Thursday, August 2, 2012

Basic Tactics: Beginner Game

Throughout this series I will focus on a couple of things: guiding principles and situational actions (choices) based on those principles. The standard beginner game breaks out into one variation or another of a 2-1-2; 2 players snake side, 1 player back center and 2 players on the dorito side. (This is also a standard opening for every other level of team as it represents the basic neutral or balanced breakout.) It isn't the opening that's the issue, it's what you do with it. In beginner game the tendency is to engage in gunfights right away across the field. Even if the wire leads are actively attempting to reach their respective wire as a beginner they are also frequently engaging in unnecessary gunfights. This is one reason you often see lower division teams take their primaries with maybe one or two secondary bumps and the game turns into separate gunfights until enough players have been eliminated to encourage one team or the other to start moving in an effort to close out the point. (This is also how beginner counterpunch paintball is played. In fact this is often how it is learned. Young teams don't have a complex understanding of how the game works but they understand risk well enough to see that given their current skill level the safe play is to risk as little as possible until you gain a few kills.)
When teams play like this it is an actively anti-team style because it devolves into a series of individual gunfights. (Of course that isn't the only thing that ever happens and such teams can appear to be doing other things well, may even be doing some other things well, but it will still hold the team's development back.) Keep in mind the strategic goals from last time; gain, anchor & control the wire(s).
The diagram shows The Team's breakout, players A-E, in the 2-1-2 neutral pattern. Is Player A or B the dorito wire lead or front? Which player, D or E is the lead snake player? What is C doing at Home? From this breakout you can't be sure but probably thought B & D were the fronts and A & E the mids (or anchors) having reached the corners. And if that is correct then it becomes A's & E's primary job to assist B & D to get on the wire(s) and upfield. (We will cover the how-to's in detail in a future post.) But that isn't necessarily the correct assignment of roles, is it? What if A sees an opening to move to D2? Shouldn't he take it? And if A does make that move what becomes of B?
What's up with player C? Often as not his job is to be the fireman. If he sees a "fire" breaking out on one wire or the other it's his job to hose it and slow that fire down. The problem with that is that it lets the fire get started in the first place. It reduces C's role to a reactive one and reaction is the cornerstone of a defensive mindset. Before you know it, and without intending to do it a key player is on the defensive and doing it badly not because he's a poor player but because he doesn't have a properly defined role.
So here we are: The Team is in a common breakout arrangement and know they want to work the wires but they don't know how to put all the pieces together. Beginner game is weak because it lacks a plan, priorities and well defined player roles. Traditionally competitive paintball evolved quasi-positional players; like Fronts, Mids (Inserts) & Backs and there was a time when it was helpful to describe how players played by position. That time is over.
Ideally (on our diagram) Player(s) A & B should both be capable of assuming the lead role or the support role and depending on how a given point plays out switching back and forth during the point. One key then for the modern player is versatility, the skillset to fill multiple roles, knowledge of the various roles and the capability to transition from one role to another as necessary.
The team key is teaching (learning) the player roles. While a positional element remains in defining  player roles the critical elements are knowing the differing duties (jobs) and how to prioritize those duties. If it all sounds way too complicated, it isn't. As the series moves along you'll discover the nuts & bolts of how it all works is really pretty straightforward and (almost) simple.

I also want to spend a bit of time talking about communication. And I don't mean sideline coaching (where it's allowed.) Have you ever heard the term 'fog of war'? Coined by Prussian military strategist von Clausewitz during the Napoleonic era it had both a literal and figurative meaning. In the early 19th century orderly arrangements of troops and artillery would array against each other and once a battle was engaged the battlefield would quickly be covered with smoke making it impossible to see what was happening. Once engaged in battle intelligence gathering broke down too, as did lines of communication and the hierarchy of control making it difficult if not impossible to efficiently redirect troops or guns and maneuver on the go to take advantage of the changing circumstances. Lack of consistent cross field communication in paintball produces the same result, to one degree or another. Lines of sight are blocked by bunkers, a player is face down in the snake crawling, another is tucked tight into a dorito with multiple guns shooting at him. They have lost sight of the field. And vision is information about the changing face of the contest. No vision, no information--unless it is provided in alternative ways; like verbal communication. Trying to play winning paintball without communication is like putting a blindfold on just before the horn sounds. It's nearly impossible to make timely, confident and effective decisions about what to do next when you don't know what's happening.
More about communication next time.

The next post will be The Game Plan.


Anonymous said...

Since no one else is leaving any comments.... I wanted to let you know I truly do appreciate this series. It's a good refresh.



EC Lil Baller said...

As captain of a team that's starting out, has had some success in D5 and is looking to evolve and progress I thank you for this series. I see your observations on beginner game in our current 'strategies' and am learning how to get our team into a more advanced mindset/gameplan. Thanks.

MK said...

Read your comment about how few you believe are looking forward to this series. I believe you are totally wrong. The lack of comments is probably that we are all sitting on pins and needles for the continuation.

So, thanks for bringing this up!