S.C.U.D. (Sustaining Concentration Under Duress)

The NXL’s Mid Atlantic open was June 17th-19th.  The next NXL event (not counting the Golden State Open) was the Windy City Major held last month near Chicago from Sept 9-11.  There was a 12 week, or an approximate 3 month time frame between the Mid Atlantic and the Windy City events.

In paintball, that’s a long time.

So, what are the Professional teams doing during those 3 months?  If you are the New Orleans Hurricanes, you are working your day job (in some cases, two jobs), ensuring your career is still on track, taking care of family and significant others, balancing the checkbook, paying bills and taxes, and then shoring up individual and team paintball skill sets at every opportunity.  Because we are so spread out as a team, members get to the field when they can to work drills and teamwork.  If a member of the team can’t make a practice, they are practicing local to where they are.

The everyday life grind coupled with the paintball grind can be difficult.  Priorities for one tend to interfere with priorities for the other.  And that is understandable.  After all, this is the only professional sport that I know of where the pros (or at least a large portion of them) must pay to play at this level.  We are husbands, fathers, sons, and men first.  Our priority and ultimate responsibility is to our loved ones.  We must be solid and good on that front first and foremost before we can be solid and good on the field.  I truly believe this is one of our strengths.  Our support system is a large part of our relative success.

Focus. One voice at a time. What’s the goal and how do we execute/accomplish it?

Okay, but what can we do when your team’s focus appears to be a little blurry?  What can you do if the life grind is interfering more than usual with the paintball grind?  How do you maintain the team’s focus?

How many of you are familiar with the 80/20 rule?  Also known as the “Pareto Principle”. It essentially means that, 80% of your results come from about 20% of your work. More specifically that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. So how do we apply this?  It should be obvious, we should focus on that 20%… work the stuff that matters and don’t get distracted by the feeling of “we have to”.  In other words, we should prioritize the 20% of factors that will produce the best results.

I see teams fall into this trap quite often.  They over plan.  Whereas, having a plan to begin with is important, and most certainly helps with goal setting, direction, and success, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Do not create an environment where, if you don’t do something, it will cause the team to feel they are not prepared.  No need to hamstring the team by developing a “to do” list that isn’t manageable or practical.  It isn’t necessary to get too detailed.   Understand, details are terrific and important but it is a fine line that must be walked.  If we get too detailed, we can get bogged down and miss out on what the real issues are or will be. Efficiency is key. Try not to do something just because other’s do it. Focus on what YOUR team needs. Is this making sense?

Focusing on teamwork and execution of job sets will lead to success.

All that said, try to identify your team’s key needs and best assets. Then try to shore them up in an efficient manner so you get the maximum value added. Now… this is a concept. A rule rather and not a law. What do I mean by this? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since the 20% gets priority, then the other 80% can be ignored!

We should also recognize the difference between individual and team planning.  As I sated earlier, efficient use of time is really the key to all of this.  When we do have the time together as a team, I want to emphasize very specific team-oriented material as opposed to the individual aspects.  I might mention to an individual player something I see or want them to work on at a team practice and will keep it in the mental Rolodex (maybe discuss during a short break but not spend a lot of time on it)… but the emphasis is, and always will be, on the team dynamic when we are together.  This isn’t to say that individual attention doesn’t happen. It most certainly and almost always does. However, at this level, the individual issues are usually smaller or fewer and less dire.

I will almost always have a specific agenda in mind and time frame for each item on the agenda before a practice.  However, that agenda is fluid in case I see something that needs to be re-emphasized.  The domino effect is very real at practice.

What do I mean by the domino effect?  Well, it’s the whole point of this blog.  Staying focused on the goals can easily be derailed if we allow things to fall off or pile up.  We get off on a tangent and now the tangent becomes the focus as opposed to the intended goal.  At the end of the day, you can’t always control the results.  But you can most certainly control your effort to meet them and focus on them, yes?

When you get down to it, your team is simply a collection of people with a common interest (hopefully). Not to get too high brow but I was recently reading a little Thomas Hobbes. He nailed the concept, at least in my opinion, of what a team is in his book “Leviathan” (well, really government or an organization of civilization… social contract theory… what have you).  He uses the concept of the biblical Leviathan, a giant sea serpent, as a metaphor for the state.  Essentially the creature’s body is a giant body made up of ALL the bodies of its citizens in the literal sense.  The same concept can be applied to a team.  Team, very similar to the different states here in the US, are made up 3 components;  the people, the processes, and their systems.

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    Aristotle

Focus on what you can control.

Ultimately, my main goal for the Canes at a practice is to function as one.  How can we be more efficient and ensure we are all rowing in the right direction with the same desire or outcome in mind?  Our focus – acting as one, a single entity with very specific goals in mind.  What do WE need? Having everyone on the same page is as simple as getting everyone to agree to a very specific list of goals.  Then create acceptance and agreement among the team on how best to get there… as a team.  Identifying and developing focus for the team can be finite.  But alignment on all of it is paramount. 

You have all heard the line, “Trust the process”. If the process leads to small successes over time then it is having the desired effect.

So stay focused on the task at hand, whatever that may be.

And remember…

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.