How to get BETTER… FASTER!
After the recent UK Woodland Masters practice day, and with the start of the 2018 season less than two months out, I’ve sat down to write out some thoughts on how teams can get better – and do it faster. You may not be sure what your team could be doing to improve, or feel that you’ve hit a plateau in your performance – well, this article will hopefully give you some tangible things to work on!
The first place to start is checking in on what you and your team actually want – you may already be happy heading out to the woods for a load of game time and enjoy your time between games as much as being on the field. Don’t feel like you need to take things more seriously just because of this article or you heard of “Player X” who got a free gun this year!
If you do want to look at improving your game, the next place to check in is on your mentality and attitude. These make a huge difference to how you look at your own game and what you can achieve. Across formats, events and teams, I have always seen far too much focus on items outside of the team being used as excuses for poor performance. That doesn’t help your team – so the first pointer is to only spend your time working on the things you can CONTROL or INFLUENCE. Don’t waste your time on things beyond your control or influence!
Having working equipment and decent paint is also key to your success – teams at the Woodland Masters are running decent kit nowadays and the gaps that existed a year ago have been mostly closed. The one thing that still astonishes me is the number of players going out to play in smoke or very colourful lenses… The woods can be a tough place to work out whats going on, with both field size and areas of light and shade playing into that. Second bit of advice is to use either a clear or yellow thermal lense for playing in the woods.
I’m going to focus this article into how your team plays together, so this isn’t covering every aspect of paintball, other areas to look at include field walking preparation and individual playing technique (first ball accuracy, snap shooting, sliding, diving amongst others).
I had the opportunity to play alongside Shaun, Louise and Steve from the Rare Breeds with TC from Blow also jumping in at the recent UKWM practice day. After playing one game, we changed how we were approaching the day and paired off with TC and Steve taking one tape, Louise playing the middle role, and Shaun and I taking the other tape. We focussed on building up our team work in pairs initially and then across the team.
Some simple tips we started to weave in were:
A) to make sure that our mid and second players were looking across the field at our own team – seeing where our own team was, and how they looked playing their bunker can give you a good sense of where you are in the game, and what pressure your team is under from where – simply seeing how someone is playing a bunker can often tell you who is shooting at them and from where.
B) In addition to watching your players, you can often times see lines of paint in the air… and mentally tracing these lines back to where they are being shot from can give you a good sense of where the other team is on the field and where they are shooting.
C) Repeating every call a minimum of three times – so if we took a body, or lost a body, we’d repeat that call three times each. This reinforces good habits and takes thinking out of the equation. Communication is infectious, and the more any one player does, the more they will tend to get back from the rest of their team… building and building confidence overall.
In paintball you and your team are making decisions every second of every game. Which way to look, to shoot, to move, to stay put etc. Making better decisions is key to playing better team paintball but surely you need information to make decisions?!? That is true but you can often see teams holding out for perfect information (which doesn’t exist) and suffering from analysis paralysis on field. The best teams have moved away from thinking and mentally processing every bit of information they see or hear during a game – instead they are operating more instinctively – adjusting what the key information is for that specific point in the game and then making their decisions from their gut. This might sound very conceptual and difficult to apply so the take away is TO THINK LESS AND FEEL MORE.
If we could hook the best players in the game up to brain monitors while playing, like Dynasty, I am sure we would see a shift in brain activity vs. lower division teams. This isn’t just something I’ve come to after the practice day, this has been a consistent theme in my coaching of ECI in the CPPS Elite division over the past two years. We have been slower to attack and take more position than we could be, and that left us putting the teams we played under less pressure early in a match.
On your journey to winning divisions and overall tournaments, you always want to stack the deck in your favour by making your opponent play under more pressure than you are. That pressure can help you force errors and speed your way to victory! Some of that is down to how you handle pressure personally and as a team but your focus needs to be on applying pressure through your position across the field.
Drawing on my time in the CPPS and coaching ECI, one thing we got to very quickly was rather than have the team try and identify the specific move that needed to be made, we instead focussed on working out which part of the field needed to be pushed. Watching point after point and match after match – we were getting into the game but spending too much time deciding on the next layer of moves to make to increase the pressure and unlock victory. So how we started to shortcut this was to implement three calls – SNICKERS, MARS BAR and DOUBLE DECKER. As the game progressed, we would simply shout SNICKERS (push snake), MARS BAR (push middle) and DOUBLE DECKER (push dorito side)… and of course we did this a minimum of three times! Anyone on the field could make those calls and it allowed us to accelerate our gameplay and leave points hanging in the balance for less time. As we bedded these calls in, the thinking time reduced and we were making these calls on what players felt and instinct. Don’t hold that these are just for sup’air – the principle here crosses over into the woods.
Outside of how we were handling the tapes, we also saw Louise developing her role in the middle of the field. Middle player roles have huge importance, and outside of communicating and controlling the field they often help unlock the mid-game based on how they choose to move on the field. We used Louise not only to play the centre but also to drop back and really stack a tape to unlock our mid-game.
Phew! This ended up being a lengthy read… so I’ll hold some other thoughts over to other articles… and will hopefully breakdown some of the “potential” teams in the series ahead of the warm up event. One last bit of advice – there is so much you can try and work on that sometimes you achieve nothing, speaking from experience, pick a MAX of 3 things at any one time to work on as a team and see them through before adding more to work on.
- Don’t work on everything – pick a maximum of 3 things to work on as a team
- Adjust your habits – use your eyes more
- Think less, feel more
- Know your calls for pushing left tape, centre and right tape
- Don’t wig out under pressure
- More UKWM Practice days are coming for 2018!