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 Sunshine State Major Pro Debut

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

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

The New Orleans Hurricanes – Photo courtesy of NXL

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

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

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

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

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

I remember thinking after that point …

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

Daniel Camp wins a one on one coin!

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

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

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

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

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

We set 4 goals headed into this event:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the NXL for a well run event.

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

Be water my friends.

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?”

Help! I’ve fallen… and I CAN get up.

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

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

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

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

Took a lot of patience to get here

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


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

Smells like rain…

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

Whippersnappers and Adversity

Okay… here we go.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Forward… always move forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be water my friends.

To Be or Not to Be…What was the question?


I want to start this month off with a “thank you”. I have received several great messages and ideas as of late from many of you and they are all greatly appreciated. This whole Zen thing started as a rough idea and has turned into something I never imagined. So thank you! FYI – look for an “audio” version coming soon! A lot of my friends tell me they enjoy reading the blog but that, sometimes, it can be a chore, especially with my longer pieces. I had intended to start the audio portion this month but, you know how it goes, things happen.
So, this month’s topic… Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a rather fascinating phenomenon. I watched several young men and women attend a paintball try out for a team that is trying to create a program. No, this will not necessarily be a “how to” on try-outs. This will be more of a cautionary tale I guess. If you want to understand my perspective on the “How” and “why” of tryouts, check out these previous blogs posts:

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2020/01/17/potential-people/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2019/01/13/i-spy/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2019/02/08/ontogenesis/

Now, understand, running a program is a different animal than just having a team. It requires much more time, energy, and effort to be done well. That being said, and without going into too much detail, let’s establish some context. Here are my thoughts on the matter right, wrong, or indifferent:

Try-outs – fun times

A TEAM is a group of individuals that, together, have a singular identity or are associated together in an activity with a goal.
A PROGRAM would be more than one team, usually sharing the same identity but separated by divisions, or skill level, and managed under a coordinated system to have mutual benefits and meet mutual goals.

*Zen note – I also use the term “Camp”. This is a team that isn’t quite a program but has elements of a program or is moving in that direction.

Now, over the years, I have run or assisted in many paintball try-outs. In this case, I was simply an observer. I enjoy watching paintball. You can learn a lot from watching games at all levels. I also enjoy meeting, watching, and learning about the latest crop of newcomers, visiting and catching up with familiar faces and old friends, as well as just being around the sport. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to observe how others do things.

I’m always looking for ways to learn, find ideas and efficiencies, to improve myself, my own methods and processes, so that I can share with others. I try to expose myself to other people’s ideas and approaches as often as possible. You can also learn what NOT to do. And this is every bit as important as it’s opposite.

*Zen note – I believe we should constantly challenge ourselves, evolve, and grow. If you aren’t doing so, there is a high probability you’ll become stagnant and eventually fade. I like to encourage this in others (challenging themselves). Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on God’s earth is in a continuous state of evolution. Whether it is improving or adapting or changing. None of us were put here to grow stagnant. I would never tell you, ‘Today is the best I will ever be.’ I can no longer grow or improve. No, we need to continuously pursue improvement.

Showing what you got

Anyway, back to the try out – Personally, I’m very particular when I run these things. I like structure. I always have a process worked out to help me find what I am looking for. Everything is pre-planned to lead me to my goal. This can be broken down further depending on which team, program, or camp, I am doing this for but let’s not get off topic (or should we?)

Whether it is a specific layout chosen to play to specific skill sets or “position” (this is relative), specific drills to measure strengths and opportunities within the skill sets, an agenda/schedule, name it… all of it should be thought out and pre-planned so that we can keep things efficient and use everyone’s time wisely. Something some people hedge on is the rudimentary “introductory speech”. I find these important and not just because it sets the mood or tone for the day (important BTW). More importantly, it should manage expectations – let them know what to expect and why. You should tell them what you are specifically looking for, why, what they should expect to experience, and what will happen afterwards. Hopefully you can do this in a way where everyone understands. At the end, you should ask if there are any questions so you can ensure you have successfully communicated the goal(s). In some instances, some questions you get may tell you a little (or a lot) about the player asking the question …but I digress.

Getting after it in the snake

So, there I am watching, taking it all in, occasionally engaging those putting on the try out, talking with players, you know… being annoying. They are circled up starting to stretch, about 20 guys and gals and then a gentleman I’ve never seen or met before (not uncommon) steps to the center of the circle. He introduces himself and gives a little background. This is the “coach”. Everything seemed perfectly normal for a divisional try out. He wanted everyone to know who he was (good), where he is from (OK – good), why he is there (Nice – good), and that he is “big *&%$ swingin’ (wait…) and what he said goes (hold on…), he was in charge and you may not like it but you would get over it (huh?), and they were all “gonna learn today!” (Whiskey Tango Hotel). Coach Machiavelli much?

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
“Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.”
-Machiavelli

Don’t get me wrong, far be it from me to downplay the importance of masculine, confident, swaggery bad-assedness of an Alpha male. I think we need more of these today more than ever. But this wasn’t that really… this was ego. And there IS a difference. At least, that’s what my instinct told me. It didn’t seem genuine much less earned. Does that make sense?

Then the two day try out began.


What is your opinion… Should you coach during a try out? Some would argue that doing so would show the potential team members a coach’s style. I would argue giving a pointer here or there is fine but that, for the most part, I want to see how the player thinks, how they play, see them in that raw element without influence. See their “flow” so to speak. If I give a player insight into how I expect them to play, then they will (possibly) begin doing what they think I want to see. Do you think coaching a hopeful pick up will give you an honest and accurate assessment of their true playing? Maybe. Personally, I am of the mind to watch and learn. I like to ask questions after I see something go wrong for a player or even when they go right. “Hey chief – what was your thought process on that move? What was your idea when you called so and so over to look this way?” Explain there is no right or wrong answer… you want their honest reasoning. This will give insight into what level they are thinking on. If it’s a two day try-out, maybe you save the coaching for day 2…

Drills, Drills, and more drills

What if your coaching style is “aggressive”? What if the coach is yelling a lot and pointing out nothing but mistakes (in his mind)? This is what the young coach explained to me later (you know me, I have to engage) This translated to him essentially being impatient. And aren’t’ we all at times? I know I am. He wanted to make an impact. He later copped to this and recognized it which led me to like him. Takes a real man to admit it and be that honest with yourself. He will go far and will, most assuredly be a successful coach in the future.
Everyone has an opinion and a way to do things. However, I believe you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. So, if I am at a try out for a divisional paintball team, I don’t want General Patton standing over me beating me into submission for a try-out. No, I am there to show what I bring to the table and you are there to see if it’s what you need. Ego must be left at the door. Bear in mind… that’s my opinion. But it’s worked so far.

Watchful eyes

Managing expectations can be difficult… thinking of everything isn’t easy. But it is a little easier with a little preparation (well in advance – not day before under the guise of delusion of how it will play out). BTW – it’s worth mentioning that it‘s also okay to make changes to the plan on the fly as long as the changes are creating efficiency and moving you towards the goal without undue stress on the players.
A few hours into the try out, I decided to walk around and interview several of the players to get their thoughts on things. Just how they thought things were going. Some were okay with it all because, well, they recognized it for what it was… bloviating. Didn’t bother them because they were there to show their stuff (action), make the team, (goal), and advance their paintball career that way (strategic). But most of them led with unflattering comments about the ” lack of organization (as in organizing/herding cats) and, well, unflattering things about the coach. In other words, the potential program organizers had already lost a good many of the potential good players from the pool.

Why? How did it happen and where did it go wrong?

I can only provide my opinion from an outside observer’s perspective, but I have a good feeling I wouldn’t be too far off. I don’t think the organizers of the try out really knew what they wanted to do. Let me be clear, this is not a slight against the team/organization. Expanding your team into a Program is a Herculean task (that means it isn’t easy). But you must have a plan. I don’t think there was much of a plan past the warmup and first drill or two. Introduce the variable of a coach (ego and all) who didn’t really appear to know what he was there to do and you now have a recipe for things to go wrong.

Put the seasoned guys in there against the new guys. See what’s what

The English writer Samuel Johnson once wrote that, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” He also said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”

Wham-o.

Look folks, if you are going to put yourself in a leadership position, especially in paintball, you first need to gain the respect and trust from those you are attempting to lead. There is a myriad of ways to do this. BUT… If you have never met me, have no idea of who I am, but step to me and tell me you are the boss now and to follow your lead… expect my inside voice to say, “Sure. After we establish what qualifies you to coach me.” At this particular try-out, there were several players I was familiar with who had played at a D2 or higher level. The coach had not competed past D4. Now I am not saying that a coach must have a pedigree. Absolutely not! That’s a completely different topic BTW. But if I am going to win you over or gain your trust, I need to start from somewhere… telling a bona fide D2 player he “did it all wrong” and yelling at him about “what were you thinking” when we just met… and I come to find out you hadn’t played past D4 or won anything in that division…perhaps podded for a pro team a few times… well… kick rocks. Think it through next time. Be a Boy-scout (well, not the new ones… the old ones). Be prepared.


Be water my friends.

The Unappreciated

It’s actually happening.  Barring some catastrophic event, the NXL World Cup is scheduled to occur on November 11th-15th across the street from the Gaylord Palms resort in Kissimmee, FL.  Now, seeing as how this is 2020, I’m not ruling out the asteroid hit… but let’s not worry about such trivial things.

With the largest and most prominent paintball event about to go down, teams are doing all they can to prepare or rather, should be.  In this blog post, I am going to talk about an often overlooked yet incredibly important aspect of prepping for an event: 

Your pit crew.

That’s right – the unappreciated, the overlooked, the human afterthought, the shadows… the people who make paintball player’s lives a lot easier and they don’t even realize it.

If you have not done this portion of planning well in advance, you are not doing what you can to properly prepare for the event. Time and time again here at Zen we have discussed and emphasized efficiency in all things we do.  Not just “economy of motion” (physical) but economy of time, energy, and thought.  In this case, we are looking at two points of efficiency – getting your pit crew established ahead of time and how an effective pit crew creates efficiency at an event.

Mo often pitted for Professional Team Damage at the NXL event. I’m no dummy. When he asked if he could help, I said, “Absolutely”

Okay – so let’s establish our reasoning.  Let’s look at what being “efficient” is really about.  Efficiency is “a measure of the extent to which input is well used for an intended task or function (the output)”. Said another way, it is the capability of a specific effort to produce a specific outcome with minimum amount of energy expenditure.  Got it?  So based off that definition, let’s get into efficiency as it relates to event prep.

First and foremost, establishing a definitive pit crew needs to be on your checklist of things to do well in advance of the event.  Along with booking your accommodations, logistics, and practice schedule, planning your pit crew is one of those tasks that you want to get off your plate early so that you and the team can focus more on actual game/event prep (you know…playing well).  Get it done so you can focus on your game and not worry with details like this which have a tendency to add stress.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have run across a team begging people the day before an event for help in the pits. It was an afterthought and then someone finally said, “Hey, who do we have to run pods?” 

Yeah, you’re guilty 😉

A good pit crew is there to help and should help…they are the help!.  They are there to make that long walk from where you parked manageable.  They are there to make your pit manageable.  But most of all, they are there to make your life as a coach or as a player, easier.  And for that, you should take their selection serious.

This is Willi. She’s awesome. So is her husband

Now, a good pit crew needs to encompass, in my opinion, these 3 capabilities:

  • Choreography (efficiency)
  • Game/player Knowledge
  • Be Autonomous

Let’s break these down real quick.

Choreography is pretty self-explanatory.  They need to know what to do before, during, and after a match. This can be something as simple as knowing where to set up in the pit in relation to the team’s movement and where to place pit tables.  I like to have a minimum of 3 pit crew members.  The usual breakdown is 2 pod fillers (supplemented by team members when possible) filling pods and 1 pod runner (this is the cat who runs out between points and ensures the team’s pods stay with the team).  They can, and should, swap occasionally when necessary.  They should be aware of the fact they will be porting some things to and from the pits.  Carrying pod bags with pods or pulling the “paint wagon”.   Understanding their responsibility is a huge must.  The last thing a coach or captain wants to deal with is a pit crew asking, “Hey – what do we do?”  That is not a pit crew.  I decided to reach out to one of the best pit crews I have ever worked with (they are an amazing married couple – shout out to Willi and Cam) and they said the following:

“Understanding the flow of the pit is important.  Once you know it, it is important to be everywhere you need to be, when you need to be, but never in the way.” 

Game knowledge is imperative.  Nothing worse than a pit crew member storming out on the field to grab pods and getting your team a penalty because they didn’t wait for the “point approved” announcement.  A good pit crew will recognize how the game is progressing and understand what needs to be done.  Is the team burning through paint quicker than normal?  Is the team dominating or struggling during the match?  But an even better pit crew is one who not only recognizes those things but KNOWS the team, knows the players.  Keep in mind, many of the best pit crews are paintball players themselves.  Like Willi and Cam again:

“Get to know the team.  Not just them as a person but their tendencies as a player and where they play on the field.  Know how many pods they normally take out.  Know if they like them “up or down”.  If you don’t know these things, ask!”

That’s Cam in the background (camo headband, olive drab shirt) gettin’ after it

Now, the last but certainly not least (as a matter of fact, it very well may be the most important quality of a good pit crew) is that they are autonomous.  They are capable without direction.  They don’t need to be told what to do, they already know.  They know when to be at the pit, when to start cleaning pods, when to start loading paint, when to tell coach/captain the team is getting low on paint (*see previous comment about game knowledge??*), when to clean a player off, where to place extra pods and guns in case they hear “I need an extra pod”, or the dreaded “GUN!!!” when team members are chrono’ed on the field.  They do all of this on their own without instruction.  When you have a crew like this, it is a huge relief to a coach/captain and the team for that matter.  Like trusting your teammates on the field, if you can trust your pit crew to know what to do and when, that is one less thing you have to worry about.  And make no mistake about it, that pit crew IS part of the team.  A comment from Willi and Cam that I couldn’t agree with more:

“You’re part of team (the pit crew).  You need to bring the same energy level as though you are stepping out on the field with them.”

Jeez, I love that mentality.  I wish all paintball players had that type of understanding about roles.

When the team wins, we all win!

Which brings me to a few closing notes…  One, let’s lose this moniker of “pod bitch”. Sure sure, it’s a funny jab amongst friends.  But honestly, if I am volunteering my time and energy to help you for no other reason than to be a good person, and you drop that on me?  I walk.  Who’s the bitch now, bitch?

 Now, I believe in compensation.  If you are paying someone to pit, and I think all pit crews should get something for their work if they are worth their salt.  Some suggestions:

  • Let them stay for free at your place
  • Buy their lunch or dinner for the day
  • Pay them in cash/paint/product

Give them SOMETHING to acknowledge the fact that you appreciate their assistance and effort.  If you don’t, then you sir/madam, are a pudnugget.

Be water my friends.

The Paintball Widow speaks…

It finally happened. He gave me the look:  that slight side eye dead serious almost smirk that I have a hard time saying no to. It was accompanied by the words, “I have an idea.”

Now if you know my husband, and you have witnessed the uttering of said sentence, you know a person just can’t turn and walk away without hearing the words proceeding it. They just suck you in. The idea just happened to be that it was my turn to write a blog. What, you may obviously ask, would someone who hasn’t been on a field since playing for PMS in the heyday of ACES (The Alabama Challenge Event Series) in 2003 or associated as the staff of a team since 2011, who happens to be the wife in the wings, have to share on Zen?

Our story – The story of our paintball field Legends, the in-between adventures, and the journey to Zen.

JM1
Star crossed lovers

Our story began on a front porch swing as all good southern romance stories should. That “scary” encounter, according to Zen’s retelling, led to a date involving a movie with 80’s metal, lop sau practice in a parking lot while waiting on pizza, and my introduction to paintball. Little did I realize how much foreshadowing that first date entailed. The coincidences and six degrees of separation in our lives up to this point are quite comical in their irony and a story unto its own.

Zen talked me into taking pictures for a player sponsorship package he was putting together and giving paintball a try. I was a photography student at the time and competitive. I’m not sure how well I did my first time playing out on that spool field with the ridiculous barn in the middle but it did not matter.  The paintball world had sucked me in and so had he. So much so Zen proposed to me after my first rookie tournament eight months later. I even made him a paintball field groom’s cake complete with current teammate replicas. That’s paintball romance, right?

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First time playing

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The famous Groom’s cake

 

Our first World Cup together was October of 2001. We missed our flight because of post 9/11 security (not to mention someone had to play a tournament right before we left) and had to stay overnight in the ATL airport. Lovely. In case you wondered, it’s not high on my recommendations for your bucket list.  From the airport we took a cab straight to the venue, which at that time was a cow pasture. His gear had not arrived via a friend, so Zen had to play with borrowed everything that first day. Even though the team did not make it to the podium, the trip was one for the books. I managed a press pass to work on a photography class project. We watched endless games, had too much fun in Old Town, hung out with Rocky Cagnoni, and fell in love. The only thing that would have made that trip truly epic would to have been able to see Zen play in the finals on Sunday.

Fast forwarding through broke twenty somethings eating ramen just to have enough money to play, camping on floors (or sleeping in cars) after long drives to tournaments, marriage, making babies (almost puking in your mask in a tournament in August will really dampen any desire to play while pregnant), and traveling across the Southeast, we arrived at a dream that had always been a part of our “what if” conversations:  opening a field together.

The stars had aligned just perfectly and we took the plunge. The plan for Legends was finally brought to fruition. It was a joint effort as all good things in married life usually are. (Just make sure you choose the right partner. I did!) Zen, together with some great friends, put up a field and retrofitted a store building. I helped when the babies would let me. Every weekend with the exception of one vacation and Christmas, we were open. He ran the field and I took care of the storefront and air tanks. Our littles watched the games through the windows and paintball became their world too.

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The Legend’s logo

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Our first born coaching Dad

Top Hat tournaments, the Magnolia Series, top gun events- life was good and we were doing better than we had hoped with our little enterprise in Mississippi. A little over a year later the doors were shut because of an unexpected but welcome job offer that sent us back to our home state. Zen hopped through a few teams as paintball evolved through 10-man, 7-man and x-ball. This was a bit of a sad and lonely time since I wasn’t able to watch many practices or tournaments. I missed watching him play and hanging out with our people.

During this time in the paintball world, a team could play pro without working through the ranks. The powers that be decided that Zen’s then current team would do just that. It was a heated topic at our table. On one hand it was an opportunity that players only dreamed of and playing the best always aids in becoming the best. While on the other hand, who would want to spend every national tournament getting their face smashed in by real pros that had put in the work. He played and I sat at home, cursing all those in charge of updating APPA. That waiting is the worst part of the widow life, especially when all you want to do is see your other half bunker a TonTon, true story.

My life as a paintball widow has been insanely frustrating because of how much I have missed. But I embraced the life because it was the world of my other half, and in turn became mine. You might think that makes our life one sided. But it isn’t. Zen and I discuss everything together. He asks my opinion on all the things because I took the time to be interested in, learn and participate in his world. Sometimes he doesn’t like my opinion, but he considers it even when it isn’t eloquent or tactful.  I thoroughly enjoy paintball even if it is now only through the after practice downloads around our table, getting to hang out at a local tournament while Zen is commentating, yelling at the computer because GoSports isn’t covering the field I want to watch in the prelims, watching videos or proofreading a new blog. Paintball is still very much a big part of my life.

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Bob Ross and a Happy Tree

At this point, you may think our marriage is a bit unfair. He gets to travel, do what he loves and hang with the guys all the time while I’m barefoot in the kitchen and pregnant. While that is some of it, it doesn’t encompass the whole picture. One year, Zen told me he was going to sell all his gear to buy new stuff, which wasn’t unusual. We had a tight budget with only one income (One income was a joint agreement. I did have a full time job before baby #1 came along). If we wanted something new, we sold something or saved up over time.  But instead of outfitting himself, he gave me the money, told me to buy a pottery wheel and took a hiatus from paintball. Yes, you read that correctly: he voluntarily stopped playing paintball.

 

Before our move to Alabama, I had taught an adult pottery class in the basement of a frame shop a few nights a week. My father had randomly found a huge kiln at a going out of business sale while on a joy ride and it was sitting in storage waiting for me. But a kiln is of no use without a means of making pots to fill it. It was quite an overwhelming surprise for Zen to tell me to go buy myself a pottery wheel.  I started making pots and selling them at farmers markets or festivals as The Parttime Potter. It was nice to have my own thing outside the house. He knew I needed it and made a sacrifice for me because that is what married life is about: sacrificing self to become unified. This doesn’t mean that you totally lose your own identity. Instead you develop a new perspective that combines the two separate lives into one. Full disclosure: his hiatus didn’t last a year. Whereas I was beyond appreciative for what he was doing, that man needed to get back on the field for both our sakes.

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The Pottery Wheel

Sometime, just before the beginning of 2010, a possibility came into sight on the horizon, an idea that had been in reoccurring conversations for years began to churn and turn into a plan. A plan that led to through combined efforts, Prime.

In the beginning, the program was about creating a winning team from the ground up.  Everyone started at the bottom. It wasn’t a group of buddies out to play just for fun. It was a serious endeavor with weekends upon weekends of hard work. Players did ALL the things together: field set up and take down, eating, camping out at the farm, drilling and watching the tape to understand their weaknesses. All of this was done together because they were determined to succeed at winning as a team. Everyone wanted their spot and the dedication proved it. I couldn’t help but secretly smile as my husband was able to implement the training, drills, and ideas on team formation that had been gnawing at his brain for years. Being closer to the field and having a safer environment for the kids (and me!) to come and watch made those long weekends much more bearable.

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World Cup 2011 – the FIRST 2nd place….

From the beginning of our life together, Zen and I have hosted players for weekend practices and local tournaments. Coming from bigger families, it was not an abnormal thing to have a full house. With littles it was hard for me to participate as staff for the teams, but being the “team mom” was something I could do. After practice dinners, showers and beds were always, and always will be, open to team mates. Around our table plans were laid. Failures and successes discussed. A paintball family was created.

During this time, Zen would occasionally write a blog for the Prime team website. His mind is always crowded with an overabundance of ideas and knowledge. His initial blogs were just a brief foray into that abyss or a recap of team endeavors. Players had begun seeking him out for tips or help with their game. This started to become a frustration for two reasons. First, he genuinely wanted to help each person but did not have the time to give them the undivided attention they and their questions deserved. Two, he was repeating himself over and over explaining the importance of fundamentals and sequences of progression. At this point, I started floating the idea of a personal blog in conjunction with clinics. He ignored me.

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The original Prime family

But I finally won him over. I have a friend who is gifted in ink painting, and just so happens to understand Bruce Lee and eastern philosophy. She took my idea and nailed it. I’m not quite sure what his thoughts were when I presented him with the Zen dragon and potential blog name, but the smile clinched it. The Zen and the Art of Paintball blog began as our time with Prime tapered off. Clinics filled the calendar. Zen even began live commentating for regional tournaments. Life was good. As a spouse, you should always be happy and encouraging when your other half gets to share their God given talents. Being successful in a partnership includes helping the partner to be successful as an individual.

Life changed drastically with our new house project and new team based far away. Gone were the team dinners and players that had become family. In honesty, I did mourn a bit. I missed the crowed house, full to the brim with stinky paintballers and overflowing with gear. It was a glimpse into the world of parenting where the children leave home to become busy with their own lives. I am not ready for that milestone even though it looms on our horizon. We get visits in here or there with individuals but never the crew as a whole. The world turns and we move forward into a new season with fond memories of our people under our roof.

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Channeling my inner Zen

As Zen progressed, we began the apparel line we had talked about for years. In the beginning it was exciting to start. But then, it wasn’t.  Currently in America, it is nearly impossible to find a company stateside to do small batch runs without being charged a ludicrous amount. This is so disheartening and if I am not careful, will lead to a soapbox rant on politics, China, liberal progressives and the destruction of small business. But I digress… The failure to launch the clothing line was my fault. The time needed to develop the items, the level of involvement with homeschooling/child activities and my enthusiasm after still working on the house project just didn’t leave the room necessary to create and maintain a viable shop in alignment with our principles. It is really hard to make a project successful when you cannot give it your all. Not to mention the Rona. Thanks again China.

Our entire life together has always included paintball. We have had quite a journey over these past nineteen years. I say we because together we took that vow of two become one pretty seriously.  Even though you may not know my name, or recognize my face, I am Zen’s other half.

I am the Paintball Widow.

 

 

 

 

Facts vs Narrative – Reality Check

Did the title get your attention?  If so, are you one of those people who, if someone doesn’t agree with you, you bludgeon them with your thoughts and feelings and when they provide facts or logic and still don’t agree, you call them names and try to have them “cancelled”?  You’re one who expounds on the merits of “enlightenment” and the free exchange of ideas… as long as it’s your idea or an idea you agree with.  Well, if you are that type of person, I am incredibly sorry.  Not just because you are the worst kind of person and probably suck at paintball but probably need to hear this month’s topic more than most.  I can’t respect you.  However, you will truly be missed (no, not really). You can show your candy ass to the door.  Oh, I forgot to mention this will not be a political post.

Now – for those of you who are genuinely interested in hearing different ideas, exchanging ideas, open to dialogue, etc. – hang around a bit, pull up a chair.  If this wasn’t a blog and you were near, I would offer you a beverage and we could exchange ideas maturely and rationally.

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Fact

Time for another exciting episode of “Reality Check”!  This particular episode is brought to you by casual conversations had while I was hanging out at my old stomping ground/paintball field and getting some much needed gun time.  Then, I noticed one or two social media announcements that drew my attention and finally augmented by a couple of phone conversations.

First, let’s establish an irrefutable truth… facts and narrative are two completely separate things no matter how someone wants to twist and turn them.  Pesky little details like facts are so burdensome these days especially when they don’t match or align with whatever someone wants their narrative to be.  This is why you see so many people dismissing them and surrendering to emotion.  Inconvenient, I know…

I have seen and heard many delusions of grandeur as of late.  Whereas, it is important to dream and even more important to set goals to reach that dream, we must recognize what the path to these goals and dreams entails.  I love the underdog who knows in their gut it is all attainable.  And for a choice few, it certainly is! It’s almost as if it were destined and I love it when I witness it.  But what happens prior to these events is the real key takeaway.  What went into obtaining that dream…

What I will see occasionally is a new paintball team who is absolutely addicted to the sport.  They love the game, they love hanging out with each other, and they love the competitive environment.  They get a small taste of success, whether it is winning a couple local tournaments or doing well against another local team who is ranked higher and then BAM! That love becomes rabid (this is good) and now they are ready to take on the world.  But more often than not, these dreams of being a successful team soon turn into a crash and burn experience.  Several factors lend itself to this scenario of course but the number one culprit is this – it’s HARD WORK creating a winning paintball team!  I have seen and heard D2 teams talk about how they will eventually go pro (admirable) or that a D4 team will be semi pro within 2 years… wait… what?  Big difference there hoss… let’s back up a bit.

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Getting on the box and putting in the work in 93 degree weather with 75% humidity.  Fun!

First, understand that one of the biggest reasons most teams don’t set out to achieve a big dream or a huge goal is that they think they first need to develop a comprehensive plan, one that details every step, every goal is identified, and that all these things will ensure success.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  *Side note – those teams that have no plan?  yeah, that doesn’t work out well either.

Look – plans are never perfect.  Occasionally they will appear that way but usually only in hindsight since no one really realized it at the time.

And when a team doesn’t have that kind of plan—because creating that kind of plan is basically impossible—they do one of two things – they hesitate and never really start or they get BIG ideas… ridiculous ideas… ideas that make most experienced teams and players think, “Oof.”

Too many teams need to see an end before they see a beginning.  And this is troublesome for most and they don’t even realize it.

Many teams, when they find a little success, will usually establish the thought that, what they did before will keep them successful.  This is partially true.  That will last for a bit but, eventually you have to increase/expand or better evolve certain factors.  There has to be that force multiplier that can keep you on top.  You have to start trying things… lots of things… lots of different things.  Some will work, some won’t.  Sometimes you will create new and exciting processes that really advance the team’s capabilities.  The key is learning from those that don’t work just as much as those that do.

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School

Hold up!  Go back and read that last sentence again.

And again.

Recognize that those first steps are just that and that there are many more to come.  You have to keep moving forward.  And recognize that, not everyone is going to make it…

Know that you will learn (hopefully) how to react and how to respond to new (and old) challenges. Trust that you will become a little wiser for the experience. Trust that you’ll grow more skilled and more experienced the more you try.  At least, you should.  I will not say that I haven’t seen those who never seem to learn.  But ultimately that comes down to them. But also trust in the fact that, sometimes, its going to take an incredible resource, a commodity that is precious to many, myself included.

It’s called time.

Try enough things, learn from every success and every setback, and in time you’ll have some of the skills, knowledge, and experience you need to create consistency.  It won’t be perfect.  It never is.  By the way, that is not meant to deter you… that is meant to advise you that it will be difficult.  But who doesn’t enjoy a good challenge right?

You can never guarantee that you will always succeed. But when you never bet on yourself and never try something new, you can definitely guarantee that you will never succeed.

Again, what most don’t realize is what a successful paintball team entails.  First, let’s define “success” because this will ultimately decide how much energy will be required to create it.  No, I am not saying you shouldn’t give 150% no matter the endeavor… what I am saying is what will be required in most instances to meet a specific level of success.  That’s the point of this blog post… reality.  If you want to create a competitive local D4 team, this is much more attainable then a competitive NATIONAL D4 team.  Everyone understand?  We need to set parameters.  How many times have you heard me write or talk about setting goals?  This is no different.  And let’s not forget the importance of playing at the appropriate level (so many teams are in a rush to meet a “status” and end up playing in the wrong division.  Let’s face it, anyone can play above their division if they are willing to pay the entry… but not everyone can be competitive there.) Let’s manage expectations though shall we?

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After we set a goal, we need to respect and understand what it will take to meet that goal.  There will be difficulty in reaching whatever level of success you seek.  But recognize right now that it will take a lot of work to meet even the most nominal amount of success in paintball.  Why?  The factors are many and we won’t delve into all that this time around.  Instead, let’s talk about what will keep you from meeting success.

Let’s talk excuses.

Here are Zen’s top 4 excuses why teams fail before they start:

  1. No time to practice – okay… make the time! But I work on weekends! Okay, find a different sport.  See how easy that was?  Understand that if EVERYONE on your team cannot commit the time to practice, there is no purpose IF YOU WISH TO BE CONSISTENTLY SUCCESSFUL.  If you want to goof off and have fun – That is perfectly fine!  Do it!  If you want to goof off, have fun, and win – might I suggest recruiting highly experienced friends and writing some checks.
  2. No money – once again, like dipping your little toe into golf, you chose the wrong sport. This one is actually easier than most people think. Options include pooling money, putting money aside little by little until you have a decent amount of disposable income to throw around, selling items you don’t use or want anymore, etc.  We all put money where we want to.  Right now, I am putting it into my house.  It would be easy for me to buy a plane ticket, paint, hotel and food to go play these 10 man events I am dying to play… but I have some priorities.  If a winning paintball team is important to you… you’ll find a way (hopefully legally).
  3. Weather – “Not feeling it today… it’s raining.” Get your pansy ass out on the field!  But my equipment, my big toe, it’s hot, it’s wet, I have a rash, my hair, I have to wear a mask and can’t breathe… you little whiner.  You think it doesn’t rain at paintball events?  You think it doesn’t get hot at paintball events?  You think there aren’t weather elements of some kind at most events?  Well you might as well get used to playing in it because you’re eventually going to see it.
  4. “I’m already good at that.” (face palm) – this one is frightening.  It’s like a person who gets a concealed carry permit, buys a gun, and then says “I’m ready to defend myself.”  No you’re not!  You have to train!  You have to put in the time.  I promise you the players in this sport that you admire put in the time.  If you want to mimic that then you have to drill the fundamentals every opportunity you get as well as train other aspects of the game both individually and as a team.

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So – what have we learned (if we aren’t too busy looking for a safe space or contacting Zuckerberg to have me cancelled because you don’t agree with my thoughts).  We’ve learned that:

Creating a team that has a roster full of relatively athletic injury free fellows who all like or at least tolerate each other, who all have disposable income capable of sustaining a practice and tournament regimen, who all have the time to commit to most if not every weekend for the season (and off season), who all have the capacity to learn, who all have the attitude and willpower that it will take to maintain a culture of seeking success, who don’t complain about the weather, who recognize all the work it will take…

… is hard, difficult, and frustrating.

But it’s not impossible.

Recognize that it will take you many moons to get where you want to be when you start.  Strap in for one helluva ride.  To those of you who meet your goal – I salute you.  To those of you who don’t respect the work and commitment and think it’s easy – I am that parent who is watching the child about to make a mistake that will forever imprint on them “That was dumb.”
Be water my friends.

The Age of Covid Paintball – What did they know and when did they know it?

I am by no means an expert on ANYTHING.  I don’t pretend to be and I don’t play one on TV.  “Expert” denotes an “authoritative knowledge”, or an uncanny ability or “mastery” of something most don’t possess. Besides being an expert at driving my wife bat stuff crazy, I can’t think of a single thing I am “authoritatively knowledgeable” about.  Do I believe there are experts in this world? Absolutely.  Do I feel they are rare? More than likely, yes, I think they are rarer than most probably do.

I do try to keep things in perspective though, as well as try to apply logic and reasoning to anything I engage in.  For example, someone might send me a video of a political figure saying something that could be construed a particular way.  Whether I like or dislike the politician or agree with what was said or not, I always try to apply logic and reasoning to what is being stated.  Perhaps choosing politics is a terrible example because of the incredible amount of polarization in today’s world, especially here in the United States.  But I pride myself on understanding context.  I am by no means an expert but I am pretty well informed.  This is because I actively search to understand a point as oppose to just attacking it because it doesn’t line up with my own personal ideology.

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

The heart of the matter lies in understanding, discernment, comprehension, and good judgement.  The majority of misunderstanding, inaccurate discernment/comprehension, and bad judgement can be avoided through effective communication.  Effective communication is way more than exchanging information.  It’s about understanding the context behind the information.  It is about being able to clearly convey a message.

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Does it mean what I think it means? 

Take, for example, when you search “Infamous Paintball”.  Now, I’m pretty sure I know what they are trying to convey with this tag line.  We are Infamous Paintball and if you use our gear, you can beat anyone (the “good teams”).  But the tag line on its face doesn’t leave the most flattering message or impression for a product.   Again, context.  As a paintballer, I see it.  As a regular consumer, I’m thinking this is a joke, right?

*This is not a slight on Infamous.  Love what they do.  They just happen to have an example of where I am heading…

Of course, being able to clearly convey a message is important – that is – if there is one.  And no communication can say plenty as well.

As of this writing, the “Latest News” tab on the NXL website is from March 18th titled “2020 NXL Texas Open, April 30 – May3 : CANCELLED”.  Here is a link to the page:
https://www.nxlpaintball.com/us-latest-news

Obviously, there is no update on the page.  Not even a mention of how they have since cancelled Virginia (and it would appear, Chicago).

I couldn’t help but notice on what many consider the crème de la crème for paintball communication, http://www.PBNation.com, doesn’t have any information regarding the rest of the season either.  John runs a tight ship over there and is almost always on top of this stuff. I just checked http://www.Gosports.com and didn’t find anything there.  I don’t have Twitter so maybe I missed something there…  Maybe… we’ll get to that.

Since then, communication has been scarce and limited.  The only communications that have taken place since mid-March were a live stream by, oddly enough, Infamous Paintball, featuring NXL President Tom Cole on April 17th, a post on the NXL Facebook page announcing the Virginia Event’s cancellation on May 5th, and another Q&A live stream featuring Tom Cole the next day on May 6th.

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He doesn’t have an easy job.  And every keyboard warrior can do it better…

As someone who works in the corporate world, I certainly understand how difficult it can be to get everyone “rowing in the same direction”, especially when running a business.  It is hard enough without the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 and the restrictions implemented on travel and gatherings here and in Europe.  Let me make something perfectly clear; this is not a “Bash the NXL!” blog.  On the contrary actually.  I want to help by consolidating what info is out there for my readers to help the NXL get the word out (keep reading or scroll down).  Lord knows hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy to commentate outside looking in.  Although, I do want to say and the NXL would do well to remember that, no news is still news.

Leverage the mediums you have at your disposal (PBNation, NXL website, FB, Instagram, Twitter, GoSports, Email blasts, etc.) and let people know, even if you don’t have an answer, that you are actively pursuing one.  I am almost positive they have a Director of Communications, yes?  Let the players know what you know.  If you don’t know anything yet, then say so. But say SOMETHING. And say it regularly. Communicate and use the tools at your disposal to get the coverage you need for that message to get out.

All that being said, here is what we know as of today based off Tom’s last live stream (As more information comes in, I will try and update this in the comments or here on the page):

The Richmond, VA event scheduled for June 25th-28th and the Chicago, IL event scheduled for September 10th-13th are CANCELLED.  They will be replaced by 3 smaller REGIONAL events.  Here’s what we know about those:

The Pros will be split into 3 Divisions that will correlate with Regional events.  They are:

  • 6 pro teams in the West Coast division/regional event
  • 6 pro teams in the Texas division/regional event
  • 8 Pro teams in the Mid Atlantic division/regional event

Divisional play beneath Pro will be done similarly.  There will be 3 events just as the ones above at the same locations.  The difference is, if capable/possible, Division 1 (semi-pro) and below (D2, D3, D4, etc.) can attend more than one event.  However, only ONE event score (presumably your best showing) will go towards your series points.  The preference, according to Tom Cole during his last live Q&A, is for you to play one regional event and then World Cup (still scheduled for November 11th – 15th). All formats will be provided at the regional events (X-Ball, 5-man, etc.) just on a smaller scale.  Back to normal with World Cup.

For example – a team, based out of Louisiana, played the Las Vegas event.  They will more than likely play the Texas Regional event.  Your score from the Vegas event will determine your seeding for those teams attending the Texas event.  That team’s combined scores from Vegas and Texas should then determine their seeding headed into Cup… it will be interesting how they address when/if teams have the same score headed into Cup.

World Cup is currently still planned and will be hosted as originally scheduled in Kissimmee FL at the Gaylord Palms resort.  It will be one giant event as usual, not a divisional/regional deal.

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World Cup will still be held across from the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee FL

Dates are forthcoming.  Estimate is that the events will START around the last week of August.  They will run every two weeks until September starting with Texas, followed by California, and then Mid Atlantic.  Obviously this will all be contingent on how states address their own “reopening”.  APPA entry fee is targeted to launch mid-July but again, dependent on State regulation.

No early layout release for these 3 regional events.  They will be a “blind” layout meaning you will see it when you get there. There is discussion of releasing the World Cup layout well in advance as opposed to the standard 2 week release prior to the event.

The locations for these events are still to be announced.  They are taking suggestions but the field must have the capability to fit at least 3 regulation X-ball fields (plus have significant parking I would imagine).  The NXL is going to help the fields selected with infrastructure to ensure the best event possible at these local/regional fields.  As it stands today, the following fields are in contention but not official:

  • California/West Coast Division event:
    • Capital Edge Paintball (Sacramento, CA)
  • Texas Division event
    • Paintball Fit (Waxahachie, TX)
    • XFactor Paintball (San Antonio, TX)
  • Mid Atlantic Division event
    • Topgun Paintball (Cream Ridge, NJ)
    • OXCC (Chesapeake City, MD)
    • LVL Up Paintball (Grove City, OH)

There may/may not be a relegation this year due to the possibility of a team not being “allowed” to travel and they are still wanting to bring a semi pro team up.  They are working through all of that.

And that’s what we know.  If you know more, please feel free to share and I will do what I can to get the information out as long as that information can be corroborated.  A lot of this is still fluid so, keep your eyes and ears open for more updates.

Until then

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?

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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’!

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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!