Friday, December 5, 2014


I saw an episode of 'Undrafted' on the NFL network recently. (I started writing this post before the holiday but in light of the recent internet debate [#graysongate] this seems more appropriate than before.) If you like football or sports generally it's a great show. Turns out the NFL isn't satisfied scouting college players and annually drafting seven rounds of talent--around 224 players. No, the league also invites scouted but undrafted players to camps too and even operates a series of regional combines for players who went largely unscouted and undrafted but who are still looking for an opportunity to compete at the next level. (For you non-sports types a combine is basically a series of physical tests of strength, agility, speed, etc.) Those that get past the regionals are invited to a super-combine where scouts for all the NFL teams are in attendance. It's one last chance to attract the interest of an NFL team. One last chance to get invited to a training camp. One last shot at making an NFL roster.
A couple of things grabbed my attention. One, it tells an inspirational story that often gets overlooked and two, it's a story of real dedication, determination and sacrifice. In the preseason NFL rosters swell to over a hundred players. In a series of cuts that number is eventually whittled down to 53. Every year half the players who actually make it to an NFL camp don't make the team. And every last one of them is bigger faster stronger than the norm, more athletic and have been competing at their chosen sport for years before they even get a chance at a professional roster. And the undrafted guys are among the least likely to ever earn that roster spot and most of them have already failed at least once--yet there they are--trying again. And trying again means that in the preceding year they were training on their own in order to be ready for the next opportunity, if it should come. Most have families and jobs and everyday responsibilities so they have to make time to prepare. To train. If that means a little less sleep or running in the dark before going to work or skipping most of the usual social opportunities with friends then that's what it takes. Even though there are no promises. Not only no promise they'll succeed but no promise they'll even get the chance to prove themselves.
Competitive paintball players pride themselves on the grind but the vast majority are clueless. Are there trade-offs in choosing to be serious about paintball? Sure. So what. The same is true of damn near anything in life. Are there some sacrifices? Yep. Do some players really push themselves and earn the grind everyone wants to claim a share of? Yes. But it ain't most players. And it sure isn't all those squids with APPA cards constantly posting (or should that be posing?) on social media how hard their life is because they play paintball and how much they give in order to play paintball. It just isn't. They may even believe it but it just isn't so.
Let me see if I can explain. Back in my gym rat days the serious lifters--in the gym six or seven days a week--sometimes twice a day--would be entertained by the new guys inspired to get healthy or fit or big. You see, the new guys would be highly motivated, gung ho and ready to go and in their early weeks in the gym their trainers would put them through a moderately paced 45 minute standardized workout and the new guys would be all sweaty and beat down at the end--and here's the thing--convinced they'd just completed the mother of all workouts. After all it was hard work and they had pushed themselves, or been pushed in order to finish but the reality was it was just the beginning. It was preparation. It was getting their bodies ready for the real work to come. As one might expect some eventually quit, some stayed at that level and a small percentage continued to drive forward and push harder.
It's easy to mistake hard today for doing the best you can do. Don't limit yourself. There will always be somebody out there who wants what you want and they will be willing and able to outwork you--in fact they are doing it right now. Stop talking about how hard something is and start refusing to be denied. (And I'm not just talking paintball.) I'm also not, btw, suggesting that throwing yourself 110% into competitive paintball is an optimal life choice. What you choose is up to you but I am saying we too often limit ourselves.
Watch a couple of the early episodes of 'Undrafted.' See real dedication and sacrifice in action and see if it doesn't inspire you. #Thereisnooffseason


hijodeltorobravo said...

Fantastic post ser.

Baca Loco said...


Unknown said...

I love these reality check posts. One thing that I think should be added is the necessity to be self-financing.

Take those hours spent hanging out and chilling into a cash grab. Be that guy who always has his batteries - be aware of the costs involved so you can spend the money where it counts: paint and travel costs/entry.

Do you really need that new gun or will 25+ cases of paint be more useful to you? When I was playing I would see this time and time again. Guys with all these aspirations but never putting their brain to work to figure out the long-term logistics to get where you want.

You want to have that chance to make the regional team that is 4+ hours drive away? Make sure you can afford to get there yourself because if you rely on others to get you there, you will be inevitably let down.

Paintball is actually a fairly low impact sport compared to football. Your time spent in the gym isn't as useful as it may be spent earning cash to keep that door of opportunity open.

Ken said...

Methinks the barrier to entry onto a pro level football squad is much greater than that of a pro level paintball squad. Ergo, it takes more dedication and sacrifice.

I say without ever having played pro football. So don't forget the grain of NaCl.

Baca Loco said...

Interesting question if not particularly relevant given the OP.
If you measure barrier to entry by turnover of players football is considerably easier. For example the Ravens won a Superbowl less than 5 years ago and only have a few players remaining on their roster from that team.
If you simply think it's probably more demanding to play pro football thus harder to do--I would agree with you.