A small confession; I love the idea of a whole battery of stats for competitive paintball and its players. The keeping of statistics is a hallmark of professionalism. (Which is a whole 'nother post but bear with me.) It's a foundational way we ("we" meaning people in general and people involved in sports) try to categorize & quantify player & team performance. And stats provide a shorthand, easy to grasp way of making comparisons and supporting the inevitable arguments for or against different players amongst the fans of whatever that sport may be. It's a way to share our common interests in ways everyone understands and makes the game and its players more accessible. At the same time it should be apparent that stats alone are insufficient for those in the business of competing.
One of my favorite stat-busters is evaluating potential pro quarterbacks by the numbers--or even, in some cases, by their experience and past accomplishments. (Although I always tend to favor results over numbers because winners tend to win. [How's that for a real cliche?]) Anyway, scouts are looking for height, arm strength, a higher than average score on the Wunderlich test, etc. (They are also looking for a variety of qualities that are harder to quantify like poise, command in the huddle, ability to read progressions and so on.) But historically the scales have always leaned toward the numbers and if a guy looks like a quarterback he must be a quarterback. As a consequence the results have been inconsistent to say the least. For every John Elway there's a Ryan Leaf. And that is from a sport that spends millions of dollars in the effort. What chance then do paintball teams, captains and coaches have to get it "right" when they're making roster decisions?
And now for something completely different; it's story time. (For those of you familiar with our team codes, no, not that kind of story time.) I want to tell you a story about a former pro player I know and once had the pleasure & privilege to coach. Toward the end of his active career as a pro player I noticed a rather marked drop in performance. And it puzzled me for a while because I could see he was making the effort. He was putting in the time and once I got to know him a bit better I could see his frustration. It got to the point where I was cutting back on his rotations and trying to manage even those in an attempt to help him succeed because both he and the team needed that success to win. I struggled with how to come to grips with whatever was wrong because it wasn't desire, effort or dedication. What it turned out to be in his case was motivation but not in the normal sense. His game depended on his passion for the game and when after years and many successes the fire didn't burn as bright or hot as it once had it affected his ability to compete at the level he once had.
The moral of the story is that if we're gonna get a real handle on player performance we need to delve well beyond the realm of stats and boldly advance into the world of the intangible.
The rest of the story is I recently spent some time with that player--who is playing again (at least for now)--with a new maturity and at least a good dose of that old fire. The game matters again, just I think, in a different way than it once did. It was good to see and in hindsight it was easy to see the difference it made and is making again.
Next time; the intangibles of player performance. And after that--separating what's important from what is essential.