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.


Anonymous said...

Great read. Thanks for these articles Baca. They definitely provide some insight into how teams should be approaching the strategic aspect of preparing for matches

houdini said...

Thanks Baca - some great reading and some inspiration to take our prep to the next level... although I know you probably put more importance on coaching the players during training sessions, it's great to know how much detail you go into during tournaments.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the great read. I really enjoy the extra work and insight you put into these columns.