Aftershock, Birmingham PRIME, and St. Louis Avalanche.

They began their career by entering the semi pro division in 2016. With most of the core players having Division 1 and some Professional experience, they believed they would be competitive. However, they would be served a big slice of humble pie. They were quickly shown to be unprepared finishing in the back of the pack the first few events. When the 2016 NXL World Cup came around, the team decided (appropriately) to play Division 2. Once again, they received another rude awakening. They were beaten in their first match Sunday morning finishing the event in 11th place (I know as my team Birmingham Prime took 2nd at the event in D2). It became painfully obvious they had a lot of work to do. This was hands down THE BEST THING that could have happened to the organization at the time. Sometimes in life, you have to fail in order to learn how to succeed.

After that first season, they re-evaluated their goals, swallowed their pride, and began the 2017 season in Division 2 of the NXL. They put in the work and we were rewarded with their first win on the national stage. They took 1st Place in the 2017 NXL Chicago Open. Interesting fact, this was my official introduction to the ‘Canes as I was invited down for a 2 day clinic prior to the event. I will never forget it because team members Matt Hamilton and Drew Bell showed me a great time. BTW – at Chicago – the ‘Canes would knock my team out in the Ochos! Some “thank you”…

World Cup Champions 2020

Once again, they decided to stay in Division 2 for the 2018 season and ended up taking 2nd at Las Vegas, 5th at the Texas Open and rounded out the season with a 1st Place finish at World Cup.

The team would rebrand themselves as the New Orleans Hurricanes for future marketing and set their sights on the NXL’s Pro Division. They made the bump up to Semi-Pro in 2019. They would finish the season in 3rd place for the series. The year consisted of a 3rd place in Vegas, 5th Place in Texas, 3rd place in Philadelphia, an 11th place stumble in Chicago, and 6th place at World Cup. Not how they envisioned the season, but they knew if they wanted to win they would have to work even harder. And maybe add a little something extra (hint hint wink wink zen something or another).

When they first asked me to coach, I remember thinking, “Why?” These guys already had a winning program. But the more I talked and became familiar with this team, the more I realized we were very similar in approach and philosophy. Compatible systems you might say.

The team knows that, in order to be successful, you must have a culture that emphasizes several positive components. Components such as motivation, persistence, and determination. However, in the New Orleans Hurricane camp, those components are tempered with even more important aspects such as integrity, honor, sacrifice, and generosity. It isn’t just about winning. It is also about the pursuit of bettering ourselves and those around us, on and off the field and achieving the results in a way we can be proud of. Benjamin Franklin said that “Well done is better than well said.” In other words, don’t tell us, show us. We couldn’t agree more. Every member is held to a standard and there is no deviation. Steel sharpens steel and we lift each other up and hold one another accountable. Each member brings strengths that will ultimately lead us to our organizational objectives. Those objectives will be met with hard work, resilience, and faith in one another. And that is our mission – to succeed. But not just in the traditional understanding with wins on the field. We want to have a positive impact on our sport and in our communities. To represent our friends, families, and our sponsors in a positive,meaningful way and to make them proud.

FACTS

“WINNING” is a mindset and a process. Not a RESULT. Not achieving a result is no excuse to abandon the PROCESS of getting better. Achieving a goal is not an excuse to become complacent and abandon the mindset that helped you get there. We expect all members to want to excel all the time. There is never an END to this process.

And that is why I coach the New Orleans Hurricanes. I love these guys and this program. You will not find a more blue collar, hard working team. And I am proud to be a part of such a program. You don’t find a group of guys like this often. It’s quite rare really. I’ve succeeded in doing it twice now. I know I am blessed.

With that said, let’s take a look at this season so far. We already talked about World Cup 2020… lets start with 2021.

Sunshine State Major
We went 4-0 in the prelims outscoring our opponents 24-6 (mercy ruling 3 of our 4 opponents). We won our quarter final match with a controlled game and then stumbled in the semis and finals. We lost both matches in overtime to Crisis and Mutiny. A 4th place finish but a top 4 finish none the less. Goal 1 secured. I guess I should mention we set the goal of finishing within the top 4 of every event at the beginning of the season.

Click the youtube link for a recap of the Sunshine State Open

Mid Atlantic Major
This event was tough but not because of the team. This was failed leadership on my part. I take full responsibility for the teams performance at this event. Whether it was my play calling, personnel calling, my scouting, whatever, no excuses, I messed up on a few fronts and I own that. However, this event is what would ultimately set the table for Chicago… but I digress. The team went 3-1 during the prelims dropping a match to a pretty dominant looking Annapolis A-team (6-3). 20 points scored by us versus 15 points scored by our opponents is not the stat a coach wants to wake up to on Sunday. But there we were, another Sunday (our 12th straight). We would pull the New England Hurricanes for the Ochos match first thing that morning. The matches in Semi pro are 15 minutes long… We won by mercy rule 10-5. That’s approximately a minute per point. A Helluva match. We would go on to mercy the Noobies in quarters 6-1. We were feeling confident as we had finally (or so we thought) found our groove on this layout. We would get mercy ruled for the first time 7-2 by Annapolis A-team who would go on to win the event. We would then turn around and, once again, lose by 1 point to the great off the break shooting of Arsenal taking our second 4th place for the season.

Click the youtube link for a recap of the Mid Atlantic Open

The Windy City Major
The table was now set. The 3rd event of the season was a make or break moment for us. And we were determined to put in the work. The first issue came when three of my players had life events that could not be avoided. Work, family, and health all come first in our program. These three players all had a life occurrence that would keep them from participating in this event. I wasn’t too concerned since the team does have depth and had no doubt they would step up. We would still need a little help snake way though, just to be safe. So I called an old friend from my past to help us out (shout out to Aaron Barnes). We were in a good spot.

Then Hurricane Ida decided to make land fall on August 29th… the Sunday before the layout drop. $95 billion in damages, homes and businesses destroyed, flooding, power outages… The New Orleans Hurricanes are based out of Slidell, LA just 30 miles north of New Orleans. As you can imagine, the team was adversely affected. We couldn’t reach some of our teammates for a few days due to phones being down. Talk about nerve-racking. The following weekend, we had to move practice north and into Alabama. Unfortunately, but certainly understandably, only 5 players would make that practice. And on top of that, the new pick up for the event, Aaron Barnes, contracted Covid keeping him from practice as well. So we did what we could to make the best out of the weekend and up the learning curve. I pushed those guys hard. The second layout weekend we had all the roster we would have for the event. So we got after it, playing a tremendous amount of points.

Hurricane Ida was a *@#$%

Day 1 (Friday)
We would meet our old friends the New Jersey Jesters in the first match winning by mercy rule 5-0. We hadn’t had a chance to scout them so it was a matter of doing our thing. We were hitting our shots, executing well, slow steady pressure, and finishing strong with good communication mid game. A good start.

The next match would be against a familiar team. I coached CEP to their Division 2 series win in 2019. I am close friends with those cats and now they were being coached by a good friend who knows my process pretty well. Shout out to I-75 Alex Hicks. Something no one knew outside of our team was that player Jacob Searight, one of our two D-side attackers for this layout, couldn’t play this match. He is getting his PHD/Doctorate or whatever brainy smart stuff he does and had to be on a zoom call for a peer review! Crazy… I know. We would win the match 4-2 but not after another catastrophe… my other 1/attacker on the D-side, Britt Simpson, would dislocate his knee during the 3rd point and had to be carried off the field. *Zen note – even though he was in excruciating pain, he would not let the ref pull him. Instead, he communicated with his 2 (Drew Bell) and they worked together to get Drew down the field to finish and win the point. Shout out to my player and friend Justin Bailey for stepping up and playing the spot like a boss.

Hurricane Ida… Covid…work/family obligations… and now this injury. It appeared the world was against us. But all it did was stiffen our resolve. We got Britt taken care of and had a pretty serious team meeting that night. (Searight’s zoom call went well BTW!) Truth be told, I didn’t sleep. I just kept playing the next day’s games in my head. We had a good plan and we would have one more opportunity to scout our next two opponents to see if/how they adjusted.

Day 2 (Saturday)
We would play Utah Bro Army the next morning. We had paid attention to their approach to the field and after watching their first match that morning, we were confident our previous scouting was sound and our game plan would prevail. And it did. Another mercy rule win (7-2). Shout out to those cats. Great group of guys.

And there they were… standing in front of us for the last prelim match. The team that gave us a 4th place finish at the first event of the season. We had beat them at World Cup, they had beat us at the Sunshine State Major. This was going to be epic to say the least. We knew we could win the break but we needed to connect cross field to win this match. We did both. We ended up beating Indianapolis Mutiny via mercy rule 5-0.

After day 2 we were sitting at 4-0 in the 1st seed with a 4.25 point margin. As luck would have it, by beating Mutiny 5-0, it knocked our friends the Jesters into the 8th seed. So they would be our first match Sunday morning. They would be prepared this time. But so would we. Anyone who thought differently would be considered, at least by me, daft.

Spine time


Day 3 (Sunday)
Headed into Sunday morning and preparing for the match against the Jesters, we knew they were going to adapt. Unfortunately, there is only so many ways you could adapt on this layout. Being familiar with their squad and using statistical analysis, we called it. Those guys don’t quit, they are tenacious and I think that is what I love about them. We would mercy them 6-1.

We knew we would get the winner of the Noobies (4th place in series at this time) and the NE Hurricanes (3rd place in series at this time) match (I believe they were the 4th and 5th seed respectively). We watched the match intently. It was back and forth with the Noobies prevailing 4-3.

This was it. We were not walking away playing for 3rd and 4th again. And it was a knife fight. Back and forth, point for point. Headed into the final point of regulation time, the score is 3-3 with a little over a minute left. We make a last 20 second push, get the last kill, and hit the buzzer. I saw it, the team saw it, several people in the crowd saw it… we hit the buzzer with 1 second left. The ref gives our player a check and the thumbs up. YEAH! WE DID IT! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! SEMI FINAL SLUMP ENDED! WOO-HOO!

But wait… I get called over to the scorekeepers booth. The scorekeeper is overruling the call saying that no, by his clock, time had expired just as my player hit the buzzer. I didn’t even bother arguing or wasting any energy, Suit up boys, overtime. The call is the call and I respected it.

You’re not going to believe this but that point went all 5 minutes. But in the last 20 seconds it became a 3-1 advantage for the Noobies! It looked like the slump wasn’t over after all! But Jacob Searight got crafty and scored two quick kills, protected the buzzer, and traded with the last player. Wow! I picked a bad time to quite sniffin’ glue… (that’s a joke. Go watch the movie Airplane!)

So now it comes down to a 1v1 first blood win with 1 minute on the clock. Drew Bell steps up for the team, rolled his gun, got dominance, and even with refs following/chasing him the entire time bird-dogging (in their defense, they thought they saw some spray but he was clean) kept his opponent in the home bunker and on the defensive (in that players defense, I think he was exhausted), marched down the field, onto his opponents side of the field, and scored the elimination. Finals bound.

Never doubted it.

We are now headed to the finals. I think we finished the semi final match at 1:20pm? We were scheduled to play the finals against Blast Camp at 3:40 but they were running behind. We had scouted Blast Camp early knowing we may very well meet them and with good reason. That team has shown tremendous growth over the past two seasons. They took 7th place last year at World Cup losing to Crisis in the quarters. At the Sunshine State Major, they didn’t make it out of prelims placing 13th. They would turn around and right the ship at the Mid Atlantic NXL event taking 2nd place losing to Annapolis A team by 1. But then the Astra event happened. And they showed a new vigor that has propelled them to the forefront of a lot of paintball discussions about up and comers. And rightly so. Their strength is in their communication. It is top notch.

We knew going in we would have to be perfect. And we weren’t. We weren’t hitting our on the break shots (they were). We hadn’t drawn a penalty all weekend but got 3 in this match. And, just like Philly, our gas tanks ran out. We dug a hole we couldn’t get out of. But we never quit.

And we won’t.

World Cup is looming large. God willing, we will be back to full strength for that event. Preparation for the New Orleans Hurricanes started immediately after the loss to Blastcamp (By the way, congratulations to them, they played almost flawlessly).

Regardless of what came before or of what is yet to come, what matters most is how we choose to respond to what is in front of us…World Cup. There is no way this team lays down. You can most assuredly bet we will fight and finish strong. After all, starting strong is great… but finishing strong is epic. There will be those who say we don’t deserve it for this reason or that. I don’t care what they say. What they think is arbitrary. We are the only team that has been in the top 4 all three events. We have beat the top teams consistently. And we have done it against a lot of adversity. So, love us or hate us, I promise you this, we are here to play, we are here to win. John Dresser came into the pit just before the finals match. He looked at me and my old face and Britt on Crutches… then looked over our shoulders at the rest of the team and said, “Ya’ll aren’t spring chickens.” No, we are not. And that’s why you should respect us and our game. “Beware an old man in a young man’s game, he is there for a reason.” And if you pull us at Cup… you damn well better bring your best game because we hit above our weight class.

Be water my friends

My Personal Seinfeld

Recent conversations this past month (not all paintball related) led me to consider writing about Intrinsic Motivation. This is when our behavior is driven by internal rewards, not external. Then a few other conversations steered me towards the topic of “righting the ship” (see what I did there?) and how to fix a struggling program or player. Then the idea of having another guest blogger popped up because a recent conversation at a wedding brought up an interesting topic. I guess I should be thankful I have 3 potential topics lined up. And I am.

Then I realized… this blog really has evolved over the years from a “this is what my paintball team is doing and why” to a “how to” from a coaching perspective and eventually to what it is today – an amalgamation of my personal psychological, tactical, strategic, and leadership experiences and approaches applied to the sport of tournament paintball.

And that can get tiring.

So what I want to talk about this month is… nothing.

The old man and his dog

That’s right, the topic will be nothing specific. Rather this will be more of a steam of thought (nothing new there) about how I personally overcome obstacles and what led me to write this blog in the first place (in a broad sense). If you read that last line and are still reading… thank you. Hopefully, what follows can help someone.

Life can and usually is, filled with missed opportunities. Usually from fear of failure, the unknown, injury, embarrassment… But what is fear really? Fear is essentially a signal of danger, a threat, or motivational conflict. It manifests psychologically and physiologically (that’s mentally and physically). There is a lot of it out in the world today, much of it unnecessary. So I thought maybe we might touch on a microcosm of it this month.

I started writing this Blog (albeit under a different title and perspective) in 2010. There was no fear of doing so because it was just going to be a chronicle of a team I was playing with and I was going to have help. But as it evolved and Zen was born, there came doubts. And that was okay. It has turned into something that, based off feedback, has helped a few people out. In addition to that, it has helped me as an individual grow in a path I didn’t think was ever planned or possible for that matter. And that all happened because of how I approach my fears.

Fear only exists in our minds. We ultimately control it and it’s effects on us. I had no real idea what I was doing when I stepped into this world of blogging, coaching, and clinics. All I had was my experiences and ideas. Would they be good enough? Would I write something that was perceived as “stupid”? Would anyone care? Am I sure I want to put myself, my thoughts, and my ways out into public domain for consumption and scrutiny?

Of course those thoughts arose… but they didn’t stop me. I never really thought about it until now. But I understand it more now than ever.

I think my background in the martial arts helped prepare me for the endeavor as it did for many things. My martial background taught me numerous things about fear, limitations, and more. As I trained (when I was younger), I overcame many fears and doubts. I got faster, stronger, more confident. Ultimately, it taught me that getting out of my comfort zone was where the greatest growth was found and accomplished. For the record, that fear was accompanied by lots of injury and pain. And if those components don’t teach you something, nothing will.

Becoming a fighter is not easy just like becoming a good paintball player isn’t. All the same principles apply in both worlds in order to meet success. Whether it is being physically fit, having a solid foundation in fundamentals, training, you name it, both require a lot of WORK. If you are adverse to hard work or like to take short cuts, you will not succeed and if you do succeed, you either have an incredible natural born and God given talent… or you cheated.

My work outs are a lot different than when I was younger. But don’t stop.

As my confidence grew when I was younger, so did my willingness to step out of my comfort zones. The willingness to learn, the willingness to understand differing thoughts and perspectives, all helped me recognize there are a myriad of ways to train and prepare. I was exposed to different styles, philosophies, and training methods. All strong in one way or the other but many with flaws too.

I also began to push my own limits. Where were they? Where is my envelope? This also opened my eyes to believe the only limit… is you/me.

The key to all of this, besides having an open mind, was adaptability. If you are so rigid, so set in your way that only your way will suffice, you’re missing out. If you want to stay with what you know and what is familiar, that’s fear rearing its head. It’s “safe”. Change can manifest growth… or, it could prove that maybe your way IS the right way… or it can IMPROVE your way… this is adaptability. And it is paramount to being a successful PB player (just like being a fighter).

Nobody is perfect. But should we settle for where we are? Do you strive to be the best you can be? Whether it is being a better PB player, accountant, Dad, friend, ditch digger… I’m constantly learning. As a matter of fact, I love watching lower divisional players. Why? Because you can learn from them too! And they ask great questions that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Remember your fears and how you overcame them when first starting PB? When you meet a new player, do you empathize with them when they ask you a question? Do you recognize your opportunity to help them? Well… do ya?

Identifying opportunities in others


We shouldn’t be afraid to expose our weaknesses. Once we recognize them, accept them, we can work on them. And, if done correctly, turn them into strengths. But guess what that takes? Yep… hard work. Like all things in life, you have to commit. You want to fix something in your game? Put yourself in scenarios that will make you face your weaknesses or shore up your strengths so much they compensate. Trust me, when you are no longer afraid to make mistakes or deal with your weaknesses, you will improve.

Be water my friends

Boss Level

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.

First match on Sunday. See my face?

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…

I’m not yelling. I am simply projecting so everyone can hear me.

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.

Proud to be a Cane

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

What’s Your Shelf Life?

How many of you are familiar with the concept of “perishable skill”?  What it means is that if you don’t practice something often enough, your capability with said skill will diminish. So, as usual, understanding this fact and applying it to paintball is incredibly simplistic. Why?
Easy.


ALL paintball skill sets are perishable. 

One that has become increasingly noticeable to me, however, are the qualities required to be a good coach or team captain.  Let’s just sum it up and say, “Leader”.  That will be our focus this month.

Unfortunately, many people today do not recognize that leadership is not a singular quality or skill.  Rather, it is a number of qualities and skills combined.  And just like any other skill, all aspects must be put into practice often or, as you have probably surmised the point, a leader’s capability will weaken or at the very least create inconsistencies and diminishing returns (i.e. lead to other lackluster performances).

Keep this one sentence in mind when developing both physical and mental skills in paintball (or anything for that matter)- “Use it or lose it.”

You may ask or have others say (including me), “It’s just like riding a bike,” Some of it is, especially in the physical realm. But that isn’t what we are addressing here. As established in our opening, true valuable and consistent leadership is a multitude of skills.  These skills require emphasis on communication and psychology ON TOP OF knowing the game (STRATEGIC and TACTICAL thinking).  All of this must be practiced and studied regularly to ensure maximum competency. 

What are some basic concepts leaders can leverage when attempting to manage their teams?  Here are a couple of rules I try to incorporate each and every practice (including communications to team members via electronic means):


1. Learn your players.  Every member of the team is different.  An individual with certain life experiences will respond differently than another individual with different life experiences.  I try to learn what makes each and every member of a team tick, what motivates them, what drives them, what pisses them off, how they deal with challenges and opportunities, how they learn, and on and on.  I talk to individual players differently on purpose in an effort to reach them and ensure the message is being understood, to get the best out of them. Recognize the limitations of this approach too.  It’s easy to screw up.  The basic rule of thumb though is to treat everyone with respect (until when? Check back to last months blog to see the answer to that).  Each and every player brings a value to the team. Yes, everyone…  Be advised, the value you see as a leader may not match the value the player sees themself as though.  Be ready to navigate these types of disagreements with facts and examples to back up your belief.  Do not get emotional.

2.  Everyone needs to be accountable.  This should be established from day one.  And no one is immune, including the leader.  You did something wrong?  Own it.  You were late?  Own it.  You didn’t perform or play well?  Own it.  You didn’t follow direction?  Own it.  You made a bad read or call?  Own it.  Do not ignore anyone who exhibits behavior that is counter to this.  Recognize early and call it out immediately.  It doesn’t have to be aggressive.  See #1 above.


3. Develop a culture that promotes positivity, maturity, growth (and identifies recession), recognizes success and failure, right and wrong, and BUILDS upon it.  I’ve talked about culture a lot over the years.  If you don’t get or understand how the concept of a positive yet stern goal oriented culture can breed and ultimately attract talent, you believe wrestling is real and the moon landing was fake. In other words, I can’t help you.  If your culture is finger pointing, loud mouth, no accountability, with a lack of respect because it’s cool…you and your posse suck. 


4. If there is a cancer or toxic element in your crew, cull it immediately.  Explain why this behavior or that behavior is not acceptable in the organization and let them go. If you feel the need to provide a “second chance”, by all means, do so. But FOLLOW THROUGH if nothing changes. You are the merciless god that rules the small universe in which your paintball time is spent.  Find personnel that is down for the cause and rows in the same direction.  Find someone who gets it.  Next! Be sure to set realistic and obtainable goals for individuals and as a team.  The only focus is on the first goal.  No one considers the second until the first is met both individually and team wise.

All of this should seem pretty straight forward.  It’s obviously easier said than done.  Remember, leadership is cumbersome and burdensome. And it isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t about POWER… it is about TRUST.  The most difficult thing to do as a coach, a captain, a leader, is to look a good friend who plays for or with you in the eye and tell him/her they aren’t hacking it and need to take a seat.  You have to be able to remove emotion from the decision process.  In return, they have to recognize it isn’t personal and isn’t the end. 

Putting all of this into practice is a pooch.  Believe me, it doesn’t happen over night and hopefully those of you reading this are rational and intelligent enough to know that.  But with practice, it becomes a little more natural each time… but not necessarily easier.  As a leader, we should constantly look at past decisions to understand what we could have done better and why – which will make us recognize similar scenarios faster in the future and determine a better solution next time we are faced with that exact issue again.  Because you WILL face it again, I promise.  And usually, there is a clock involved… cognitive recognition and resolution will get faster and those you lead will/should recognize and appreciate it.

Take Yogi Berra for instance.  He has a great quote attributed to him (he didn’t actually say it) that applies to this perfectly, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” – Yogi Berra

Look, it’s pretty easy to understand. We all respond differently to pressure and different stimuli. The purpose of incorporating what I am talking about as often as possible is to teach yourself how to appropriately address any and all leadership quandaries. Remember, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Just don’t show it.

Be water my friends,

Zen