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.

Season Prep Part 2 (be Positive)

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.

Be water my friends.

An Off and On Relationship

I love this time of year.  Always have. And for obvious reasons… I love Christmas. The sights, sounds, smells… ah…

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

― Calvin Coolidge

The paintball season is over, I can focus on family and friends and really get into the spirit of it all.  Yes, as a coach, I still watch tape and even get out and play myself.  As a matter of fact, I recently had the opportunity to compete in a local 3 man and it was a blast.

Zen getting in some 3 man action – Thank you to Thomas Do of Dot Media for the snap

Now, I have a belief that usually rolls in this time of year. No, it isn’t about a baby born in Bethlehem (although some of you should certainly take the time to read up on that one). I find myself having this type of conversation with several players… it’s become a bit of its own tradition. And some of you may disagree with me.  That’s perfectly fine.  “There is no off season!” – CORRECT.

But…

What do you do during your off season? Do you try to find a clinic?  Maybe you go to your local field as often as possible and hop in with whoever you can to stay sharp?  Perhaps you practice gun skills in your back yard every day?  Or hopefully, you have team practices still.

The point of an off season is for players to work on the holes in their game or make strengths even stronger.  You want to head into next season being a better version of last season.  You want to be better than before.  Sharper, faster, smarter. 

Unfortunately, some of you will find yourself recognizing zero “gains”.  You will be the same player you always have been and there is no improvement.  And if you struggled this past season, you are heading into this “off season” with the mental attitude of “why bother”.  All that work and for nothing.  Frustration sets in.

And this is why I am a proponent of the “take a breath” approach.  Motivation is important but if you don’t have the mental gas tank and are running on fumes from the season, your work ethic and gains will suffer.  We need to be prepared to upgrade so to speak.  We have to have the capacity, the RAM, the gig space to accept our new programming. 

That’s why I think you should take some time OFF.  That’s right, I said it.  But let me type that again with the appropriate emphasis this time.  Take SOME time off.

We all need to re charge the batteries.  I think the best way to do this is to legitimately step away from the sport.  Back away and do something else for a few weeks.  Go hunting, go fishing, go skiing, snowboarding, camping, heck… go bowling.  Make up for time spent at the field grinding all season… take that special someone on a date again. Do something other than paintball. 

Some will argue that while you are taking a break, the competition is working hard and outpacing you.  And they very well may be right.  However, I believe that if you are mentally exhausted, you will more than likely just end up grinding gears.  And if we start grinding gears, then we get burnt out or worse… injured.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Taking some time off lets you recover both physically (what paintballer isn’t injured by end of season?) and mentally.  Come back with a fresh perspective as well as a fresh set of legs and a frustration free mind ready to learn.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I think this certainly applies here.  I also found that, when I did take a short break and returned, there was a new me on the field ready and rearing to go… more aggressive, more aware, acute…  It’s a great feeling. 

What I love about this is, it also gives you a chance to look at the previous season, re-evaluate it, learn from it.  This lets you focus on the areas of you and your game that need the most attention.  Once you have identified those areas, you can set some new goals and decide the best way to go about improving and meeting them!

With the season behind us, whether it was successful or not, we can relax and focus on making progress towards these goals. 

The season, whether we admit it or not, takes a toll on all of us.  By stepping away for a brief period, reconnecting with other things and people in our lives (you know, the “other world” – the real one) we can essentially create a clean slate, ready for the new input.

The best way to have a good “next season” is to start it fresh and prepared.  The best way to have a good “off season” is to take some time off.  This will lead to the former.  It will allow for a clearer assessment.  A clear assessment leads to truths.  Truths lead to recognition. Recognition leads to focus.  Focus leads to improvement. 

And that’s going to do it for this month. Keeping it simple. Take some time off. That’s what I plan on doing for the most part. Oh, and I’ll be celebrating the birth of that Bethlehem baby too 😉

Be Water my friends.

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

Go Pro

The New Orleans Hurricanes are the newest team in the NXL’s pro division. Honestly, it’s a bit odd writing that sentence but, at the same time, a little satisfactory. Now, I have always believed that setting goals is the first step in making the impossible possible. And this team is no different. We set out to accomplish two specific goals this season. The first was to be in the top 4 every event. It was funny because we took 4th at the first two events and I let the guys have it – jokingly of course – about how I didn’t mean 4th every time. We were on task to pull it off but unfortunately, we fell just short of that specific goal this past event (World Cup) by placing 5th. As you can imagine, the second goal was to win the pro spot. Most people would say, “Hey, that’s pretty good.”

Meh… it could and should have been better.

I didn’t write that last sentence with disdain, disappointment, or any negativity. I wrote it because I know what this team is capable of. We hold ourselves to a high standard. I know each and every one of these guys well, their wives, girlfriends, parents, siblings, children… Each and every one of these guys (including myself) sacrificed a tremendous amount this year. We overcame some pretty incredible challenges; injuries, medical emergencies, life events, roster changes, and a real life hurricane (Ida) and still found a way to stay competitive and ultimately win the series. And not by just a little…by almost 30 points (29.42 points to be exact). And not by just a little… by almost 25 points (24.75 to be exact).

It would seem scores were changed… odd. As is the new scoring used for the final event…

And I guess, maybe that is what bothers me… the public education system.

The ignorance of systems, process, and math… emotional responses (as opposed to considering statistical probabilities) from paintball teams is sometimes quite staggering.

But don’t get me started. That’s another topic completely. And frankly, it doesn’t matter.

After winning the series in 2020 (the Covid series as I call it) and winning World Cup that year, the New Orleans Hurricanes were focused and prepared to win the series again, leaving no doubts. Granted, we wanted an event win for the cherry on top. But I think consistency says a lot about a team as well. We won 2020 World Cup, something many are quick to forget, and came into 2021 taking 4th at the first event of the 2021 season (the Sunshine State in Kissimmee). We would go on to take 4th at the Mid Atlantic (Philly), and 2nd at Windy City (Chicago). None of the other top 5 teams for the season had done that (been in top 4 every event) up until that point headed into cup. A-Team took 12th at Chicago. New England had a 10th place at Mid Atlantic. Blast Camp had a 13th at Sunshine and Crisis had an 18th at Mid Atlantic.

Season rings waiting to be claimed.

Here is another interesting note – each event we were knocked out – it was by the team that won the event. Well, save for Sunshine in Kissimmee. Crisis took 2nd there. A-Team knocked us out at the Mid Atlantic and won. Obviously Blast Camp knocked us out at Windy City. And finally, Crisis knocked us out again at Cup.

Heading into Cup all we cared about was the win. We weren’t thinking about the series as much as we were just laser focused on the event itself. We wanted that back to back Cup win bad. We had good momentum and were feeling motivated after the 2nd place finish in Chicago. Hell, Drew Bell had found a two dollar bill after Philly. And if you don’t understand that, I can’t help you. The team felt prepared and had some excellent practices prior to the event (shout out to Austin Notorious for their series win as well – keep an eye on those young men – with Coach Ryan Gray at the helm, they’re coming to a nightmare near you in semi pro next season). Of the 21 matches we had played over the last 3 events, we had won 48% of them by mercy (That’s 10 for those of you doing the math). We had won 64% of all points played (110-62). The 2nd place team headed into Cup had only won 57% on average (80-61 I believe) with only 2 mercies. But why does any of that matter? It doesn’t… just pontificating…

End of a great layout weekend with Austin Notorious and Utah Bro Army

Of course, heading into Cup, we knew this was a chaotic field and anything could happen. We had shown promise not only controlling the chaos and using it to our advantage but creating it as well. We were even happy about our draw. Even though every team in our bracket got a free win with a D4 team deciding to play Cup in Semi Pro (shout out to Midwest Bandits – I heard the story as to why you played up and if true, that’s really cool of you. Well done!), we knew we would be tested early. And we were tested by some great teams. We still went 4-0 and won our bracket. I like being tested early in events and coming out on top. It almost always prepares you for the Sunday grind. And we had some Sunday matches in the prelims.

However, we drew Carolina Crisis for our quarters match. Crisis is a team that has been on the verge for some time. Whereas, it was another knife fight and we almost tied it at the end (had I conceded a point earlier in the match, we would have) they played a really balanced game and prevailed. Woulda coulda shoulda. At the end of the day, you have to execute. The team and I made one too many mistakes that match and they capitalized. Congrats to them and well played!

You can’t be a winner without knowing how to lose. Learn from it each and every time.


All that being said, I wanted to do a quick recap of some of the teams I think need to be recognized. After all, it was a helluva season and when you really think about it, they helped us progress.

Annapolis A-Team – This team took 2nd in the Covid series last year and finished this season strong with another 2nd place finish in the semi pro series this year a 3rd place finish for the year. This is the 2nd most consistent team in the division if you really look at it. They had three top 5 finishes this year with a win in Philly and a slip up in Chicago. There is some real talent on this team and there is no doubt teams will be scouting them next season. Ignore them at your own risk. Don’t be surprised when they hit you upside the head and don’t stop hitting you.

New England Hurricanes – They took 15th in the Covid season (we gave them their only mercy rule loss at 2020 Cup) but started this season off right with a win in Kissimmee. They stumbled in Philly (we sent them home again with another mercy in an epic match) and at Cup. They have some great players and a lot of experience on this team. You have to respect them or they will punch you hard and fast. They have the components to win but consistency has proven to be elusive for what should be a consistent team. That being said, a motivated NE Canes team will be a tough draw next year.

Blast Camp – I can’t say enough good things about this team. I don’t know if that is because of what I have seen with my own eyes at events or their amazing social media talent. Their communication is top notch on the field and they have a very academic approach to layouts (something we strive for). And, of course, they are young. This team has a great facility, gets to bang with members of Heat on the reg, and they have tremendous support. When you play them, you are also competing against the energy of that group outside the nets. They will be a major force to reckon with next season. Trust me on that one.

Carolina Crisis – Now, I know a few of the cats on this team and their coach from back in the CFOA days. I think everyone saw a tremendous growth out of them this season. They started the season strong and ended the season even stronger. I think that trip up in Philly really motivated them. Some weaknesses were exposed and they said, hell no, we’re going to shore those up. Which they obviously did. That’s the sign of a team to watch, one that is self aware and understands what needs to be fixed (and actually does it). They showed a real balanced and controlled approach to this layout. The question is can they do that on every layout? I bet they can.

… and NEW Professional team!

I was actually going to do a breakdown of the top 10 teams but then this would be a book and not a blog… All of them had great moments this season. To finish out the top 10, shout out to Wolfpack, Noobies, Brawl, Brooklyn Bears, and Indy Mutiny. I enjoy watching different teams/coaches and how they approach the layout, their styles, personalities, etc. Whereas most people look at the teams in their division as the opponent/enemy, when it’s all said and done, they are paintball players just like you and me. They have a love of the game and are trying to do something in it. I can’t dislike someone for that. Sure, some of them will say some truly asinine things but I don’t get caught up in all that “noise”. You want to run your mouth about stuff instead of performing, be my guest. Doesn’t bother me or change anything. Oh, but I understand that I may have to explain the differences in southern slurs to some of you LOL. Maybe someday I will… but let it be known, we are not “hillbillies” 😉

Now, as far as the New Orleans Hurricanes are concerned, we understand what is in front of us. It will be a tough and difficult season full of challenges and learning. We have already set some pretty simple goals for the 2022 season. I believe that successful teams will always maintain a positive focus no matter what is going on around them. Winning teams stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures (although they don’t forget them), and on the next action steps they need to get them closer to the next goal. We can’t afford to let all the other distractions cloud our vision. And we won’t. I don’t believe we have to be better than anybody else. I believe we have to be better than we were the day before and the day before that. And then, eventually, better than we ever thought we could be. Then and only then will we see the results we are after. Constant improvement will be the name of the game. If we can’t continually up our game each event, it’s going to be a long season. No one knows that better than us.

Thanksgiving is just two days away… and no one in the paintball community is more thankful than we are currently. We are thankful not only for the opportunity to now compete at the highest level, but for all our friends and family who have supported and sacrificed for us over the years. We are thankful for our awesome sponsors who legitimately supported us all season long- GI Sportz, Planet Eclipse, Carbon, Virtue, and JT Paintball. We use their products because we genuinely like and believe in them. We are thankful for Gulf Coast Paintball in Slidell, LA for the facility to hone our skills. We are thankful for all the teams that came and scrimmaged us over the years, you know who you are! We are thankful for our opponents, especially the ones who beat us and taught us what we needed to learn. And finally, I am thankful for each and everyone member of this team… there isn’t another group of guys I would want to do this with. None. Zero. Nada. Zip.

So let me wrap this up by telling you something about these “hillbillies”… We may not talk like you, act like you, or meet your perception or expectation of what a pro team should be… but that’s alright because at the end of the day, we are who we are and I am damn proud of that. We are the New Orleans Hurricanes, the newest professional team in the NXL. And we out here. Roll ‘Canes!

Be water my friends

The gang – every member of this crew has the love and admiration of each other
Consistency