Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Practice? We Talkin' 'Bout Practice?

Since it came up in the Monday Poll comments (tangentially) and since I've suggested this to the PSP a few times (and given how much I enjoy repeating myself) I thought I'd mention it again. Mention what exactly?
Only the most obvious means of saving teams playing the format-formerly-known-as-xball some potentially serious green. Do you remember when the league used to release the field layout a few weeks ahead of each event? They thought they were kinda splitting the difference between the haves and the have nots by limiting the amount of time everyone had to prep the next event layout. Turns out all they were really doing was turning local practice fields around the country into ghost towns when the layouts weren't available. Once that was realized the league went looking for an alternative. And as should be expected by now I didn't wait for an invitation but offered a couple of suggestions; either release the next layout immediately after the prior event or don't release it all. (I'm sure I wasn't the only one who made those suggestions but since this is my blog we're ignoring them for purposes of this post.)
Given that the league's concern at that time was how their decisions impacted some tourney-oriented local fields they went with immediate release--which usually means nowadays within a week or two. Where before all the tourney teams were swamping their local practice fields when the layout was available they are now able to schedule practices over a more extended period. What hasn't changed is the nature of that practice. It is almost universally scrim grind scrim which eats paint at the same voracious rates as actual event play.
However, the other suggestion--don't release the layout at all--would have (and still could) perform a couple of very valuable functions. The same window of opportunity to practice would exist as with the early release and the nature of that practice would (eventually) change dramatically. Practice would be forced to become about learning how to play and not about how to play a given field. Teams would be forced to train the mental side of the game again and that doesn't require skids of paint. Team preparation would change. The nature of the events would change as divergent styles clashed in early round matches and teams began to learn how to adjust and change from match to match. It would also add a new dimension of excitement to the play as you would be far less likely to rote play--at least in the higher divisions.
None of this would happen overnight and it's probably too big a risk to take in such uncertain times as I have no doubt lots of teams would squeal but it would save smart teams real money and begin to see a resurgence in the mental side of the game.


Anonymous said...

You forgot one major point. It's alot more fun to play "custom" fields rather than grind 2 whole months on a same layout in preparation of knowing that particular layout/your position well.

Not to mention, cost of practice would be reduced as grinding the pre-released layout would not be the key to success.

OTOH some fields might be in big trouble..

anonachris said...

Wait a minute... you're usually against tinkering with the structure/rules, etc. that force an unseen but inevitable change in the way we play.

Now you're for it in this case.

Being the critical thinker that I am (high fives self in the mirror) I have to wonder if this style of change would not benefit your team a lot. I can assume you'd be against changes that would actually hurt your team's chances... and you're generally against changes that tweak "the nature of the game". So you must be happy because you believe it would help your team.

Now that I've called you a shill for... well yourself (duh). Let me say I agree and I think field walking is a lost art. We need to see more guys on the field before an event, running up to the emasculated-X waggling their fingers and saying blam-blam-blam, and also wandering around vendors buying stuff they don't need.

I love the idea of a practice field too -- the anticipation before an event as you think about plans, etc. It's also a nice marketing opportunity for the league. Just another reason to tell you about and talk about a very relevant aspect of the next event coming up. It's a good think for the PSP to have the players involved in an intricate aspect of each event. If anything I would say the PSP should go the opposite direction and have more involvement from the players. Vote on layouts, user submitted layouts. Someone could make a basic program that allows you to drop bunkers around on a grid via http browser and save them to a server and people could make and vote on their own layouts. Then we can have a league influenced by the players.

Another potential downside of releasing the layout at the event? The local field could quickly setup the field and practice it a bunch? Dunno if that would happen, but if it does you'd see a huge advantage to locals.

anonachris said...

Got me thinking... really the paintball community is a tight community of players. More so than any other sport, because the distance from top to bottom is very short -- I could never talk to Bud Selig (baseball commish), or expect a reply from him but if you can get Lane or Chuck to come on here and interact.

That's a huge strength the leagues are not tapping, because it's technically difficult to implement, involves giving up some control, and tough to manage.

But anything this league, which already has a very tight community, can do to harness the power of the players and get them more involved in **meaningful** ways would be awesome.

Baca Loco said...

Another element to this is that the paintball sponsorship crush has forced some number of elite teams to very marginal practice schedules.

Don't let anybody tell you we don't appreciate your self-appointed role as Devil's Advocate.

The difference is this is not a case of unexpected condequences as I know precisely what the effects would be.

And more so the change I've suggested for at least three years now would actually return an element of the game that many claim xball took away.

As to the canard it's purely self-interest the first time I suggested it the application would've been brutal on my then group of no experience first time "pros." More seriously any change does need to be examined in advance and not be a knee jerk reaction that only leads to different issues later.

The last minute set-up local advantage is one of the standard arguments against and paintball does have that history but laying out and staking bunkers doesn't take days to accomplish.

Re: second comment. I'm sure it makes perfectly good sense but there's a couple of pieces missing (for me) and I'm not following.

Saintanonachris said...

Who me? I'm just second guessing the second-guesser. Or maybe I'm the opposite of the devil's advocate... would that be Peter or Paul?

I've never tried to mimic a pre-released field layout on the fly. But I imagine it would mean getting the field dimensions down. Getting the field all staked out, and then once the layout is released the morning before you drop your bunkers in place and then get to practicing. I don't know if anyone is setup to do it, smart enough to do it, organized enough to get the team to show up and pitch in.

But it doesn't sound out of the realm of possibility and as soon as someone does it and wins an event there will be problems.

Besides, as much as I miss the whole concept of field walking, which is cool, I think the idea of the league involving players in designing fields, selecting fields, etc. is a much better opportunity for involvement. Rather than just an arbitrary, "Here's the new rule for your own benefit, now, take your medicine like a good boy"