NXL World Cup 2022 Recap

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

When Hurricane Nicole showed up the evening before World Cup, the NXL was forced to make some tough decisions. One of, if not the largest Cup to date, they had to figure a way to get 560 teams scheduled into 3 days as opposed to the original 4 day plan. One way they did this was to reduce the amount of prelim games for the pro division and, in the interest of fairness, redraw the brackets. The New Orleans Hurricanes kept Tsunami and NYX from our previous bracket, but replaced LVL and NRG with San Antonio X-Factor. We would have 3 chances to get it right…no wild card for this event. Win a minimum of two or go home (unless you are Russian Legion – wild how that bracket shook out).

We only had one match on Friday and it was against the new comers from Columbia, South America, Tsunami. We had no real data on them save they had beat 4 other teams to get this spot at Cup. Most south American teams I have come across are highly aggressive and like to play the attack forward game. Tsunami was different. When I saw these gentlemen prior to our match, they seemed mature and athletic. I could see why they won the coveted spot. They seemed to understand how the field played but were a little off on their zone control. Processing speed was there at moments but not near consistent enough to be competitive at this level. Good group of guys though.

We wanted to show pocket and not much else in this match if we could. And for the most part, that’s what we did. Pretty much the same play 7 of the 8 points we played. We won by mercy rule 7-1 but I couldn’t help but notice a few issues during this match. The one point we lost was a 5 on 4 power play because we were forcing some issues instead of letting them develop. And we were a little off on a few other smaller things… I commented this publicly on social media after I had a talk with the guys. It was these issues that would come back and haunt us on day two.

Saturday rolled around and our first match was against New York Xtreme. We have gotten the better of them each time we met this year. We have beaten them by 3 each time. We won the first time we met at the Lonestar Open 7-4. We would beat them again in Philly 5-2. However, we knew they would be hungry, especially since they could very well be relegated if they didn’t show up. That can be a powerful motivator. We understood they had scrimmaged some of the best teams in the league prior to this event so we knew they would be well prepared. We scouted their first match against X-factor. Not a lot of data to extrapolate from just a 4 point match but enough to determine they were playing “different” and seemed to have a good grasp on how to play the field. Someone told me that Rich Telford stated they knew how we would play the field from our first match against Tsunami… And that’s what we had hoped they would think. Mission Accomplished, or so we thought.

As expected, it was a knife fight. Unfortunately, we would not live up to nor meet our own required expectations. That falls squarely on us. There are points in there where you see Hurricane paintball. Steady, disciplined, well executed grinds. The points we lost? Uncommon individual mistakes that created holes that allowed NYX to capitalize. A good example would be the 5th point of the match. Mistakes were made. And that happens. We will grow from it. However, as the Coach, I take full responsibility as I should have prepared my guys better. I also share in the accountability of the last point before overtime. The call wasn’t bad and it wasn’t necessarily wrong (the set up) but I could have changed one asset that may have saved that point more than likely. I almost called a time out to run on the field and change it so that is completely on me. NYX were due one. Congrats to them on a match well played.

We had now put ourselves in a do or die situation against an elite team in X-Factor. X-factor was showing a slow and steady pocket press approach to the layout, very similar to our own. They were just doing it with uncanny discipline, composure, and communication. Something one would expect from the talent on that team. We knew it was going to be a steep hill to climb. You can’t help but respect the members of X-factor. Those cats are no joke and play a composed game. We decided to take an offensive approach to them. It did not work. The way the field played, at least in my opinion, was you establish your center presence, try to turn guns inside, create opportunity (and sometimes chaos), then spread and bully a gun. X-factor simply beat us to that approach almost every point. Of course, getting a major our first point didn’t help set a good pace. However, the second point we showed why we are here. That being said, X-Factor’s guns on the break were just dialed in and we were playing in a deficit most of the points. Hard place to fight from when your tournament life is on the line. The 5th point saw a great counter by my guys but a minor penalty stole it from us putting us in an even worse position. Drew Bell has a big boy point but too little too late. Not that it matters, but I felt Daniel Camp clearly shot Billy first in the final point exchange. Billy continues and puts a ball on Daniel. Should have been a major putting us in a 4-3 score/position with a minute left. Didn’t get the call, it happens, 5-2 X-factor. They played an excellent match.

And with that, our rookie season came to an end. Not how we wanted it to go obviously but it is what it is. We now have next year to focus on. We have to take the many lessons learned and use them to make ourselves better.

But first, a few first season take-a ways/thoughts…

Our goals heading into the season were simple. Win a point, win/connect two points in a row, win a match, and don’t get last at any event. We accomplished all of these goals at each event. There was another goal we had set at the beginning of the year. Be in the top 15 for the series. However, I personally set a goal for the team which was to be top 10 for the series. Headed into cup at 9th was a good place to be. However, at the time of this writing, they haven’t posted series points/scores yet. I don’t believe we will meet my personal goal of top 10 but it will be close (my guess is 11th). I know we
easily met our top 15 goal as we never finished worse than 14th all season.

We were pretty much written off at the beginning of the season and not without merit. We were unproven among the pro ranks, no one knew any of us, or our potential. History would dictate that we get knocked around. But we weren’t going to let that happen. You were at least going to know you were in fight. I tried to explain that in interviews to whoever would listen. We made two Sundays… I believe we could have made 3 and probably should have made 4 but that is on us. It is ALWAYS on us. I don’t care what the other team did. One solid take away is I believe we are the first rookie pro team to go undefeated in prelims and enter Sunday as the 1st place seed (Chicago/Windy City). With Legion and Heat in our bracket for that matter. Not a bad accomplishment even if I do say so myself. I want the guys to know they are capable of much more. But we have to prove it, we have to show it. It will require more hard work, more time, more repetition, and a lot of study.

We won 86 of 170 points played meaning we won 51% of the time we stepped out on the field. That will have to improve if we want to remain relevant. We placed 14th, 6th, 13th, 5th, and I believe 14th. You could argue there is a small component of consistency in there worthy of notice… But again, I think we are capable of much better.

There are 5 memories from our rookie year that will stay with me during the off season… perhaps I should call them lessons. Either way, I will study them one last time, and move on with my new knowledge.

  • The Impact game at Sunshine State Open
  • The Heat game at Lonestar
  • The Thunder match in Philly
  • The Heat match on Sunday in Chicago
  • And of course, this last NYX match at Cup

All lessons learned and all will simply make us better in one way or another.

Real quick, a little analysis/comparison.

Since its most recent inception, the NXL has seen 8 teams make the jump from Div 1/Semi Pro to the Professional ranks. Seattle Uprising would make the jump in 2016 placing 13th out of 16 pro teams at the time, never making Sunday. In 2017, after winning the semi pro division, PC Katana would place 14th out of 16 pro teams never making a Sunday. In 2018, the NXL would grow the pro divsion from 16 teams to 20 teams. The four new teams would be Sacramento DMG, New York Xtreme, Scottsdale Elevation, and MLKings. DMG would make their first Sunday at World Cup taking 9th at the event and placing 11th overall for the season. Xtreme would take 12th that season making two Sundays but having such low appearances in the other events, it drug them down. Elevation with an incredible debut performance would falter and take 14th followed by MLKings at 19th.

2019 saw the addition of San Diego Aftermath after Chicago Aftershock was relegated. After an absolutely stunning debut at the first event, Aftermath wouldn’t win another match the rest of the season taking 15th for the year.

2020 (the covid year) would see the departure of 3 pro teams; Scottsdale Elevation, PC Katana, and Boom. AC Diesel had won the Semi Pro division thus earning their pro spot. I believe members of Boom would merge with 12th place semi pro team NRG Elite taking a spot and finally, Columbus LVL, the 4th place semi pro team would buy PC Katana’s spot. With the 2 event season, AC would shock the world with a 5th place finish at Cup giving them an 8th place overall. LVL and NRG would finish 14th and 16th. The following season, with no relegation due to the short season, we would see AC take 10th, NRG 13th, and LVL 15th. Interestingly enough, the Hurricanes won the Semi Pro division during the covid season with a World Cup win.

I mention all of this only because I am a bit of a history buff. That, and I wanted to see where we stood in regards to the annals of PB history. With our 11th place series finish, we fall in with the two most successful rookie debuts in paintball history. We tie DMG with the 11th place finish. Do you count the AC rookie 2 event season and their 8th place finish? I guess we could average those 2 events from 2020 and add the next 2 or 3 finishes to give them a season. They would have had an 11th, 5th, 6th, 11th, and 14th. Almost sure to have been a top 10 team (and they did pull a top 10 finish their sophomore year). So I feel AC Diesel keeps the title of most successful Rookie pro team with DMG and the Hurricanes sharing the 2nd place spot. Although I guess you could argue with our Chicago event (undefeated and 1st seed headed into Sunday) and the two Sunday appearances, we would edge DMG out for that 2nd place… just pontificating…

Congratulations to the original boys in blue, San Diego Dynasty. Absolutely incredible performance all season long. Well earned and well deserved. And to all the other coaches and players in this division – I don’t know many of you but I know a little something about you… we all love this game and in order to grind at this level, you have at least one trait I like – perseverance. I look forward to learning from all of you in one way or another.

There are so many people we need to thank…

First and foremost I want to thank our fans. You guys are 100% legitimately the best fans in the sport. Respectful, kind and generous. Don’t think we didn’t hear you at Cup! We did (and so did the rest of Osceola county)! It means the world to us. Thank you and God bless you. We will continue to give and do our best for you! We draw strength from you!

To our families – words won’t and can’t do justice to what we owe you for your continued support and belief. From Parents, Wives, Aunts and Uncles, Siblings, Children, Family, friends and Girlfriends, we are simply blessed to have you. Allowing and supporting this dream of ours with your own sacrifice is nothing short of inspirational. You mean the world to us because you are our world. The Hurricane family is large and powerful and it is one of our greatest attributes as a team.

To our sponsors – I know we are the new kids on the block but we appreciate your thoughtfulness and professionalism. GI, the paint was stellar all season long. Planet Eclipse, no one doubts you have the best marker in the business (and your techs are johnny on the spot man!). Carbon, your support and service has been nothing short of extraordinary just like your products. JT, the masks are classic and we received nothing but compliments on how good we looked in our swag. Virtue, the hoppers were durable and never once the whole season ever let us down. Finally, to Drew Bankston and LA Xtreme Paintball, our home field in Slidell, LA… You. Are. The. Man. Love you brother!
Thank you all!

Until next season.

Be water my friends…

S.C.U.D. (Sustaining Concentration Under Duress)

The NXL’s Mid Atlantic open was June 17th-19th.  The next NXL event (not counting the Golden State Open) was the Windy City Major held last month near Chicago from Sept 9-11.  There was a 12 week, or an approximate 3 month time frame between the Mid Atlantic and the Windy City events.

In paintball, that’s a long time.

So, what are the Professional teams doing during those 3 months?  If you are the New Orleans Hurricanes, you are working your day job (in some cases, two jobs), ensuring your career is still on track, taking care of family and significant others, balancing the checkbook, paying bills and taxes, and then shoring up individual and team paintball skill sets at every opportunity.  Because we are so spread out as a team, members get to the field when they can to work drills and teamwork.  If a member of the team can’t make a practice, they are practicing local to where they are.

The everyday life grind coupled with the paintball grind can be difficult.  Priorities for one tend to interfere with priorities for the other.  And that is understandable.  After all, this is the only professional sport that I know of where the pros (or at least a large portion of them) must pay to play at this level.  We are husbands, fathers, sons, and men first.  Our priority and ultimate responsibility is to our loved ones.  We must be solid and good on that front first and foremost before we can be solid and good on the field.  I truly believe this is one of our strengths.  Our support system is a large part of our relative success.

Focus. One voice at a time. What’s the goal and how do we execute/accomplish it?

Okay, but what can we do when your team’s focus appears to be a little blurry?  What can you do if the life grind is interfering more than usual with the paintball grind?  How do you maintain the team’s focus?

How many of you are familiar with the 80/20 rule?  Also known as the “Pareto Principle”. It essentially means that, 80% of your results come from about 20% of your work. More specifically that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. So how do we apply this?  It should be obvious, we should focus on that 20%… work the stuff that matters and don’t get distracted by the feeling of “we have to”.  In other words, we should prioritize the 20% of factors that will produce the best results.

I see teams fall into this trap quite often.  They over plan.  Whereas, having a plan to begin with is important, and most certainly helps with goal setting, direction, and success, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Do not create an environment where, if you don’t do something, it will cause the team to feel they are not prepared.  No need to hamstring the team by developing a “to do” list that isn’t manageable or practical.  It isn’t necessary to get too detailed.   Understand, details are terrific and important but it is a fine line that must be walked.  If we get too detailed, we can get bogged down and miss out on what the real issues are or will be. Efficiency is key. Try not to do something just because other’s do it. Focus on what YOUR team needs. Is this making sense?

Focusing on teamwork and execution of job sets will lead to success.

All that said, try to identify your team’s key needs and best assets. Then try to shore them up in an efficient manner so you get the maximum value added. Now… this is a concept. A rule rather and not a law. What do I mean by this? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since the 20% gets priority, then the other 80% can be ignored!

We should also recognize the difference between individual and team planning.  As I sated earlier, efficient use of time is really the key to all of this.  When we do have the time together as a team, I want to emphasize very specific team-oriented material as opposed to the individual aspects.  I might mention to an individual player something I see or want them to work on at a team practice and will keep it in the mental Rolodex (maybe discuss during a short break but not spend a lot of time on it)… but the emphasis is, and always will be, on the team dynamic when we are together.  This isn’t to say that individual attention doesn’t happen. It most certainly and almost always does. However, at this level, the individual issues are usually smaller or fewer and less dire.

I will almost always have a specific agenda in mind and time frame for each item on the agenda before a practice.  However, that agenda is fluid in case I see something that needs to be re-emphasized.  The domino effect is very real at practice.

What do I mean by the domino effect?  Well, it’s the whole point of this blog.  Staying focused on the goals can easily be derailed if we allow things to fall off or pile up.  We get off on a tangent and now the tangent becomes the focus as opposed to the intended goal.  At the end of the day, you can’t always control the results.  But you can most certainly control your effort to meet them and focus on them, yes?

When you get down to it, your team is simply a collection of people with a common interest (hopefully). Not to get too high brow but I was recently reading a little Thomas Hobbes. He nailed the concept, at least in my opinion, of what a team is in his book “Leviathan” (well, really government or an organization of civilization… social contract theory… what have you).  He uses the concept of the biblical Leviathan, a giant sea serpent, as a metaphor for the state.  Essentially the creature’s body is a giant body made up of ALL the bodies of its citizens in the literal sense.  The same concept can be applied to a team.  Team, very similar to the different states here in the US, are made up 3 components;  the people, the processes, and their systems.

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    Aristotle

Focus on what you can control.

Ultimately, my main goal for the Canes at a practice is to function as one.  How can we be more efficient and ensure we are all rowing in the right direction with the same desire or outcome in mind?  Our focus – acting as one, a single entity with very specific goals in mind.  What do WE need? Having everyone on the same page is as simple as getting everyone to agree to a very specific list of goals.  Then create acceptance and agreement among the team on how best to get there… as a team.  Identifying and developing focus for the team can be finite.  But alignment on all of it is paramount. 

You have all heard the line, “Trust the process”. If the process leads to small successes over time then it is having the desired effect.

So stay focused on the task at hand, whatever that may be.

And remember…

Be water my friends.

10 Man Mech and Other Fairytales

If playing competitive 10-man mechanical paintball is like riding a bike, then I’m Joe Biden…

About to play my first match of 10 man mech!

I’m kidding. I’m not that bad.

Zen had the privilege of guesting with the Saints professional paintball program at this past weekend’s Pittsburgh Open Classic held at Urban Assault Paintball in McDonald, PA.  And let me tell you, every paintball player should experience a 10-man event like this in their career.  I highly recommend it, especially for competitive X-ball types.

Besides being there with your boys, you get to see and catch up with old friends you don’t see as often and, of course, make new ones. All while participating in a competitive adrenaline-pumping retro style of paintball.  While those things and the nostalgia were rather intoxicating, I couldn’t help but recognize something else.

I started my paintball career in the woods and have played throughout paintball’s progression from woods to pallet fields, to hyper-ball, to air-ball (I have played scenario games as well and those are a good time too).  But as a player and a coach only participating in “speedball” and/or X-ball the last 22 years, my original skill-sets that were needed for those classic styles of play, I found to have significantly diminished.  And I became hyper aware of this before the end of day 1.

The old man back in ’99 or so.

I am fond of saying Paintball is paintball and I still stand by that… albeit with a caveat or two. I’m not willing to eat crow just yet.  Whereas, yes, the basic principles of field walking, planning, and engagement are similar, there are so many more aspects to this style that make it… well…. larger?  No, that’s not the word… complex?  Yes, that’s it.  Complex.

Obviously, the scale is greater; 10 men instead of 5, and one 10 minute (or under ICPL rules 12 minutes) game to get it right as opposed to multiple points within 15 minutes.  And, of course, there are 4 completely different types of fields to walk as opposed to 1.

I must admit, I was incredibly excited about being a player for this event.  The Saints are led by my friends and incredibly experienced players Kevin Fillers, Adam Smith, and Shawn Terry.  My job was to play paintball.  JUST PLAY!  To do what was asked of me and do it the best I could.  But boy, was I in for an eye opener.

Let’s start with field walking.  Now, I am no stranger to field walking, much less walking multiple fields, or even strange fields in the woods.  But it became painfully apparent it is a perishable skill set.  As I stated earlier, scope and scale were significantly different and requires almost 4th dimensional thinking, specifically on one field.

*Zen Note – for those of you wondering what 4th dimensional thinking is, I am no expert but to sum up my understanding of it and the application of its use in this scenario, it is the ability to see “the invisible”.  To disengage your mind from your 5 senses and use your mind to feel and sense the unseen.  To give the unseen substance.

The event venue consisted of a Hyperball field, a Mounds field, a “Hybrid” field, and a Woods field.

The Hyperball field was pretty straight forward, even with 10 guys out there.  This type of paintball, in my mind, translates perfectly well.  It was obvious from the get go that owning the centers, especially the “D” side early, was paramount to winning.  Our first two matches were on this field.  I was supposed to play the 2nd match but after the boys dominated our first match, I wanted to keep that mojo going.  I sat myself so the team could continue that “momentum” (I put that in parenthesis as I recently read an interesting take that momentum in paintball is bunk.  The take was insightful but flawed.  But I digress).  By the way, this hyperball field had an awesome layout.  I regretted doing this later only because we didn’t get to play that field again.

The infamous “Mounds” field…  This one was my nemesis.  It did not like me, and I did not like it.  Which is funny because almost EVERYONE I talked to; this was their favorite field.  I played the top corner area near the net/road which appeared to have the highest early attrition rate on the field.  Walking this field, understanding threat location and probability, developing codes for it, was very interesting.  The guys came up with a zone/area approach which was brilliant and significantly helped my understanding of in-game data.  Trying to apply my normal process to the field walk, whereas it can work, took some finagling.  Luckily, I had some rather experienced guys there to guide me through it all.  This is the one field where the 4th dimensional thinking would have come in handy. Beware the single ball that falls from the above vegetation to land on your hopper below…in front of a ref. I shot 1 guy on this field… and was one of the first three deaths on the field both times we played it. Needless to say I was…. disappointed in myself.

The mounds field… and where I played. Or tried. Those who played it well are greater men than me.

The Hybrid field I felt I contributed the most to as I could actually see things now (both during the field walk and in game).  Solid Communication on this field was imperative.  Of course, solid communication is imperative in all paintball, but it was really stressed on this one specific to getting data from one end of the field to the other. I also had my best game on this field which is funny because I kept wishing I had got to play the hyper ball field… On this field, beware of players losing their minds at the end of the game (inside joke). Shot a few on this one and even lived to the end on one or two.

Old man back in the late 90’s on a “Hybrid” type field. Take this thing and put it in the woods. That should give you an idea of what it was like.

Finally, we had the woods field.  I thought this is where I would really shine.  And then I realized just how large and odd shaped this particular field was.  Cross field communication would be damn near impossible.  You would have to play 2 or 3 “mini games” on this field and hope things went well for your partners in their skirmish area of the field.  This field really stressed situational awareness of what was in front of you and what was potentially working its way around elsewhere to wreck you. A stream of paint would materialize out of nowhere! Old man had some good and some bad on this one. Helped break one game open which was fun.

Quick summary, the Hyperball field was pretty straight forward – roll your gun, work into important spots, take ground, deny them ground, slow steady squeeze.  The mounds was about taking ground early, showing one thing while actually doing another.  Stealth could win or blunt force trauma could win.  One game was won in about 2 minutes… dude just ran straight through the middle, shot 2-3 guys, grabbed the flag and ran back.  His own team didn’t even know what had happened!  Hybrid field was dependent on which side you got.  One side (the right) was better set up to take ground early on the top side vs the other.  Both had equal centers and bottom ends from what I could tell but the key here was blowing out an access point and then flooding it. The woods field was the one field that you could argue there was an advantage to be had from the coin toss (this decided who got to pick which side they wanted to play).  Best way to describe it would be there was a “top” side where you had the “high” ground and could take key areas quickly off the break.

I also found the aspect of scoring at these events fascinating as well.  The way you played a match may be determined by what was happening in your bracket from a points perspective as well as WHERE you were playing your opponent or where one of your opponents would be playing one of THEIR matches.  Very cool stuff.

The moral of the story is this type of play really pushes a speedball/X-ball player’s capabilities.  It takes you out of your comfort zone.  It makes you use ALL your skill sets and strains them to the max.  It pushes the senses.  I came away from the event thinking I (or even the Canes) need to do more of this recreationally on some off weekends as I think it can really round out your strategic game. We should always try something new to keep things fresh anyway. Who knows… you may find a new respect and love for it.

Beginning of day 2 things had clicked with me and I was able to tap into those old skill sets.  Of course, I had a lot of supportive help along the way from my teammates. And that’s what this is really about. Building the sport up and bringing new players into the fold. Having a good time.

I would like to send a big shout and thank you to my teammates:

  • Kevin Fillers
  • Shawn Terry
  • Adam Smith
  • Justin Bailey
  • Ben Foster
  • Ryan Gibbons
  • Josh Baske
  • Sam Silberg
  • Jason Perse
  • Adam Perkins

I hope I get the opportunity to share the field with you guys again.  You guys made the old man feel welcome, showed me a good time, and how cool this style of paintball can be! Thank you!

And thank you to another one of the best pit crews I have had to honor and privilege to be around! Pete and Isaac, you are awesome!

Be water my friends.

2022 NXL Mid Atlantic Open Recap

As we headed into our 3rd pro event in Philly, the word for the team and the weekend was supposed to be “discipline”. Unfortunately, the word ended up being “disappointing”. That may sound harsh but sometimes it takes a little tough love to fuel one’s team and wake us up. Did we accomplish too much too fast? No. We are just beginning and I don’t believe we have met our full potential. That isn’t intended to sound any other way than I know what my guys are capable of. We did not rise to our potential nor meet our capabilities this past event. We know we can play paintball at the highest level. Beating those top tier teams as well as the lower tier teams has to happen consistently. We are not there yet as several opportunities were missed.

So here is my recap and my analysis of this past event.

Match 1 vs New York Xtreme

We knew headed into this match that Xtreme had a full and healthy squad. They were missing Jeri Caro and Pat Kraft in Dallas but had them back for this event. With the addition of Corey Hall, we thought their aggressive chaotic style would probably be tempered with some controlled d-side attacks. We were confident with our guns on the break and that was the initial plan. Play pocket with guns up, pivot off positioning, get up the field/expand quickly, and slowly squeeze. Perfect example would be the first point of this match. We kill their wide on the break d-side, take center and expand out d-side, this shifts a gun (or at least allows us opportunity to bully a gun) and we take snake as well… slow, steady squeeze on the throat.

That was how the weekend was supposed to go. That type of execution. It’s what I have come to expect from my guys.

Third point in we showed a hint of what was to come this event. Little dink outs. Getting clipped on a knuckle or the like. Just sloppy enough to give your opponent the advantage. We countered appropriately but squandered position. Justin Bailey tried to get clever and burn additional clock but eventually gets caught. The 4th point is another example of that expansion after we shoot Xtreme’s snake on the break. Xtreme countered well but we owned the “high ground” so to speak. A little slow on our reads for that one. That 5th point was not meant to be a defensive play. However, Xtreme had finally zoned up well and beat us to secondaries. Knowing what Xtreme had seen success with and what they would want, the next two points we decided to get our guns up early, shoot their 1 d-side and their center filter early in the first of those points (forcing them to expand into our already expanded guns). More of the same with next point – good zone control and expansion by my guys. We did play one more point and yes, we did play defensively. Mike Brown once again proved why he is on this roster. He shot Kraft in a 2 on 1 situation and then defended the buzzer. The 35 second point, we zoned up, they ran into guns and got a penalty… Johnny’s your uncle.

Match 2 vs Edmonton Impact

The 3rd time, they say, is a charm. This is not always the case in paintball, or at least if you are the New Orleans Hurricanes playing Impact for the 3rd time in your rookie pro season. I heard it said that we got their “adjustment” game. Their adjustment was to play the field like we did… they just did it better. Get your guns up, expand out through center aggression, back your ones up quickly, bully guns, win.

1st point we got a minor for a hopper hit putting us in a 4 on 3 situation. Stuart Ridgel got creative in the center in an attempt to get the drop and even the odds. He missed his shot and re-positioned to try and catch d-side sleeping. Unfortunately, so had Impact’s d-side (Cornell). They owned the snake and D’s and bullied our last two.

The next point a bad seam read (route/line) and an untimely death cost us. The point after that, we beat them to the punch but lost gunfights.

Next, we went toe to toe with their guns for a quick set up of a 3 on 2. Drew Bell took advantage and pressed the action d-side while Aaron Smith fed the snake. We got on the board but that would be the last time.

We continued to go blow for blow on the break with them. Next point a 2v2 which we lost. Now we are in a position where the clock is part of the equation. We had to take some bites meaning taking ground on a team who has guns like us on the break. Jacob Searight did his job, got in the snake, took ground and dug out some kills. Aaron Smith backed him up but lost a gunfight putting Searight in a bad scenario. However, Searight got squirrelly, almost clipped Zuppa in the corner but missed his shot. Great effort by my guy. We had 5 alive on the last point with one of those being dorito one. We even shot one of theirs on the break but gave Mouse the snake. We secondaried quick and had a chance to “turn” the field since Impact pressed the snake side. We matched them in the snake as well as got support that way. This is a point of contention for me as I feel we should have pressed the body d-side. Right before Stu traded with Mouse, Mouse shot our center push. Chaos ensued and it came down to a 1 on 1 between Aaron Pate and Justin Rabackoff. Pate has won a red coin once already this year but it didn’t happen this time. We needed to consider spread so we let Rab run the clock down.

Tough loss. This spread would end up costing us in the end.

Match 3 vs Seattle Thunder

This is the one that hurts the most from this weekend. Great guys on Thunder but this is a match we should have won.

We started off right by shooting their 1 on the snake side, spread snake corner, filtered center, and just started peeling them off. Next point, we won the break again but then gave them bodies with a minor for a pack hit. 1 to 1. Next, Thunder shot our 1 on D side followed by another quick kill and then took big ground (smart). Slow squeeze… 2 to 1 Thunder. They shoot two of us on the break next point. Thunder did a good job of creeping up to get a shot on Daniel Camp. I have to concede since I know Thunder will just sit with a 4 on 2 body advantage. 3 to 1. Our guns on the break show back up making it a 5 on 3 off the break. Smith made the snake, which allowed Stuart to clock in and find the seam. 3 to 2 now. Thunder took snake on the break. Smith matched him pretty quickly but they filtered to the snake wedge setting the trap. Smith got 1 cross field and eventually got a 2nd before trading with Sakaguchi. Drew Bell got a little sloppy in his bunker which makes it a 2 on 2. But Aaron Pate smoked Thunders D side attacker and between him and Daniel Camp, Scotty Grahams’ time was limited. Tied up at 3 and we have the momentum.

Then things went south. On the next point, Thunder shot our 1 on snake side and filtered very fast to both sides of center to trap us in pocket. What you didn’t know is there was an equipment malfunction on the d-side so we were one gun down. We killed one and missed an opportunity to get another and I have to concede it. 4 to 3. When we made it out 5 alive the next point to own the center early as well as pressed the dorito 3 shortly after, I knew we were going to tie it up again. It was a 5 on 3 our advantage… and then disaster struck. As Stu probed the center, Daniel Camp took a hard bounce and called for a check. The ref came in, checked him, and called him CLEAN! So Daniel got tight thinking time to stay alive and piece it together. He doesn’t shoot his gun. Unfortunately, another ref decided to throw a RED on him. This is where I get frustrated. If the first ref called him clean and you as a second ref decided you see a hit, just pull the player! There was no need for a red flag right there. You even see the first ref who called him clean looking confused… We should have won that point. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. I’m forced to concede and figure out how to score 2 in a minute ten. They zone up, we are forced into their guns, and we lost 6 to 3.

Inconsistent guns, some individual play mistakes, and bad communication cost us that match. After the match we discussed it and were once again, all on the same page.

Match 4 vs San Diego Aftermath

Prior to the event, this was the match I was most looking forward to. I think Aftermath and the ‘Canes match up well. Were I not coaching New Orleans, as a paintball fan in general, I would have wanted to watch this match. Big fan of Mike Hinman’s too so, there is that.

We tried setting the pace by getting an off the break kill and playing our game. We spread the field, Stu made a great trade… then we got a little sloppy D side allowing Aftermath in the snake. However, the one two punch of Aaron Pate and Daniel Camp won the point. Funny note – Daniel shot Thomas Kim cross field with his first ball and didn’t know it. Hence he and Pate trying to find the last body before Aftermath conceded the point. 1 to 0 us. We ended up in another 2 vs 2 the next point after some great counters from both teams. But it was the “Thunder and Lightning” team again of Pate and Camp who pulled off the win. 2 to 0 us.

So both teams survived the next two break outs. Aftermath positioned well in the first breakout with dorito 1 and center snake side brick. We peeled off their 1 on snake side but their center brick got 2 of us in quick succession. We fought back but not enough. 2-1 us. During the second, we took center dorito side first but they owned god and dorito 1. We dropped the first body by looking into a ball but took their god player almost immediately after. Mike Mesa made a great shot on Stu in the center and they built upon that kill pressing the issue making it 2 to 2.

We lost our snake 1 on the next point but countered well on the d-side with Drew and Stu taking good ground. But the clock started to grind here. About 3 minutes in Stu traded with Thomas Kim in dorito 3 but Aftermath made the snake and we didn’t see it. Drew Bell was at the dorito 4. Mesa tried to counter but got caught cross field opening d side up for Drew but not before Aftermath’s snake player wrecked us. I have to towel with just over 2 minutes left. 2-3 Aftermath.

But little did anyone know… I have a secret weapon for situations like this.

Britt Simpson.

In the chaos that ensues after Stu cut through the center, Frank Antetomaso made a mistake. Had he shot Daniel Camp, sat down and just shot cross to protect the box, Aftermath would have won the point. Instead, he ran down the snake and got shot by my boy Britt. This left Aftermath’s back center alone. Drew Bell launched past Britt to trade with the home and Britt, recognizing the opportunity, ran full send train style to follow Drew up and got the buzzer. Overtime. Incredible shot by Britt, incredible read by Drew, and incredible situational awareness by Britt again to keep us in it.

We knew Thomas hadn’t taken a deep route yet so we shoot for the dive. And we got it. Stu, knowing the count and that Aftermath went to snake side brick, understood he had to get that guy off the field. And he did. Unfortunately, we lost Drew filling out. This made it a 3 on 3 within the first 20 seconds of the overtime point. The next 4 minutes and 30 seconds would drive a coach to drink. Mesa started making moves down the d-side but Aaron Smith checked himfrom the god at dorito 2. So both teams are mirrored up snake side but Aftermath is wider with the dorito 2 compared to our home… When Aftermath made it to snake corner, I will admit I panicked a little… my guys saw it but still… until I saw Pate sneak out to the d-side and I was pretty sure Aftermath didn’t see that. But then Aftermath fed the snake! The chess game just got real! Daniel Camp recognized the situation, connected with Smith and sent him to the snake side wedge to bait the snake. But then Aftermath put snake corner into the snake as well! However, Pate took additional ground on the d-side into dorito 3, then dorito 4!! Smith launched and traded with the snake and on that move, Daniel repositioned to the snake corner! Aaron Pate, big gun swinging, smoked Mesa on the d-side! Hallberg decided to go forward and trade with Daniel, and Aaron Pate ran it in to win the overtime point. I decided it was okay to breathe again.

Great match up against a great team.

We end up 2 and 2 with a margin not good enough to snag one of the wild card seeds. We ended up 13th with Infamous and AC Diesel finishing ahead of us in 12th and 11th respectively.

That being said, I had a thought later that day as I watched the scores for the afternoon bracket unfold. As you may or may not know, the two wild cards came from the same bracket. So 4 out of 5 teams in the same bracket made Sunday. The two who won the bracket – Tampa Bay Damage and San Antonio X factor – and then the two wild cards – Portland Uprising and ML Kings. What did they all have in common or why does this matter you may ask? They all got 4 or greater point spreads against the Latin Saints. Particularly Uprising and ML Kings… Uprising with a 6 point win over Saints and Kings with a 5 point win. Just an observation… I am not implying in any way that we should have made it. We shouldn’t have… not with the way we played. But I found that interesting the way it played out.

Key takeaways from this event. The issues that plagued us are not our normal issues. The guys know to take a beat/take a breathe when they make those key bunkers, they know to connect/communicate with their teammates on the field, they know not to play individual paintball or try to do it “alone”, and the twos usually follow the ones up quicker. Oh, and winning those low body situations (3 v 2’s and 2 on 2’s)

We have voiced it to one another and we all agree these issues cost us. But right now, it’s just words. We have to put it into action. And we will. Time to come back stronger for Chicago.

Be water my friends.

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (cont)

Continued from previous blog on May 7th

Saturday

During that first point on Saturday against Columbus LVL, our guns paid off early as we dropped 2 of them on the break. However, we almost gave it up when we let their center player get dynamic. But the boys maintain discipline with comms and we start the match by winning the first point 3 alive. 1-0. We take their snake player on the next point but they shoot our center. Then we lose our snake shortly after. They had successfully moved the skirmish line and, by default, had a better spread. They get a minor but the damage was done. 1-1. Next point we wanted to get eyes up. Knowing they would take center, we went a little short on snake to key up on him with our own short delay to center. It didn’t play out the way I had envisioned it. But hey, that’s free will right? The beauty of this though is, in the skirmish, Mike Brown takes ground D-side and puts them on their heals to close it out (keep an eye on Mr Brown. Great communicator, good field awareness, and solid gun). 2-1. Now, like Heat, we noticed LVL was somewhat conceding D-side so we decide to spread the field early on the next point and try our little bait and switch again for their center… and we get him. During the close, the LVL tower player gets smoked on the elbow and continues to play but it was borrowed time with a 3 on 1. I only mention this because, had he drawn the penalty, we would have been on the power play next point. Woulda coulda shoulda. 3-1. Anyway, lots of time on the clock (somewhere north of 8 minutes) so, we aren’t taking anything for granted. We had just shown them a D-side bite with a short snake and delayed center. We had noticed their center played tall so we were going to take a shot at him and end up getting a shot on their center attacker on the break. However, we let them take ground D-side as well as have the center with a secondary. But here is where our comms came into play. We really have been emphasizing this at practice. Aaron Smith takes snake, misses the center but gets the info across field. The guys also realized LVLs snake side wasn’t pushing which was odd. So it let’s us make a move and get a two for one followed by the squeeze play built off the chaos. 4-1. Still lots of time left in this match though and LVL starts showing why they are a Pro team. Their controlled chaos on the next point made the difference (with a little help from our impatience). 4-2. We anticipated they would want to take ground on the following point and expected us to get guns up and play short. We decide to take a big bite D side in an effort to get wide and make them wary of a hard press. Unfortunately our D-side bite gets peeled off. We sneak a shot on their center but then… a grenade goes off in our back line. Just before my boy takes their side of the field to close out the point, we lose our last in the back… no point and still 4-2. Points like that you have to understand/what happened and move on. And we did. So we know their was around 3 minutes on the clock. 2 point game. Lots can happen and it did. LVL scores the point but not before Drew Bell almost steals it from them and kills additional time off the clock. 4-3. I know that if I can get 5 out alive we will win the point. I guess that LVL, with the amount of time left on the clock, is not going to try to take too big of bites but rather spread to try and make something develop. So we take center, dedicate a gun to D side and shoot the snake. It pays off. Happy for the guys who had never beat LVL in semi-pro to beat them in our first pro square off. Game: Hurricanes 5-3

Lots of trades in the center at this event. If you could do it clean, you had a distinct advantage

We are now sitting at 2-1 with the potential to go 3-1 and punch our ticket into Sunday.

Right before our last match of the prelims against the MLKings, I told the guys in our huddle, “We do not rise to the challenge. That denotes that the challenge is above us and nothing is above us. It is in front of us and we will meet it head on and with extreme prejudice.” And that was the mentality we would use to fuel this match. We knew the Kings had a rather aggressive approach to this layout. They would throw a body on the cross D side to try and slow our own D side, set up in the center to try and contain snake aggression, and then throw body after body at the snake to try and bully and push there. We felt our approach was a pretty good counter to that. Unfortunately, we ended up with a bad start right before point one. It was a broken play and my guys tried to salvage it and almost did but Donaldson and Betancourt had other plans. 0-1. The next point we trade snake players, we trade center players, they get a penalty, and then a heads up read by Betancourt costs us again. 0-2. When the Canes came into the pit after that second point, we took a breath, calmed down, and did a mental reset. We went to bread and butter knowing the Kings would go meat-grinder for the snake. We almost drop the point but head on swivel from my guys saves us. 1-2. Too close so time for the next gear. Next point we went heavy center to get more guns on the King’s favorite approach. We get the first and second kill from the snake, draw the gun to the snake and cut through the center. 2-2. Kings key up on our center finally but we pick another off out of their center. Donaldson should have got a penalty for a spin when Drew Bell dropped the hammer but no flag. Paintball is full of karma and Daniel Camp gets a bounce… don’t give my boy a second chance because the majority of the time he will make you regret it. And he did. He ends up making the most of that second life winning another 1 on 1 coin. 3-2.

Now… I need to explain something about the next point. No, it was not planned and was not a “Zen” rope a dope. What you witnessed was one of the most selfless acts of a player I have seen in a very long time. We had 3 Aarons in the pit at this event. Two players (Aaron Smith, Aaron Pate) and one former player (Aaron Barnes) who was now assisting the team. We are up by one. Some jackwagon behind my guys on the box starts yelling “The Canes have 6! The canes are starting with 6!”. Thinking that maybe two Aarons were called and knowing that if you start with 6 it is an automatic swing point to the Kings, my boy stepped off the box to avoid the penalty and trusted his guys. Because of this amazing deed, and him putting good back into the world, (not too mention our lucky charm and stalwart survivalist Justin Bailey in on the point) the Canes win the 4 on 5 point even with the tomfoolery of our opponent’s pit. That is selflessness and that is what the Canes are about. Trusting each other. Now Aaron said he screwed up and was incredibly sorry. I say he just showed me one of the many reasons he is wearing a Hurricane jersey. 4-2.

Selflessness – great quality in a player

The next point we wanted to spread the field and put ourselves in positions to counter. To some, it looked like a clock kill and, for the most part, it ended up being one. I’m not mad. The goal was to get guns up, place the defense D side for center control, take snake corner to contain and then push. But the Kings were fast on their secondaries which pretty much trapped us. I told the guys in the pit, “They respect our guns.” And I guess they did. Because even when they were on the power play half way through the point and at the 50, we were able to burn over 3 minutes. 4-3 with under a minute to go. Now the kings have to come. We take ground in the center and set up the cross. Love the heads up decision by my guys to go get the buzzer. Game: Hurricanes 5-3

And then there were 8 headed to Sunday.
And we were among them.

Sun Tzu would say, “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” Were he alive today, he would have said the same thing here. It’s about balance.

The hard work, constant pressure to better ourselves, and TEAMWORK had, to this point, paid off. We were happy with our progress but knew there were small mistakes that we could not allow to occur on Sunday. After all, we had pulled Edmonton Impact again and they were looking darn near flawless at this event. They were the only undefeated team in the prelims. We would have to be darn near flawless too. We discussed how the game would slow down… we anticipated some long points and that we would have to be on point each and every one of them. We have the tools to be successful against these top tier teams. But until we beat one of them, it’s just pillow talk.

Point one was a “feeler”. Both teams essentially go pocket trying to get 4 guns up. We lose our 1st snake side attacker and Impact does some quick secondaries. Stu misses his first shot on JC and then trades with him at center. Impact recognizes opportunity and again fills out on snake and d-side, tightening the noose. Impact’s discipline really showed here. This point was a great example of what I talked about above regarding the game slowing down. A three and a half minute point with a slow pressure squeeze. 0-1. Point 2 we see Axel on the field. We drop their snake side 2 (I think it was Resar) and Aaron Pate, who had been a consistent and reliable anchor all weekend, pushes D-side to counter. Regrettably they make it wide on us D-side as well. This is probably because we had 1 or 2 guys doing the same job for a brief second which gave a window to Impact to sneak into dorito 2. However, they didn’t see Drew Bell sneak out snake side and he drops the dorito 2 player for Impact. Once we dropped Axel, it became similar to the first point just with the roles reversed. A 2 minute point. 1-1. We decide to press the pace. We pride ourselves on our ability to shift gears so we take ground snake side, center, AND d-side. Unfortunately, we lose our snake side attacker and they get a quick clean trade in the center. They executed well and we didn’t process fast enough. 1 minute point. 1-2. The next point Impact shows off their gun skills as we lose our d side 1 and our center to his first engagement. Matt Hamilton goes offensive in the snake like a champ and Drew Bell tries to slow the bleeding by taking the center. Impact wins the gun fights though and we are down 3-1. Impact is dialed in on that snake lane as we lose our snake on the break again. They were in the 50’s before you know it and we are down 4-1. At this point, my mind is thinking I have to get 5 guys out alive. I decide to use the snake side tower and get a d-side asset to push the action while getting as many guns up as we could. It pays off as Impact gets a penalty, the guys do our meticulous push polish things off. 4-2. We needed that. It’s a 2 point game with a little over 5 minutes left. We can do this. Then JC pulls a three pack on us (we’re going to get you JC… and your little dog too!).

Soon JC…. soon.

5-2 with just over 4 minutes. Still doable I’m thinking. We take the snake side cube in hopes of catching Impact when they set up to contain and plan for a fast filter. Knowing that the center and the snake side are your fastest access, we put assets in place to find the hole. We make snake, get crafty in center and keep two guns anchored to control counter punches. Not as fast as we had hoped but we score the point. 5-3. Now… we are down 2 points with 2 minutes left…against Impact… who have shot one of us off the break every point. We have to move into their guns. If you watch the point unfold, even us losing the player on the break didn’t matter. We are attacking the snake. We are pressing the d-side as opposed to the center. We get into position and here is where the real disadvantage is when you find yourself in these scenarios. Not a lot of time to communicate data. Don’t get me wrong, you SHOULD… but most of the time your guys are probing for holes in a hurry with limited information. So we work our way into great position aaaaaannnd… my friend Mike Zuppa catches one of us and another player catches Daniel… we concede the point and realize its time to go big. A valiant effort by my boys in that last point. Game: Impact 6-3

Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is always an orphan.

There is a quote by Winston Churchill that I have always appreciated. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And THAT is what the Canes will do. We will strive to do our best each and every time we step on the field, whether at practice or at an event. Hopefully you approach your life the same.

Final comments: loved the venue but please, next time… make the pro pits the same size. I don’t think I have been spackled that much in a long time. I kid… but not really.
Congrats to Tampa Bay Damage! Incredibly happy for Joey and the guys. They looked amazing.
We will get back at it in preparation for Philly. Another incredibly tough draw so we need to come as prepared as we can.
#Rollcanes

Be water my friends

2022 NXL Lone Star Open Recap (Part 1)

We must have walked that field for 5 hours. We were going to leave nothing to chance. We saw the opportunity and we were going to bite it on the ass, develop lockjaw, and get dragged to death.

The two Aarons contemplating a theory from coach. Thanks to NXL media gang for the shot!

Prior to this event, and in anticipation of the blind layout, I was developing a field walking process that utilized a coding system of geometry and statistical analysis that would, in theory, speed up our field IQ. The idea was to pack 2 weekends into 5 hours. We tested it the weekend before the event by throwing up a random field and then trying it out. It worked for the most part. I was pleased thinking this was another tool on our belt. But when it came right down to it, walking the field with my players and getting their input and individual perspective was the key. I have some smart fellas on my crew. The guys provided me with excellent feedback and data which allowed us to develop some solid plans. And their capabilities really shined this weekend too when it came to execution. I got to really coach this weekend and though the stress was high, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Now, before I get into this recap, I want to address a couple of things… First, I want to make a comment about my friend and captain of the team, Stuart Ridgel. If you watched the webcast, you probably heard his name a lot. Stuart played lights out this past weekend, hands down/no doubt. He played the center of the field better than many of the seasoned standard bearers for that spot. But I want to make something perfectly clear… he cannot do what he does without the other 4 guys out there on the field with him. He knows it, I know it, and his teammates know it. I am not taking anything away from my boy’s performance because it bordered on legendary… but next event you very well may hear another name(s). My point is that this team is way bigger than any one player. I have a great team of men under me and their work ethic along with their discipline is a strength I wouldn’t trade for 10 Ollie Langs.

Secondly, I want to address expectations. My expectations are high but reasonable. Always will be. And here is why:
I have some real maturity on this team. My guys are Dads… great dads. My guys are husbands or boyfriends… great husbands and great boyfriends… but they are all working men. Career men. They grind all week at jobs, come home and take care of their families, and then on the weekends, they put that same energy and effort into their grind on the field. They do this because they already know that is what it takes to be successful. We manage our own expectations and focus on our goals. We met our goals at the first event. And we exceeded them at this one. We should be proud of that and we are. But we all know there is much more work to do and it isn’t going to be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. And if we fall short or fail, then we learned and you better keep an eye on us because the more we learn the stronger we get.

Check out Kurrite Photography. Pretty vivid stuff!

A few of you have asked me what are we doing differently to prepare. And the answer is the same… nothing. We haven’t changed anything. We are highly motivated and recognize that accomplishing difficult tasks takes hard work and discipline. We approach everything we can with a positive mindset, we set goals (and write them down), we track progress, we stay focused, we stay humble, we have fun, and we DON’T listen to the “noise”. We are #oneheartbeat.

With all that being said, we understand consistency is key. And it will be tough because this sport and the teams in our division are all tough. This event was a step in the right direction but Philly is just around the corner and there is still a lot of work to do.

Zen note* before I forget…
THANK YOU – Ryan Williams for the feedback and sounding board, Matty Hotard, Andrew Rodriguez, and Justin Spencer for not only being clutch along with the rest of the pit crew but dang if you guys can’t motivate with some speeches. Kellie, Jessica, Brad, and Barnes – you guys are the best!
Pit Crews are often overlooked but not on this team and not on my watch. From the bottom of my heart and the team’s, thank you for your help. Because of all of you, we could focus on the tasks in front of us knowing you had it under control.

FRIDAY

The 1st match against New York Xtreme was interesting. We were the first two teams playing the field so, both teams were feeling things out. As a coach who uses tendencies and statistical analysis during matches, I knew this first game was going to be a grinder. I wasn’t worried about the play calling but was prepared to be flexible. I knew we had good “theories” because that was all they were until execution. The majority of the time, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Planning is important, but adaptability is essential and that was the name of the game for this event. I was confident in our gun placement, laning, and zone development. But the variable was our opponent on a blind layout. Especially given the “chaotic” element of Xtreme. And for the most part I was right. Those first two points, we were just trying to go too fast. I remember telling the guys, take a beat… check off, check in, and execute… and once my guys had those first two points of data under their belts, we were good. No one wants to go down early (something we have got to stop doing lol) but there was still a TON of time left on the clock. We slowed it down a hair, rolled our guns, checked off our threats and used the center to remove pressure from the wings. We wanted to move the skirmish line and it worked. Set up in the center, get the snake to catch up, draw the guns and finally take ground on the D side to close the loop. I kept thinking Xtreme would counter with their own center and was putting assets in place to address but they didn’t do so until late in game. By then, we had a good groove/rhythm going. They may talk on the field but those dudes are some cool cats off of it. Game: Hurricanes 7-4

Not a bad start. Lessons learned.

We had a chance to scout Heat during their match against the MLKings. We knew Chad George and Ryan Moorhead were really going to pressure the snake side 50. So, the first point we set up a trap. It worked with Moorhead taking the bait. Our guns on break paid off as well which certainly didn’t hurt. But it’s Houston Heat. They will adjust and they did. You can’t throw a rock at that team and not potentially hit an elite player. Next point we got a little sloppy in our bunkers. Can’t be doing that against a top tier team or any team in this division for that matter. Next point we conceded the center off the break to get that snake side kill and it worked. Because it worked, it allowed us to take the center immediately after on a delay. Yes, it is a gamble but no risk, no reward. However, this is the one that would haunt us. It is a 3 on 2 but because teams exit the field through the back center, we lost the count. The guys still thought it was a 3 v 3 with an opponent snake side. We let Federov spread to the d corner and allow Monville (I think it was him, don’t remember) to get out of that center laydown to the 1st snake tower. Then they proceed to pick us off. Opportunity squandered and a lesson learned. Next we wanted to go big and see what happened. We knew if we could make the spots, we could control that center much quicker. It worked… but guns on the break and a minor penalty against Heat helped. We knew Heat only put one gun (sometimes two) on the Dside so we decided to take a big bite there while getting our guns up. Truth be told, it was communication and discipline between the last 3 Canes that won that point. Moorhead got crafty on us in the next point. I actually thought Stu saw him and was countering him when he went up… so now it’s 4-3 Heat with 1:43 left in the match. We were in good position but a minor penalty for a pack hit essentially sealed the deal. At this point I am thinking about point margin. It was under a minute, we need to take the loss. And so we did. If you are wondering why we played the 8 seconds left, we thought we might get a little more laning practice in (did you notice how many of Heat we shot on the break?). One or two less mistakes and that is a different match. One thing I learned as a coach is certain elite players will always be given the benefit of the doubt. That’s twice now where an obvious hit turned the tide and cost us at a crucial point in the game. But it is what it is. You move on because that one point isn’t what ultimately decided the game. Game: Heat 5-3

And some more lessons learned… these are the tough ones

Friday night, we did our homework. We had a later start the next morning as out first match would be at 10am so we stayed up a little later discussing our approach to the LVL and Kings matches. We thought LVL would adjust from the previous day and felt we had a good grasp of their game while feeling confident in our planning. ZEN NOTE – In Semi Pro, the ‘Canes had played LVL 3 times and never beat them. This was a driver for my guys headed into this match.

To be continued…. Next week, not next month

Be water


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

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