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.
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?
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.”
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.
Be water my friends.