Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Basic Tactics: Roles

Today I'ma try to pin down the basic roles. While we could use the traditional terms; front, insert & back I prefer lead, support & push. (If you missed the last post there is some background on the push role you may want to review.) Keep in mind that assigning identities like "front" or "lead" is no more than convenient shorthand. Yes, they describe what the player is doing but the various "jobs" a lead has also changes as the point unfolds and positions change.
Leads initiate and press the attack forward. That can be on the wires or up the middle. (The key reason attacking the X OTB is often hit or miss is because it is hard to impossible to support that position right away. When X-side players miss their first elimination opportunity their utility is drastically reduced because now they can be avoided or directly counterattacked.) Supports do just that, they support their lead. And between the two players; lead & support, you have the basic tactical unit in xball or Race 2. Each pair plays a side--remember strong side / weak side? And we denote the difference based on which way the game plan calls for the push to play. Why push and not plain old back? Simply because we want to focus on the transition to all out offense. It is very easy for a back player to get too comfortable just throwing paint from a big back bunker. (How many times have you seen a team trying to close out a point with numbers but the player in the back won't move to help get it done?) The push may play a neutral or even defensive role much of every point so it's especially important for that player to keep sight of his/her full role--which is to transition from the back (support) role into the extra gun added to the offensive push or pressure looking to close out the point.
Looking at panel A on the diagram we have a dorito wire pair identified by a blue and green dot(s). In their primaries is it possible to know which is the lead and which is the support? We know the lead initiates the attack and the support supports the leads effort--so why don't we know for sure which is which from their primary positions? Because there is no lead and no attack or movement upfield yet. (That doesn't mean there isn't any action or gunfighting or an effort to use superior position to gain advantage--it simply means that positionally, on the field, either player could take the lead. In panel A when the green player moves he takes the lead and the blue player moves into a supporting position. Why is green the lead? Because he is in position to continue moving upfield on the D-wire. And what is his primary responsibility? Look inside for easy eliminations. The lead wants to minimize the need to gunfight. We have moved to a wire to gain an advantage and that advantage is realized looking first to shoot inside and cross field. If green is the lead blue is the support, so why the MT over the SD or a rotation out to the corner--after all its a wireside wide position. Because the support's first responsibility is to protect his lead and contain the opposition's ability to counter the leads moves--and on this sample field the required lines of sight are only present with the MT. (The blue cone emanating from the MT shows the zone the support is focused on. Note that from either the corner of the SD the wire bunkers interfere--and further the SD forces the support to play low while the MT offers various elevation options.) As long as the support is in place doing his job the lead is free to focus on his.
In panel B our support (blue) begins in the corner and when the lead bumps to the wire rotates upfield into the MT. They could have as easily swapped roles and moved as did the D-wire pair in panel A. However in panel B we see a common primary positioning because taking the corner allows the support to help the lead move to the wire. In this position the wide support is better positioned to force opponents off their edges allowing the lead to move to the wire. And once accomplished a quick move back inside to the MT is easily done. (Though it needn't happen immediately particularly if no opponent has reached the wire yet.) In this option we see how the layout begins to dictate some of the decisions we make about how to play.
In panel C we have an example of how players working a wire can switch roles in the middle of a point. It is critically important to maintain near constant communication to be an effective support. It is equally important for each player to recognize when their roles have reversed. Every time you see a couple of players run down on the dorito wire or in the snake you know somebody made a serious mistake. And most often it happens when both players end up acting out the lead role and nobody is in support. Now sometimes in supporting an attack the push becomes the primary support and added complications enter the equation. In any event a miscalculation or simple error (or lack of basic paintball knowledge) is frequently the difference between heading for the sideline or hanging the flag.
If this is more than a little confusing so far not to worry. This was just an introduction to the idea of roles and how they work. As we continue through the series roles will take a prominent place as we expand our understanding of basic tactics.


Michael Tsang said...

Another great post. Keep them coming! Any update on the possible coach's clinic?

Chris said...

I'm loving this series. Great stuff.

Mark said...

I SO know what you mean.

I cannot believe I listened to all 90 minutes of it.

Even the latest one by that arrogant a-hole was pretty good too.

Mark said...

Wrong place for above comment.

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