Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are Your Team Priorities In Order?

It would be nice to think no one reading this needs to worry about this post but I know it isn't true. (And you will too. Even if it doesn't apply to you you will immediately recognize other teams with this problem.) Most of the time everyone involved in a struggling team knows something isn't working but they can't figure out what it is. For the lucky ones it's as simple as having their priorities out of whack. And as we's still in the preseason there's time for those folks to get their house in order.

Before things get too serious I want to tell y'all a story. Back when I was wet behind the ears I was playing 10-man tourney ball in the woods. From an individual skills point of view our team had solid players. We worked hard on our field-walking, both analyzing the fields and deciding how to attack whichever end of the field we started on (as even the best woods fields were often horribly unbalanced) and we would walk through our breakouts (an aggressive run would frequently go further than the length of any modern field) know our primaries, the likely paths of our opponents, our shooting lanes and on and on. But when the games were played we often got stuck in the mid-game and couldn't close games out. In hindsight it's easy to see that our plan(s) held us back because we focused all our efforts on fulfilling the plan but the plan wasn't the goal. The goal was to win.

In the modern game that particular problem still occurs but there are lots of others that can also get in the way of success--and just about all of them are important ingredients in building a successful, winning team. For example, one of the first lessons taught is staying alive. But what happens if too much emphasis is placed on staying alive? It's easy for players to become extremely defensive as they focus too much of their effort and attention on staying alive. It becomes a hindrance to successful competition--even though it is an necessary skill. And it can be enormously frustrating sometimes to try and figure out what's wrong because everything being taught and demanded is correct.

Perhaps the most common failure is to call yourselves a team but act like a bunch of individuals. It is particularly difficult to overcome because so much of the development involved in building a team is at the player level. (This topic probably merits its own post.) The foundation of a team begins with accountability and shared responsibility. As a practical example, let's say Joe can't make snake off the break and Bob keeps getting bunkered out of the Dorito 50. To make it Joe's and Bob's fault is contrary to effective team building. If Bob keeps getting bunkered where is Bob's support? If no one is responsible for protecting Bob it's not his fault, particularly if his job is to work the cross field angles working for eliminations. And if Joe is struggling to make the snake what can the team do to make him more effective? To expect Joe to act independently of his teammates is not how a team functions.

The balancing act required is accomplished by having your priorities in order. Here's a simple order that might help put things into their proper perspective. Technique--Skills--Players--Team--Tactics--Winning. Now I do not mean to suggest that plans or plays are more important than your players--only that the tactics employed function best on a team level. Nor do I intend to suggest winning is more important than personal relationships for example--only that the first priority of successful competitive paintball is to win and that is the page everyone involved in the team ought to understand and be on. Teach technique to improve skills to make better players who function as a unit for the shared goal of winning paintball. When any aspect of the process is out of order or under or over valued it reduces the prospects for success.


anonachris said...

Working to close out the game after making your secondaries seemed to be the sticking point for most teams in the woods. Usually it seemed you relied on a combination of luck and screw-ups by the other team to make a win happen after you made a couple key moves. It seemed like the really good teams could treat each move up the field like a "fresh start" so to speak. They hadn't won yet, or done anything special and were fighting just as hard like it was the start of the game even if they've got 2 guys on the other teams 40.

How often does it happen like that in the modern game? It seems like 75% of the points are almost decided without ever crossing the 50. In other words it seems like teams win more games from their primaries or at most secondaries. It seems like other 25% of games on todays fields are the ones with a lot more back and forth, moves, moves, moves, moves games. But now that I think about it, most games "back in the day" were move move move games, where you rarely closed out the game from your secondary. It's probably just a function of field size I guess. Are we missing out with smaller fields?

J-Bird said...

na, i dont think we're missing out with smaller fields; i think that most young players just play correctly, wrongly. i played in the cfoa for a few seasons, and we all said: if there is every a d5 team that plays truly aggressive, they'll destroy anybody in that field. however, the teams that did well in the lower divisions were the ones who sat on their ass in their primaries, only moved when absolutely certain they could make it, and just lock lanes.

Miller said...

Absolutely spot on. If you take into consideration the additional difficulty with maintaining sufficient financial resources (Pro team of the future), you can really see the enormous challenges in bridging the cap between a pretty good team and a great team. I think this is why non-player leadership is so paramount in today's game. It's difficult for players to maintain the perspective necessary to establish the correct priorities from the ground up.

anonachris said...


To head down my tangent more... it's not like you're making a mistake if your team practically wins a game from its primaries. (maybe 1-2 guys made a move) Conversely, back in the day in the woods, it was pretty much un heard of to break out to your first bunker and have the game pretty much won.

But bigger fields would of necessity force a bit more movement. Does that mean we should have longer Airball fields with more bunkers? I dunno, might be nice, couldn't say without trying it. Although I do remember even those airball fields back in the day where you had to run quite a bit just to get to the first bunker.

Baca Loco said...

Actually A-chris, you are making a mistake if that is team SOP because eventually it catches up to you.

anonachris said...

If it's SOP for your team to win games without breaking out of their primaries, as long as you're winning games, who cares?

I was just trying to point out if your team blasts everyone off the field from their primaries within the first minute, you don't get mad at each other for "not sticking to the plan."

Baca Loco said...

My point was in the real world it may be a "winning" formula early on but as the team progresses it won't continue to be one.

And besides, it's a sucky lame way to play paintball. :)

anonachris said...

Agreed. So bigger fields it is?