Cup starts Thursday. Teams are getting practice sessions in up to the last minute. This past weekend was our last practice(s) prior to the event but we've been working on the layout since September. The Russians arrived last week and spent last Thursday and Friday grinding--as evidenced by the small mountain of crushed, empty paint boxes--beside our field when we arrived Saturday morning. Also in town early were--and still are--Infamous and Impact. Our home field, Central Florida Paintball, in north Lakeland is about twenty minutes from Fantasy of Flight, the World Cup venue. We just found out what the draw is going to be. Infamous and Impact are in the same prelim bracket while the Legion and us are in the other one. On its face how could you beat a weekend's grind of the top 4 teams in the PSP going into Cup? (Mass amnesia works for me but that's not an option.) It sounds great but there some downsides. What I'm looking for is the intensity and competition only available from other pro teams. We want to build confidence within the team and, more importantly, execute against some of the best teams in the world. What I'm looking to avoid is divulging any tendencies or patterns. With the Russians it's a little game we play on a regular basis. (The Legion's staff is so extensive and competent that they capable of turning every scrap of info you give them to their advantage.) For us at this stage it's about the mental game and I learn more about my guys watching their execution these last couple of days than I am concerned about results or tactical maneuvering anyway. All the tactical cleverness doesn't mean anything anyway without effective execution. There's a lot to be said for the we-don't-care-what-you-know-about-us attitude that is focused on executing the game plan so flawlessly and with supreme determination that in essence you are daring your opponent to stop you. At the same time there's no point needlessly helping that opponent in advance.
While we expect the Russians to come to Florida to practice for Cup we also knew going in that they often have some quirky--from our perspective--practice habits. Oftentimes they won't want to go more than 20-25 points a day. As a consequence Joey (our manager) also spoke to Infamous & Impact figuring if either of them wanted to (and were able) to come early we could accommodate the numbers and be sure we got the reps we wanted. When everybody showed up ... well, the downside was suddenly apparent. As was the fact that all of the teams were dinged up a little. Matt Blonski is likely down for the Legion. Marcello and Zack saw limited action for Infamous. For us CJ will end up missing the whole season and Ramzi will miss Cup. Alex is going to play but may need surgery in the off season. On the plus side Keith [Brown--of 'The new black kid on Damage' thread at PBN] showed no signs of being intimidated by some of pro paintball's heavy hitters. (Whether that's youth or foolishness it's what I was looking for.)
Saturday morning began with word we might not see the Russians as they'd used up their paint on Thursday and Friday and a fresh delivery was unlikely before mid-afternoon. Whatever the reason they didn't show up 'til later in the day. The coaches watched the scrimmage and the players did a light warm-up and ran around a bit. The rest of us pounded out points from mid-morning to mid-afternoon in cycles of six. We began facing Infamous for 6 points then switched ends of the field as Impact came on for 6 more points with us. After that cycle Impact stayed on the field, we left and Infamous came back on. Once begun it gave each team 12 points on and 6 points off. And round and round we went. As the day carried on the time between points started to drag a little as the Florida weather took its toll. (Despite the fact it was the nicest Fall-like weekend of the year with a high in the mid-80s.)
Sunday morning the Legion were on site bright & early looking to get started with us first thing. The morning temp in the upper 60s. Unfortunately the paint that had been perfect the day before was exceedingly fragile in the cooler morning air. We tried a couple of points of blowing up paint in our guns but called a halt after that in order to "cook" the paint for a few minutes in the sun. By the time the paint had warmed up Impact & Infamous were on site and getting ready to play. The Russians chose not to play Infamous or Impact instead waiting a turn in the scrimmage rotation to play us. With that completed they were done--some of the guys had talked about getting tickets to go see the Buccaneers play the Saints in Tampa--so we carried on as we had on Saturday though we called it quits earlier on Sunday.
My understanding is that all 3 teams (excluding us) were going to work some extra days during the week as well, today and tomorrow as I recall. I sometimes keep scores in practice but seldom if ever tell the kids the results. Mostly because no good can come of it. Nobody wins at practice. And if you think you did it's a set-up for future failure when the points and matches really matter. And if you think you "lost" but don't know the exact numbers all you're left with is a feeling that you need to work harder--which isn't a bad thing. I know the "scores" from the weekend but I didn't tell my guys and I'm not telling you either. It would be misleading. Starting Friday, for the Pros, is the 2010 World Cup. Whatever happened this last week of preparation everyone will be ready.