Rec them? Darn near killed ’em!

Recently, I was able to get out on the paintball field with friends for several hours of recreational fun. Here’s what I absolutely love about weekends like this besides the fact I get to play; there is no expectation save one – have a good time. I get to cut up with my friends and play ball. It always reminds me of why I started playing this sport in the first place. The sheer fun and joy one finds playing paintball with your friends. Sure, the competitiveness and excitement of the sport were aspects that drew me to the game but the comradery within those aspects is what has ultimately kept me in the game. Us against them and no matter what happens, we would still win out because, well… we were us and they were them.

I wasn’t there to coach, teach, help (this always happens anyway), or scout new talent (although I do keep an eye on certain players development and take notice of newer players who show promise), run a practice, learn a layout, or drill. Nope, I was there to have fun with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing all those things. And it doesn’t mean if I am asked for help that I won’t. As a matter of fact, I am happy to do so. I am opinionated after all (and that’s all it is, my opinion – my personal view on something). But something my friends constantly rag me about is this; when I am at the field where the goal is to play and have fun, I need to focus on THAT. Unfortunately, I can’t help myself sometimes when I see something that could help someone improve. I want to help. This is not ego. This is genuine interest in helping those who enjoy the game get better at it.

This weekend was more of the same I’m afraid. I sincerely tried to stay mission focused which was having fun. But I did find myself helping on a few fronts. However, I still had a great time!
Interestingly enough, my friends and I chose to have fun during a layout weekend for the upcoming SPL (Social Paintball League). A few teams had shown up to run points in preparation for the event happening the 9th and 10th of April at Big Indian Paintball in Perry Georgia (this past weekend at the time of this writing).

*Zen note – Big shout out to the two teams who were at this practice and focused on the event. My boys on I-75 and Dangerous Toys. The I75 crew won their division in both 3 man and 5 man and the Dangerous Toys placed both 2nd and 3rd in the D6 3 man division!

Our plan was simple. Step out on the field and play against competitive teams even though we hadn’t played together much at all in the last few years. We told ourselves, nothing matters, go forward, attack! and have fun. And we did. It was a blast and we laughed a lot.

But, as usual, I noticed some things and felt inspired to comment on them this month. Three things actually:

  1. Pace – team practices that involve more than two teams are always a little screwy because different teams (hopefully) have set different goals or have different ways of approaching scrimmages. One thing that shouldn’t be different is the pace. Practices that involve multiple teams should be organized prior to the first point run. Establish or agree to a rotation or system that will get everyone playing time. Have someone or a couple of people in charge of keeping the games/points moving. This person (people) needs to understand clock management and be familiar with or have a contact he can communicate with for each team. The point is to get as many points and looks in as humanly possible. Have a game plan, show up prepared with what you want to accomplish, preload paint, get paint and air after every point, and be ready on the box when called.

    Now, there are several subsets about pace we can go into here. Especially dependent on the amount of teams present. Three teams is easy… even four. Practices with more than that can be a cluster but not totally unmanageable. All in all, have a steady pace. 3-5 minutes between points is good. Anything greater than that is boarding on unacceptable.
  2. After point discussion – What is the purpose of scrimmaging teams at a layout practice? If you said to learn the field, you are only partially correct (about a 1/3rd correct actually). But I digress. After you play a point, we need to ask ourselves a few questions:

    What did we do well?
    What did we do poorly/what could we improve?
    What did we learn?
    How do we remedy?

    If you are not having these discussions (or something to this extent) and having them efficiently then you’re missing the whole point of the practice. If all you’re asking is did anyone see the move you made or how you “blasted that fool”, you’re wasting valuable time and energy. Come together as a team or under the coach and have a discussion about what happened and why and then understand what you will try to accomplish with the next point.
  3. Learning the field – this technically is part of number 2 above. If at the end of the day, there is a player that still doesn’t have an understanding or confidence on how to approach certain in-game scenarios, you have wasted your time (or need to consider some other options surrounding that player). The point is to see situations, scenarios, and the like and to understand what needs to happen when you see them at the event. A road map to success so to speak. By the end of practice, players should have a relatively good understanding of how the field plays and what obstacles they will face at the event.

    I am often amazed when I watch a player face the same situation time and time again on the field and they continue to make the same mistake. I actually did this during my time on the field at the recent rec day I was speaking about at the beginning of this blog… I got caught by a blind shot… twice. After that second time, I didn’t get caught again… as a matter of fact, I used that aspect to my advantage.

    The point of all this is simple – manage your time effectively at practice. Not everyone has access to a private field or a closed practice. If you find yourself at a layout practice the weekend before the event with a bunch of teams, have a plan and insist on efficiency. Get your reps. You will be glad you did (usually).

    Be water my friends.

“Quadraginta” Paintball

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, from his book, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

First off, I hope this finds all of you safe and well.  This is an unprecedented time we are facing and it can be rather alarming.  I am no expert on the matter but I do know that we live in the greatest country ever known and we will survive this and, God willing, be better for it.  For those of you struggling, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

With “social distancing” being the latest fad (so much cooler than “quarantining”… so yesterday), and keeping us away from paintball fields the world over and from the sport we all love, I thought it might be a good time to consider ways to improve our game from home.  Well, what if you don’t have paint?  What if you don’t have air?  The whole physical workout routine has been done and shown countless times (and from the looks of it, several of you will be in excellent shape when this is all said and done – some will not – I see you…lol).  No, I wanted to think of a way to improve your game in a different way.  We are always talking about the mental aspect of the game here at Zen and you have heard me reference “watching tape” several times as well.  Eventually, you can only watch so much.  So let’s DO something.  Let’s DO something that works the most important tool in our arsenal when it comes to our sport.  Let’s work our brain.

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I miss the field…

If you have been around me even a short amount of time or read this blog just a few times, you have no doubt heard me discuss processing speed.  When I talk about this, I am talking about the ability to see data, recognize/understand what that data means, and then do something.  In other words, the speed it takes a person to process information and act on it.  Here are some “official” definitions for those of you who like to take it to that level – “the speed at which an individual identifies, manipulates, and responds to information” or more specifically “Processing speed is the ability to identify, discriminate, integrate, make a decision about information, and to respond to visual and auditory information”.

Now, I want to make something clear here.  If you struggle with processing speed on the paintball field e.g. making a read or understanding what is happening or needs to happen during a match, this does not mean you are of low intelligence.  Every scientist in the world will tell you that processing speed is NOT related to intelligence.  All it means is that, depending on what is happening, a determined task or response is more difficult for some.   Again, all processing speed is in the context in which we are talking (paintball) is the ability to automatically process information, which means processing information quickly and without doing it consciously. The higher the processing speed the more efficient you are able to act.  So, for a paintball player, at least how I have tried to use it, processing speed is the time between you hearing/seeing something to the time you understand it and respond to it.

“Energy and persistence conquer ALL things.” – Benjamin Franklin

I hope I haven’t beaten that horse too badly… okay…. Moving on.

Processing speed is best improved through experience.  Getting out there and playing the game over and over again, “road mileage” as I like to call it.  BUT – perhaps there is a way to work on it at home during our current environment?  Perhaps…I don’t know.  It’s just a theory.  Or is it?

Ah – the days when you could get on the field and ball…

I read a lot of psychology journals and articles, mostly sports related these days, but I read other types as well.  Now, my wife and I homeschool our children and my wife is quite learned (much more than I).  She sends me psych articles from time to time, especially those that involve cognitive development.  Obviously we want our children to have as much of an advantage as possible.  So, I really stepped up my reading on cognitive psych.   Cognitive Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes.  Those processes would be things like memory, language, attention, problem solving, creativity, (those last two are awesome talents to have in paintball), etc.

Obviously there are methods to improving a growing, developing, young mind.  It makes sense there are methods to improve our adult brains.  Heck, we do it all the time!  Just like an adult who decides to learn a new language, we can “train our brain” to think or process things differently when necessary.  We are all capable of learning no matter how young or old.  Perhaps we can learn to improve our processing speed on the paintball field while sitting at home?  But how?

Video games, board games, and card games of course!

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” – Samuel Johnson

As with any cognitive training, we need consistent practice to improve and maintain the skill. So, when we can’t be on the field, perhaps we could use other means to practice and improve our processing speed.  Research has suggested that playing a game that challenges a child’s cognitive recognition (this is the ability to recover stored information and compare it to information immediately in front of us) can result in functional and structural brain changes if played several times over a period of time.  Their brains actually grow.

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Block stacking… to a timer?

According to that same research, games that focus on rapid visual detection and rapid motor response can improve processing speed in children. Said another way, games that require a player to look and respond quickly while maintaining concentration can impact/improve the speed at which we process things.  There are several studies out now that prove developing physical dexterity is linked to language and speech in children too.

A specific study of children 7-10 years old over a period of 8 weeks (led by Dr. Allyson Mackey, University of Penn) demonstrated a 30% improvement in processing-speed scores.  They used board games as well as video games.  The board games and video games used, if your interested were:

Board Games                                     Video Games

  • Pictureka Mario Kart
  • Blink Super Monkey Ball
  • Perfection Feeding Frenzy

So who is to say that these games can’t help us?  They can’t hurt, can they?  Why won’t Call of Duty or similar video games work to improve processing for an older generation?

But what if your power goes out!  Or you’re just old school like me and enjoy these sorts of things like board games.  For instance, puzzles…

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How could I forget CHESS!!!???

A puzzle would obviously make us work on our visual processing don’t you think?  Especially if we timed ourselves!  Puzzles can be very useful for developing and understanding the interrelationship among shapes and visual images. Or if you have to stick with the video game approach, puzzle games such as Tetris, Candy Crush… okay I don’t know any others but you get the idea.  Any game that can teach “sequential thinking skills” and/or cause and effect could be useful in our theory for developing better/ faster processing speed.

Think about it, how many hours of video games do you play a week?  With the current situation in the U.S. and abroad, perhaps some board games with family?  Research says that you should try to play at least four different games and shoot for 3 to 4 hours a week over 8 weeks.  In order to maintain any gain or improvement to processing after the initial 8 weeks, try for 1 to 2 hours per week.  Yes, you can change games as long as the game is challenging and requires the criteria mentioned earlier.

We can even take it a step further!  What if we try to target a specific processing speed weakness?  Whereas the research that Mackey and her team did suggested that board and card games could improve processing speed skills in kids who had average processing speed skills, they saw the greatest improvement in children with specifically defined cognitive weaknesses.  So whether that is our speed of input, our speed of interpreting visual and/or verbal data, if we target a specific aspect that we may be weak on, we may see a faster improvement… does that make sense?

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” – Helen Keller

Challenge yourself with some of these “child” games.  Make it a competition.  Time yourself, set goals (how many times have we talked about that here?), try to beat your last or best time.

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What was this one called?  Rock star?

What other games can you think of that might help us hone processing speed?  Board games, card games, video games…  The key is to ensure they require one to utilize skills that demand fast processing.  Something that makes you interpret or respond quickly to some form of visual or verbal que or “sensory response.”

Here is a list of specific skill sets taken directly from the Dr’s article to help you identify some games that might help:

Games that require:

  • Rapid visual detection
  • Rapid motor responses
  • Automatic and fluent performance of cognitive tasks
  • Performance under pressure to maintain focus
  • Performance under pressure to maintain attention and concentration
  • Speed of input and interpretation of visual information
  • Speed of input and interpretation of auditory information
  • Speed and efficiency of spoken language and communication
  • Speed and efficiency of writing or physically completing a task

Or games that do the following:

  • Become increasingly more challenging during the game
  • Use competition to increase the level of challenge
  • Use a timer to increase awareness of speed of information processing
  • Use competition to increase awareness of speed of information processing
  • Tax and adaptively challenge the speed of processing

So far, all of this is in regards to a child’s brain.  How about an adult brain?  Can these games help us?  I don’t know… but I do know some tips to ensure that, if so, our attempts are done with the most opportunity for success:

  1. Get plenty of physical exercise, eat right, and get plenty of rest – I know, I know but there is a reason you ALWAYS hear health professionals talking about this. Hear me out. Cardio exercise and the right nutrition are musts for us to improve our brain and ultimately our processing speed.  As a human with a brain – thinking (or in this instance processing speed) is really just electrical signals traveling across nerve cells.  Your brain is made up of all of this “wiring” which is fed by the blood vessels in your brain.  Well, where there is blood, there is a need for oxygen!  Translation?  Staying fit and getting plenty of exercise will sustain the brain and, potentially, improve your processing speed!   Couple that with foods that promote and sustain brain health, this sets you up for success, yes?  I’m not a nutritionist or expert on this matter!  So be sure to consult who you feel necessary to do so but I have read that avocado, blueberries, and fish are a great start.  And the whole sleep thing? Duh.

“ A regular cardio routine has also been linked to an increase in the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain important to learning and processing.”

  1. Read a book – put yourself in a state to WANT to learn or, if anything, open your mind. I like to try and learn at least one new word a week and work into my vocabulary (this week’s word was “fortuity”).  The brain is a muscle that needs to be worked out.  So get to flexin’!

Maintain social distancing – especially from Pestana – Cootie magnet

Alright – that’s going to do it for now.  Again, I’m not expert but why not give it a try.  It can’t hurt!

And remember during these trying times…

Be Water my friends!

P.S. For those of you wondering about the title – It’s Latin – “quadraginta” means “forty”. It is also where the English word “quarantine” came from.  Christians are currently celebrating LENT which is the 40 days before Easter. Interesting no?  It was first used in Italy in 1377 to keep ships from plague-stricken countries waiting off its port for 40 days to assure that no latent cases were aboard.  And now you know!

Mushin-“State of No Mind”

ZEN and Taoist practitioners attempt to reach this state, as well as trained martial artists. 

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Nolan and I in 2015

First, I would like to thank Mike for allowing me to guest-write this month’s blog. Second, I would like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Nolan Osvath. I am a senior at Auburn University majoring in Building Science. My paintball tournament experience includes: one season in Division 5 CFOA, 4 years in Division 2/1 with Birmingham Prime, and recently the occasional AXBL, while taking a break to focus on graduating from college.

Nolan doing work – he played everywhere

**NOTE FROM ZEN: Nolan is an incredibly humble young man.  Had he stayed in the sport, most who know him would agree, he could have gone pro. Having played with and coached Nolan, I have thoroughly enjoyed his positivity, his drive, his sincerity, but most of all his friendship and insight.  His ability to lift those around him up is awe inspiring. This is one of the myriad reasons I chose him to help write this month’s blog.   

One of the common mistakes paintball players make is looking to the fundamentals as the answer to success. This is a one-dimensional view of the game. Though they are important, they can only take you so far. If we wish to truly elevate our performance in anything in life, we must first master the fundamentals and then APPLY them EFFICIENTLY & EFFECTIVELY. This is also true in paintball. The mental aspect of the game is often overlooked and/or under trained. In my humble opinion, this is the major difference between Divisional jumps.

** NOTE FROM ZEN: Nolan brings up an excellent thought process here.  One we have touched at Zen on more than a few occasions.  Fundamentals are the base on which we build upon; the physical aspect of the game.  However, our game is just as much mental as it is physical.  Physicality will only get you so far as a player and as a team.  Check out these previous Zen articles regarding this specific topic (mental aspect of the game):

3d thinking graphic

**ZEN NOTE: If you have been to one of my clinics or been on a team I played on or coached, you have no doubt heard me speak about 3 dimensional thinking.  This is what Nolan is eluding to here with the graphic above.

A good analogy for how we should train the mind is the progression of automobiles. Their initial design was based around the ability of a driver to manually change the gears of the vehicle depending on the situation that the vehicle is in. Over time, they were “upgraded” to automatics. (I do not say that to bash manuals… I drive a six speed 07 Wrangler and love it!) This progression allowed drivers to more easily operate the vehicle without having to think about changing gears. Like the progression of cars, we should be striving to train the mind to a state of ZEN or “no mind”.


So how do we train the mind? We purposefully put ourselves in situations that have a high probability of occurring during a tournament. (THE MORE STRESSFUL THE BETTER) I am a firm believer in the saying “we will not rise to the occasion, but merely fall to our level of training.” An example of this is:

  • 4 vs 2 Drill with players starting in random bunkers unknown to the opposing side with a short time limit to the drill such as 1-2 minutes. The mental objectives of this drill is for the team of 4 to beat the team of 2 aggressively by effectively communicating and playing as a team to ultimately: contain, dissect, trap, then pinch out the team of 2 hunkered down. All while the team of 2 is working on communication, understanding gap holding, survivability, and mental toughness. (PLACE A PUNISHMENT FOR TEAM OF 4 IF THEY LOSE OR DO NOT DEFEAT TEAM OF 2 IN TIME LIMIT. LIKE A LAP AROUND THE FIELD OR 15 PUSHUPS)

Training your mind in such ways allows us to make the correct decisions more efficiently. That goal is for these decisions to become “mindless” or “automatic”. Placing purpose and cognitive thinking behind everything you do is important. Understanding the why behind each decision, success, and failure allows us to recognize familiar situations faster. The fundamentals are merely there to allow you a greater probability of success during a move, gunfight, point, and match. Each second is filled with a rush of adrenaline and decisions to be made, so make the right one and train your mind to the state of Mushin.

**NOTE FROM ZEN: Once again, Nolan nails it.  We must train with purpose.  Each time we step on the practice field, we must set a goal.  The ultimate goal is MUSHIN.  Perhaps start here with these previous Zen blogs too:

In the end, paintball is about one simple rule; shooting the opponent before they shoot you. The fundamentals and mental training merely allow you to be more effective at controlling the chaos.


Zen here – I would like to personally thank my friend Nolan for stepping up to the plate and writing this month’s blog.  No doubt he is busy as a senior in college and work study so, I am even more grateful for his time.  Look for more blogs coming from guests soon!

In the meantime – be water my friends.

Potential People

So the off season is over (did it ever truly begin?).  We are smack dab in the middle of prep for the upcoming competitive paintball season.  Teams are taking stock in what they achieved last year, where they succeeded, where they fell short, what they have, and what they will need for the grind ahead.  Or perhaps you’re a new team looking to make your mark this season and taking a shot at the title.  Either way, lots to do.  This month’s blog may seem a little remedial but then who doesn’t need a refresher course?  Plus, this blog isn’t for just one group of players; it’s for all players and coaches alike.  Also, for a quick refresh on some other thoughts concerning this process, check out these previous blog posts:


How many of you watch the off season moves in the professional division?  You track the big move here, a surprise move there.  It’s always fun to discuss and speculate on these things, what players and coaches at that level were thinking and why.  There are a myriad of things that need to be looked at, assessed, and decided/acted upon. But divisional teams don’t necessarily have the capabilities or infrastructure to address all of them like the professional programs do.  Running an efficient, organized, tight ship is not an easy task… especially when talking about paintball players (Paintballus absurdus)

One of the commonly misunderstood and poorly executed processes for teams can be try-outs.   The common theme is, we will have try-outs, people will come, we will pick up some talent, and then we take the paintball world by storm!  Oh, if it were only that easy.


Besides the plethora of variables that must be addressed before you even plan your try out, you need to have a goal – what’s the plan and why?  What do we need in the effect of a pick-up(s)?  What’s our existing depth, our existing strengths, where are we weak?  What EXACTLY do we need?  And once you determine what you need, what does your potential pool look like?  Is there appropriate level talent in the area to choose from?  Do we want someone that can hit the ground running at our level or are we looking to develop someone?  Do we want someone local/regional?  What parameters do you need to set?

Once you understand the parameters, then you can start planning:

  • When do you hold a try out?
  • Where do you hold it?
  • Is it a one day or two day?
    • Is it multiple weekends?
  • How much paint should they expect to shoot?
  • What layout will you use?
    • Is the layout conducive to what we are looking for?
  • And of course, what will we have them do in order to determine if they have what we are looking for.

First I think we need to determine a baseline of requirements.  What are skillsets that most paintballers should possess?  Gun fighting, laning, communication, survivability, field awareness, aggressiveness, speed, coachability…  These are the things I look for and I use a point system usually to determine where they fall in each of these categories.  Once all the points are tallied, it tells me where they fall regarding a division scale.  Now… just because they may only mark a D4 rating on the scale, if their coachability among other things is high… perhaps there is an opportunity to develop them into a higher caliber player?

Ah – I see.  You are waiting for me to post my point system.  No, not this time, but I will help you with a few suggestions for your try out.

Food is always good after a try out to see how people interact

Gun fighting – you hear this term a lot in paintball, “he’s one of the best gunfighters in the division.”  Okay – what does that mean?  It usually means they are not only a good snap shooter but that they know how to use their bunker and have good timing and anticipation skills to boot.  Any good ideas on what would be a good measure of this for a player at a try-out?  You guessed it, snap shooting drills.  Either king of the hill, what I call the “quadrant drill” or even just using a stationary target but know what to look for.  Their base, gun placement, elbow, speed, accuracy, what “leads” (head, barrel, hopper, or are they all one piece when they snap?).  You get the idea.

Laning – This is where we see what they can do on the break.  Can they shoot an accurate lane with their first 5-7 paintballs?  They can do this from the start box and/or the “pocket”?  How consistent are they? Let’s go ahead and throw run and gunning in here too.  Can he shoot a gap on the run accurately while moving quick and with purpose?  This one is a no brainer.  Set up a stationary target, make them snap off the box and put their first 5-7 at the target.  How many times do they hit it?

You’re getting the picture, I’m sure.

So, after checking and identifying fundamental and individual skillsets, now you need to see what they can do in a team environment.  This can be accomplished by running scenario drills or points.

I personally, like to “build” if I have the time.  First, I’ll run some 2 v 2’s one side of the field only.  This tests a microcosm of coms and teamwork – since a lot of times we are working in pairs on the field (perhaps a future topic?  Let me know as I will gladly explain).   After a few points seeing how they communicate, move, make reads, etc. we then graduate to 3v3 full field.  This will now take into account field awareness, communication with more than one…

And finally, with time and personnel permitting, 5 v 5’s for the whole picture.

A basic run and gun drill is a good way to understand a players gun handling and footwork

Now – do we make a decision after one or two days of watching a player?  The answer is – “It depends.”

How familiar are you and the team already with this player?  Do you know their financial stability?  Will they be able to commit to your season and your requirements?  Do they appear to fit in with your culture and other personalities on the team?  Perhaps a call back is better suited then a yes or no answer?  This is when you tell the player something along the lines of, “We like what we saw.  We would like to see more…”  Of course, don’t string the player along!  Eventually, they either fit what you need or they don’t.  So be sure to be professional and courteous about the whole process.  Honesty is the best policy.  If they aren’t what you are looking for, tell them.  Let them know what you liked, give them positive feedback but explain why they aren’t what you are looking for.  They will appreciate that much more than any other approach, I promise.

Prepping my 4 year old for his try-outs… I just like the picture

Okay – that’s enough for now.  Feel free to direct message me on my FB page if you have any questions or thoughts on this one.

Be water



Practice All-Star

Prior to writing this, a friend asked me what topic I would tackle in this month’s blog.  After I explained what I thought it would essentially be about, he somewhat laughed.  He asked, “So what brought you to this topic?”  I said I was recently watching a tournament where over 70 flags were thrown in one day on one field where most were deserved.  This, of course, elicited a chuckle as the gentleman knew exactly what I was talking about because he had sat next to me that whole event.  He then asked, “What will the lesson be?”  My wife, listening in, answered for me; “It won’t be a lesson, it will be rant.”  Now, I love my wife but yes, there will be a lesson… at the end of the rant.

Did we just see over 140 flags thrown in a weekend of paintball?  Why, yes, we did.

Who knows what a practice all-star is?  Meh, silly question as I am sure you all do.  Chances are you have either encountered several over your paintball career, you know one or five personally, or, quite possibly, you are one.  They are a lot like a toxic avenger but at the same time a little different.  (

Let’s see if we can define it –

A practice all-star is a paintball player who never feels a hit, never realizes paint broke on them, effectively never gets shot or bounced and always shot you first and just has mad skills….

But only at practice.

See, their all-star powers are limited to practices and practices only.  They have their element, that environment where they shine.  It’s usually a paintball field with no refs or when others aren’t watching.  That is very important distinction as their powers are quite heightened during this time.  However, when they get to an event, those marvelous skills seem to magically disappear.  That incredible run through that they did 4 times at practice, or maybe making the snake every point and never taking any heat while the other peasants can’t make it, those amazing down body points they broke open with an awesome move, the awesome gun fights they always win…well… they never seem to materialize at the actual event.  But why?  Why does this happen!!!????

Because they actually suck.

They really did get shot at practice… a lot.  They weren’t honest with themselves (or you) before, during, or after practice.  And because they weren’t honest with themselves or you, their prowess of paintball thuggery is miraculously gone!  Just like that they are reduced to their true capabilities which amounts to the fiery intensity of a urinary tract infection (you can’t see it but you certainly know it’s there…burning on the inside).  The irony is, when their awesomeness doesn’t materialize, they are often (and this is funny) pointing a finger saying the other guy or team is cheating!  They blow up like a man with a defective metal detector in a live mine field.  They are the vampires of paintball and not just the sucking part. They are sucking the fun out of practice but when they are under scrutiny and when it counts they hiss and reduce to ash sucking away a win with penalties or overall suckiness.

Like a homeless man under house arrest, their teammates are confused and don’t understand!  Why are they losing?  Why all the penalties?  Ah the life of a paintball practice all-star must be exhilarating, just not exonerating. Why do this to yourself or the team?

Totally and utterly missed me

As a coach, it is my job to get the players and the team to their next consistent capable level and then, beyond.

Dishonest behavior might be understandable, if not justifiable, when large sums of money and high-profile reputations are at stake (pros).  But what about the weekend warriors in our sport, our Practice All Stars?  What drives them to their descent into dishonesty on the field?

There was a study done at the University of Pennsylvania that is cited in the book Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both, that states it is a combination of personality traits combined with external pressures that lead to the creation of our Practice All-Star.

Now, before we go too far down this path, understand this is not meant to condone or excuse any particular behavior but to possibly explain it.  I simply want to understand it (and you should too) so we can combat it as a coach/mentor/teammate in an effort to ensure players are performing at their best.  Yes, I believe in honor.  And when I started looking into the psychology behind all of this, I thought I already knew the answer: weakness.  Turns out, there is more (but weakness is part of it).  Most is obvious but let’s take a look:

Cheating is usually justified based on the situation.  The director of the Ohio Center for Sports Psychology, one Jack Lesyk, Ph.D, says, “One person might not feel bad about fibbing on their taxes, but would never consider taking a shortcut in a race. Others might be law-abiding, but view recreational sports as silly games where cheating would have little impact. This mindset is about how much they can justify.  If a runner has been training for 10 years to make a Boston Marathon qualifying time, and knows they’re going to be just over the cutoff unless they take a barely noticeable shortcut, they’re facing a lot of temptation.  They could make the choice seem “right” in their head.”

Translation – you failed on your goal and rather than fail with dignity and honor, you were weak and compromised your principles by cheating.

It’s rub

“In athletics there’s always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you’re not cheating. I think that’s just a quirk of human nature.” -Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Admittedly, I haven’t met a paintballer to date who wasn’t super competitive.  But let’s say I did.  This person would be less likely to cheat or take the risks that come with cheating. But most paintball players, at least that I have met, (most…not all) are incredibly competitive and have that “winning is everything” mentality.  If that is part of your “identity”, if you expect to win, then I would wager that winning is way more important to you than average Joe schmoe.   In other words, if you believe you’re a better player or team than your opponent, but the game isn’t going your way, chances are you are more likely to cheat to maintain your reputation or your “identity”.  Maurice Schweitzer, one of the authors of the study done at the U of PA that I mentioned earlier puts it pretty bluntly, “If people perceive a sport as a game or as a challenge to outsmart, rather than as a true measure of ability, they’ll look to cheating as the smart, winning tactic.”

Translation – I can’t do it on skill alone so I will rationalize myself into believing its part of the game and therefore I am superior, not inferior, for doing it.

Also a translation – now you’re a tool and weak.  And no one wants or likes a weak tool.

Here’s where it gets interesting from a sports psychology perspective.  See if this makes sense:  a Practice All Star who cheats is quick to justify their cheating as a matter of fairness. Here’s the logic: subconsciously or maybe consciously, they believe they have some disadvantage, and therefore, by cheating, they’re “leveling the playing field”.   How many of you have been at a practice and you KNOW the other team is cheating?  And how many of you reacted by figuring, well, if they are cheating, we will too! Yeah… you’ve done it.  It’s the ol’ “everybody else is doing it” herd mentality.  This can lend itself to and create a culture of, well, quite frankly, dishonesty.  Like socialism or communism, you eventually devolve into chaos.   Just know that both are stupid ways to govern and the people who believe in those systems are destined to fail.  They are also imbecilic.  Life is hard especially if you’re stupid.  Now, hopefully, none of you reading this are that weak willed.  Got a little off topic there… where were we?

Translation – You can’t win so you will sacrifice your dignity and honor to do so. 

Also translation – you’re a weak tool without the skills to hang.

Caveat – you’re trying to harm my family or friends or remove my 2nd amendment rights, I will not be fair, I will cheat, and you will die.

Here’s the thing about a Practice All Stars – they aren’t usually concerned with the long-term consequences of their actions.  They don’t weigh the consequences because if they did, they might be deterred by the embarrassment of being caught and labeled.  See, they are more interested in the short term benefit.   But we see you.  We know who you are.  That’s right, most practice all-stars are known to be exactly that.  And most have no idea they have been pegged.  But you have been.  And we all secretly laugh at you.


Some will even admit to their transgression after the fact and wear it like a badge of honor.  But it isn’t.  Once you have that rep…  Some people will take one step, realize they didn’t get caught and it wasn’t that bad, and then another, and then another, and then BAM! They’ve dug themselves into a reputational hole they can’t climb out of.

Translation – you suck and everyone knows it, they just aren’t telling you.  But thank you for the laugh.

“Get out!”  I totally shot that guy…

Then there are the Practice All Stars who occasionally show up like a snickers bar commercial. Its not necessarily the norm… They get physically exhausted and inhibition goes out the window.  As their mental capacity deteriorates, and frustration and exhaustion set it, they begin to battle what they want to do and what they ought to do.  “If I could just win without effort”

Translation – yep, you’re still weak.  Have a snickers and move on.

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”  – Sophocles

Okay, so end of rant.  Here’s my point.  Don’t be a practice all-star.  Stunning… I know.  Try this instead.

At practice, when you get hit, come out.  If you are preparing for an actual event whether local, regional, or national, and you take a bounce?  Come out.

If you do NOT come out (perhaps you were shot on the break but want to see how the point goes), TELL someone afterwards.  But don’t make this a habit.  If you are having to go to the other team and say, “Yo you shot me when I was here.” Or “You bounced me when I bumped to here” and you are doing this after every point, you are abusing the opportunity.  Just start coming out.

Why, you may ask, should you come out on bounces at practice?  You are probably saying to yourself, “I wouldn’t come out on a bounce at an event?!”  Yeah, I know but follow me here.

If you take a solid hit in practice, someone put a good shot on you, yes?  Okay, trust your teammates and see what they can do without you.  It’s practice after all and your team will find itself in these situations sooner or later anyway.

There was this time in Budapest.  I met a guy who didn’t know what synapses meant

Or maybe you are shooting cheapo practice paint that are marbles but shoot straight.  Okay, do you think tournament paint will be that hard and bounce too?  Probably not.  Come out and see what your team can do without you.  Oh, and take note of what got you shot.  This is how we improve… by recognizing when, where, and why we were BAD.  Recognition of when we don’t perform as well as the other guy leads to improvement.

See, you should always do something because you really want to do it. If you’re doing it just for the goal (winning?) and don’t enjoy the path (practice, prep, hanging with your boys, learning), then I think you’re cheating yourself.  In other words, how will you ever know how really good (or bad) you are?

Let’s break this down into the most rudimentary and uncomplicated way I can for you.  It all boils down to this.  Ready?  Here it is.

All good is hard.

All bad is easy.

Whether it’s dying, losing, cheating, or just plain ol’ mediocrity… it’s all easy.

Stay away from easy.


Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  I just felt like it needed to be said.  I promise you WILL improve once you know WHERE you stand.  If you’re a Practice All Star, you will never know where you really stand.  And chances are, you won’t get very far anyway.  And people are laughing at you.  Thanks for the laughs by the way.

Okay – end rant – point made –

Be water my friends!

Smells like rain…

The 2019 Dallas Open NXL is in the books.  And once again, the Dallas event had its share of adverse conditions although not on the level that most had anticipated (perceptions ranging from inconvenient to apocalyptic).  I personally felt the event turned out much better than expected and could have been a lot worse (Think Galveston Hurricane or Chicago Tornadoes).  I will go on record as saying that I like the Texas Motor Speedway venue (both Whataburger and In&Out were packed plus you have a Buc-ee’s right there).  However, it may make sense to move the event to later in the year.  I say this only because, a simple google search will show that Texas’s wettest month is, in fact, May.  To those of you who will then say, “But then it will be too hot!”

Pit row day before event start (Thursday)

Shut up.  Hydrate correctly and play ball.

Dadnabbit… did it again.  Let’s get back to this month’s blog topic…  The conditions of the venue got me thinking about how teams respond and address this very thing.  As a whole, we prepare for events by studying the layout and developing ways to play it effectively.  But what happens when plans become compromised by “adverse conditions”?  How do we conquer things we did not anticipate?

I decided for this month’s blog, I would start by just looking up the term itself – “Adverse Conditions”.

Adverse, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is:

  • acting against or in a contrary direction
  • opposed to one’s interests
  • causing harm

Condition(s), according to several definitions of the word, in this case, the most appropriate to our topic:

  • a state of being

What I came away with is this – “Conditions that make it difficult for something to be or happen”.

There we go… a baseline…let’s start there.

Not just mud… sticky mud

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” – George S. Patton

How should a team address “adverse conditions” when they arrive at an event?  Most people would say with preparation, of course.  If you know it is going to rain, you bring your visor, a clear lens, extra towels/microfibers, plastic bags, etc. We’ve all played in the rain before.  At least, I hope most of you have and understand there are certain necessities to this.  If not, make a comment and we will make it a topic of a future blog.

But what about issues you couldn’t possibly prepare for?

During the Dallas event, certain players or positions may have found themselves hindered by mud. You may have even found your plans disrupted by the solution to the mud… mulch, which anyone knows that if you dive into it, you have a real good chance of stopping quite abruptly.  So, dashed plans and potential injuries have now become a constant concern.  There is a good chance your team was used to running far or using a pocket play or what have you.  But you get to the start box and realize the mud will most certainly be an issue with getting a good jump start.  Or maybe the start box was fine but the center or tapes were mud pits that would cause over-sliding?  Or maybe they put mulch right where you want to dive to enter the snake or dorito? You suddenly realize you may not be able to play the field the way you prepared for it.  How do you prepare for that?

home mud
This could get messy…

Preparing to play the field

The most practical approach to any field is developing plays based off specific scenarios.  I almost always develop a “bread and butter” play.  This is the base play that my team will use most often.  It usually provides a higher statistical success rate by putting us in good position with primaries (our first bunker of choice off the break) and allowing specific goals to be met early.

Then I like to play the “what if” game.

Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” – Dennis Waitley

Let me give you an example.  Not too long ago, the south saw a rather horrendous snowstorm (for the south).  I was at work and lived about 10 miles from there.  Everyone was being told stay in place, don’t travel.  Being the stubborn man I am, I chanced it and made it home safely.  It took two hours but I ended up with my family as the south dug out of a 3 day freeze.  Here’s the thing… what if I hadn’t made it and got stuck or wrecked?

Now, I’m no boy scout (is there such a thing anymore or is it the he/she/we have no identity politically correct hand out trophies to everyone snowflake brigade these days? I don’t recall… oh well), but I believe in preparing for the unforeseen.  I had placed in my car the night before non-perishable food items (granola bars, beef jerky, water), a thermal blanket, flashlight, a lighter, matches, some laundry lint in zip lock bags, a change of clothes including extra socks, a pair of boots, and extra layers.  And before anyone asks, yes, I had a firearm with extra magazines and ammo.  I had no idea the storm would be as bad as it was.  I had no idea I would get stuck.  I had no idea of any of it.  But I thought ahead… I played the “what if” game.


Doesn’t matter. Get it done.

What if our opponent plays the layout in a way we didn’t think of?  What if they have great guns off the break and they are chopping us up consistently on the break?  Or perhaps they are taking more ground than us on the break and getting into position earlier or faster?  So on and so forth.  What do you do?

Hopefully, you played the “what if game” before you got to the event.

I realize I have oversimplified this concept. But you get the basic principle.  And that same principle applies to adverse conditions.

The field my team was competing on in the prelims during Dallas had its share of these conditions.  One side of the field had different issues than the other.  So we made note of it and developed our plays and breakouts around those conditions.  I was able to do this based off prepping for a completely different condition (good guns on the break, teams taking ground, etc.)  Does that make sense?

Photo Courtesy of Dane Hawkins Photography

We played the West side of the field (the one in front of our pits) differently from the East side of the pits.  I also relied on data from my players who were actually IN it to let me know what they felt their capabilities were.  Notice how I also mentioned east and west… this meant we were actually dealing with the sun (yes, the sun was in Dallas/Ft Worth) so I also took this into account.

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

The whole point of this particular blog post is this.  You CAN prepare for the unknown.  Adaptation – the action or process of change to better suite an environment or condition – is the basis and lifeblood of any good paintball team.  Adapt or die.  Understand that adaptation is incredibly important to paintball teams.

Dane Hawkins Photography

Now, to shift gears just a bit… I was reading some more sports psychology this past week (at home sick … I had time).  And I decided to look up anything that dealt with performing in the rain.  I didn’t find anything… but I did find an interesting article that I want to share the basis of with you all.

One thing we have talked about at length here at Zen is the mind… having the appropriate attitude and better understanding of one’s capabilities through truth.  It has often been joked that I am “toxic masculinity” with certain thoughts and perceptions I have.  I am “outdated”.  Without getting too political, which I admit, I may have already done… I will say that I neither prescribe to nor acknowledge what I believe to be the weak willed and irrational perspectives being taught to our young men and women in today’s society regarding what is “normal” or “socially acceptable”.

That being said, I do want to point something out that came to my attention recently regarding a young man I know.  Dealing with certain issues mentally can be challenging and is becoming more and more common in many of the paintball players I meet. Besides the obvious topic we discussed above in relation to a player’s perception to the conditions (How are we gonna deal with this coach?), there can be heavier or greater issues being faced by players. Here is the basis of what I read:

R.A.I.N.  (Bob Stahl, Ph.D. -February, 2010).

“R” – Recognize.

“A” – Allow or Acknowledge that it is indeed there.

“I” – investigate and bring self-inquiry to the body, feelings, and mind.

“N” – is to non-identify with what’s there.

Besides this one particular young man, it got me thinking about some of the other young men I have coached over the years.  How do I recognize or hope to reach young men who may be struggling with depression or similar issues?  If I can’t recognize what they are dealing with or maybe I do but can’t at least point them in the appropriate direction, what good am I?  My instinct is to toughen them up.  But that isn’t a one size fits all solution.  I can’t beat it into them.  I find this R.A.I.N approach a useful tool for the toolbox.

He always keeps his promises.

The concept is that if we use R.A.I. N. as a practice (make it a standard approach), we develop a better understanding of what fuels or drives our fears, anger, or sadness.

I personally believe that acknowledging stress, anxiety or pain rather than suppressing it is advantageous.   I feel that we need to learn how to cope with and view all challenges as a rite of passage instead of running away from them or hoping someone will fix them for us. Adversity builds character.  Steel is forged in fire… not with long walks in the park and hot showers with lavender…gross.  Face the issue, embrace it, recognize it… and ask for help.

I apologize for detouring there… I always try to keep this light and fun.  Just felt it might need to be said or read by someone.  If you or someone you know is battling depression or going through a tough time, reach out.  Let them know they are not alone, just like you are not alone.

Anyway, like I said, I am under the weather so I am cutting this one short.

Godspeed and remember…

Be water my friends.

Enter the Dragon… and Paintball

“The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” – Sun Tzu



  1. inclined or disposed to war; warlike:
  2. of, suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces:
  3. characteristic of or befitting a warrior:

Did you know that the term “Martial Arts” actually came from Europe and not Asia?  The term actually comes from Latin and is translated as “Act of Mars” for the Roman god of war.  And now you know.

Depiction of Mars – Roman god of war. Get some.

But what does this have to do with Paintball?  I was talking with a group of friends on a team I guested with recently and we were talking about how to effectively execute on the paintball field.  I used the analogy of my past training in the martial arts in an attempt to explain how we should think about each point on the field.  I made a mental note of the conversation and decided it would make a good blog post.  You tell me.

I think the argument can be made, and I believe most would agree, that paintball is a martial sport.  Similar to Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling, MMA, and the like, the only difference is that paintball is a team based fighting sport.  When fighting in the ring, we want to train ourselves to recognize and create openings in an opponent’s defense and hit clean causing as much damage and trauma as we can.  Conversely, we want to make sure we don’t make a wrong read of our opponent and take damage. **(Maybe American Football would be a better analogy for my Alabama readers?  Everyone has their job to do for a particular play to develop.  A missed assignment by a linemen or back can spell disaster for the play/team.  But I think we can all agree that, when players do their job, things usually go well.)**

Let’s break it down to a street fight analogy.  The “street” would essentially be your physical surroundings/environment or in the case of paintball, the layout.  The “Break” in paintball would your body positioning in relation to your opponent.  With your environment being the field layout, it will determine how you move to position and engage your opponent.  The ground you take on the break or rather, the bunkers you position in, determine whether or not you are fighting from a position of strength, one of disadvantage (loss of players on the break) or an even playing field.  Of course, this is all in relation to the “stance” your opponent took.


Your game plan is the “style” or “technique” you wish to engage your opponent with.  Similar to the jujitsu practitioner wishing to take opponents to the ground or utilize an opponent’s clothing to their advantage, the game plan needs to have a purpose, a goal.  Do we think their guns are weak snake side? Do we want to take the snake on the break and put two guns behind it to push that side, or utilize the center more in order to lock a side down, etc.?   All of this needs to be committed to.  The game plan is your attack, it is your defense, it is your footwork…

Reading your opponent is a necessity in any fight and it is every bit as important in paintball.  Being explosive, quick, feinting, and countering your opponent by understanding what he shows you is vital.  It is the reads we make that ultimately determine how we will react.  What did the opposing team show you on their last break out, during their mid game, how they finished (hopefully you scoped this team prior to playing them, an excellent advantage)?  Individually, did you see a specific player-position drop on the break and if so, did you already know what you needed to do once this happened?  When you block a punch or kick and counter, paintball is no different.  Blocking could be your lanes on the break, zoning up, and acquiring dominance on a player.  Attacking is getting that kill, making that aggressive move into the 50, gaining position and drawing guns.

Getting the picture?

If you want a physical embodiment of this, hopefully you had an opportunity to watch the webcast of the NXL Cleveland Open this past weekend.  An excellent example of punch/counterpunch, reading an opponent, creating and taking openings would be the AC Dallas/Houston Heat game.  Watch the first 2-3 minutes of the 1st point (the first point went over 5 minutes).  The 4th point is another excellent example of punch/counter punch.  Sure, there are more examples from the webcast but I was watching that match when I wrote this…

Training should be mental as well as physical

Like fighters, we have to train our bodies and our minds.  ** (Like football players we have to train as a team, we have to train and understand our assignments, so that when the time comes and we are mixing it up, we know what and how to do our job)** Roll Tide/War Eagle

I’m going to shift gears a bit hear and hammer something I have talked about several instances before.  Training individually is smart.  It needs to happen.  But training as a team is every bit if not more important.  Remember, there are several components to creating a successful team.  Team is the most operative word in paintball.  Everyone has a job to do and everyone needs to train accordingly.  But creating that environment in order that the team has this capability is paramount.

Teamwork is an incredibly underutilized trait in many teams.  It needs to be recognized and supported.  A good paintball team will set a goal and before they just blindly chase it, they should develop tasks that must be performed in order to improve and move towards that goal.  It makes sense to develop skill sets but you have to identify who has those fundamental abilities already.  A good team will always maximize individual talent and leverage that with an environment that focuses on positivity and team cohesion.

Now, in order for your team to reach its maximum potential, you need to make sure you have chosen the right people.  We have talked about this before.  You need like-minded people in regards to winning and work ethic, people who understand the goal of being competitive.  But at the same time, try to find those that will complement each other.  Choose those who will support the culture you are developing.

When your expectations have been communicated and everyone is on the same page, now everyone needs to pull their weight.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have played with a team and when the match was over, certain people grabbed their own stuff and bailed.  This is unacceptable.  You are all in it together, from the coach to the pod runner, you all have stake in the team.  So act accordingly.  No one is above the other.  Help each other.  Foster the team environment.  Manage expectations from the get go so you don’t have a diva on the team.  Make sure everyone has an assignment and mix it up.  Trust me; you will be happy you did.

Team.  Nothing like it.

You will want to see results, right?  So you will need to track progress of individuals and the team as a whole.  In a perfect paintball team environment, everyone gets along, everyone pulls their weight, everyone helps everyone, no one gets angry, everyone improves, everyone plays and you win.  But this is the mythical unicorn.  It doesn’t exist (if it does, I want to come play for that team).  Sure, there will be differences and that is okay.  It can make the team stronger in some instances.  But for the most part, you need to make sure there is a way for things to get worked out.  A forum where everyone is heard and differences are addressed.  Otherwise, it will build up and explode.  Have that outlet pre planned.

Before this gets too long, it is important to remember that, when your team wins, exceeds its goals, or moves in a positive direction, be sure to recognize that!  Build each other up.  It pays off, I promise.  The more successes, the more drive to have that feeling again, the greater the comradery, the greater the need to feel that success again.  This builds upon itself until you have an environment where there is a constant motivation in the camp.  Good stuff.

All of this is to say that, when we train appropriately, when we have the right work ethic, when we have the right team mates, the right leadership… then a paintball team has all the advantages and tools it needs to compete and win.  Like Bruce Lee said, “A good martial artist does not become tense but ready. Not thinking yet not dreaming, ready for whatever may come. A martial artist has to take responsibility for himself and face the consequences of his own doing. To have no technique, there is no opponent, because the word ‘I’ does not exist. When the opponent expands, I contract and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, ‘I’ do not hit, ‘It’ hits all by itself.”


Be water, my friends.


The Problem Is Not the Problem

There is a topic I have seen popping up now and again on several paintball forums I frequent.  I have stayed out of responding for the most part because I figured someone out there in the vast expanse that is the internet would have the right words at the right time for the person inquiring.    The topic, in some shape or form, has dealt with discovering the right mental fortitude for paintball.  “How can I overcome this…” or “What do you feel is the best way too gain confidence in…”  These questions appear to be more frequent than before.  It reminds me of a quote from Socrates: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”  Good stuff.  But it wasn’t until I saw one or two inquiries regarding these topics from older individuals that made me decide to write this particular blog.  Conventional wisdom states that older athletes should already know the path to success, right?  Not necessarily true and it never hurts to be reminded.  I believe we have touched on this topic a few times before but it never hurts to revisit.  Especially with the new NXL season just a few days away.
We all know the age old sayings “Practice makes perfect” and “it’s 90% mental”.  There is good reason why these sayings are repeated generation after generation, it’s because they are true.


Practice those skills… but don’t underestimate the power of hair.

How a person views and thinks about competition is very important in regards to how they will approach their practice, performance and results. All of these things must be in sync just as the mind and body must be in sync if one expects to do well.  If your mind and body are in sync then you are no doubt performing at your peak.  So let’s think about that for a moment.  Why would you not train both mind and body?  The body is easy.  It’s the mind that gets you.  So let’s discuss it.

You have read on this blog before that excuses such as “The ref made a bad call” or “it was raining and muddy”, etc. are factors beyond your control.  But you have also read here that, what are you doing on YOUR end when it comes to things you CAN control?  How hard are you working to address strengths and weaknesses in your game, in your team’s game?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Just wasn’t our day” or “we couldn’t get into a rhythm”?  If you have played competitive paintball for longer than an hour, you have heard it at least 8,000 times.  What people are really saying and don’t even realize it is, “The other player/team is better than me/us because they worked harder and found the balance of their physical and mental game”.  In other words, you got outworked.  Nothing to be ashamed of… but take note.

One thing I have prided myself on (and should probably stop) are my pep talks before a game or a practice.  They are usually quite violent and wrought with disturbing adjectives and descriptions of what we will do to the day, the other team, what have you.


How I imagine my guys will feel after my pep talk

However, these pep talks don’t instantly make my guys into the greatest paintball team on the field that day.  The idea/goal is to put them in a positive mind set, one of a team.  We control our destiny and we will not be denied (blood, gore, filth and farth!).  However, the fact of the matter is, developing the right mental attitude started way back before the first practice.  The right attitude is just as important as the right technique in a gunfight or any competition for that matter.  You have to train your brain. . .

For those of you who have been posting on those forums I mentioned earlier (hopefully you are reading this) about preparing for an event or preparing your team for an event – you need to start well before the event.  Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?  Don’t go weak or simplistic and simply say, “I want to win!”  How do you want to win?  Set definitive goals at different levels.  Get specific.  This can focus you on specific tasks.  This will then help you develop a path to reaching your desired outcome as it will point the way on what needs to be done in order to accomplish each goal. Once you understand and recognize these steps, you can begin working on them.  It will become quite clear how much time will be required to reach them, too.

Here’s the thing. . . If you are already doubting yourself, either quit and do something else or get in the game for real.  You either want it or you don’t.  There CANNOT be an in-between.  If you are serious about being competitive, then get after it. Believe in yourself.  Believe you can do it.  Leave no room for doubt. The moment doubt enters, it will seep and fester and will detract from the goal.  Have no doubt because there is no doubt.  If you don’t believe you have what it takes, then you don’t.

This isn’t to say that if you don’t feel confident, it can’t be developed or that your doubt can’t be overcome.  It can.  Most people are naturally skeptic and often times that translates into their very own abilities.  That’s okay.  Taking the doubt in one’s head and beating it into submission is exactly what we are talking about here.  Just like the physical discipline it takes to get your body strong, there has to be the discipline it takes to believe in oneself.  Bruce Lee was a master of this.  136 lbs of pure mental and physical tenacity.  The right attitude means having the right mental fortitude and recognizing the belief in oneself.  It goes back to when we spoke about small successes.  Build it and keep building.


Now, back to the practice makes perfect train of thought.  We all have work to do to get better or to maintain a skill set or to peak.  We have to give 100% EVERY time we train.  If we don’t and just go through the motions, we aren’t accomplishing anything, especially from the mental aspect.  Remember the other old adage, “Practice like you play”?  Again, good words to go by.  Push the envelope in practice so that you know how far you can go come game time.  You want to play a slow layout aggressively?  You better practice it aggressively and do that a lot so come game time, it is second nature.

Understand that it’s natural to have some anxiety.  The key to beating it, however, is to focus on the task, not the outcome.  When you get caught up on outcome, you open yourself to reinforce doubt.  Remember, there is no ROOM FOR DOUBT.  There is only getting better.  “It is like a finger point the way to the moon.  Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory.”


“Don’t think! Feeeeeeeeeel…”

For example, when drilling on the break laning, I focus on several different factors: my position on the box based off my teammates planned breakout; how quickly I can get my gun into play and paint downrange; my foot work and mechanics of my draw; where my lanes need to be in relation to the job I am doing, where I am in relation to immediate threats on the break, etc.  If all I focused on was whether or not I hit the guy on the break, I could get discouraged rather quickly.  The guy didn’t break wide… so my lane didn’t shoot him.  But I can have small successes; For example, perhaps my job on the break was to take away the wide runner on the D side.  I bring my lane up but the runner saw the paint and goes short.  I didn’t kill my guy… but then, I didn’t have to as I still accomplished my goal.  Success.  This is why scenario training in paintball is so important.  Play 4 on 2’s or 3 on 2’s.  Practice timed heavy pushes where one team has to win the point in 45 seconds.  By doing these things, you learn to recognize them in real game situations and know what has to be done.  You have created an environment where you know what it takes to succeed and therefore, when confronted with the situation, are therefore comfortable.  There is no “unknowing” or unfamiliar territory.  It is not outside of your experience and therefore not foreign.  There is nothing to fear.

The last thing I want to leave you with this month in regards to the right mental attitude is this – Disappointment and failure to accomplish goals will happen.  It is how you decide you wish to face these defeats that will determine future success.  Losing when you know you put in the work is the worst.  We have all been there, some of us more times than we care to admit.  But you must continue forward.  Some of the biggest names in sports will always tell you about how they learned from their failures.  They didn’t let their losses define them.  They didn’t let those short comings stagnate their drive to improve.  And you shouldn’t either.  Not if you want to get better.  Listen, we will all have a day where things go wrong but if we learn from it, we will be that much better.  Cliché’?  Sure.  Fact?  You bet.

You want to be good, then work hard at improving your mind and body.  You want to be great, then you better strap yourself in and embrace a life of mental and physical tenacity.


Noah Gallaway has the right attitude. What’s your excuse?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.  Remember, your mind is the greatest weapon.


Be water my friends.


Previously Posted

Insane in the Membrane

This past weekend, I was out at the Prime farm a little before 7 am. The plan was to have a relaxed fundamental drill day with a small contingent of the team which would allow a lot more one on one time. I like days like this because we can really focus on individual players and their techniques, get into the minutia of body mechanics and work muscle memory. Not only did we execute drills that emphasized quick target acquisition (short, medium and long range) but also footwork, hand switching and plenty of cardio. As we continued to perform these drills, we did them at a relatively fast pace. As we continued to push, I began to see a slight decrease in performance. Every so slight… someone wouldn’t keep their gun up, more cant to their gun than normal, a stumble from a surefooted player or they would stop in the middle of a drill to check off on something. Fatigue appeared to be setting in. Or perhaps, it was already there….

World Cup is coming and there is no doubt, based off Virginia Beach, it will be a dog fight. So, we need to prepare for the scenarios we may find ourselves in. Playing tired can lead to mistakes and mental errors. Sure, physical fitness training, good sleep, even good solid field walking can and most certainly will alleviate the issue. Bruce Lee use to say, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough: we must do.” So let’s do that here. But understand that, being “tired” doesn’t necessarily translate to just physical fatigue. As stated earlier, that can be addressed through a proper regimen of workouts. I’m talking mental fatigue.


The mind does crazy things when it is tired and obviously paintball players (even though some of us may believe we don’t make mistakes and are legends in our own minds) are not immune. Physical fatigue can lead to mental fatigue and vice versa for that matter. Perhaps you had a particular stressful week at work, maybe you received some bad news or finances are tight, family issues, relationship issues, whatever the matter may be… these things can all lead to mental fatigue.

One of the things you learn when training in gun defense (we’re talking real guns here… the “bang bang” someone is dead kind) is you want to train in a “real” environment if you can. When I can, I like to elevate my heart rate to mimic the stress levels of a potential engagement. I will do a jog or wind sprints or even jumping jacks to get the blood really pumping and then see if I can effectively square a target. We want to make ourselves uncomfortable so that, God forbid, if we do find ourselves in a gunfight, we are not in too unfamiliar territory.

This is why I like to utilize drills that emphasize a multitude of skill sets. As I stated at the beginning, we did drills that emphasized, targeting, footwork, hand switching, gun stability and cardio… but we did it all in the same drill. I like drills that have a lot going on because they make the brain process a lot more than “hit the target” or “go here and do this”. It’s not just physical training but mental training. Any drill that can mesh the two and can change in dynamic in the middle of it is a great tool. Call it mental push- ups… or don’t.


What are some of the drills you do that would fit in this category? Can’t think of any? If you can’t, you should know that you are a little behind the curve.

Try this one: Set up 3 targets in a “V” shape on one end of the field. These targets will each be assigned a number. For example, the back left target of the V is 1, the point of the V is 2 and the back right corner of the V is 3. Then, at the 50, set up two cones about 30 to 40 feet apart from each other. What you will do is run left to right between the two cones and vice versa 4-6 times. While you are doing this, a teammate calls out one of the numbers. You must put a stream of paint on that target on the run. This drill works cardio, footwork, (horizontal movement), hand switching, target acquisition and listening/comprehension.

See what I am talking about? There are several others you can utilize that “train the brain” so to speak. If you feel you have a great drill that “trains the brain”, post it up. Would love to know and understand what others do to improve their mental strength.


“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

“The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue” – Napoleon

Ole Aristotle and Napoleon probably knew a thing or two about it, huh?

Be water my friends,


Previously Posted

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

It is no secret that I am a Bruce Lee fan. Perhaps fan isn’t the appropriate word. Disciple? Anyway…

What is he trying to tell us? To me, it is perfectly clear. The man who practices 10,000 different kicks only one time each would, theoretically, have a wide range of knowledge about kicking. However, his execution of each kick would be terrible. His technique would, more than likely, be incorrect and ineffective in a real life scenario. Translation: He gets his butt whooped.


Now, someone who has practiced one kick 10,000 times would almost certainly have a mastery of that one kick. He would execute it correctly and appropriately. He would know all the ways to deliver it in a real life scenario and I would imagine would have a much better success rate than the 10,000 different kick fool. Translation: Maybe doesn’t get his butt whooped. Instead whoops opponents butt.

But what is Bruce really trying to get at with this statement? The operative word here is “practice”. Let me put it in simpler terms so some of you millennials understand it (and some D3 and D4 guys… you know who you are). Two guys practice free throws. One of them practices his shot 10 times and then goes home. The other guy stays there and practices his shot 1,000 times. Who do you think will have the better free throw the next day?

Again, not to harp on this topic but if you want to be good at paintball, here’s a newsflash… you have to practice. You have to commit to a regimen that is either equal to or greater than your potential opponents. You have to do it better and smarter. Ask yourself, how much do you want to win? If it is a driving goal of yours to be successful at something whether it is as a paintball team or as a professional nose picker, get your butt out on the field and get at it. (Keep the nose picking to yourself)


Don’t just run points. That isn’t practicing… it is but it is practicing how not to get better. That is the 10,000 different kicks guy. I am not saying you shouldn’t run points. What I am saying is you should do MORE than run points and scrimmage. You should constantly strive to stay sharp in the fundamentals: snap shooting, laning, run and gunning. No one likes to run drills but those who do them are always a step ahead of the competition. You should practice situational drills. You should practice communication drills. You should do muscle memory drills. You should practice, practice, practice.

I will make this one short because I have to get back on FB as I have seen there are many sheep who are in need of saving from their political ignorance and lack of logical, rational and critical thinking (I blame the new math… driving kids straight to the streets). I will leave you with another quote from Bruce. I want you to apply it to your practice schedule. He said, “If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”



Be water my friends,

Michael Bianca

Prime Paintball

Previously Posted