Wednesday, September 28, 2011


VFTD has experienced some behind the scenes issues with comments and within the last couple of days the situation has deteriorated to the point where I can't post a comment in VFTD's comments section. I'm working on a variety of fixes so if you notice any changes in the next few days that will probably be me. (At the same time Blogger is making changes--upgrades they call them--to the Blogger environment which, may or may not, be part of my problems.) Hopefully this won't last too long.

Anyway, regarding the Is player performance quantifiable in paintball? there have been a number of interesting responses. Thanks, and keep it up.

VFTD & DPA T-shirts

Hurray! Custom designs are done for a VFTD & a Deadbox Puppet Army T-shirt (as you can plainly see.) The designs were done by the not a lazy slacker in sight peeps at BADDOG. Now it's up to me to get 'em done and for that I could use your help. Check out the two shirts and if you want one or both drop me a line at Baca's email. Include desired size. Since I can't confirm a price yet--probably around $20 to $25--but that's just a guess--your interest isn't a pre-order. Just you saying when you know what it'll cost let you know kinda thing 'cus you're definitely interested. Your responses will however influence the numbers produced and once I can confirm a price I will take orders. Any and all remaining shirts will be available at Cup in the BADDOG booth. If it goes pretty well or the shirts prove popular enough I could do a second run but would have to be convinced they would sell. So let me know what you think and I'll get back with a price asap.

UPDATE: VFTD will be on light gray shirtor white and DPA will be on black shirt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is player performance quantifiable in paintball?

In a recent comments I was asked to offer an evaluation, or (semi-)educated opinion if you prefer, of one of the Infamous brawlers--which I refused to do. Not because it isn't an interesting or even a perfectly valid question but because I didn't think it would be either prudent (to potentially antagonize or flatter future opponents) or professional (to say anything that might be viewed as lacking respect for a fellow competitor or obviously for public consumption.) I know that may seem kinda lame to some of you but that's where I'm drawing a line.
If we (Paintball) had a more developed media there would be more of that sort of thing being discussed by fans, players & media monkeys. But we don't--and in a lot of ways never did even when you could count paintball magazines into the double digits, or close. (The industry held the purse strings and generally didn't--doesn't--tolerate bad "PR" even, or especially when it was--or is--the truth. Yes, some mags were better than others but they all played the game to one degree or another.) But I'm digressing. (Again.)
If we generalize the original commenter's question we're left with a generic question about how one might evaluate player performance and just what that evaluation entails. This is pertinent because we're closing in on this season's end and teams are either beginning to or have already begun to think about next season. And along with issues of sponsorship and general financing the other big issue is rosters. What are the teams strengths and weaknesses? Will changes need to be made? What if we lose X, Y or Z to another team or school or a job? Ideally roster moves are about improving but as a practical matter they are often also about filling holes and dealing with the unexpected. Whatever the roster consideration is all those decisions revolve around evaluating talent. (There's other equally important factors in my mind but we'll get to those later.) So here we are nearing the end of another season and everybody on a team or running a team is starting to think about their players--and possible future players, evaluating talent and making judgments.
But what criteria do you use in evaluating players? I intend to talk more, perhaps a lot more, about this in the next post but my purpose this time around was to pose the question--and hopefully begin a "discussion" about the process. What do you look for in a player? How do you determine when a player isn't working out? Break it down for me. Is there a difference between determining if a player is sufficiently skilled and deciding if you want that player on your team? Id so, what is it?
It's easy to say so-and-so is a great player. It's a lot harder to offer quantifiable criteria for making such a judgment. Player X is great because ... why?
What criteria do you use in evaluating players?

EDIT ADDED: Think baseball, basketball or football players. With baseball there's a million and one stats that track aspects of performance so that you can easily compare one player to another based on real quantifiable numbers. The same, to a lesser degree, with most all 'professional' sports. So what about paintball? Is evaluating talent strictly a seat of the pants proposition--I know it when I see it--or are there ways of making real distinctions and quantifiable judgments between different players?

I'ma give y'all a couple days to think about it and comment on it and later in the week I'll pick the subject back up. In the meantime tomorrow I'll be posting designs for a VFTD & DPA T-shirt(s) so look for those while you're contemplating the question.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Musical Chairs

Those darn kids at ProPaintball beat Mr. Curious to the punch this time--at least in part--with an interview with LJ, formerly of Infamous and now with the Ironmen. Mr. C has been waiting to hear what the fallout would be from the post-DC Infamous altercation and it seems that situation has caused a couple of other player moves as well. As you may recall (See 'Left Coast Rumble' three posts down) some Infamous players went all Fists of Fury on each other and as a result LJ is now an Ironman and Bobby Aviles remains with Infamous and Marcello Margott hasn't yet found a chair. (See title.) It seems the decision to cut Marcello has been made and he hasn't yet caught on with anyone else but it's early days.
Rumor has it that at approximately the same time Aftershock (which decided to compete in the NPPL this year) presented their two Legend players, Damian Ryan & Brad McCurley, with an ultimatum of it's 'Shock all the time or it's nothing. Damian & Brad were playing with Legend before Shock decided to compete in the NPPL and in Damian's case before he was back on 'Shock's roster. (He played for Aftershock back in '06 & '07 if I remember correctly. Something like that anyway.) Apparently they chose nothing but not for long as both are now on Infamous's World Cup roster replacing the departed LJ & Marcello.
Mr. C doesn't know if that's going to leave Aftershock in a bit of a bind or not for Cup or if the move by Infamous is a stop gap measure or seen as something more permanent. Time, and Mr. Curious, will tell.

UPDATE: rumorology has it that it may even be premature to say that Infamous cut Marcello because the word on the street is he has torn up his knee again. (In fact may have done it prior to DC.) In which case he is defacto sidelined for the foreseeable future whether he's officially cut or not.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Format Wars

Okay, "wars" is definitely over the top but the whole topic is just plain silly. It's laughable. Deserving of ridicule. (That's where VFTD comes in.) And if that wasn't enough the proponents are positively delusional. They haven't just jumped the shark, they were jumped while they jumped the shark. (And yes, even I'm a little confused by that one.)
But as a pretense of being fair and open-minded let's first list the virtues of the glorious 7-man format. It doesn't have much of a history. It's only been a nationally recognized format since NPPL 1.0 (Pure Promotions) transplanted it stateside from Euroland circa 2003. Less than a decade. Even by paintball standards that's not very long. (Yes, 7-man was around before that, here and there, played mostly as the poor man's 10-man.) (And, maybe you can make a case that 7-man as a format and style of play continued in the tradition of 10-man--after 10-man was gone--minus 3 guys and on a field a fraction of the size. Of course for a couple of years the NPPL's 7-man was competing against the remnant of the PSP's 10-man format so, then again, maybe not so much.) But (and it's a big but) 7-man is played on a field that's longer and narrower than xball. With carwash bunkers. Can't forget the carwashes. And 7-man still has semi-auto and sneakiness. Well, except that it doesn't really. Is sneakiness a format feature? Or is it a result of no sideline coaching or crowd participation? And then there's the factoid that the recent All*Star demonstration allowed grandstand side crowd participation so ... Okay, but hey they've still got semi-auto! Capped. At 15bps and as every semi-auto aficionado knows tons of 7-man players can easily exceed the cap with their crazy fast twitching skillz. And no way to determine if the guns are ramping, bouncing, etc. Only whether or not they go over the cap. Which is a warning and/or a penalty.
Maybe the best thing about 7-man is the NPPL's willingness to change with the times. To hold on to tradition and still reach out to the majority of competitive players. Why over the last year they've considered multiple point matches, crowd participation, capped markers, shorter points and they're thinking of adding buzzers and getting rid of the flag, at least the station flags. Can bells & whistles be far behind?
And then there's the fact the rest of the world plays 7-man and if we're ever going to legitimize competitive paintball we--what? The Eurokids don't play 7-man anymore? The Asians either? They play what?!? Xball Lite? Race to 4 or 5? Really? Well, that's not very helpful, is it?
But still, at least 7-man isn't xball, right, and that's what's important.

Time to be serious for a moment. The move to capped markers is a concession to the fact the NPPL has never been able to adequately regulate guns or enforce legitimate, workable rules--until now. And anybody who spends 5 minutes at a NPPL tournament knows 98% of the guns are ramping, bouncing, adding shots, whatever you want to deny in order to rationalize the "skill" involved. (The other 2% are pumps.) The move to multiple points is a concession to the fact the outcome is both fairer and more likely to advance the better team. Everything the NPPL has done to improve their format has brought it closer to xball (Race 2). Undeniable fact. All that's left is the dimensions of the playing field and the number of players per point. So here's your compromise. Use the current PSP field dimensions as they're closer to NPPL than old xball layout. Add a few bunkers to the basic set. 4 will probably do the trick. Keep the current PSP rules regarding sideline participation and keep the spectators far enough away that all the noise is just that, noise. Field 5 guys because now isn't the time to try and force the world tournament community to change--again. And hey, we'll all go "semi-auto." Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

VFTD Challenge

No, this isn't Format Wars. You know the routine. It's still coming blah blah blah lazy slacker get used to it.
I thought in light of the controversial nature of the two leagues, the merger prospects and my general comments on the subject that I would make an open offer to anyone who would like to debate the relative merits favoring the NPPL and/or the merger. It seems some supporters of "the player's league" struggle with my criticisms of that league and I'd like to give any or all of them (you) an opportunity to respond.
I do however have a couple of conditions. The terms of the debate need to be set out formally in advance so that we can address specific questions one at a time in order to make the debate more interesting and helpful to the readers. And two, participants need to identify themselves in order to be accountable for their arguments, statements, etc.
I have no interest in restricting what you can say or how you say it as long as the basic agreed upon debate format is adhered to.
Right now I'm thinking in terms of NPPL v. PSP but there's no reason not to consider other potential points of contention for future debate(s). Should anyone take up the offer future posts will lay out the details & agreed terms as we proceed.
I will not, however, wait with bated breath for a response.

Left Coast Rumble

Mr. Curious, with his enormous Obama-esque ear to the ground, has heard the rumblings of an Infamous rumble in the aftermath of DC. (For our European readers replace enormous Obama-esque with elephantine Prince Charles-esque in order to enjoy the full entertainment experience.) It seems three members of the team engaged in some post-event fisticuffs (amongst themselves) and the rumor has it that the older, wiser, cooler heads of leadership took that opportunity to cut (from the team) all three players involved in the physical altercation. What with the unexpected pre-DC departure of coach Dan Wake it leaves one wondering if the team will be able to pull things together in time for Cup which is only about a month away. Of course sometimes less is more, too.
Oh, yeah, you probably want to know who the rumored to have been cut players are. Word is it's LJ (Justin Schwartz), Marcello (Margot) & Bobby (Aviles.)

UPDATE: Justin from ProPaintball says he's heard it isn't official yet and that there will be a team meeting to discuss the issue. Thanks, Justin!

My spelling errors, with respect the player's names, has been corrected in Comments. I left the original post as is to minimize confusion in the comments section. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Merger Machinations

As long as I'm already digging myself a hole, what the hell, let's keep digging! This post is in response to some of the comments in the 'Behind the Scene at DC' post questioning the possibility of a merger or assuming it's a dead issue or ought to be after the DC shens. I won't address what ought to be but I do want to shine a bit of light on the situation. As I have stated before the impetus for the merger is coming from outside either league and is being spearheaded from within the PBIndustry. The industry wants one league because they are incapable of acting cooperatively even in situations where they all might be best served if they could cooperate. Instead they are pushing the leagues to merge, regardless of outcome, to achieve a result they (the industry) can't accomplish themselves. (If there is only one league to support it will be cheaper than two and there won't be any room to maneuver for advantage by any of the industry players. At least in the short term.) That is the core of the merger effort.
It's rubbish but it's their rubbish. (For more on the subject check out 'Merger Counterfactual'.)
Frankly I'd be tempted to call their (industry's) bluff because somebody would break ranks and as soon as that happened they'd all fold--like they've always done before--but then I'm not the one risking the league 80% of the players play which makes it an easy call for me.
However there are impediments to a deal being done. (I suspect the conduct at DC wasn't helpful but also probably wasn't a deal-breaker either.) I have, in the past, alluded to a larger problem when it comes to the merger. (A problem beyond personalities and personal priorities and egos even. Who'd a thunk it, right?) I'm talking about the practical fact that there is no NPPL really. At least not the sort where you can review the ownership structure, the participating teams or individuals, the terms of their internal agreements, shared assets and liabilities, etc. There's a few teams and owners who have, or think they have, some claim on an ownership stake but there is no legal entity for the PSP to deal with. Which is going to make doing a deal a little tricky unless or until that "problem" is addressed.
But it could also be that there's a solution within the "problem." We know that the current NPPL board is split on the merger. (Those against it would either have no team as the majority of their players also play elsewhere or they couldn't afford it or be competitive.) And therein lies the beauty of the "problem." What if the PSP, instead of negotiating a merger, proposed, by invitation, to negotiate with a limited number of teams and owners--largely those already receptive to the idea--and simply ignored the rest? (As it stands now if there's no Bart Y. in the NPPL there's no NPPL. You gotta wonder how much Bart enjoyed getting screwed by his own league.) If there is no legal entity that identifies and gives substance to the NPPL there's no need to pretend there is and deal with the collective. Instead come to terms with the stable, substantive teams and owners and call it a day. Tell the industry if they can't say no to whatever scraps of the former NPPL are left over that's their problem and as far as the PSP is concerned they are the only legitimate national tournament series organization.

Next time, Format War.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Behind the scene at DC

Before I begin an item or two from yesterday's post can be cleared up, sorta. First, it seems there wasn't any actual webcast. There were only uploads to YouTube and from the posts in the NPPL forum on PBN there were issues with timeliness and sound, as in (apparently) there wasn't any much of the time for many of the viewers. I mention it now because I made some comments yesterday that assumed a webcast had occurred. And with regards the All*Star rosters that information was available on Pev's Facebook page. D'oh! Where else? And as to the format used during the All*Star event apparently the players (the All*Star participants) were informed of the new elements 10 minutes before they started. Make of that what you will, it's unimportant in the greater scheme of things compared to the subject of today's post.
Some of you will recall I had some issues with the officiating and the institutional control of the officiating in Chicago. For a refresher see the post in question here. Just to be clear when I say 'institutional control' I mean the person or persons in charge of oversight and the league rules for how that oversight should occur. As was plain in Chicago very little, if any, institutional control existed then--and it would seem even less exists after DC.

The first incident I want to recount occurred in one of our games on Friday because it has ties back to Chicago. There is considerably more to the story than I am going to make public in this post. The reasons are simple; I didn't personally hear what some of the participants are reputed to have said and because it is my intent to demonstrate a larger problem and not indulge in a whinefest. A player (for our opponent) attempted to run down one of our players. Another of our players was posted on the gap between the opponent and our player. (The announcer on the webcast, er, download stated his opinion that the opponent appeared to have been shot first.) The opponent dove forward, went out of bounds and the refs jumped in. One ref eventually threw a flag. The player the opponent attempted to bunker was wiped off. (Though he was pulled seconds later when he was shot from across the field.) We assumed the penalty was on the bunkering player for playing on given that our player was wiped clean and left in the game. But it wasn't. It was on our player who was defending the player our opponent attempted to bunker and the call was a 3 game suspension for overshooting with the intent to injure. (This penalty does not exist in the current rule book, btw. Overshooting with the intent to injure is a 6 game suspension.) If you looked you will note that I stated in the linked post (from Chicago) "the league rep chose to use his authority over the refs to target another pro team" and in fact, that league rep mentioned a specific player by name. Curiously, the player given the suspension was that player and the team we were playing is owned & captained by the league rep who oversees the referees. Coincidence? You decide.
That however is not my principle problem with that situation. My problem is a) the penalty assessed doesn't exist, and b) must be assessed by the Head Ref, and c) we were later told by (Commissioner? Ultimate Ref? Head Ref?) Tom Cole that if our player had lied or played dumb he wouldn't have upheld the suspension. (For the record my guy freely admitted that he continued to shoot the opponent until a ref pulled him out and he stopped shooting at his teammate. Which is, of course, what anyone would and does do when in a similar situation.) If you find this hard to believe it's gonna get better and there are numerous witnesses who heard what I heard.
As for the rules themselves--overshooting with intent to injure first appears under 21.06 Unsportsmanlike Conduct as definition (2). 21.06 refers to 23.04 & 23.05 for clarification as 23.04 provide details on 1 game suspensions and 23.05 on 3 game suspensions. However this specific infraction isn't mentioned under either 23.04 or 23.05. Only 23.06; 6 game suspensions.
23.03 offers a general description of suspensions but ALL the clarifying rules ( 23.04, 23.05, 23.06) contradict the general terms given in 23.03. 23.03 suggests players may be suspended without teams being additionally penalized however .04, .05 & .06 all state player suspensions are accompanied by the affected team playing short. So which is it? As written .04, .05 & .06 ought to supersede 23.03 given they are the specific rules that clarify the general.

Which leads me to the Infamous situation in which Infamous was DQ'ed for allowing LJ to play when he was (apparently) suspended as a carry over from the Chicago event. There are a number of "facts" which appear to be either unclear or in dispute as well so I won't pick and choose among those. What seems to be the case though is that no responsible NPPL representative was initially aware of the situation. That Infamous was given conflicting info about what to do and was allowed to play two games before it was decided they were DQ'ed. The disqualification is, surprisingly and ironically, the correct call, by rule. (23.09) There is however reason to believe the calls made in Chicago were not made in accordance with the rules and the same applies to LJ's suspension. Was the suspension handed out by the Head Ref? (Who is the Head Ref?) And as has already been demonstrated the controlling rules contradict each other but suggest Avalanche should have had to play short for the duration of LJ's suspension and further that, given a team change, Infamous's only obligation was to not play LJ for the term of the suspension. Additionally in 23.01 not only is any suspension to be determined by the Head Ref the Commissioner is to record and keep track of all suspensions & hand out all DQ's. (Who exactly is the Head Ref? Or the Commissioner for that matter? Are they one in the same?) So did a Head Ref make the original suspension call? Did the Commissioner keep track and was he aware that LJ was still under suspension? Who suggested Infamous play short one game? If the league was aware of a prohibited player playing why did they let it happen? And if they weren't, why weren't they?

Here's a situation you haven't heard about. After the games were played in the pro bracket on Friday Impact was one of the top four teams and through to Sunday. Except by Saturday morning they weren't. It seems that sometime during the evening on Friday one team lobbied for a video review in order to amend a game result. Someone--the unnamed Head Ref?--or the mysterious Commissioner?--decided to actually look at the video record and then overturned the game result changing the scores of the two teams involved and consequently changing the finishing order of the Friday prelim round. Word was that Impact had no idea until the next day they were out based on a changed result though I can't confirm that. What I will say is there is absolutely no rule in the rule book that allows for game reversals after the fact. The only rule that can even be used to try and justify what the league did is 22.07 (The Finality of Calls) which states 'Referees calls during a game will stand and cannot be changed after the game except in extreme circumstances when the Head Ref becomes involved.' The rules on Scoring (27) suggest otherwise and further clarify that the only changes allowed are to correct mathematical errors. In fact 27.02 (8) states that only mathematical errors may be corrected after the score has been posted on the scoreboard. And 27.02 (5) describes what occurs when one team captain objects to the final score as determined by the officials on the field and how the Head Ref is involved in resolving the situation and no where does it allow for post play video review.
By rule it doesn't matter what the video showed. For starters there were only two cameras on the field so the complete action wasn't covered. Without a complete record whatever is on the tape is irrelevant. And if you are going to allow one team to try and overturn the on field score with the webcast video I am certain every team has one or more games they'd like reviewed as well. As a one off decision it is absolutely contrary to the rules. As a practical matter it opens every game and every decision up to later arbitration and sets a ridiculous precedent. I frankly didn't think the league could screw up the officiating any worse but this is a new low.

At a minimum we have unclear rules that may or may not be known to those responsible for enforcing them while at the same time there are numerous examples of an egregious lack of 'institutional control' that is more than simple incompetence. And the NPPL seems to be incapable of even recognizing the fact there is an enormous conflict of interest built into their system and the individuals the league is relying on to maintain the integrity of the league aren't up to the challenge. If they are serious about improving the officiating it starts at the top with a commitment to the rules and the impartial enforcement thereof. Whoever is (nominally) in charge needs to go--go now and stay gone. And the league needs to separate oversight of the officials from the teams and players as the present situation is ripe for abuse and corruption in addition to the general incompetence demonstrated over and over this past weekend.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another 7-man Spectacle

Otherwise known as the 2011 Pev's, er, NPPL All*Star game. (Everything else was a Pev's this or a Pev's that. Easy mistake. I just got a little carried away.) I'm not sure it was just a game though. A match maybe. Or, as I rather prefer, a spectacle. Why spectacle? Because it featured yet another confusing and ill-conceived format change in the (apparently) never-ending effort to make 7-man better (without quite making it xball or Race 2 for that matter.) And because the introductions of the teams took longer than the actual game(s).
Before I continue I have a question: Who picked the All*Stars? And don't try telling me they were voted in by the public. The only way that happened is if the NPPL mimicked old style Soviet demokracy by allowing the voters to only vote for the players (candidates) on the ballot. And why did some teams have 3 player reps and others only 2? Who decided that? Look, some of the participants, heck, probably all of them are swell people but pro paintball all stars? Really? And seriously, how much money does Gio d'Egidio have and how much is he willing to spend on his kid's fantasy life? I realize voting in real All*Stars might be kinda hard when your league averages 40 7-man divisional teams an event--only 36 in DC--but if you're gonna fake it don't make it so blatantly obvious the thing is rigged next time. Next time. Right. I kid.
The following description of the All*Star "event" needs to be qualified with a regular 'as best I can tell' because nobody explained anything about the format changes except as incidentals as the event was in progress. So if you add a silent 'as best I can tell' to everything that will save me having to repeat it endlessly. (Thanks.)
Initially the announcer called it a best of 5 match. He also scored the first game a point when the West hung the (second) flag. It was played on the main field--and (parts of) it were probably available on the webcast. (I have no idea how much of the field the cameras actually covered.) I say second flag because there was also a center flag that couldn't be pulled during the first 60 seconds of the point, er, game, er, whatever. A buzzer sounded at 60 seconds to let the players know the center flag could be pulled. A first (only?) pull of the center flag was worth 30 points. A factoid were told after the second game when the East failed to pull it in winning the second game. The announcer called the score of game two 70-15 and later retroactively gave a score for the first game consistent with more traditional 7-man scoring. (No, I don't know where the first game "point" went.) The West followed with two more game wins to make the game count 3-1 after 4 games. It seemed like they were trying to turn each game around within a 2 or 3 minutes but nobody said one way or the other if they were on the clock or not on the game turnarounds. There was also some confusion after the fourth game and I thought they were done with the West "winning" 3 games to 1 but no, after around five minutes or so the teams took the field for one more game--which the West also won. After which Ms. NPPL, not wearing her title bikini, gave the trophy to the West All*Stars who pantomimed faux excitement at the victory and held hands to take a bow as the bleachers cleared. And just as the last of the audience was leaving the announcer gave the final score which was something like 309 to 110 but that must have been wrong as West won four of the five games. As best I can tell nobody had a fricking clue--including the brain trust that conceived of that silly, er, spectacle.
I heard later that the "real" plan is to play best 3 of 5 in brackets of 4 teams as the prelim round--next year. How that is better than the S7 prelim format attempted at HB this year I don't know. The issue with S7 wasn't the best of 3 format but a prelim round that only plays against three teams and the resulting tie-breakers. For a sample result look at any Millennium prelim round and you will discover that teams go thru all the time based on point differential and not wins or losses. At some point you might as well draw straws or flip a coin as play the games and if that's the direction the NPPL wants to go I can only assume they're less interested in the competition than the logistics and the opportunity to turn a buck.

But it gets better. Wait for the next DC Challenge post.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Norwegian Championships Field Layout

I'm outta here in a few minutes, headed for DC--or Aldie actually--for the next NPPL event. I don't know if the webcast includes Friday's Pro bracket but we're playing from approx. 2pm to 6pm tomorrow. Check it out. (If it's on.)

Here's the layout I mentioned last weekend. It's was designed to be easy to play for the lower divisions with its Xball staples intact but also sufficiently complex to challenge the more experienced teams. If you played the layout I'd be interested in your views and, since I'm in a generous mood, even if you didn't but I look forward to your comments; good, bad or indifferent.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Game Coaching, part 2

The practice of in game coaching requires three related efforts. At least it does the way I do it. (Keeping in mind I'm of the school of thought that believes in doing everything you can and controlling everything you can in order to best position yourself and your team for success. In practice--not practice practice--I mean as part of the process of preparing to compete--that also covers some ground that is more abstract (team chemistry and mental preparation for starters) than the practical routines I'm going to discuss today. Of the three related efforts two of them, scouting and game-planning occur separately from the actual in game play calling, etc.
We'll begin with scouting. Scouting is simply observing your opponent(s) with the object of looking for routines & patterns, ways of playing and player assignments that will give you information you can hopefully use to counter their strengths and attack their weaknesses. In competitive paintball, even at the highest levels, it isn't that complex a proposition. Or it shouldn't be if you are well schooled in the fundamental tactics of competitive paintball. (I may be assuming facts not in evidence here.) One pro team used to check mark field diagrams by the bunkers taken as primaries OTB. By the end of a match it revealed primary frequency. I use a somewhat more complicated system. I shorthand each breakout (using our team bunker codes plus some additional codes of my own devising) to indicate shooting lanes, delays and sequences to taking secondary positions. I also keep track of points played on penalties for the same basic info. It's also worthwhile to look for player patterns. If player X is in does he only go to one of two bunkers OTB? If you discover patterns like this it can be very useful.
Additionally there is no reason scouting should only be the responsibility of a coach or coaches. Players can assume different roles in the scouting process and it may prove beneficial for them to watch matches with specific duties to fulfill that can later be discussed by the whole team.
Over time you will discover that teams (and players) have tendencies and once you have accumulated an extensive scouting file on a given team it is possible to predict how a team will generally play a given layout simply because you have worked to learn their habits and routines.
Game-planning is considerably more difficult. (But, on the other hand, it isn't an essential--it's just what I happen to do.) Using the info collected from scouting both past matches and matches played on the current layout--when possible--the game-plan is designed to gain advantages over your opponent. There are a couple of ways of approaching the game plan. One is to use the information to try and counter what you expect your opponent to do. Like picking lanes that allow you to focus one or more guns on a primary you expect your opponent to take more often than not. Or take primaries that allow you to control lanes to deny your opponent his secondary in an effort to keep your opponent's attack from developing. I am not a fan of this approach as it tends to be reactive. I prefer a game plan designed to take the play to an opponent and then continue to attempt to keep that opponent off balance. In either case each game plan is predicated on predicting your opponent's breakouts and attacks in advance. This is the tactical game that exists in Xball and Race 2. I script (usually) 8 breakouts in a sequence designed to exploit what I expect from our opponent. In addition I make notes on adjustments to be made if certain situations arise and alternative play calls for those situations. I also script our line-ups in advance but again, they have to be flexible and conditional. Sometimes changes are made based on how players are playing, what the score is, if we're killing a penalty or the opponent is, a wide variety of options that a coach needs to be prepared to deal with.
Ideally, when it's finally time to play the match I've done enough preparatory work that we're able to deal with any and every situation that may arise. There are no surprises, no scrambling and nothing unexpected happening. The play calling process (for me) is watching the opponent's breakouts, secondary rotations and personnel so I know if we can stay on script or need to make an adjustment. As each point finishes I call out the next line-up and we usually have a minute or more to relay each player's role in the next breakout including shooting lane adjustments, secondary options, timing issues and reminders about everything from communication to the occasional special instruction. There you have it. That's the way I approach the role of in game coach. (I'm not recommending it but I hope it offers some useful insights for those interested in this aspect of the game. ) It may seem initially to be kinda overwhelming but it's like anything else--you practice and get better.

One caveat seems in order. A coach can do everything right--or even a lot of things wrong--and still lose matches you probably should have won or win matches you probably should have lost because the game always comes down to the players; their ability to execute a game plan, their talent for the game and their ability to perform in pressure situations.

Next time we'll talk about ways to prepare a team to compete.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Merger Counterfactual

This isn't the next coaching post. Big shock, huh? Relax, I will get around to doing them, the other coaching posts, that is, because the topic interests me (too) so be patient. In the meantime I couldn't resist a follow up of sorts on the latest NPPL rumorology particularly in light of a couple of comments under that post.

Oh yeah, before I get started a counterfactual (for those of you not steeped in geek speak) is basically a What If scenario. Roughly the idea is to create a scenario based on a set of conditions that might have been or could still be. At one end of the scale you get alternative history novels and at the other end you get hypothetical models that are (theoretically) useful in thinking about all manner of complex situations. For paintball purposes we's gonna keep things simple and stick with the What Ifs.

In the Mr. Curious comments Joe suggests that no merger means the end of pro paintball. Joe's statement is predicated (I assume) on the notion that the industry support of the leagues has been shrinking for years and that elements of industry have been making noises like they intend to play hardball over this merger issue. They want one league and one league only. So Joe's comment seems to have some merit but--

What If one league makes a good faith effort? What If the industry isn't united? (And we know that it isn't.) What If a merger happens? What does it mean and what will happen in the aftermath?

What If one league makes a good faith effort and no merger results? I ask the question that way given the split on the NPPL board but we could as easily ask What If both leagues make a good faith effort and no merger results? Will the PB Industry refuse to support either league or any of the pro teams as a consequence? It seems highly unlikely. For one I think it's impossible to make the case that industry is united--which it would have to be to enforce a no support decision. Two, it's not in industry's best interest to offer no support. For example, KEE is believed to be doing well with their new Axe in part because of the number of pro & divisional tourney teams using the marker. And if the rumors are true KEE signed up a number of pro teams for a relative pittance of paint. The cost versus the potential return definitely favors KEE. So while the industry, or elements within industry, may be making hardline noises it seems unlikely it would actually happen regardless of the circumstances.
What If the PB Industry isn't united? I ask this as the follow-up even though I've already decided it isn't because it's important to see what the ramifications of that lack of unity might be. Let's say for the moment no merger occurs and the industry--or some key players--announce they will no longer support the NPPL as a result. (Insert PSP for NPPL if you prefer as it makes no difference.) How long before some element--Let's, for the sake of the example say, Oh I don't know, Valken--steps in and offers to support the league? Five minutes? How long after that before everyone else jumps back in out of fear of somehow losing out? The point is that without a unified industry elements within the industry will seek to advance themselves if the opportunity presents itself. The issue has never been two leagues; it's been a divided industry that is constantly at odds and unwilling and/or unable to formulate a policy with respect to tournament paintball and two national leagues. The merger matters to parts of industry because they want forces outside the industry to do for them what they can't (or won't) do for themselves.
What If a merger happens? Does it preclude the possibility of another league forming? No. All it really can do is limit or preclude the participation of any of the principles involved in the merger. Is that enough to merit merging? I don't know but if it were me I would be taking a very hard look at what benefits I derive from a merger. I would also be looking at how such a deal would be accomplished. (Rumor has it the NPPL isn't in any legal sense a formal entity. If true who does the PSP make a deal with? A dozen different individuals or teams? And how do each of the "owners" represent and protect their interests if the NPPL exists in name only? That's a whole other What If post all by itself. And a serious complication to a merger if true.) If the best we can say is that a merger unites the existing leagues and leadership but does nothing to limit future league formation and competition how much does it really accomplish? If a merger occurs will the industry all of a sudden start throwing more support at the new unity league? (If you said when pigs fly, you guessed the likely correct answer.) It seems to me the industry hardball line is all threatened stick and no carrot at a time when the leagues have gotten used to barely enough carrots to flavor a weak broth. Not a whole lot of incentive to make a merger work (or so it seems to me.)
What does it mean and what will happen in the aftermath? I'm not sure there any answers to those questions except to suggest that perhaps a merger doesn't solve all of competitive paintball's problems--it may only defer some of them--and it may create new ones. It doesn't mean that multiple leagues will never again compete at the national level. It doesn't even guarantee united industry support--though that may be the default short term result. Is that good enough? For anybody?

Monday Poll in Review

Gonna keep this short & not particularly sweet as it was a very silly poll to begin with--unless you happen to be a mistreated and irate photographer. In which case I may be about to make you more unhappy but at least this will be VFTD's last word on the subject. (Until it comes up again sometime.) How's that for a promise? Yeah, I know, it sucks but what are you going to do? Life is unfair and I'm adding to your burden. Would it help if I said I felt bad about it? (I didn't think so.)
I can't begin to express to y'all how boring I find the usual "action" shots that seem to make up the great majority of paintball photography. I get why the vanity crowd go in for that sort of thing but I gotta say I don't understand why the media--what's left of it--doesn't seem to have any interest in both better and more broadly illustrative images of the game beyond action close-ups. [Here's where some of y'all claim to shoot all manner of other interesting narrative type images from the surroundings and trappings of the tourney scene that I've just missed 'cus I don't check out your website(s) routinely and most media editors are hacks who pander to the lowest common denominator reader--or viewer as the case is these days. Which may very well be true so if you would be so kind as to aim me the direction of this superior imagery I'd be grateful.] Otherwise as technically brilliant as some of the action shots may or may not be or how difficult they are to take that isn't or shouldn't be the be all end all of the photographer's art and it's damned difficult to turn the millionth action shot into something special. That's all I'm saying.
As to the poll the respondents were actually quite decent about the whole thing. 27% of the total votes were generally positive while the majority 46% opted for the various neutral options, seeing the photogs largely as fellow travellers along paintball's dusty road. Only 23% chose either of the mildly negative options and most of those simply thought there were too many photographers at events. From which results I think it's safe to say most ballers don't spend much if any time giving the photographers a first much less a second thought. Unless of course they're hoping to score a free picture.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Norwegian Championships

The Norwegian Championships are being played (by 70+ teams) this weekend on a VFTD-designed field using the current Millennium bunker set. You can watch tomorrow's action live streaming if you'd like. I mention it now so you can watch some of the action and see the layout if you're interested and because I'm going to post the design next week sometime--(the competing teams saw the layout for the first time when they arrived at the venue this morning)--and hopefully we can get some feedback (via comments) from the players competing on it this weekend.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mr. Curious Hears A Coup

Yes, the title is a rather awkward play on words that isn't precisely true but I find amusing. Hey, you get what you pay for. (Whatever that means.)

But before I loose Mr. C on y'all I have a correction (and an admission) to make. VFTD incorrectly identified one of the two new-for-WC pro division teams as Seattle Thunder. It is, in fact, Portland Uprising. While not altogether my fault--yes, I was still wrong--enjoy it while you can--I'm still perfect statistically--I could have checked as I had some roster info but that would have been work. And really who cares? No disrespect to the teams or players but Portland? Seattle? What's the big difference? They drink ridiculously expensive coffee, eat soggy croissants and never need sunglasses 'cus it's dark, dreary and rainy all the time. It was an easy mistake to make is all I'm saying.

Mr. C's latest big news comes from the NPPL camp. Where else? That could have an impact on future merger negotiations. (Btw, if the NPPL crowd find this post either irritating or embarrassing feel free to take potshots at the messenger but the facts is the higher ups in the PSP were well aware of this stuff before Mr. C was although the info didn't come from the PSP side. Mr. C is just a lot more diligent than I am in following up. Apparently.) My, I wonder, what that info could be? Trying to drag out the revelation to build suspense doesn't work in print very well, does it? At some point you're just going to skip ahead and ruin all my fun. So I might as well get on with it.
It seems the NPPL board, whoever they are, are divided--nearly evenly--over whether to proceed with the merger talks or not with a narrow majority favoring ongoing talks. That's a new wrinkle, isn't it?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Baca's Mailbag: In Game Coaching

An interesting question was tossed over the transom this week. Here it is: I know all coaches have their different styles and some are more skilled than others but it would be great to hear your thoughts on how best to coach teams during games.

The short answer is--there is no best. The longer answer is we need to lay a foundation by defining what we mean by coaching to even begin talking about the coach's role. We also need to recognize that at this stage of competitive paintball's development coaching, like other aspects of the game, is still changing and becoming. So I'ma do what I do best and drag this out over two or three posts.
Today being a coach in paintball can mean anything and everything from yelling from the sideline to being the only guy on the team old enough to rent a car to filling a role close to what we think of when we look at other, established sports. For purposes of discussing coaching let's assume we mean someone who performs the traditional role of coach. So what does a coach do?
Job number 1 is teaching, developing talent & preparing the team to compete. Okay, that's actually three things, isn't it? The thing is all of those elements are essential to building a successful team and none of them occur during a match. So we'll save further discussion of those roles until next time--or maybe the time after.
So let's talk about the pit. Unfortunately there is no way to give our question a fair and reasonably complete response without including some things that have to happen outside the pit & prior to the actual in match time frame. The following isn't necessarily integral to being a coach but it does fall into the category of stuff somebody needs to be responsible for. The organization of the pit. Assigning duties to any pit staff you have. Checking the paint in a timely manner--make sure the team is shooting the best paint possible each and every match. Reminding the players to have working guns. Chrono those guns. Put batteries in everything that needs it. (Are you getting the idea?) Basically be responsible for the check list of items that are, or should be, part of the pre-game preparations.
More generally the first order of business is order. Followed closely by routine. It is important that extraneous stuff doesn't interfere with playing the game. Whatever can be controlled and/or prepared for needs to be handled and it needs to be done the same way every time as consistently as possible. Order and routine serve a number of functions. The process becomes habitual and as a team you're less likely to forget stuff or fail to be ready when it matters. The routine also becomes part of the pre-game ritual of preparing to compete. And whatever individual players do pre-match it's also important there are team routines pre-match as well. It can be as simple as when you pick up your paint, stretch or warm-up, fill pods, gear up or whatever. (In practice this doesn't require regimented perfection. Each team will be different. The important part is to set the stage for an orderly, organized, efficient and calm pit.) Control what you can control so that during matches everyone can focus on playing the game and doing their individual jobs whatever they may be without distraction. (Order & routine can be particularly effective for teams that are busy doing most of their own pit crewing along with playing as it tends to improve efficiency and moderate the emotional highs & lows that can influence the outcome.)

Finally, for whatever it's worth, here's how I like things done ... and how I do my job during a match. (Btw, I have the luxury of a team manager/sideline coach and a pit manager who handle a lot of the pre-match basics along with maintaining our pit routine which frees me up to focus on my primary in match duties.) I like our pit set up so that our players can go thru a prescribed routine of come off the field, get air, at the same time staff with a towel is cleaning the player up if needed. The player then moves to get paint, gets checked, can grab a drink or whatever. At which point they are ready to get back on the field--after I give them their next breakout. (We can also turn players around quickly for back-to-back points as needed, too.)
Most of my attention and efforts are focused on setting the lines point-to-point, calling our breakouts, making adjustments and supplying the players with any useful info I'm picking up as I watch the other team's breakouts and play.

Tomorrow I'll go deeper into the process of calling a match and preparing to call matches by scouting your opponents and game-planning.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guess Who's Coming to World Cup

It seems a couple of teams requested entry to the Pro division at Cup and that permission has been granted. Rumor has one of those teams has already paid their entry but that remains unconfirmed as the team hasn't yet appeared on the list.
It also poses a couple of questions. Who are they? (I'm getting to that.) And how, if at all, will that change the event and potentially impact the season for the regular competitors? (There's other questions too but I posed the ones that interest me. Feel free to pose your own.)
Since the PSP Pro division has operated with 12 teams in the past that part shouldn't be a problem assuming the league simply returns to past practices. That would result in a tighter prelim schedule--more games per day by a couple, if I remember correctly--and a quarterfinal round on Sunday as 6 teams would go through with each division's top seed getting a bye to the semi's. Whatever the league does once the added teams actually pay up the league needs to clarify what will happen for the rest of the division.
The only downside, other than turning WC into a one off for anyone, more or less, who wants to show up instead of the culmination of a competitive series is the way in which Young Master Raehl--henceforth known as YMR--produces the prelim schedules. He has the goofy notion (I'm being kind) that his view of parity supersedes ranking in creating a prelim schedule. What I mean is YMR in essence rewards the new guys and less prepared and/or capable teams by giving them an easier schedule while at the same time giving the best teams a more difficult schedule. At least on paper. And as every sensible competitor knows this is completely bass-ackwards. So one might hope he will be directed to produce an appropriate schedule rather than one to his liking. (This only happens when the divisions have more teams than prelim games. 5 teams, everyone plays everyone in 4 prelim matches. 6 teams and not everyone plays everyone else.)
One of the teams hoping to compete in Cup is from the NPPL perhaps looking to get a leg up if the merger goes through or at least get their players some experience. The other team is from the CPL.
How long can I draw this out before I tell you who they are?
A little longer at least.
The NPPL team is--
Seattle Thunder.
And the CPL team is--
London Nexus.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Monday Poll: Photogs Gone Wild

In a very special The Monday Poll VFTD examines the troubling rise in belligerence amongst photographers of tournament paintball. Case in point: the angry thread in the NPPL forum over at ***, oops, I meant PBN. (VFTD doesn't have a policy of denying the existence of certain other paintball-related websites.) It seems that someone within the NPPL hierarchy modified their league policy with respect to so-called media. In this case, photogs. Part of the problem seems to have arisen when the changes in policy were dictated to a seven year old for dissemination on the league's website. Or wherever.
The larger issue seems to be that the league has scaled their media pass fees in accordance with whether or not the photogs in question make their photos available to the league. (Apparently.) Hordes of angry photogs have gathered their metaphoric pitchforks and are gathering around the metaphoric curtain walls of castle NPPL--along with their torches--they present quite a metaphoric sight. [Enough already.] (Sorry about that. Got carried away. Not literally. Or metaphorically even, but you know ...) Given that VFTD recently raised the issue of vanity photography at tournaments I couldn't let this pass without some comment.

So here it is: Right now all the "professional" photogs at events are cutting their own throats competing with each other for the attention (and cash payments) of mostly a bunch of broke ass kids. Which is their right. (But if they intentionally "under"-value their own work why so upset when the league does the same thing?) If however the league was to limit the number of photogs allowed at any event that scarcity would do a couple of things; keep everyone from tripping over hordes of photogs and increase the value of the ones who are there. Which might be a win, win sort of situation.
It also seems to me that in general the raging photogs are confusing their interest in signing up teams willing to pay for pictures with the general promotion of paintball much less the promotion of the league everyone is participating in during such an event. If 100 photographers take a combined 50,000 photos of an event is the promotional value greater than if 5 photographers take 100 pictures each? Suffice to say it's a weak argument. (And, no, the aesthetic value of the photographs isn't particularly relevant. I know, it's a sad indictment of our culture & times but true nonetheless.)

What's your view? Check out this week's The Monday Poll (sidebar, d'oh!) and choose the option that best represents your point of view--or, as usual, feel free to post up in the comments. (But you won't 'cus you're a--say it with me now--lazy slacker.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kaos Theory

(Btw, I started writing this on Friday so I am claiming this post was delivered "on time." Baca time, that is. See the time stamp.)

There's really nothing new here. I just like to give stuff names and I like kaos theory because there already is a chaos theory--duh--(that says, in part, that certain kinds of dynamic systems are determined by their initial conditions and are entirely predictable--at least in theory--but otherwise appear entirely, well, chaotic)--and that is very much what offensive paintball looks like too. (But it's not.)
Kaos theory relies on sensory overload to be successful. Everything you are taught about playing competitive paintball is turned on its head in the dynamic offensive game. You are supposed to play tight and limit risk. Control lanes and wait for opportunities that are frequently the result of eliminations. Moreover, making big and/or aggressive moves too early is often a recipe for getting blown up and putting your team in a hole. And even if the big move works it can leave a single player overextended and pinned down. So what gives?
Where most teams and/or players go wrong when they want to be an aggressive offensive powerhouse is ultimately they fail to commit. They chicken out. Like a wide receiver in football going over the middle they alligator arm the attempted pass--they get halfway through doing it right but suddenly seem to realize how wrong it could all go and try to pull back--and that's when it all goes wrong. Every time. Guaranteed. The first rule of offensive paintball is follow through because once you (and your teammates) make the move it's all or nothing.
My first team captain believed in offensive paintball--and so did we (it sure seemed exciting anyway)--but we sucked at it. As a team we had a few team rules. One rule was if you see a teammate making his move--you go too. In simplest form that's what offensive paintball is all about. It didn't work for us very well because we didn't know how to practice being a cohesive offense. Or even how to think about what it took to execute aggressive offense. Back in their respective heydays that's what teams like Aftershock and Image were all about. (Don't get me wrong. Even the most offensive of teams executed their offense under control but when they came at ya, they came in a wave.) Think too of early 7-man Dynasty.
A decade ago Dynasty revolutionized competitive paintball with their aggressive running & shooting style but they were just building on what had come before them. And it wasn't the running & gunning that made the difference--that revolutionized the competitive game--it was the speed. (The running & shooting helped make it possible though.)
On last thing before we nail kaos theory down. Vision. And communication. They perform complimentary functions. The issue with both is collecting, disseminating and interpreting information about what is happening on the field--now. Conventional paintball wisdom says that visual and communicated information facilitate action. That is, if you know enough about what's going on it allows you, as a player, to act.
Kaos Theory says we are gonna give you so much information so fast you can't even begin to process it fast enough to act effectively and as a result we is gonna run you down and blow you up. Think of a player making a bunker run. Even with sideline coaching it's almost impossible to stop because it happens too fast for the player being run down to receive that information and act to counter it without getting shot. Now multiply that effect by 5. Or 7. Or, back in the day, by 10. Now I know what you're gonna say: but, but , but--if a team is committed to defense and crossed up covering lanes offense is simply going to run to their death. Which may be correct in certain situations but that isn't a failure of the kaos theory concept, it's a failure to properly execute it.
Besides, I never said it was simple to do--just simple to understand. Watch a couple of Aftershock or Impact videos from NJ. When Impact attacked the show side of the X watch what happens and what the rest of the team does in response. That's offensive paintball. (In Impact's case their pressing the attack was usually conditional.) Watch a couple of Shock videos. You will see offensive paintball. Watch the end of the Shock-Damage match and you'll see Damage counter with their own brand of offensive execution in an effort to come back. It doesn't always work but when it does it's a thing of rare beauty.
If you're still uncertain or unconvinced try thinking of it like this. Imagine you have a bird's eye view of a game being played. It unfolds over 3 or 4 minutes with moves, matching or countering moves, working angles and players shooting paint. Eventually one team gets an advantage of either numbers or field position and begins to attempt to close out the game. Rewind the game back to the beginning but this time play it on fast forward. The same things happen, they just happen a lot faster. Kaos Theory says a team (or player) can neutralize a team's defenses simply by executing their offense so fast the other team is unable to process the dynamic changing field situation fast enough to stop them. Is offensive paintball an every point or game option? Probably not for most but only because effective execution at speed is almost as difficult as trying to stop it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Team Names

No, this isn't Kaos Theory. It's coming tomorrow. I get sidetracked. (I've been busy.) (I was out of town.) (Pick a reason that works for you.)
Received an update from the kids at World Cup Asia reminding everyone to register asap to get listed on the official T-shirt--and, oh yeah, an opportunity to compete. If you're planning on being in the neighborhood--take a left at Fiji and get in the game.
Back in the day official event T-shirts with a list of competing teams was all the rage. And it used to be fun taking a look at the different team names just to see what goofy choices some ballers made. (Okay, in the interests of full disclosure it was probably more fun after making a serious dent in the rum--but still.)
Never did that? Fine, let me show you that it can be entertaining. (Hey, I'm easily amused. Lighten up.) Check out some of the teams playing World Cup Asia: Dirty Annihilation (GER), Raskal (MAL), Ne Makrame (RUS), Red Sevens (Singapore), Hittballerz (MAL), Beez Waxers (MAL), Simpsons (MAL) & Skin (Singapore). Pretty good, right? Some are cool, some are bizarre--and some are completely indecipherable, at least from the perspective of a different culture. Who would ever have figured a team from Malaysia would name themselves over an American cartoon produced in Korea?
How 'bout--Sumatran Centurians? Or Mighty Owl? iscreamwar is a keeper. And I'm liking Mulischa too.
See? Not so bad after all. (Now's the time for you OG types to step up and add some names from yesteryear to the list and learn these lazy slacking kids a thing or two.)

Tomorrow--for real this time--Kaos Theory.