Friday, June 6, 2014

Getting Over The Hump

Or, why can't we get a win when event after event we're right there? The cold harsh truth is winning takes more than ability. There are loads of great players in every professional sport. By definition the pros are the best of the best. The differences in measurable talent isn't substantial but even so winners emerge from even the most elite groups. Why? Part of the answer is what football coaches call the intangibles. Recognizable but hard to quantify qualities that players have in different measures. Like work ethic. Or in paintball, heart. But these are qualities that separate players, not teams. (Certainly better players make teams better but there is a limit. Despite countless accolades Peyton Manning never won a national championship in college, but Tennessee did--the year after Manning graduated with a quarterback named Tee Martin.)
There can be any number of reasons why some good teams don't win but it all boils down to being able to perform at your best when the pressure to perform is at its peak. Can you bring your A-game when everything is on the line? The reason some pro teams draft proven winners from lower levels of competition is because they believe those players have shown the ability to perform at a high level in the most stressful situations. A large part of the value in working your way up the divisional ladder in paintball is learning to win. Because regardless of division winning is winning and needs to be experienced. Only in the doing does a team demonstrate it has what it takes to be winners.
Even so, there are things teams can do to lessen the pressure/stress that builds up. (The pressure to perform is a self-imposed response to the stress of the situation. Feeling stress is also an internal response to the elevated importance of the moment for both player and team.) While it would be nice to press the easy button and not feel the stress anymore that probably won't work in most cases. Instead there are routines and ways of thinking about playing the game that both lessen and can transform the negativity of the stress (and pressure) into something productive.
Establish a routine that the team follows every match. External order promotes internal order.
In competition the only point that matters is the next point. Not the last point or the winning point. Only the next point. The team must stay focused on what it can control and not get distracted with what it can't. (And the arguments and recriminations that usually follow.)
Keep the players' focus on doing their job. (This begins in practice and carries through to competition.) No one is responsible for winning or losing. Each player does their job to the best of their ability and that is all that can be asked of anyone. And when we do that good things follow.
It may sound stupid but stay positive. Even in critiquing prior matches keep the focus on improving, not assigning blame. Make every match an opportunity, not a hurdle to be overcome.
Set goals. Practice goals and competition goals. Both achievable goals and grander goals that need to be strived for. The purpose is to create a pattern of successes and to have ways of showing improvement. Success breeds success and turns obstacles into opportunities.

Keep in mind not all teams are alike. A team's chemistry is a unique property. Some teams thrive on pressure and this advice isn't necessarily for them. Some succeed in the midst of conflict. The bottom line is winning and however a team does it is all that matters. That said the above advice will serve most teams well but isn't a one size fits all proposition.


Anonymous said...

I also think there are (at least) two kinds consistently losing teams.

Type 1 teams that are afraid to lose (ie are playing not to lose), and sit back and eventually get shot out of their bunkers by teams with better technique.

Type 2 teams want to win so bad that they're willing to pull out all the stops and get aggressive and make moves -- usually at the wrong time which has them losing the game just the same.

Type 2 teams usually watch Type 1 teams and wish, "Oh, if I was on the field right now I'd totally blow game wide open" because the Type 1 team's fear of losing gives them the slight benefit of patience.

Mike said...

Really like this recent set of posts you've done on paintball "psychology" or the mental side of the game.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks, Mike.

Anonymous said...

I will echo the sentiment of Mike. It's good to hear the "nuts and bolts" of a team from someone who actually knows something about running one.