Thursday, May 7, 2009

The X-Factor

Does it ever seem to you like paintball has more than its share of dumb and ignorant? Ignorant, by definition, isn't bad, just uninformed. Dumb, however, like ugly, goes more than skin deep--it goes all the way to the bone(head). The subject is the status (and/or fate) of pro teams. And, in truth, all competitive paintball teams. It's easy to crack on teams and players and that's okay. Really. For the pros, even paintball pros, it goes with the territory. The notoriety breeds glory and adulation--in admittedly tiny doses within the confines of the sport's followers--but it can also breed envy and animosity. That's just part of the price. Beyond that high profile teams and players are a part of paintball's public domain and talk, whether positive or negative, is just that, talk. So when some internet know-it-all starts running his (or her) mouth online it's no big deal.

But some of the talk brings to mind some larger questions. Even though much of the online chatter is about teams suddenly going south the talk really ought to be how a team like Dynasty manages to stay on top. When a previously good team starts to drop off that is the norm in paintball at all levels of play. It is to be expected.

The reasons for this are straightforward; the fundamentals of a successful team are skills, leadership, chemistry, consistency and heart, not necessarily in that order. Beyond that all competitive teams are like sharks, they need to be moving all the time, in fact, they are moving all the time and if it isn't moving forward it is going backwards whether anyone is aware of it or not in that moment. It is the unavoidable fact of competitive life; there is no standing still.

A failure or breakdown in any one area can frequently be overcome or made up for but as soon as two or more areas are in flux it is almost always a problem, and often a big problem. And in competitive paintball it is hard to sustain a team under any circumstances, even a good team and in the current environment there are a number of factors conspiring to make it more difficult that usual. If you've played tourney ball for any length of time it's easy to tick off the names of teams that have come and gone. The list of teams that have come and stayed is a very short one.
Right now one of the bigger issues impacting the pro game is practice--or the lack thereof because of reduced resources. Less paint, less practice. No paint, no practice. No practice and the edges start to dull. The commitment required doesn't have a direction. The desire and motivation to keep grinding and grinding with a purpose is frustrated. And before long the team, any team, begins to break down.

Even in the best of times things happen; players get jobs, go to school, lose motivation after they succeed. Team relationships and dynamics change and the reality is the difference between success and failure is often hard to impossible to define in the first place much less diagnose with the intention to try and fix. Most of the time the best anyone can do is focus on the essentials and hope the pieces fall into place. And when they do, take every advantage because chances are it won't last all that long.

Today some people see teams like X-Factor and Impact uncharacteristically struggling compared to where they were before and they are ready to write them off or diminish real past accomplishments in light of current difficulties and that's just plain stupid. Btw, I'm not suggesting everyone who runs down a pro team or player (or a rival team or player) should maybe have a little more respect or think before they yap. There are, after all, limits to what even VFTD can accomplish but I am suggesting there is a lot of sense in the old adage that it's better to remain silent and be taken for a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.


Pelc said...

Yeah. Keeping a team together is damn near impossible. My team has gone through about 30 players since we started it about 3 years ago. Everytime we get a solid roster together something always comes up.

We went out to our first national 2 years ago and got destroyed, lost the entire team except for a few people. And every season we have to re-build our team a couple times because everyone is looking for a bigger better deal. Last season we finally pulled together and took 3rd out in buffalo and again the team broke apart and the league folded and all the heart is gone. No one wants to practice, there is no motivation and no more players to pull together an xball squad with coaches. It feels like the end of the road for us.

anonachris said...

You can't put together a 5man squad? No insult intended in the tone, just asking?

I haven't looked at the rules formats for the lower divs, but isn't it possible to run with just 5 or maybe 6 guys? Might be tough, but is it possible?

You need that many for a local event anyway. I suppose you could always just rely on picking up a 5th or 6th locally. Or find someone dedicated from out of state who is willing to fly into the event to play with your team on a regular basis (but naturally won't be willing to practice with you often)

Baca Loco said...

Sorry to hear it, Pelc
If you do get another chance take it slower. I'm 100% dead serious about needing to always be moving forward and the best way to do that is in small increments. It creates an opportunity to build with small successes and puts less strain on the team in terms of commitment and resources and small successes build in the desire to keep pushing for more. It's no guarantee but it will improve the odds.

sdawg said...

The problem down here in San Antonio is that there is no local series. There are a ton of players between Austin and San Antonio, with San Marcos (X-factor's home field) in the middle. But, if a team wants to become competitive, they immediately have to start planning for national tournaments. How many other sports force their competitors to jump straight to the national level for opportunities to compete?

Anonymous said...

The above is pattenly untrue. There are tournaments every other week in central texas (Houston/San Antonio/ Austin). There are Weber's, Texas Justice, BITS, HRL, (+ Tanks other tournaments).

When someone tried to make something beyond regional in texas, it fell apart.

Secondly, (No practice no paint), I've been saying it for years. 13.3 isn't the anwser. 10.5 isn't the answer. 500 is the answer.