Friday, October 19, 2012

Basic Tactics: Pit Management

Your eyes don't deceive you. Two BT posts in less than a week. (I figured the more time you had with this one the better if you're playing Cup next week.) Not that most of y'all don't have this covered already.
Let's begin with why it matters. (If you've never played Xball or Lite or Race 2--or the Millennium's bastard offspring variant--it probably doesn't seem like that big a deal. Well, it is.) It matters because the pit can very easily turn into an enormously chaotic distraction that has everyone from crew, coaches and players focusing on exactly the wrong things at precisely the wrong time. A smooth running pit is a pit that doesn't take away from your team's effort to play its best paintball.
Ideally your pit is staffed with crew led by a manager whose first priority is to make sure the pit isn't a distraction. The crew's job is to make sure every player is fully prepared to go out and play every point of each match with minimal distractions or complications. (As a team this also means planning ahead. A cooler for water--or whatever y'all drink during a match and while you're waiting between matches. Hydration isn't for just while you're playing. What about batteries? Have extras? Clean up towels? Where are they? Spare guns? Hoppers? How many pods do you have? Figure out how many a line carry with them onto the field on average and multiple that by 3. That's the minimum you're going to need especially if you're running deep into your roster and want to stay ahead. If extra guns and hoppers aren't available then pair up players in advance who most of the time aren't playing together so they can share.) The crew is responsible for air fills, cleaning paint off the players, collecting pods, filling pods, responding to the routine emergency of guns down and broken loaders and always, ALWAYS, having the next line ready to go. So what does that entail specifically? A manager to oversee the rest of the crew and make sure nothing is being left out, someone to collect the pods, someone(s) to fill pods, someone to clean paint and someone to assist loading packs and offering top off paint and at least one redundant crew member to go get extra paint if needed or run a gun to get it teched or whatever else WILL come up at the worst possible time. So 4 or 5 crew members. Extras will simply get in the way as there typically isn't enough room for more that that to improve the process.
I also want the pit to also have a consistent routine so that wherever we are playing it is set-up the same way and we do the same things in the same order all the time. (That may be a little extreme and isn't always possible. Don't let variations from the routines you establish become their own distractions.) My preference is for players to get air immediately when they come off the field. I want the players coming in out of the way of the next line going out. (Sometimes there are players going back-to-back and they get priority from the crew.) That means we arrange our tables and paint etc. in ways that assist (promote) our routines (fully aware that it seldom works out as planned all the time. Take a deep breath and let it go.) Air, get cleaned up, get loaded up with paint (if anything is amiss switch out your gun or hopper or whatever) and be ready to go. The time to start prepping for the next point isn't during the two minute break, it is immediately when you come off the field. The two minutes is for complications and getting everyone together on the next game plan.
Now I can hear the caterwauling from here. We don't have a pit crew. We're not Pros. We have to handle that stuff on our own. It's easy if you have a crew but what do we do?
First thing you do is knock off the belly-aching. As I routinely remind y'all nobody likes a whiner.
The next thing you do is address the question of how you will handle the pit as a team. This doesn't mean you will open it up for discussion or ideas but it does mean that take steps to keep your pit from becoming a problem long before you're in there trying to get organized with the clock ticking down to game start with half the team missing or still undressed. At this time it's my sad duty to inform you that whatever your team's circumstance somebody has to be in charge of the pit. Fortunately there are a lot of ways to solve this problem. If you're part of young team maybe there's a parent who wants to be more involved. (Have we got a job for you!) Or it may be one of the coaches. Or a player who won't be playing the next event. Whoever it is it must be somebody invested in your team's success because you don't have the advantages of a dedicated crew. (Most pro teams don't either if it's any consolation.)
What you do have are some options. If you can count on their participation make arrangements with some other teams in your division to help each other in the pits. Or with teams that share the same home field if you're uncomfortable with potential competitors in your pit while you're playing. Whatever the arrangement remember you are responsible for equipping your pit--not the temporary crew--and this is why someone has to be in charge. Not all pit crews are created equal and it's the designated manager's job to make sure the crew is working and they have everything they need to do the job properly. Not watching the match. Or texting their girlfriend. Or whatever else is a distraction might be. (This doesn't mean, btw, y'all get to dump all the responsibility for your pit on the fall guy, er, manager. There needs to be a commitment from everyone to do their part.)
Okay, but as a team you don't have any friends. Don't know anyone. What do you do? Remember how I recommended pairing players to share equipment if spares weren't available? You can operate your pit using a variation of that concept. Pair players who normally play on different lines and make them 'pit buddies.' (Yeah, I know.) Pit buddies are responsible for looking out for one another so that while Player A enters the pit after being eliminated his buddy, Player B, checks him for hits, spray etc while A is getting air and walks through the process with him assuring he's ready for his next point--and vice versa. It doesn't address every issue--like filling pods--but you should have a good volume of pods at the start of a match and can have rotating assignments for filling pods during the match. No specific solution is always the answer. The answer is the team preparing in advance to deal with the process of running a pit during a match. It doesn't matter how you solve the particular problems. Only that your answers work for you and that the members of the team are all on the same page.

In the end how your pit functions is a reflection of your team and the time and effort spent to keep the process humming in the background while the team competes. A modicum of preparation in advance and a plan for how to handle the pit is all most teams need. A checklist doesn't hurt either. And while you're at it try to impress upon the players--particularly the younger ones--both the necessity and value of their cooperation and assistance in a smooth running pit. (Threats of physical violence often work like a charm.)

As always if you have any specific questions drop me a line--and since Cup is coming up I'll give those questions priority for the next few days.

8 comments:

Mike said...

Question unrelated to this post.

How many points do pro-teams play on the layout before an event? Specifically Cup...

A ballpark would be good because I'm sure you don't know how many all other teams play.

Anonymous said...

Very good and informative post. Now I know how to reign in our pit crew! Violence - it gets things done!

Baca Loco said...

Mike
The answer depends. On when the layout is released. Accessibility of other Pro teams. Resources. This event we'll get in around 120 points or so before Cup. That will probably be at the high end but when we left the field today the Russians were running breakout drills on their own so they are getting a chance, independent of competition, to practice how they want to execute their breakouts.
At a guess I'd say most teams will probably end up getting in 60-80 points prior to Cup.

Neal said...

great post. Most divisional teams live or die by the pit. Game plans are hard to discuss when everyone is scrambling for loaders, pods and squeegees.

Neal said...

great post. Most divisional teams live or die by the pit. Game plans are hard to discuss when everyone is scrambling for loaders, pods and squeegees.

Shane Carter said...

Great post on something that often goes overlooked by even the best paintball teams, thanks for sharing.
I agree that the pit crew should do their best to stay out of the pits and out of the way. There's already 10+ players in there(double that in NPPL while sharing the pits)plus coaches, there's really no room to effectively work. Whenever I've run pods for pro teams I'm just trying to get in, do my job, then get the hell out of the way.

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