Recently I posted a photo of the New Orleans Hurricanes on social media where I quoted Andrew Carnegie. He said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Unfortunately, we don’t see this type of thought embraced very often, especially in paintball.
This past weekend I was asked by a player for advice on how to eventually go pro. I have been asked this question quite frequently as of late, in one form or another. A simple enough question really, but one that has numerous answers depending on who you are speaking with all while also weighing heavily on your circumstances and a myriad of other variables… and my answer is no different. Heck, I just got here.
Here are two more quotes for you from tried and true champions:
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan.
“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
Sensing a theme here?
Teamwork is what usually leads to success in most endeavors. Yes, there are exceptions but let’s talk paintball specifically. Again, yes exceptions, but one would be considered irrational if you thought any successful paintball team achieved success and maintained said success through the simple efforts of individual players.
Teamwork has to have a strong foundation. That foundation has to be trust. Personal ambition can be, in some cases, admirable but it can and routinely does poison teams. The team that removes ego, the team that puts the organization as a whole above the individual will usually survive longer and do better. Most successful teams have figured out that if everyone “buys in”, has the same goals and are moving toward those goals together in a unified front, then it becomes a matter of when, not if, success will arrive.
The strength of any team is made up of the individual members. The “weakest link” and all that… but you can overcome that “weakest link” bit if everyone recognizes that the strength of each member IS the team. There is strength in unity which should lead to no weak links if everyone contributes in their own unique way.
I did an interview recently with Matty Marshall and he inquired about what we attributed the success of the New Orleans Hurricanes to so far. The question intrigued me at first only because I realized he understood our goals. To the outsider looking in, we are not successful. In our first three events as a professional team, we have only made Sunday once. We are currently sitting in 10th place for the series (and will probably drop to 12th based off what I see happening in Sacramento). We have played 13 professional matches and only won 6 of them. We were outscored at the Sunshine State 15 to 19, did better in Dallas 23 to 21, and fell again in Philly 13/17 for a total of 51 scored and 57 scored against. Hardly a success, right? So why did Matty assume we were seeing success?
There are a couple of reasons really. One, because he is familiar with the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season as well as at each event. We are meeting those goals as a first year rookie pro team. And two, by most accounts, we aren’t doing too bad regarding the annals of history. But that still remains to be seen as there are still 2 events left (Chicago and Cup).
But I would be totally remiss if I didn’t state that the success is garnered from the guys being a close knit group, who understand the importance of “team”. It is ingrained in our culture. And that’s a very important aspect.
To me, teamwork is absolutely essential and quite honestly, the beauty of our sport. When you have five guys out there, working as one, communicating, selfless, and in a flow state, man… it is something to behold. Even better if you are one of the 5. But if you missed or flew past the word “selfless” in that sentence, then you missed the most important piece of it.
Whether most realize it or not, teamwork is the true definition of efficiency. After all, 9 or 10 brains are better than 1. I can’t remember who said it, but it struck me as so very true. What does efficiency really boil down to other than doing something better than what was already being done? And that is where we are seeing our success: in the process of creating efficiencies. The process of learning, the process of repetition, the process of trusting one another, the process of pushing one another, the process of trying to be just a little better than we were the day before. And yes, the process of losing and winning.
When you make that individual commitment to the team goal, you flip a switch that turns on accountability and selflessness. When everyone has that light on, man that stuff will shine bright. It will drown out all the noise and hyper focus everyone on what needs to be done, what has to be done.
Yes, it takes time and make no mistake, we have been at this for a while. But I believe we have kept the focus on the right things. We always start with fundamentals. We don’t lapse on those drills. We don’t phone it in. We don’t go through the motions. We make sure it is productive. There are no attitudes on this team. If we see something that needs to be mentioned, it gets said. And no one gets offended (no betas here).
What is my role in all of that? Easy. Keep them focused on the important things that paint the big picture. I recognize the things that may take us off course, that distract from what we really need to be doing, and kill them. I identify opportunities for my guys, push them to be their best, remove them from their comfort zones only to make that uncomfortable place comfortable and then develop strategic based concepts which allow my tacticians (the guys) to implement, make better, and execute.
So how did we get here and where is this all going? Well, we started with a question from a player this past weekend… how do I become better/pro.
Besides getting out there every weekend and practicing the fundamentals and playing as much as you can? Be something a team can’t do without. Find a job or role that no one wants to do and get so good at it, you are the only name they think of when it has to get done. That.. and one other thing…
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.
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.
During that first point on Saturday against Columbus LVL, our guns paid off early as we dropped 2 of them on the break. However, we almost gave it up when we let their center player get dynamic. But the boys maintain discipline with comms and we start the match by winning the first point 3 alive. 1-0. We take their snake player on the next point but they shoot our center. Then we lose our snake shortly after. They had successfully moved the skirmish line and, by default, had a better spread. They get a minor but the damage was done. 1-1. Next point we wanted to get eyes up. Knowing they would take center, we went a little short on snake to key up on him with our own short delay to center. It didn’t play out the way I had envisioned it. But hey, that’s free will right? The beauty of this though is, in the skirmish, Mike Brown takes ground D-side and puts them on their heals to close it out (keep an eye on Mr Brown. Great communicator, good field awareness, and solid gun). 2-1. Now, like Heat, we noticed LVL was somewhat conceding D-side so we decide to spread the field early on the next point and try our little bait and switch again for their center… and we get him. During the close, the LVL tower player gets smoked on the elbow and continues to play but it was borrowed time with a 3 on 1. I only mention this because, had he drawn the penalty, we would have been on the power play next point. Woulda coulda shoulda. 3-1. Anyway, lots of time on the clock (somewhere north of 8 minutes) so, we aren’t taking anything for granted. We had just shown them a D-side bite with a short snake and delayed center. We had noticed their center played tall so we were going to take a shot at him and end up getting a shot on their center attacker on the break. However, we let them take ground D-side as well as have the center with a secondary. But here is where our comms came into play. We really have been emphasizing this at practice. Aaron Smith takes snake, misses the center but gets the info across field. The guys also realized LVLs snake side wasn’t pushing which was odd. So it let’s us make a move and get a two for one followed by the squeeze play built off the chaos. 4-1. Still lots of time left in this match though and LVL starts showing why they are a Pro team. Their controlled chaos on the next point made the difference (with a little help from our impatience). 4-2. We anticipated they would want to take ground on the following point and expected us to get guns up and play short. We decide to take a big bite D side in an effort to get wide and make them wary of a hard press. Unfortunately our D-side bite gets peeled off. We sneak a shot on their center but then… a grenade goes off in our back line. Just before my boy takes their side of the field to close out the point, we lose our last in the back… no point and still 4-2. Points like that you have to understand/what happened and move on. And we did. So we know their was around 3 minutes on the clock. 2 point game. Lots can happen and it did. LVL scores the point but not before Drew Bell almost steals it from them and kills additional time off the clock. 4-3. I know that if I can get 5 out alive we will win the point. I guess that LVL, with the amount of time left on the clock, is not going to try to take too big of bites but rather spread to try and make something develop. So we take center, dedicate a gun to D side and shoot the snake. It pays off. Happy for the guys who had never beat LVL in semi-pro to beat them in our first pro square off. Game: Hurricanes 5-3
We are now sitting at 2-1 with the potential to go 3-1 and punch our ticket into Sunday.
Right before our last match of the prelims against the MLKings, I told the guys in our huddle, “We do not rise to the challenge. That denotes that the challenge is above us and nothing is above us. It is in front of us and we will meet it head on and with extreme prejudice.” And that was the mentality we would use to fuel this match. We knew the Kings had a rather aggressive approach to this layout. They would throw a body on the cross D side to try and slow our own D side, set up in the center to try and contain snake aggression, and then throw body after body at the snake to try and bully and push there. We felt our approach was a pretty good counter to that. Unfortunately, we ended up with a bad start right before point one. It was a broken play and my guys tried to salvage it and almost did but Donaldson and Betancourt had other plans. 0-1. The next point we trade snake players, we trade center players, they get a penalty, and then a heads up read by Betancourt costs us again. 0-2. When the Canes came into the pit after that second point, we took a breath, calmed down, and did a mental reset. We went to bread and butter knowing the Kings would go meat-grinder for the snake. We almost drop the point but head on swivel from my guys saves us. 1-2. Too close so time for the next gear. Next point we went heavy center to get more guns on the King’s favorite approach. We get the first and second kill from the snake, draw the gun to the snake and cut through the center. 2-2. Kings key up on our center finally but we pick another off out of their center. Donaldson should have got a penalty for a spin when Drew Bell dropped the hammer but no flag. Paintball is full of karma and Daniel Camp gets a bounce… don’t give my boy a second chance because the majority of the time he will make you regret it. And he did. He ends up making the most of that second life winning another 1 on 1 coin. 3-2.
Now… I need to explain something about the next point. No, it was not planned and was not a “Zen” rope a dope. What you witnessed was one of the most selfless acts of a player I have seen in a very long time. We had 3 Aarons in the pit at this event. Two players (Aaron Smith, Aaron Pate) and one former player (Aaron Barnes) who was now assisting the team. We are up by one. Some jackwagon behind my guys on the box starts yelling “The Canes have 6! The canes are starting with 6!”. Thinking that maybe two Aarons were called and knowing that if you start with 6 it is an automatic swing point to the Kings, my boy stepped off the box to avoid the penalty and trusted his guys. Because of this amazing deed, and him putting good back into the world, (not too mention our lucky charm and stalwart survivalist Justin Bailey in on the point) the Canes win the 4 on 5 point even with the tomfoolery of our opponent’s pit. That is selflessness and that is what the Canes are about. Trusting each other. Now Aaron said he screwed up and was incredibly sorry. I say he just showed me one of the many reasons he is wearing a Hurricane jersey. 4-2.
The next point we wanted to spread the field and put ourselves in positions to counter. To some, it looked like a clock kill and, for the most part, it ended up being one. I’m not mad. The goal was to get guns up, place the defense D side for center control, take snake corner to contain and then push. But the Kings were fast on their secondaries which pretty much trapped us. I told the guys in the pit, “They respect our guns.” And I guess they did. Because even when they were on the power play half way through the point and at the 50, we were able to burn over 3 minutes. 4-3 with under a minute to go. Now the kings have to come. We take ground in the center and set up the cross. Love the heads up decision by my guys to go get the buzzer. Game: Hurricanes 5-3
And then there were 8 headed to Sunday. And we were among them.
Sun Tzu would say, “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” Were he alive today, he would have said the same thing here. It’s about balance.
The hard work, constant pressure to better ourselves, and TEAMWORK had, to this point, paid off. We were happy with our progress but knew there were small mistakes that we could not allow to occur on Sunday. After all, we had pulled Edmonton Impact again and they were looking darn near flawless at this event. They were the only undefeated team in the prelims. We would have to be darn near flawless too. We discussed how the game would slow down… we anticipated some long points and that we would have to be on point each and every one of them. We have the tools to be successful against these top tier teams. But until we beat one of them, it’s just pillow talk.
Point one was a “feeler”. Both teams essentially go pocket trying to get 4 guns up. We lose our 1st snake side attacker and Impact does some quick secondaries. Stu misses his first shot on JC and then trades with him at center. Impact recognizes opportunity and again fills out on snake and d-side, tightening the noose. Impact’s discipline really showed here. This point was a great example of what I talked about above regarding the game slowing down. A three and a half minute point with a slow pressure squeeze. 0-1. Point 2 we see Axel on the field. We drop their snake side 2 (I think it was Resar) and Aaron Pate, who had been a consistent and reliable anchor all weekend, pushes D-side to counter. Regrettably they make it wide on us D-side as well. This is probably because we had 1 or 2 guys doing the same job for a brief second which gave a window to Impact to sneak into dorito 2. However, they didn’t see Drew Bell sneak out snake side and he drops the dorito 2 player for Impact. Once we dropped Axel, it became similar to the first point just with the roles reversed. A 2 minute point. 1-1. We decide to press the pace. We pride ourselves on our ability to shift gears so we take ground snake side, center, AND d-side. Unfortunately, we lose our snake side attacker and they get a quick clean trade in the center. They executed well and we didn’t process fast enough. 1 minute point. 1-2. The next point Impact shows off their gun skills as we lose our d side 1 and our center to his first engagement. Matt Hamilton goes offensive in the snake like a champ and Drew Bell tries to slow the bleeding by taking the center. Impact wins the gun fights though and we are down 3-1. Impact is dialed in on that snake lane as we lose our snake on the break again. They were in the 50’s before you know it and we are down 4-1. At this point, my mind is thinking I have to get 5 guys out alive. I decide to use the snake side tower and get a d-side asset to push the action while getting as many guns up as we could. It pays off as Impact gets a penalty, the guys do our meticulous push polish things off. 4-2. We needed that. It’s a 2 point game with a little over 5 minutes left. We can do this. Then JC pulls a three pack on us (we’re going to get you JC… and your little dog too!).
5-2 with just over 4 minutes. Still doable I’m thinking. We take the snake side cube in hopes of catching Impact when they set up to contain and plan for a fast filter. Knowing that the center and the snake side are your fastest access, we put assets in place to find the hole. We make snake, get crafty in center and keep two guns anchored to control counter punches. Not as fast as we had hoped but we score the point. 5-3. Now… we are down 2 points with 2 minutes left…against Impact… who have shot one of us off the break every point. We have to move into their guns. If you watch the point unfold, even us losing the player on the break didn’t matter. We are attacking the snake. We are pressing the d-side as opposed to the center. We get into position and here is where the real disadvantage is when you find yourself in these scenarios. Not a lot of time to communicate data. Don’t get me wrong, you SHOULD… but most of the time your guys are probing for holes in a hurry with limited information. So we work our way into great position aaaaaannnd… my friend Mike Zuppa catches one of us and another player catches Daniel… we concede the point and realize its time to go big. A valiant effort by my boys in that last point. Game: Impact 6-3
There is a quote by Winston Churchill that I have always appreciated. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And THAT is what the Canes will do. We will strive to do our best each and every time we step on the field, whether at practice or at an event. Hopefully you approach your life the same.
Final comments: loved the venue but please, next time… make the pro pits the same size. I don’t think I have been spackled that much in a long time. I kid… but not really. Congrats to Tampa Bay Damage! Incredibly happy for Joey and the guys. They looked amazing. We will get back at it in preparation for Philly. Another incredibly tough draw so we need to come as prepared as we can. #Rollcanes
The first event of the NXL 2022 season is just four weeks away. Building off last month’s blog, I have continued to received even more questions about my personal thoughts on
1. How well I think we will do
2. How we will prepare
3. What we think about the draw
All legitimate questions and I am happy to answer them to my best ability one on one. However, let me answer as best I can right here:
1 – Simply, we will do our best. And that can mean a lot of things. We have a tough road ahead of us on several fronts. And we will meet it with the same vigor and aggression as before and then some.
2 – We will prepare as we always have: thorough study of layout, apply our strengths to said layout, and develop what we feel is the best approach to game-planning and execution dependent on layout/opponent.
3 – It’s a tough one. Say what you will about recent events, Impact still has tremendous talent. Their depth is substantial and they will have an axe to grind. Reports have Russian Legion back to full strength. That’s scary as hell for any team in the division. We know AC Diesel well and those cats are hungry. They were a semi pro team just 3 years ago and are a top 10 team already. And you can never look past Uprising. They have plenty of weapons on that team. They were a top 10 team as recently as 2019. So yeah, baptism by fire is coming.
It’s interesting because no one really cared when we were Semi-Pro. As a matter of fact, there is a large faction of NXL pro fans who still don’t know we are a professional team. That’s on us. We haven’t done a very good job with our brand. That will change. And it will change because we have decided we need to make that change. Us… the New Orleans Hurricanes. We decided to do better. So we are doing our best to up our exposure. We have decided as a team to take a positive approach to this new endeavor. And this is where we build off last months blog.
Last month we discussed developing SMART goals and how they can lend to creating a positive mental attitude… this month we will talk about what that positive mental attitude looks like from my perspective and how I think others should create or incorporate into their routine and, in essence, practice it.
Competitive Paintball teams devote hours upon hours of practice to honing their skills. At least, serious ones do. The physical aspect of our game requires a lot of training. Talent within that aspect of the game can take players pretty far. But only SO far. There needs to be several other components such as communication, teamwork, chemistry… But something that is occasionally overlooked and required (in my opinion) to maximize a player’s (and team’s) true potential is having a positive mental attitude.
Do you believe any elite players in any sport are successful because they hate what they are doing or have a negative perception of themselves, their team, or their capabilities? Positivity can be that force multiplier to get you where you want or need to be. Physical and mental energy, whether low or high, can and will affect how well you ultimately perform. So why wouldn’t we take note of it?
I believe in a positive culture but one that is ruled by accountability. When you have a negative Nancy culture that’s all finger pointing, no affirmation, dissing each other, and a coach yelling… well… yeah, sometimes that environment can create growth but only for so long. Negativity can promote a drive, sure… but not for the right reasons usually.
Being optimistic is not necessarily the same as being positive but it certainly can help. I try to build my guys up and I encourage each and everyone of them to do the same. Now, to be clear, should a mistake be made, and made again… and again… well, this is where the accountability “fail-safe” kicks in. Positivity is obviously not working… now it’s time for tough love. But be honest in that tough love and be sincere.
So what are some of the things that affect us in a negative way? Besides the obvious, like injuries, making the wrong read, giving bad data/communication during a game that costs you the point or match… think there is anything else?
For me, I sometimes get adversely affected by something I read or perhaps a family friend’s troubles (or my own) or all sorts of awful things present in the outside world (of paintball). But I have taught myself to recognize that and try not to bring that into my “other world”. I don’t always succeed and when I don’t, I make sure my guys know. And they usually know too before I say something.
One of the ways I use to defeat the negative creep is by (stand by for something that is going to sound crazy in 3…2…1…) talking to myself. I’ll turn my thoughts around and pump myself up by reminding myself of who I am, where I come from, why I am here in the first place. Or sometimes it is as simple as saying one of my family’s traditional Christian prayers. You can make one of your own – create a “catch phrase” or maybe words from one of your favorite songs, hell, listen to the damn thing if you have one of those little boxes with earphones that plays music (phones can do that now too, yeah?). When I’m feeling particularity spicy, I’ll reach back into the old man’s repertoire… I have been quoting Conan the Barbarian for quite awhile (movie came out in 84 I believe):
“Conan, what is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”
Of course, sometimes just seeing my teammates lifts me up. Just takes that one to realize the camaraderie you have with these men.
Anyway, I find this an effective way to manage any negativity that can get in the way of me doing my job well.
As a matter of fact, research has shown that this technique not only helps reduce anxiety but effectively improves performance. Constant practice of this over a long period of time was shown to be more effective than just physical training alone. Start incorporating it into your training. You will be glad you did.
How many of you have used visualization? I talk about this all the time and tell my guys before each match to play the game in their heads. Visualize what you will see, what you will do, how you will do it, what it will all look like. I use to do this all the time when I was on the field. Still do actually… that is when I find myself on the field which is rare these days. Something I hope to remedy.
A positive attitude can not only help you stay motivated but help you meet any anxiety you may have head on. Listen, it doesn’t happen overnight. As with all change, it can take time. But I promise having a good attitude vs a bad one will positively affect your performance. Create that new mindset and see where it takes you.
Thinking positively before an upcoming and important match is a necessity to grow whether you win, lose, or draw. Self-affirmations have to be there. You have to believe you belong there. You have to believe you earned it. And that is what we will do in preparation for the first NXL event.
We did earn it. We do belong here. And we are going to do our best to be a positive force in the NXL pro division.
I value positive mental attitudes. I currently have 10 under me. All 10 know how to pump themselves up. All 10 know how to control their demeanor. All 10 have confidence in themselves and each other. And all 10 trust me and each other. That’s powerful stuff. But that is only half the battle. It will require us executing, playing as a team, communicating, hitting our shots… but you gotta start somewhere. You have to believe that you can do all those things. And if things go south? Okay – what did we learn? We know where we stand and we will just have to work harder and harder…
Failure is not a catastrophic end. At least not in this sport. But it can be a powerful motivator… as long as you stay positive about it.
Since the New Orleans Hurricanes won the pro spot in the NXL, I have been asked more times than I can count, “How do you think you will do your first event/season?”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not upset by the question. As a matter of fact, I welcome it. It gives me an opportunity to try and explain something many people appear to lack these days. Understandably so if you really look at the world around us.
And now I get to explain in length and detail as opposed to my 5 minute elevator speech.
“We are going to do our best.”
Simple – by utilizing the one thing many appear to be lacking today: a positive mental attitude.
I am going to give you a glimpse of how I personally create a positive attitude. The first step is, in my opinion, to set a goal. That’s right. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, no matter what I am doing, I set a goal(s). When we do this, it helps us focus on the things that are important to meet the goal. When you know what you are after, you’re more likely to stay on task to reach it. In addition to that focus, it should provide motivation. If I genuinely want to reach it, I will. Each goal should act as a stepping stone to the next.
So how do I identify my goals? This might be a good time to talk about the SMART system (work smarter, not harder). SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It is widely used in the business world. However, I have found it just as applicable in paintball/sports. I personally use these criteria to help identify and focus on my own goals. But I have seen success using it among the teams I have coached over the years.
First, if you are SMART, you will clearly define the goal. This will help map out a path to success. The more detailed you get, the easier it becomes. Make it very clear. Be definitive. Avoid vagueness or ambiguity. Make it SPECIFIC.
Next – give yourself a way to track progress. Set minor goals within goals or perhaps develop a way to record gains. In other words, know how you will see progress towards your goal. Make it MEASURABLE.
The goal has to be attainable. Ask yourself if you have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal. Have others been able to do it as well? A D4 team consisting of 4 guys who live in the Bob Marshall Wilderness saying we will be the next pro team in 2 years is ridiculous. Make the goal ACHIEVABLE.
It should also be legitimate. Don’t be unrealistic with it. Make it relevant to your path in life. Can you reach it with what time, resources, and capabilities you have on hand? Make the goal REALISTIC.
Finally, give it a timeline. There has to be a due date or a “drop dead” date. If you have a good timeline (a realistic one) that is clearly defined, it will create urgency. That will also help with motivation. Make it TIMELY.
Reaching our goals, reaching success is not a matter of luck or chance. It is quite frankly, a matter of choice. You don’t WAIT to be successful at something, you don’t WAIT for something good to happen… you have to go out and get it! And that starts by being SMART.
I have set very simple yet clear goals for the ‘Canes leading into this season. Here they are (high level – I have further detail elsewhere):
Win a professional match point
Win connected professional match points (2 points in a row)
Win a professional match
Don’t get last at any event
Represent our family, friends, fans, communities, and sponsors well by showing a positive and noble approach on and off the field to the game and our opponents (no matter how they behave).
So – what I have essentially done is created 4 sub goals… of which goal #5 is the real goal.
By creating these sub goals it will help ensure we’re following the plan and that we’re on the right track. Remember me talking about “little wins”? There you have it. This will allow us to track our progress more efficiently.
So we have the plan – and we have the season to accomplish it. Obviously, there will be considerable obstacles to these goals – specifically the other 19 professional teams – many of which more than likely will not respect us at all. And that’s to be expected. In their eyes, it is up to us to earn their respect I would imagine. Challenge accepted. No doubt there will be setbacks but we will adjust accordingly. And in some cases, it may be us! Like the Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” we will visualize and attack! This is where the Positive Mental Attitude comes into effect. We will learn from each set back. We will learn from each defeat. We will stay motivated because that’s who we are. We will maintain focus and composure. We will keep our eye on the prize because we know when we achieve these goals, we will have had a successful season. And we will have fun.
Something worth mentioning here is that while it is important to have a positive mental attitude it is just as important to have the right positive environment. We will surround ourselves with like minded people. Those who are interested in our success and who genuinely want to see success with us. We will not get distracted. We will make sure our culture remains the same – after all, it is what got us here.
As I stated earlier, reaching our goals successfully is a matter of choice. You have to go out and make it happen. You have to go get it!
That’s it for now… Next month in Part 2 I will share what a positive mental attitude really is and how to create one to achieve success.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
The New Orleans Hurricanes are the newest team in the NXL’s pro division. Honestly, it’s a bit odd writing that sentence but, at the same time, a little satisfactory. Now, I have always believed that setting goals is the first step in making the impossible possible. And this team is no different. We set out to accomplish two specific goals this season. The first was to be in the top 4 every event. It was funny because we took 4th at the first two events and I let the guys have it – jokingly of course – about how I didn’t mean 4th every time. We were on task to pull it off but unfortunately, we fell just short of that specific goal this past event (World Cup) by placing 5th. As you can imagine, the second goal was to win the pro spot. Most people would say, “Hey, that’s pretty good.”
Meh… it could and should have been better.
I didn’t write that last sentence with disdain, disappointment, or any negativity. I wrote it because I know what this team is capable of. We hold ourselves to a high standard. I know each and every one of these guys well, their wives, girlfriends, parents, siblings, children… Each and every one of these guys (including myself) sacrificed a tremendous amount this year. We overcame some pretty incredible challenges; injuries, medical emergencies, life events, roster changes, and a real life hurricane (Ida) and still found a way to stay competitive and ultimately win the series. And not by just a little…by almost 30 points (29.42 points to be exact). And not by just a little… by almost 25 points (24.75 to be exact).
And I guess, maybe that is what bothers me… the public education system.
The ignorance of systems, process, and math… emotional responses (as opposed to considering statistical probabilities) from paintball teams is sometimes quite staggering.
But don’t get me started. That’s another topic completely. And frankly, it doesn’t matter.
After winning the series in 2020 (the Covid series as I call it) andwinning World Cupthat year, the New Orleans Hurricanes were focused and prepared to win the series again, leaving no doubts. Granted, we wanted an event win for the cherry on top. But I think consistency says a lot about a team as well. We won 2020 World Cup, something many are quick to forget, and came into 2021 taking 4th at the first event of the 2021 season (the Sunshine State in Kissimmee). We would go on to take 4th at the Mid Atlantic (Philly), and 2nd at Windy City (Chicago). None of the other top 5 teams for the season had done that (been in top 4 every event) up until that point headed into cup. A-Team took 12th at Chicago. New England had a 10th place at Mid Atlantic. Blast Camp had a 13th at Sunshine and Crisis had an 18th at Mid Atlantic.
Here is another interesting note – each event we were knocked out – it was by the team that won the event. Well, save for Sunshine in Kissimmee. Crisis took 2nd there. A-Team knocked us out at the Mid Atlantic and won. Obviously Blast Camp knocked us out at Windy City. And finally, Crisis knocked us out again at Cup.
Heading into Cup all we cared about was the win. We weren’t thinking about the series as much as we were just laser focused on the event itself. We wanted that back to back Cup win bad. We had good momentum and were feeling motivated after the 2nd place finish in Chicago. Hell, Drew Bell had found a two dollar bill after Philly. And if you don’t understand that, I can’t help you. The team felt prepared and had some excellent practices prior to the event (shout out to Austin Notorious for their series win as well – keep an eye on those young men – with Coach Ryan Gray at the helm, they’re coming to a nightmare near you in semi pro next season). Of the 21 matches we had played over the last 3 events, we had won 48% of them by mercy (That’s 10 for those of you doing the math). We had won 64% of all points played (110-62). The 2nd place team headed into Cup had only won 57% on average (80-61 I believe) with only 2 mercies. But why does any of that matter? It doesn’t… just pontificating…
Of course, heading into Cup, we knew this was a chaotic field and anything could happen. We had shown promise not only controlling the chaos and using it to our advantage but creating it as well. We were even happy about our draw. Even though every team in our bracket got a free win with a D4 team deciding to play Cup in Semi Pro (shout out to Midwest Bandits – I heard the story as to why you played up and if true, that’s really cool of you. Well done!), we knew we would be tested early. And we were tested by some great teams. We still went 4-0 and won our bracket. I like being tested early in events and coming out on top. It almost always prepares you for the Sunday grind. And we had some Sunday matches in the prelims.
However, we drew Carolina Crisis for our quarters match. Crisis is a team that has been on the verge for some time. Whereas, it was another knife fight and we almost tied it at the end (had I conceded a point earlier in the match, we would have) they played a really balanced game and prevailed. Woulda coulda shoulda. At the end of the day, you have to execute. The team and I made one too many mistakes that match and they capitalized. Congrats to them and well played!
All that being said, I wanted to do a quick recap of some of the teams I think need to be recognized. After all, it was a helluva season and when you really think about it, they helped us progress.
Annapolis A-Team – This team took 2nd in the Covid series last year and finished this season strong with another 2nd place finish in the semi pro series this year a 3rd place finish for the year. This is the 2nd most consistent team in the division if you really look at it. They had three top 5 finishes this year with a win in Philly and a slip up in Chicago. There is some real talent on this team and there is no doubt teams will be scouting them next season. Ignore them at your own risk. Don’t be surprised when they hit you upside the head and don’t stop hitting you.
New England Hurricanes – They took 15th in the Covid season (we gave them their only mercy rule loss at 2020 Cup) but started this season off right with a win in Kissimmee. They stumbled in Philly (we sent them home again with another mercy in an epic match) and at Cup. They have some great players and a lot of experience on this team. You have to respect them or they will punch you hard and fast. They have the components to win but consistency has proven to be elusive for what should be a consistent team. That being said, a motivated NE Canes team will be a tough draw next year.
Blast Camp – I can’t say enough good things about this team. I don’t know if that is because of what I have seen with my own eyes at events or their amazing social media talent. Their communication is top notch on the field and they have a very academic approach to layouts (something we strive for). And, of course, they are young. This team has a great facility, gets to bang with members of Heat on the reg, and they have tremendous support. When you play them, you are also competing against the energy of that group outside the nets. They will be a major force to reckon with next season. Trust me on that one.
Carolina Crisis – Now, I know a few of the cats on this team and their coach from back in the CFOA days. I think everyone saw a tremendous growth out of them this season. They started the season strong and ended the season even stronger. I think that trip up in Philly really motivated them. Some weaknesses were exposed and they said, hell no, we’re going to shore those up. Which they obviously did. That’s the sign of a team to watch, one that is self aware and understands what needs to be fixed (and actually does it). They showed a real balanced and controlled approach to this layout. The question is can they do that on every layout? I bet they can.
I was actually going to do a breakdown of the top 10 teams but then this would be a book and not a blog… All of them had great moments this season. To finish out the top 10, shout out to Wolfpack, Noobies, Brawl, Brooklyn Bears, and Indy Mutiny. I enjoy watching different teams/coaches and how they approach the layout, their styles, personalities, etc. Whereas most people look at the teams in their division as the opponent/enemy, when it’s all said and done, they are paintball players just like you and me. They have a love of the game and are trying to do something in it. I can’t dislike someone for that. Sure, some of them will say some truly asinine things but I don’t get caught up in all that “noise”. You want to run your mouth about stuff instead of performing, be my guest. Doesn’t bother me or change anything. Oh, but I understand that I may have to explain the differences in southern slurs to some of you LOL. Maybe someday I will… but let it be known, we are not “hillbillies” 😉
Now, as far as the New Orleans Hurricanes are concerned, we understand what is in front of us. It will be a tough and difficult season full of challenges and learning. We have already set some pretty simple goals for the 2022 season. I believe that successful teams will always maintain a positive focus no matter what is going on around them. Winning teams stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures (although they don’t forget them), and on the next action steps they need to get them closer to the next goal. We can’t afford to let all the other distractions cloud our vision. And we won’t. I don’t believe we have to be better than anybody else. I believe we have to be better than we were the day before and the day before that. And then, eventually, better than we ever thought we could be. Then and only then will we see the results we are after. Constant improvement will be the name of the game. If we can’t continually up our game each event, it’s going to be a long season. No one knows that better than us.
Thanksgiving is just two days away… and no one in the paintball community is more thankful than we are currently. We are thankful not only for the opportunity to now compete at the highest level, but for all our friends and family who have supported and sacrificed for us over the years. We are thankful for our awesome sponsors who legitimately supported us all season long- GI Sportz, Planet Eclipse, Carbon, Virtue, and JT Paintball. We use their products because we genuinely like and believe in them. We are thankful for Gulf Coast Paintball in Slidell, LA for the facility to hone our skills. We are thankful for all the teams that came and scrimmaged us over the years, you know who you are! We are thankful for our opponents, especially the ones who beat us and taught us what we needed to learn. And finally, I am thankful for each and everyone member of this team… there isn’t another group of guys I would want to do this with. None. Zero. Nada. Zip.
So let me wrap this up by telling you something about these “hillbillies”… We may not talk like you, act like you, or meet your perception or expectation of what a pro team should be… but that’s alright because at the end of the day, we are who we are and I am damn proud of that. We are the New Orleans Hurricanes, the newest professional team in the NXL. And we out here. Roll ‘Canes!
2020 was a pooch. But there was one thing that came out of that season that I remember with great affection. The New Orleans Hurricanes won the coveted World Cup of paintball in the Semi Pro division. I call it the “covid cup” because we were neck deep in the pandemic and only had 2 events that year. 19 teams showed up in the semi pro division for that event, down 6 teams from the Vegas event, including Camp Factory (TonTons). The team went 4-0 in the prelims outscoring our opponents 22-7 which included Annapolis A team (4-2) and the New England Hurricanes (5-0). On Sunday, we would outscore our next 3 opponents 17-8 winning against TCP machine (5-4 in quarters) Indianapolis Mutiny (6-3 in Semis) and the finals match against the New Jersey Jesters (6-1).
I was aware of the legacy I had joined. The history of the N.O. Canes (Formerly the Gulf Coast Hurricanes) is quite storied. Believe it or not, the team is 5 years old. There is a pedigree there that some may not be familiar with. Players from Rock-It-Kids, Warped Army, Chicago Aftershock, Birmingham PRIME, and St. Louis Avalanche.
They began their career by entering the semi pro division in 2016. With most of the core players having Division 1 and some Professional experience, they believed they would be competitive. However, they would be served a big slice of humble pie. They were quickly shown to be unprepared finishing in the back of the pack the first few events. When the 2016 NXL World Cup came around, the team decided (appropriately) to play Division 2. Once again, they received another rude awakening. They were beaten in their first match Sunday morning finishing the event in 11th place (I know as my team Birmingham Prime took 2nd at the event in D2). It became painfully obvious they had a lot of work to do. This was hands down THE BEST THING that could have happened to the organization at the time. Sometimes in life, you have to fail in order to learn how to succeed.
After that first season, they re-evaluated their goals, swallowed their pride, and began the 2017 season in Division 2 of the NXL. They put in the work and we were rewarded with their first win on the national stage. They took 1st Place in the 2017 NXL Chicago Open. Interesting fact, this was my official introduction to the ‘Canes as I was invited down for a 2 day clinic prior to the event. I will never forget it because team members Matt Hamilton and Drew Bell showed me a great time. BTW – at Chicago – the ‘Canes would knock my team out in the Ochos! Some “thank you”…
Once again, they decided to stay in Division 2 for the 2018 season and ended up taking 2nd at Las Vegas, 5th at the Texas Open and rounded out the season with a 1st Place finish at World Cup.
The team would rebrand themselves as the New Orleans Hurricanes for future marketing and set their sights on the NXL’s Pro Division. They made the bump up to Semi-Pro in 2019. They would finish the season in 3rd place for the series. The year consisted of a 3rd place in Vegas, 5th Place in Texas, 3rd place in Philadelphia, an 11th place stumble in Chicago, and 6th place at World Cup. Not how they envisioned the season, but they knew if they wanted to win they would have to work even harder. And maybe add a little something extra (hint hint wink wink zen something or another).
When they first asked me to coach, I remember thinking, “Why?” These guys already had a winning program. But the more I talked and became familiar with this team, the more I realized we were very similar in approach and philosophy. Compatible systems you might say.
The team knows that, in order to be successful, you must have a culture that emphasizes several positive components. Components such as motivation, persistence, and determination. However, in the New Orleans Hurricane camp, those components are tempered with even more important aspects such as integrity, honor, sacrifice, and generosity. It isn’t just about winning. It is also about the pursuit of bettering ourselves and those around us, on and off the field and achieving the results in a way we can be proud of. Benjamin Franklin said that “Well done is better than well said.” In other words, don’t tell us, show us. We couldn’t agree more. Every member is held to a standard and there is no deviation. Steel sharpens steel and we lift each other up and hold one another accountable. Each member brings strengths that will ultimately lead us to our organizational objectives. Those objectives will be met with hard work, resilience, and faith in one another. And that is our mission – to succeed. But not just in the traditional understanding with wins on the field. We want to have a positive impact on our sport and in our communities. To represent our friends, families, and our sponsors in a positive,meaningful way and to make them proud.
“WINNING” is a mindset and a process. Not a RESULT. Not achieving a result is no excuse to abandon the PROCESS of getting better. Achieving a goal is not an excuse to become complacent and abandon the mindset that helped you get there. We expect all members to want to excel all the time. There is never an END to this process.
And that is why I coach the New Orleans Hurricanes. I love these guys and this program. You will not find a more blue collar, hard working team. And I am proud to be a part of such a program. You don’t find a group of guys like this often. It’s quite rare really. I’ve succeeded in doing it twice now. I know I am blessed.
With that said, let’s take a look at this season so far. We already talked about World Cup 2020… lets start with 2021.
Sunshine State Major We went 4-0 in the prelims outscoring our opponents 24-6 (mercy ruling 3 of our 4 opponents). We won our quarter final match with a controlled game and then stumbled in the semis and finals. We lost both matches in overtime to Crisis and Mutiny. A 4th place finish but a top 4 finish none the less. Goal 1 secured. I guess I should mention we set the goal of finishing within the top 4 of every event at the beginning of the season.
Mid Atlantic Major This event was tough but not because of the team. This was failed leadership on my part. I take full responsibility for the teams performance at this event. Whether it was my play calling, personnel calling, my scouting, whatever, no excuses, I messed up on a few fronts and I own that. However, this event is what would ultimately set the table for Chicago… but I digress. The team went 3-1 during the prelims dropping a match to a pretty dominant looking Annapolis A-team (6-3). 20 points scored by us versus 15 points scored by our opponents is not the stat a coach wants to wake up to on Sunday. But there we were, another Sunday (our 12th straight). We would pull the New England Hurricanes for the Ochos match first thing that morning. The matches in Semi pro are 15 minutes long… We won by mercy rule 10-5. That’s approximately a minute per point. A Helluva match. We would go on to mercy the Noobies in quarters 6-1. We were feeling confident as we had finally (or so we thought) found our groove on this layout. We would get mercy ruled for the first time 7-2 by Annapolis A-team who would go on to win the event. We would then turn around and, once again, lose by 1 point to the great off the break shooting of Arsenal taking our second 4th place for the season.
The Windy City Major The table was now set. The 3rd event of the season was a make or break moment for us. And we were determined to put in the work. The first issue came when three of my players had life events that could not be avoided. Work, family, and health all come first in our program. These three players all had a life occurrence that would keep them from participating in this event. I wasn’t too concerned since the team does have depth and had no doubt they would step up. We would still need a little help snake way though, just to be safe. So I called an old friend from my past to help us out (shout out to Aaron Barnes). We were in a good spot.
Then Hurricane Ida decided to make land fall on August 29th… the Sunday before the layout drop. $95 billion in damages, homes and businesses destroyed, flooding, power outages… The New Orleans Hurricanes are based out of Slidell, LA just 30 miles north of New Orleans. As you can imagine, the team was adversely affected. We couldn’t reach some of our teammates for a few days due to phones being down. Talk about nerve-racking. The following weekend, we had to move practice north and into Alabama. Unfortunately, but certainly understandably, only 5 players would make that practice. And on top of that, the new pick up for the event, Aaron Barnes, contracted Covid keeping him from practice as well. So we did what we could to make the best out of the weekend and up the learning curve. I pushed those guys hard. The second layout weekend we had all the roster we would have for the event. So we got after it, playing a tremendous amount of points.
Day 1 (Friday) We would meet our old friends the New Jersey Jesters in the first match winning by mercy rule 5-0. We hadn’t had a chance to scout them so it was a matter of doing our thing. We were hitting our shots, executing well, slow steady pressure, and finishing strong with good communication mid game. A good start.
The next match would be against a familiar team. I coached CEP to their Division 2 series win in 2019. I am close friends with those cats and now they were being coached by a good friend who knows my process pretty well. Shout out to I-75 Alex Hicks. Something no one knew outside of our team was that player Jacob Searight, one of our two D-side attackers for this layout, couldn’t play this match. He is getting his PHD/Doctorate or whatever brainy smart stuff he does and had to be on a zoom call for a peer review! Crazy… I know. We would win the match 4-2 but not after another catastrophe… my other 1/attacker on the D-side, Britt Simpson, would dislocate his knee during the 3rd point and had to be carried off the field. *Zen note – even though he was in excruciating pain, he would not let the ref pull him. Instead, he communicated with his 2 (Drew Bell) and they worked together to get Drew down the field to finish and win the point. Shout out to my player and friend Justin Bailey for stepping up and playing the spot like a boss.
Hurricane Ida… Covid…work/family obligations… and now this injury. It appeared the world was against us. But all it did was stiffen our resolve. We got Britt taken care of and had a pretty serious team meeting that night. (Searight’s zoom call went well BTW!) Truth be told, I didn’t sleep. I just kept playing the next day’s games in my head. We had a good plan and we would have one more opportunity to scout our next two opponents to see if/how they adjusted.
Day 2 (Saturday) We would play Utah Bro Army the next morning. We had paid attention to their approach to the field and after watching their first match that morning, we were confident our previous scouting was sound and our game plan would prevail. And it did. Another mercy rule win (7-2). Shout out to those cats. Great group of guys.
And there they were… standing in front of us for the last prelim match. The team that gave us a 4th place finish at the first event of the season. We had beat them at World Cup, they had beat us at the Sunshine State Major. This was going to be epic to say the least. We knew we could win the break but we needed to connect cross field to win this match. We did both. We ended up beating Indianapolis Mutiny via mercy rule 5-0.
After day 2 we were sitting at 4-0 in the 1st seed with a 4.25 point margin. As luck would have it, by beating Mutiny 5-0, it knocked our friends the Jesters into the 8th seed. So they would be our first match Sunday morning. They would be prepared this time. But so would we. Anyone who thought differently would be considered, at least by me, daft.
Day 3 (Sunday) Headed into Sunday morning and preparing for the match against the Jesters, we knew they were going to adapt. Unfortunately, there is only so many ways you could adapt on this layout. Being familiar with their squad and using statistical analysis, we called it. Those guys don’t quit, they are tenacious and I think that is what I love about them. We would mercy them 6-1.
We knew we would get the winner of the Noobies (4th place in series at this time) and the NE Hurricanes (3rd place in series at this time) match (I believe they were the 4th and 5th seed respectively). We watched the match intently. It was back and forth with the Noobies prevailing 4-3.
This was it. We were not walking away playing for 3rd and 4th again. And it was a knife fight. Back and forth, point for point. Headed into the final point of regulation time, the score is 3-3 with a little over a minute left. We make a last 20 second push, get the last kill, and hit the buzzer. I saw it, the team saw it, several people in the crowd saw it… we hit the buzzer with 1 second left. The ref gives our player a check and the thumbs up. YEAH! WE DID IT! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! SEMI FINAL SLUMP ENDED! WOO-HOO!
But wait… I get called over to the scorekeepers booth. The scorekeeper is overruling the call saying that no, by his clock, time had expired just as my player hit the buzzer. I didn’t even bother arguing or wasting any energy, Suit up boys, overtime. The call is the call and I respected it.
You’re not going to believe this but that point went all 5 minutes. But in the last 20 seconds it became a 3-1 advantage for the Noobies! It looked like the slump wasn’t over after all! But Jacob Searight got crafty and scored two quick kills, protected the buzzer, and traded with the last player. Wow! I picked a bad time to quite sniffin’ glue… (that’s a joke. Go watch the movie Airplane!)
So now it comes down to a 1v1 first blood win with 1 minute on the clock. Drew Bell steps up for the team, rolled his gun, got dominance, and even with refs following/chasing him the entire time bird-dogging (in their defense, they thought they saw some spray but he was clean) kept his opponent in the home bunker and on the defensive (in that players defense, I think he was exhausted), marched down the field, onto his opponents side of the field, and scored the elimination. Finals bound.
Never doubted it.
We are now headed to the finals. I think we finished the semi final match at 1:20pm? We were scheduled to play the finals against Blast Camp at 3:40 but they were running behind. We had scouted Blast Camp early knowing we may very well meet them and with good reason. That team has shown tremendous growth over the past two seasons. They took 7th place last year at World Cup losing to Crisis in the quarters. At the Sunshine State Major, they didn’t make it out of prelims placing 13th. They would turn around and right the ship at the Mid Atlantic NXL event taking 2nd place losing to Annapolis A team by 1. But then the Astra event happened. And they showed a new vigor that has propelled them to the forefront of a lot of paintball discussions about up and comers. And rightly so. Their strength is in their communication. It is top notch.
We knew going in we would have to be perfect. And we weren’t. We weren’t hitting our on the break shots (they were). We hadn’t drawn a penalty all weekend but got 3 in this match. And, just like Philly, our gas tanks ran out. We dug a hole we couldn’t get out of. But we never quit.
And we won’t.
World Cup is looming large. God willing, we will be back to full strength for that event. Preparation for the New Orleans Hurricanes started immediately after the loss to Blastcamp (By the way, congratulations to them, they played almost flawlessly).
Regardless of what came before or of what is yet to come, what matters most is how we choose to respond to what is in front of us…World Cup. There is no way this team lays down. You can most assuredly bet we will fight and finish strong. After all, starting strong is great… but finishing strong is epic. There will be those who say we don’t deserve it for this reason or that. I don’t care what they say. What they think is arbitrary. We are the only team that has been in the top 4 all three events. We have beat the top teams consistently. And we have done it against a lot of adversity. So, love us or hate us, I promise you this, we are here to play, we are here to win. John Dresser came into the pit just before the finals match. He looked at me and my old face and Britt on Crutches… then looked over our shoulders at the rest of the team and said, “Ya’ll aren’t spring chickens.” No, we are not. And that’s why you should respect us and our game. “Beware an old man in a young man’s game, he is there for a reason.” And if you pull us at Cup… you damn well better bring your best game because we hit above our weight class.