Thursday, September 27, 2012

NITPN: Mills, Mills & More

Not In The Paintball News this week is a bunch of Millennium news--and more. Let's begin with their so-called World Cup at Paris-Disney (dueling Cups anyone?) The big numbers have the Board contemplating a fifth event for next season. Word is some potential sites are already under consideration. In more immediate news the MS has, at the last second, made available a new 'Masters' format--aimed at the aging baller--that bears a strong resemblance to the Formula Fives out of the UK. Why, after the MS has moved to integrate their Xball Lite formula top to bottom would they introduce an all new format? The answer may lie in the bunker set as the new "Classic" division also introduces brand new "props" which appear to be prefabricated wall and corner pieces that fit together. The result is a standardized cross between a rec village and pallet style field that can be easily replicated. And provides Sup'Air with an all new product line. The PSP may have grudgingly accepted the technical snake and upgrade kits but at least they didn't create a whole new division of manufactured play in order to sell Sup'Air stuff. That said it was pointed out to me in a conversation earlier today that Sup'Air's new city props might be a good match with JT's Splatmaster line or seamlessly integrated into Airsoft or laser tag play. Finally rumor has it that Laurent Hamet has said a brand new and comprehensive rule book will be released before next season. Rumor also has it the rule book will be accompanied by a complimentary rule book for refs as well. Given that a new rule book has been in the offing for years I'll believe it when I can download it. (And if it does come out feel free to thank me then.)
VFTD reported some months ago that Facefull had--once again--discontinued publication and apparently that fact has finally been noticed at--Facefull--who recently announced they are going on hiatus--again. You say hiatus I say dirt nap.
Shoreline Ltd., the UK promoters who are the driving force behind the new 'The Paintball Show' got the good news just the other day that the network (one of the independent Euro ones, SKY or something) wanted them to expand the show from 60 minutes to 90 minutes on the basis of seeing the first two shows--which haven't aired yet. I mention it because it's soon to be paintball on TV--the Holy Grail after all--and because I am wondering what they could possibly do with ninety minutes that won't drive the average viewer to an alcoholic stupor. The episodes will be available via internet after their broadcast debut.
In a similar vein Social PB has jumped into the video paintball news biz with the Social Weekly News. The first episode was, on the whole, pretty good. I'm curious to see if enough happens week to week to provide sufficient content but it's a nice addition to everything Social is doing.
And kudos to PBAccess for upping the ante with 'The Hot Seat' interview(s). The first was with Rusty Glaze, new coach of Dynasty, and features some tougher questions which allow the viewer some insights into what Rusty is thinking and how he will approach his new job. It may have lacked fireworks but was solidly informative and well worth viewing. (You're welcome.)
In closing Mr. Curious has heard the whispered rumor that Impact is looking to get back into the PSP as a full time Pro division participant next season. If true it's clear Bart wants Impact to be relevant (and a serious Pro division contender) but a move back to the PSP would be an acknowledgement the the team needs the PSP to make their bones, wouldn't it? (Which wouldn't do anything good for the NPPL's reputation.) Match that with hints that some high profile Pro teams may drop out due to continuing sponsorship austerity measures and the NPPL could be a tough spot.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TBD: The Controversy?

If any of y'all are waiting for some comments about the Mouse pick-up I can't help you out. Clearly he's a solid player and with Jake likely out it should help up shore up our efforts but I haven't talked to him yet, seen him with the team or begun the process of integrating him into what we're doing. Bottom line, you'll see how well it works out when we play.
I'm also hearing some rumblings--yes, all the way over here in Denmark--in response to the interviews posted by Social with Joey and Dave and I'm curious what the VFTD audience thinks of them. The normal paintball fare for public consumption has always been the bland happy talk about how wonderful sponsors are (and they are) and how much everyone loves paintball blah blah blah. These interviews go to a place paintball isn't used to so what do you think? If you haven't seen them, watch them, and come back and let me know. Since we're keeping it real say whatever it is you really think. I am legitimately interested. Is it a tempest in a teapot? Is it a cool insider's view. Is it a style you found compelling or off-putting? Whatever your take on the interviews is I want to hear it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dateline: Denmark

Or, as some will suggest, that's just Copenhagen. They all talk funny there. Ask  a city native and the story will be a bit different of course, country bumpkins can barely feed themselves. [Not actual conversations. Just my interpretation. Your results may vary.]
If you've been keeping up over at VFTD: FB (Facebook, d'oh!) you'll be aware I was doing a first of it's kind team clinic this past weekend in Copenhagen. (And before you get any ideas, it's not the jet-set life it's the jet-lag life.) If you weren't keeping up, now you know.
The concept behind the clinic isn't the usual individual skills and technique training but something, I think, that is considerably more valuable to established teams--an integrated process that breaks the game down into its component elements and using a combination of practical theory and easily replicable drills focusing on the team aspects of the game; how to be a team, a more cohesive team, and how to play as a unit as opposed to 5 individuals on the paintball field--the goal is improvement as a team. And the way the process works it leaves the participating teams with routines and practice habits they can incorporate into their team training and tourney prep for the future. If you're not exactly sure what all that means--well, I guess, you'll just have to attend the next one and find out.
As this was a first for me as well I came away having learned a lot too. As a result I will be fine tuning the process and making improvements. In some respects it's almost too much info for 2 days--and I'm not good at paring things down, I'm good at getting side-tracked and distracted and trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the mix--so I've got to be more disciplined in my approach and not try to do everything all at once.
Anyway, everyone was very friendly and attentive (unlike at home, you lazy bastards) and my hosts, Extreme Paintball (Jesper, Rene & Nick) went above and beyond to make my time in Denmark a pleasure. Thanks one and all.

Shameless Plug: If any field or team has an interest in discussing the prospects of a team clinic in your area drop me a line using VFTD's email (see sidebar) or hit me up on Facebook anytime. (Maybe it will prove to worth something after all. Facebook, that is.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


A few semi-connected thoughts for a Wednesday before I hit the road. I'ma revise my World Cup participation numbers estimate. I think they'll break 300 now or come mighty close to it. Registered teams hit 336 last night. I was looking at the teams listed curious to see how many appear to be international teams. Euro representation may be down a bit--not unreasonable considering Paris-Disney is 2 weeks before Cup--but it looks like South America will be well represented. One thing I did find surprising was the appearance of "Hulk" in D3. Now it may be the rosters won't be the same--easily checked (but I haven't yet)--but Hulk Kiev is a Semi-pro team in the Millennium and if it's mostly the same guys they ought to be embarrassed about playing D3. (I noticed a couple other team names that might be in similar situations as well.) But that's as may be. The other thing that occurred to me is the place we need universal rankings isn't at the bottom of the divisional pile but at the top. It may be all well and good that APPA has expanded into "World Rankings" (in quotes 'cus APPA doesn't yet cover the world) but I remain unconvinced that Bobz Militia in D4 playing in Georgia has more than a passing acquaintance with any random D4 team from the Northeast or Cali or wherever. Just because the numbers work it doesn't mean anything until they play each other. And even if the rankings were excellent predictors the place we need them is in the upper divisions except, oops, neither the NPPL or MS use APPA. Granted, that isn't APPA's fault. Now if the Euros are as intent on their international organizations as they claim maybe it's time they put up or shut up and got with the program. Integrating the player base would be a big step in the right direction. (Btw, I'm hardly wedded to APPA but until or unless there's a better, cheaper system APPA is the default choice.)
While I'm at it there's also the bidness of letting Impact and XSV slum World Cup. For one thing it's gonna alter points results and will skew final season rankings for the other Pro teams that played the full season. It devalues the league's stature and could somebody tell me how it serves anybody's interest other than the NPPL? Is Impact gonna switch leagues? Not hardly. What about XSV? Yeah, right. So why give them an opportunity to polish their image at your league's expense? I don't get it. Sure, it could go the other way and knock both teams image down a notch or two but so what. And yes I realize requests came through sponsors to let them play but that decision [who sponsors would support] was made for 2012 before the season started--by everyone involved.
There's one other thing annoying me at the moment--and it's nothing new. I really like (most) of what PBAccess is doing, I really do but--Matty is killing me with all his trips down memory lane. I get that PBA isn't the PSP but right now the two are intertwined and PBA ain't gonna work without first succeeding with the PSP. That being the case more focus needs to be put on what's happening now--today--not ten years ago. Case in point, Mr. U. Great guy, good stories--has he played in the U.S. or the PSP in the last 5 years? Same thing with Sonny Lopez and the Hitmen. The Hitmen play mostly in the NPPL for goodness sake. (They're playing Vegas but not Cup.) It's all about as relevant as a 'Where Are They Now' TV show tracking down members of 80s hair bands. I'm pretty sure PBA isn't planning on being the living history museum of 90s era paintball so how 'bout getting with the program already?
(And just so's there's no confusion I am off the table when it comes to interviews, pod casts or anything else the PBA is doing. I am not looking to be included, I'm simply expressing an opinion about the way things are currently being done.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Monday Slog

Do you want the bad news first? Okay, the bad news is there's no good news. Hey, it's a Monday. Better to get it out of the way now rather than later, right? Look, if I had good news I'd be all over it. Wait, there are some positives floating around. PSP has over 300 teams registered for Cup and getting 300 teams for Cup would be a significant plus for competitive paintball on top of the expanded 5 event season. If I were a betting man though I'd say between 280-290 teams will be the official number. And we could kick in the NPPL Vegas championships (114 teams or thereabouts) and MS Paris-Disney season ender (192 teams). The result of those 3 events would see nearly 600 different tournament teams competing in international competition over a 3 week period in October--and that doesn't include World Cup Asia in November. Not so bad after all.
A quick comment on prizes (which is generating a minimal buzz over on PBN--again--and again--and zzzzz.) Two things; NPPL vs. PSP. NPPL bases prizes on division participation assigning a percentage based on the division. A greater percentage for the higher divisions--except Pro--which gets jack or thereabouts. And jack isn't in high demand. Anyway the point is that NPPL prizes are conditional on participation and they are antithetical to true competition and the spirit of sport. You don't reward mediocrity just because there's a lot of it. Then there's the small matter of not actually giving the prize payout formula anymore. Not on the website. Not in the rule book. I'm assuming it's some version of what it originally was. It may not be, I don't know. What I do know is if you're playing D2 traditional you won't be taking home beaucoup bucks.
There's good news and then there's good news. And I'ma put a tiny damper on some of the latest "good" news. You know, the whole Google Maps thing putting 'Paintball' on top of Top Rising Searches of the summer data point that's being touted as proof of Paintball's revival. 'Top risers' sounded to me like a comparative number meaning that if the baseline number was really small to begin with it wouldn't necessarily take a really big number to make the subject a top riser. So I did what a mildly curious lazy slacker would do and spent about 5 minutes Googling the whole thing--'cus the original information source doesn't explain how the value was determined. I didn't find any clear unambiguous explanation but it appears the number is real in the sense 'Paintball' got the most map searches compared to the other 'top risers'--and that is both pretty cool and, I gotta admit, kinda surprising. What we don't know is how many searches are we talking about? Since I wasn't finding easy answers but wanted some context I switched to Google Trends and punched in 'Paintball.' That result isn't nearly as gaudy as the top rising biz. It shows all paintball searches continuing a slow downward trend from 2004. The only "positives" from the trend numbers is that the decline has slowed to a nearly flat line--and the full summer 2012 numbers aren't available yet--so maybe the trend went up slightly along with that top rising value. And who knows, maybe top rising is an outlier for coming positives trends that will show the summer of 2012 was when Paintball turned around.
The bad news, is, if you're a VFTD junkie--and you know you are--that this next month, through World Cup, is likely to be a little thin on posts. This week I'm headed for Copenhagen to do a team clinic as part of the grand opening of Extreme Paintball. The following weekend is pre-Cup practice, the next weekend is Vegas NPPL and then the final push to Cup. And that's just paintball. I'm sure I'll get some posts up--after all I do it 'cus I enjoy it--except those damned Basic Tactics posts (which are beginning to bore me.) Yeah, I'll finish them too but the point is y'all are spoiled and you're gonna have to get used to less--at least for a while. So there it is.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WCA: The Layout Reviewed

The layout fundamentals feature traditional wires with a long connected snake and an inline dorito wire with the now commonplace midfield stand-ups as playable lane blockers. For the first time that I've seen it the feature center prop is a giant A (that appears to have open space between the bases. Squared edges around the A's base will provide more cover that the standard X and should be be larger than any individual base of a Millennium style M.) Attacking the center of the field OTB is a viable option for the occasional change of pace breakout though I would expect attacking the snake side from the A to be more effective than the D-side. The center of the field can also be used to counter-attack. (More on that later.)
This time around I am going to highlight a few options available given the details of the layout beginning with some suggestions for getting extra guns up on the breakout in combinations that might catch your opponent off guard. First look a pick positions marked A. One is a Home shooter and the other is on the move laning as a delay option. The Home shooter is laning for an opponent delay or a move upfield to the Can. This leaves the wide lanes option to be shot by the A delay. The A delay's position allows the shooter to shoot for a wide runner or the insert props of CK & fill Can. (The alternative to counter the delay shooter or repeated moves into the upfield Can adds an extra shooter in the immediate vicinity of Home and increasing the risk of elimination.) The snake version (C) of the same concept has Home laning inside of the forward MT while the delay shooter picks up the wide lanes. Looking at the B lane options (on the D-side) we have Home shooting the strongest optional lane [insert props] paired with an edger who comes off the board at the sound of the horn shooting paint straight at the opponent's mirror then edging the paint stream into the opposition Home. Similar snake side options (D) provide optional lanes on both snake side and D-side targets--and reflect the optional move potential into the forward (green) MT. The larger concept is to mix & match shooting lanes in compatible ways that minimize the shooters risk and still contain/control the opposition and defend teammates breakout runs. The examples given aren't the extent of the possible combinations.
Next up is the idea of repositioning Home. When the "Home" bunker is used proactively--as opposed to being the defender of last resort--as the second strong side support gun and "extra" push gun moving the Home shooter [push player] upfield early can help bring the attack to your opponent more effectively and incidentally improve your mid-game defense. On this field the green MT is the principle alternative Home. It delivers a gun down look at the snake and some decent contain lanes across to the D-wire. It also allows the MT to rotate to the snake wire if needed and as a solid position to attack the center from--particularly against teams consistently playing Inside/Out. I am not suggesting this as a standard gambit but as a highly functional option that will help you press the attack and keep the opposition guessing. 
Now I want to encourage everyone to play on your feet. Look at the green snake TCK. (And insert Can on the D-side.) The inclination of many players as they work up a wire is to play low and play it safe. Oftentimes, particularly in a snake it is necessary to play prone or in a tight tuck, and the same happens in doritos of all sizes when exposed to multiple guns. Given that the snake knuckles are TCKs the opportunity exists to play on your feet and increase your control, vision and ability to press your attack. (I'm not suggesting it's easy, only that it is worth making part of your game.) Take advantage where advantage exists. The same applies to the dorito wire with 5 MDs, more or less, lined up. Clearly it isn't always possible to play tall but being on your feet can open up your game. Push the envelope in practice and reap the rewards when the matches count.
Finally, OTB keep track of players getting wide (or not). Make a commitment in practice to include communicating this information across your team immediately. The reason is simple. Teams playing Inside/Out can--and should be--attacked directly when they make that choice. The counter attack options are to mirror positions, attack the X (or A) or take up a position like the D-side insert Can to wrap and contain. Alternatively wide guns (primaries OTB) can wrap and gain edge control over the inside guns that will allow additional teammates to get wide.

Okay, I cut a few corners in explaining some of the above details. If there are any follow-up or related questions post 'um up in comments and send them into the mailbag. Good luck and practice your gunfighting--it's gonna come in handy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

NITPN: Alternate Leagues & Formats

NITPN = Not in the Paintball News. I saw a notice on Facebook yesterday. (The only reason I was "on" Facebook is I was being held hostage by pirates who were trying to break my spirit and I was about ready to spill the beans when they lost their hotspot and ... that's all a big fat lie, of course, but it might have been true. Have I ever mentioned I despise social media? Well, I do. Hate Twitter with a passion. too.) Anyway, what I saw was a notice for the new intermediate division RT5 to be offered next year by the CXBL. The Canadian (not quite good enough to be American) Xball League. If you know anything about the CXBL you've probably heard they play "real" xball--and they do--but that isn't all they do. They have a beginners division called CX4 that plays a variant of traditional 5-man except with 4 players per side and a no ramping capped at 10 ROF. RT5 will be a modified xball lite/Race 2 allowing ramping but still capped at 10. The idea is the two pre-xball formats lead step by step into the full on xball format. It seems to me there's still a pretty big step up from RT5 to RXL but that's not what interested me. It's the different ROFs. Yes, I know the PSP wussed out and bailed on progressive ROF a couple of years ago but it isn't a dead letter issue and the CXBL proves it. The other thing the CXBL proves is that there's still room for different brands of competitive paintball. (Granted, the majority of world competitive paintball is now an xball type variant which suggests the game is slowly coalescing into a world game.) And there still ought to be an ongoing debate about what is best for the game and its players--and progressive ROF is an overwhelming good.
The fledgling NPL recently closed their first season. (Link here & here.) Whatever else you may think of their brand of competitive paintball--and how its structured--to my mind the key is that they are truly local. It isn't an overly complicated game. It's fast paced (and on a slightly smaller field of play) would probably prove to have real potential for improving the all around skill profile of new to speedball players. What I like here--at least conceptually--is that the NPL is a format that may be able to bridge players into competitive paintball in ways that perhaps the more highly regulated APPA family of league and affiliate leagues perhaps can't. (Their focus is on creating a universal vertical hierarchy of players and I'm unconvinced it's the best option for beginners.)
So what's the point? Not only does competitive paintball have room for more than one game it almost certainly needs more than one game in order to reach its widest audience and grow in popularity. Each game variant, each format is a laboratory of competition with the potential to improve the game and its players. While it runs contrary to the nature of competition itself (somebody wins, somebody loses) perhaps we should embrace the different possibilities as they offer the prospect of making positive contributions to the sport of competitive paintball in the future.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Phoenix Contact, Pro Teams & Sanctioning Leagues

As much as I've enjoyed the bits of snark on display in the comments of the Phil Veatch interview I think some of the comments have been misunderstood and others have characterized some things as being factual that aren't. Factual, that is. That being the case I'ma take a moment to clear things up at which point y'all may continue sniping at one another.
Contact is blameless in all this, whatever this is. They are just a bunch of guys excited over an unusual opportunity. Whether or not it's a good idea it's one they couldn't resist.
Just because someone thinks giving an untried brand new in the box team a pro spot is a poor idea and a poorer reflection on competitive paintball as sport doesn't make them a jealous or resentful hater. To the great majority it is the situation they have an opinion about, not the team or the players who almost nobody knows from Adam. (The real haters, if there are any, undoubtedly reside in the Phoenix-Tucson corridor and are not the product of Contact getting a pro spot but of local animosities and past histories. Which nobody outside the Southwest knows about or cares about.)
Nor is this about the dictionary definition of professional athlete or the paintball world's notions about pro players or the so-called legitimacy of pro teams. Everyone interested in this subject understands the game is still young and evolving and comparisons to other sports is not about validating competitive paintball but about establishing an ideal, a target to shoot for. And contrary to some of the pedants now is when the game needs clear direction and as much of a shared vision as possible among its adherents. If we don't care about the integrity and purity of the game who will?
As to the leagues supporting pro divisions. No, they are not all equal. By rule the most restrictive is the Millennium. Unfortunately their rules are more like suggestions at times. And while promo/relegation up and down the locked divisions should produce the most competitive "legitimate" teams that only applies as long as demand exceeds supply and over the last 3 years the league has worked long and hard in the off season to keep as many locked division slots filled as possible--including CPL spots.
While no rules exist the PSP is very mindful of the status of its pro division. The league's top 2 priorities are fielding a competitive team and having an organization that can sustain a team over time. The only team to be allowed into the league in recent years that didn't meet that criterion was Thunder and that was because they were largely an uncertain quantity. (They had played in the pro division in the NPPL.) What Thunder did bring to the table were ties to the Naughty Dogs--a long time pro team--and a home in the Northwest. In the year CEP joined the pro ranks (Galveston 2011) the pro division lost Entourage, Aftermath and XSV along with the whole Semi-pro division. In 2010 the pro entrants were Vicious and XSV the top 2 semi-pro ranked teams from '09. Sure the numbers matter. They matter in each league but that doesn't mean they're all the same.
In the NPPL 3.0 they needed to fill an arbitrary 16 team pro division in their first season with the enticement of owning a share of the league. The result from the beginning was a suspect pro division that remains suspect to this day and even with the prospect of league ownership a significant number of teams failed to make a go of it on the field or as organizations. Nor has the league been able to maintain a 16 team division despite efforts to regularly add new teams.

So say what you want about the perceived legitimacy of pro teams and divisions but in every case the level of respect for each league hinges on that perception. And which league is the most respected isn't in doubt.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Basic Tactics: Breakout Theory

From feedback to the last Basic Tactics post on breakouts it seems some of y'all can see the possibilities but are still struggling with aspects of the how and why. Not quite sure if all the pieces are fitting together correctly. It's late at night and you're putting together a beautiful bicycle--you can see from the pictures--for your child's birthday the next morning but the directions are in Chinese and somehow or other there are always left over washers, nuts and screws. (If you happen to know Chinese, like, I don't know, 2 billion Chinese people pick an obscure language. Go with Urdu maybe. It's just a metaphor, alright?)
We are going to touch briefly on elements that have traditionally been part of field-walking in looking at different approaches we can take when designing breakouts. Before we do let's review other key elements at work that we've touched on (at least in passing) in prior posts.
What style of game does your team play? Or want to play? (You may not be there yet and the only way you'll ever get there is by making the effort in practice.) (Additionally, are there skills the team lacks that keeps it from attempting some kinds of breakouts or implementing them effectively? The answer isn't to limit what you do, it is to recognize those weaknesses and begin the hard work to overcome them. If your team can't execute heavy run&gun breakouts don't avoid them; practice, practice, practice.)
You have the Outside/In option and the Inside/Out option. You can even blend the two across your strong side/weak side divide.
What is the Game Plan objective of a particular breakout? What the team is attempting to accomplish guides the choices made for that breakout.

And here is where the disconnect exists for most young teams. You are making decisions based on incomplete or limited information. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred you don't know the field well enough! Full stop! (Go back and read that again, and again until you are willing to admit that it applies to you just as much as the other guy 'cus this is critically important.)
What you cannot do is take the basic tactics concepts we are covering and treat them like short cuts to success. It doesn't work that way. There is no easy button to victory. The goal of these posts is to supply y'all with a useful blueprint for applying lessons learned, knowledge gained and accumulated experience--not to provide the five simple steps to victory.
Granted, we already have a general sense of how many of the breakouts are likely to work because a field is a field is a field, but it's not enough. Even though we roughly know from experience where players are most likely to go OTB it's necessary to break down the details if we are going to be shooting the most effective lanes and operating as a unit during the breakout--and beyond. And, of course, for responding to the unpredicted.
Our two guiding principles when we are walking the field are; How do we take control OTB? & How do we protect our players OTB? In the first instance we are thinking about things like denying the snake OTB or making the decision to double a lane rather than let a runner get wide on a particular play. In the second instance we are focusing on how to make D1 OTB while considering alternative running paths, edgers or a delayed runner. While there is conflict between the two schemes--one is fundamentally offensive and the other defensive--they can (are and should be) integrated into single breakouts. But none of it happens seamlessly and none of it happens easily. We can't apply our general rules and automatically spew out completely complex breakouts or game plans. We have to understand the nuances of each layout. That means it must be walked and we must break it down bunker by bunker until we are comfortable we have a good understanding of where and how we can make simple specific choices that make game plans and breakouts work. And--

It gets worse. Your team is only as strong as it's dumbest (laziest) (fill in the blank) member.
The answer isn't to get a head start on tearing out your hair. It is to keep in mind that this is part of a process too. It is going to take time. Field-walking is like everything else; you get better with practice, you see more with experience. But--

It gets worse still. The game isn't over after the breakout. Not only must you learn each layout in depth in order to prepare and execute team (TEAM) breakouts every player must know the whole field--including the other team's half--because the game seldom ends at the breakout and every player must be equally prepared to play anywhere on the field over the course of a game, match and tournament. How much time does your team spend walking a new field? How much time do you spend together going over the props and relationships, the shots and the angles? Does your team have routines, drills and practices dedicated to learning and understanding a new layout? Besides that old stand-by the scrimmage?

Next time we're going to look at the transition from breakout to mid-game and our lessons to date apply. After that in future posts we'll look at specific transitional scenarios and breakdown how to play them before moving to the end-game and the conclusion of the series.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview with Phil Veatch, captain of Phx Contact

Who is Phoenix Contact? Roster wise, we have a lot of players in the organization. The Pro team will be Myself, Zak Smith, Jeff Milam, Joe Vuica, Hondo Fimbres, Jon Buot, Keaton Sorey, Brent Nielsen, Mike Condon and Josh Garcia.

How did the NPPL hear about Contact? The majority of the experience on the team has history with the NPPL. When we built the team we decided to play Vegas as it was the format we are most familiar with and it is close to home. We initially registered as D1, and as an error or computer glitch, the NPPL system had put us as registered under pro. We laughed about it a little bit, but also kind of got to thinking about it as well. They ultimately corrected their mistake, but a good number of people noticed and where reaching out to us with some questions. We decided to contact the NPPL in regards to the availability of a pro spot, with no expectations really, and they informed us there were 3 other teams interested in Mutiny's spot and they were reviewing each to determine the most qualified team. They told us to submit our roster and resume, so I wrote up about a page long resume on the team, the players, our organization, goals, and history and sent it over. Once again, not really expecting anything to come of it, but thought why not give it a shot?

Did they approach you or vice versa? We approached them, but the story also has a prelude with Team RM, Team Phoenix Alliance, and ourselves, approaching the league, together to try to make sense of bringing 7man back to Arizona. This may have started the thought process.

What do you think it is about Contact that produced a positive response from the league? Honestly, I think its the type of organization that we are and the region we are in. The way that I, along with Joe Vuica and Tony Conesa, established the organization was based as a business, not just a group of guys that get together on the weekend and play paintball. We have a management/owner system with financial support and a solid structural base. When I started what is now Portland Uprising (Uprising Nation at the time) in my backyard in 2004, I established that team in the same way. Also, Arizona is a PSP state. There are teams that would like to play 7man, but the support for it is non-existent. We are hoping to re-establish the 7man presence a little bit out here in the desert.

How will Contact re-establish a 7-man presence in AZ? By simply existing? The short answer is yes. There are teams here that want to play 7man and have tried to continue, but the dominance of the Xball format has driven the fields to really only have xball field kits. If the 7man format continues, we will bring in a new 7man field kit.

How long has Contact been a team? Contact has been in development since May of this year. It is a collaboration of programs that had certain pieces, but didn't have the whole puzzle needed for success.

How many events has the team competed in? At what level of competition? The team has not competed in any events under this name. However, there are 4 former pro players and a D1 player making up the core of the team, some of which have played events together in the past, others who have competed for many years, and a diverse up and coming talent base that has been in development with other teams for some time. This will undoubtedly be our biggest criticism, and we will feel the pains of coming together. But so far, that challenge has been well accepted and we are hoping to continue the progress.

What do you think has prepared the team to take this step? The development of this team from square one was to establish a professional, marketable, and sustainable organization in Arizona. It has been our plan to make a pro spot from the development, but would have never guessed or even been as bold as to imagine it would have come at this point. However, the structure is in place and the skill is here, it just needs to be organized. Organizationally, we are prepared to take the step, as many of us have been here before, the readiness will come with maturity of the team and the time we spend over the course of the next season.

Who are the former Pros on the roster and who did they play with in the past?
Myself - The Naughty Dogs (Semi Pro- Uprising/Elevation)
Zak Smith - Phoenix United
Mike Condon -Cartel (pro/am days) (Bonebrake factory D1 in the modern age)
Jeff Milam - Strange/Ironmen/Elevation

Does Contact have any goals or expectations for Vegas? In reality, no ... there's no way to set them. Our goal is to survive the event and prove that we can hold our own on the field. Maybe turn a head or two, and learn from the experience.

Goals for 2013? The goals for 2013 are really going to be dependent on our sponsors and the NPPL. We will be playing in 2013, and will continue with the NPPL pro division, unless circumstances outside our control take precedence in the off season.

What makes Phil Veatch the right guy to lead Contact? Well, to be honest, I don't have a straight answer for you. I have a long resume though so I'll do my best to keep it brief. I have been playing paintball for 16 years, competitively for 13, and always been the captain or in a leadership role on every team I have been on other than the Naughty Dogs. I started playing national events with team Nurv in D3 moving eventually through the ranks to Semi-Pro. In the meantime, myself and Nurv parted ways and I established team Uprising along with helping establish Blacklist Media to help promote and market the team. Uprising played local NW events our first year and always placed in the top 4. The team had a rocky patch with some of the players leaving, and we merged with a team called Amp'd to play D1 NPPL in 2006. At this time I was also playing with the Naughty Dogs in the NXL. After some fallout with the teams, I turned my attention back to rebuilding Uprising in 2007 where we played 2 events in Semi-pro with moderate success, more than I would have expected, before once again falling apart when I decided to take time off for college. Ultimately the Uprising guys kept it together and in 2010 made the jump to NPPL pro and had intended to include me, but I had moved to Arizona. I gave the team to Tommy Tucker and watched him take it to where it is today. During this time I played with Scottsdale Elevation before they also took time off. All throughout these experiences, one thing showed over and over, the lack of sustainable structure and support. When I started building Contact, it was built under a business, and our goals were to be a professional organization, whether we played professional or not. The sponsors we have, the approach we have taken, and the way we have structured the management all reflect those goals. Ultimately though, I am not doing it alone. Joe and Tony have been instrumental in the development of this team as well as others. There is no way that I could have managed what has been built alone, and everyone within the organization is on board for the same goals.

Do you think it's good for competitive paintball to have a start-up team jump immediately into the pro ranks? Why? Honestly, no. I don't think it should be a habit. But it has happened before, numerous times, and Im sure it will happen again. I do feel that the NPPL is trying to build regional pro teams similar to other professional sports, and when looking at expansion cities, you can either hope they develop on their own, or help facilitate the change. I believe that with the obvious success of the PSP in Arizona and the player base we have here it is no wonder the NPPL is interested in the market.

Thanks, Phil. VFTD appreciates the opportunity to introduce Phoenix Contact to the tourney community from your perspective. In closing I would like to thank you for taking the time and effort to introduce Phoenix Contact. I would also like to thank all of our sponsors - Kee Action Sports, AXE, Z2, Empire, Acid Custom Triggers, Boss Paintball, Modern Woodman of America, Fightertown Paintball, Westworld Paintball, The AZPPL, Mesa Paintball Supply, Censys Designs Lab, Custom Products, Raza, and KM. We have a tough road ahead, and the support of these companies are making it possible for us to have the best chances for success.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The NPPL's September Surprise

Is called Phoenix Contact and they are the newest addition to the pro ranks. Apparently. Perhaps intended to replace Mutiny--which missed Vegas last year and skipped DC a couple of weeks ago. The mighty NPPL public relations machine delivered the news with all the fanfare and excitement the unwanted birth of a baby girl brings in the Chinese hinterland--they exposed it (indirectly). And almost certainly to the same ultimate end.
My first inclination was to seek out an interview with a rep of the new team until it occurred to me that I don't care about the new team. In an admittedly abbreviated search I couldn't find out anything about the team. It's almost as if they've never competed before. It doesn't matter who these guys are. Did they win a contest nobody else knew about? Far more interesting to me is why--and what in the world was the NPPL braintrust thinking? (Giving them the benefit of the doubt on that one.)
For starters what guarantee does the league have all the 13 pro teams that played DC are showing up in Vegas next month much less HB next spring? So what was so incredibly important about filling a "missing" pro spot that the league would literally jump at anything? And don't misunderstand me, that is exactly what Phoenix Contact looks like--a wildly inappropriate response to a pressure only the league felt. And while there may be some corners of the competitive paintball universe that think it's kinda cool for a no name team to get a shot it's not true. It's a lose lose for the league. If Contact becomes the latest whipping boy and gets marched off the field every time they step on it the response will be "what did you expect, they bought their way in." If they are even close to competitive with the bottom half of the league then the response becomes, "wow, look how bad the NPPL pros are when anybody can step in and be competitive." So much for building a brand, this league can't even protect what little credibility they have and worse, seem completely oblivious to the ramifications of moves like this.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

DC Open Recap

The weather made its unpredictable nature felt on Sunday. Truth be told it was predicted; Saturday night into Sunday morning and beyond. Rain and plenty of it. So said the meteorologists. But the weather only threatened until around noon. Then the rain came--and plenty of it. To prove a point after the midday deluge had settled into a steady rain the clouds parted revealing gaps of blue sky and even occasional sunshine. Some of the day's paintball was played in the rain but less than we had reason to expect. Obviously what big time tourney paintball needs is a stadium with a retractable roof and real grass. Yeah, yeah, I know--and everybody wants a million bucks too. At one time or another the NPPL has promised pretty much everything else, what's a retractable roof among friends? All I'm saying.
There are no big changes over years past. Fresh new bunker sets held (mostly) in place with water fills sit on a pair of pristine turf carpets. The grandstand field, the one closest to the hill, slopes toward that end of the field and we're convinced it's easier to shoot peeps OTB shooting downhill. (And it is.) Despite what has been reported as a modest increase in competing teams over last year's event it seems more or less the same though if I were unaware of the numbers I might guess fewer total teams. Perhaps it's because this time the Pro teams received parking passes to park in the lot with the vendors and VIPs. It was a nice perk--and appreciated. And, as a practical matter, kept us from being a nuisance and parking wherever we wanted to anyway. (I'm not advocating similar behavior. I'm just saying ...)
Apropos nothing at all Loudon County VA [where the paintball field is located] has not one but at least 4 co-related signs of the coming apocalypse. They are the roundabouts put up in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Now Loudon County is a wealthy county and apparently considered it worthwhile to construct 4 roundabouts, nicely detailed with cobblestone bricks, in the middle of nowhere and unlike many of the rest of us they can probably afford it. But how pretentious and pointlessly so do you have to be to construct 4 of the silly things all within stone throwing distance of each other in an area where heavy traffic means you saw three cars in the last two minutes? Even the Europeans have the good sense to put their roundabouts in congested urban settings so that if you can't get anywhere during heavy traffic you can at least go around in circles.
As a team we were scheduled to arrive on Thursday in time to practice the event layout. Everyone except the Orlando contingent managed. That left us with 6 players for practice including this event's contributor from the Ironmen, Raney Stanczak. For various reasons we've had trouble getting a complete Damage roster to some of the NPPL events. Just like BShort before him Raney did an excellent job. We decide to get started with 6 figuring the object was to learn the field but received another helping hand from Ryan Greenspan who volunteered to fill in until our other players arrived. With Bart Yackimec organizing the match-ups and keeping the teams moving everyone had the benefit of a well-organized practice and our Orlando kids showed up in time to get a few reps in at the end of the day.
Eight teams go through to Sunday in the Pro division so all the prelims are going to do is eliminate 5 teams. But which 5 and what sort of prelim record is going to get somebody through to Sunday? If all you did was watch games and ignore the scores--which was easy to do as scoring was only infrequently announced--you might have been hard put to pick out the surviving teams. By the end of Saturday perennial power teams like Dynasty and Arsenal weren't going through along with resurgent Xplicit and a strong but unlucky Uprising team. The Sunday format takes the top 4 teams from each bracket and matches 1A against 4B and 2B against 3A and so on in a first round of single elimination. We played Avalanche and won 5-0. Our next opponent would be the winner of X-Factor and Infamous (with X-Factor as the three seed from our bracket.) In the other opening round matches it was XSV versus Vendetta and Legend going against Impact. X-Factor beat Infamous, Vendetta nipped XSV and Legend took a decisive win from Impact. The semis shaped up as Damage versus X-Factor and Legend squaring off with Vendetta. Legend won to form half the finals--and we lost to X-Factor in overtime 2-3. Another semi-final loss. That's four in a row. All by 1 point margins. Granted the semis is a good place to be but it's a lousy place to lose and four in a row is one tenacious monkey on our back. But not again. I may have blown our opportunity to get over the semi-final hump in DC but it won't happen again. Thing is in the first point against X-Factor I ignored my gut. (Not an easy thing to do.) I talked myself out of making a specific call. I can't know if it would have changed anything but with the opportunity to analyze the unmade call in retrospect it was the right call. I just didn't know why it was right at the time so I talked myself out of it. (That won't happen again either. And, yes, I will explain the whole situation in greater detail--after Vegas.)
Every tournament in every division is a story of opportunities lost and won. Except the winning is reserved for one team only. Everybody else comes up short and is left to wonder what went wrong, or rage at obvious mistakes, or find somebody else to blame or simply hang their heads in frustration. Until next time. This time it was X-Factor's turn and it was well earned. Every time the pressure was on they answered that call and held fast winning three overtime matches on their way to the title. Congrats to Alex and the boys from Texas (and their Mass. transplant, Billy B. Well done.)