Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pro Teams for 2014: X-Factor

(Some may have seen an incomplete version of this post. Apparently in meaning to save a draft I accidentally published it instead. The following is identical to the original--except it's also complete.)

X-Factor is like an old married couple (or dude with a dozen wives if you're a Utah polygamist) in that they have all been together so long there is an established routine and patterns that everyone has gravitated toward without giving it more than a passing thought most of the time. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing. It creates a tight bond but it also creates a comfort zone. It offers few surprises. It habituates expectations. Some might call that sharing the same purpose, others might call it falling into a group rut. Truth is it can both at the same time. Teams that have been together almost forever have advantages but it also comes with hidden and not so hidden pitfalls.
In X-Factor's case the insular nature of the team makes it difficult for them to effectively evaluate when and where their game breaks down and how to fix it. It also makes it difficult to change directions. Not because the guys are so set in their ways or determined not to change but there is an inertia that builds up and tends to carry everything and everybody in its path along for the ride--that must be overcome.
Two areas where the team sometimes loses its way is they lose confidence in each other and confuse roles with skill sets. By way of example let's say a team has an all-around outstanding player who is capable of playing anywhere on the field. The issue is never that that player is better at any particular role than somebody else on the team--or everybody else for that matter--the issue is one guy can fill one role and every team has four more roles to be filled and executed during a point if the team is going to be successful. It can be easy to confuse a skill set for a role to be played and in the process lose sight of what the other player(s) bring to the team's table. Nobody wins on their own.
Knowing your role (perhaps counter-intuitively) frees up a player's decision-making process. When the team has a game plan and each player has a job a do it immediately resolves a lot of uncertainties. Do your job, be aware of how the point is unfolding around you and respond accordingly. Training and practice, when done in depth, will fill in the blanks and a decisive player is a confident, aggressive player.
Also within the context of roles the team must not lose sight of individual contributions. Every member of the team has a valuable contribution to make to the team's success whether it's playing every point or filling in when needed. There is a difference between saying you believe in your teammates and playing like you believe in them.
As long as the guys know their roles and respect the job their teammates are doing they will have set the table for continued success.
Another critical element in X-Factor's game is rhythm. As a team they want to be the aggressor and that requires a team commitment. It requires a collective decision that one of the goals for every point played is to impose their will on the other team, pressure the opponent into error and win, lose or draw being the kind of team they choose to be. The aggressive game is played behind heavy guns, strong role play and speed; making moves and dominating the angles. Control the field, control the point. Control the point, control the game. The foundation for a team's rhythm is laid in practice; in endless repetitions and game phase simulations and in driving and challenging each other to keep the pressure on. The team has the mindset. They have the physical tools. Will they make the commitment?
The other key to success for X-Factor will be regaining the same degree of urgency and confidence the team played with at Cup. While a world class team X-Factor remains at core a working class team, built on hard work and friendship. Those same qualities are the foundation of their success. In order to stay competitive they have less margin for error than some of the other teams in Champions and must focus on playing their game (imposing their will) while minimizing correctable mistakes, like penalties. The team needs to bring their A game every time out and time and past success make that more, not less difficult to do consistently.
(And of course, with the new chrono rules Archie is gonna have to get on the field a little quicker.)
The opportunity is there to grab some more success and elevate the stature of Texas paintball once and for all.

Next time, Upton 187 Crew.  Hint: peaked?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paul, your professionalism shows through in your ability to objectively cast an eye over Xfactor and state its strengths and weaknesses. When you propose that Xfactor's family atmosphere is potentially their undoing, you run the risk of angering quite a few of its members. However, I believe, that without someone addressing the "elephant in the room" or stating the unpleasant things that need to be said, a team will not grow. Lest people forget, the primary focus of any team (whether they be complete strangers or family by blood) is to win. Period. I admire that you state it like it is without any fluff. You are a necessary evil for them and I hope they can recognize that. Cheers.