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.