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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Living the Dream: Teamwork, Commitments and Connections

So here's the first follow-up post to my Living the Dream segment on tournament paintball.  There are many things people need to understand about paintball teams about all of the work that goes into running a successful paintball franchise.  

There are four main pillars that support every long-standing paintball franchise, and all need to work together smoothly for success.  These pillars being:
  • Players:  Obviously, you need players to take the positions on the field, do their jobs and lead the team to victory.  Commitment to your team is essential for a good season.
  • Management & Coaches:  Necessary to keep players in order, let them know who's playing which positions, and to keep track of game plans that players may miss from their limited viewpoints on the field.  Management is responsible for keeping the team together and making sure everyone knows what job they have to do.  They are also the main line of communication between sponsors and the players.
  • Pit Crew:  Responsible for keeping the team and games running smoothly.  Pit crews keep the team supplied with paint, cleaning off hits, collecting pods, teching markers, etc.
  • Sponsors:  Team's connections to the industry will dictate how often they can practice, what gear they can use and what their tech support at events will be like.  Depending on commitments, players may be expected to put in a large deal of work for their sponsorships.


Aside from being committed to your team for the season, attending practices and helping out with your team, you have to be prepared for playing the game itself.  There are a few things players need to know ahead of time before walking into a tournament.  If possible, study the field layout, know where all the lanes are, know which bunkers are key, where you should be looking from certain positions and be able to recognize when you're in danger and know how to act to win your situation.  
Communication and field awareness is key.  If your players don't know what the kill count is at or what bunkers the opposing players are in, you might as well be blind as you'll be running into the lanes of other teams who have their game together.  This is definitely crucial for knowing when to make a move on the field.
Example: if you're playing the home bunker, and your dorito side corner player gets eliminated from somewhere across field that you didn't see.  Even if you know that corner is a key bunker and should be filled, you should make sure you know where that player got shot from before you try to fill to the corner.  If you don't know where he got shot from and you run to fill that corner bunker, chances are you're running into the exact same lane of paint that killed your teammate, and your move out to fill becomes completely useless as your team throws a body away.  In this case, instead of filling that bunker and wasting a body, it would be smarter to take control of the field from your current position, figure out where the other team is and move up the field from there.  Don't rush your game or you can make stupid mistakes.  There are similar and unlimited situations that we could talk about for days, but that's not what I want to focus on.

Coaches and Management:

These are the people that hold a team together and make things happen.  They've got to organize players, games plans, codes, schedule practices, make sure jobs and events are covered, and of course to collect payments from the players for the season.  Without a reliable coach or manager, teams would fall apart: players would miss practice, they wouldn't know their positions, wouldn't pay their dues, etc. 

Pit Crew:

Essential to any smooth-running team(X-ball especially), the pit crew has tons of work to do to keep the players focused on playing their game.  Duties include filling pods, picking up pods from the field between points, transporting paint, cleaning hits off of players, filling air tanks, and most importantly, staying the hell out of the way.  In higher divisions, it is best to have the majority of the pit crew outside of the actual pits if possible to give the players as much room as possible to be comfortable and in the zone to play.  
Putting a table outside of the pits and keeping it organized with areas for dirty pods, empty pods and full pods with a few people manning stations will be best for a smooth pit.  If your pit crew is big enough, designate jobs to people: pod runners to get pods from the field between points, pod cleaners, pod fillers, paint runners to grab more cases of paint, and someone to ensure pods are packed tightly and don't shake.  You should also have a couple of people inside the pits to assist with wiping hits off of players, fill tanks and fill packs with pods, as well as doing quick tech work.  If a pit crew is run properly, the players should not have to worry about anything during a match except for playing paintball.
For another article on pit management, check out this great post on View From The Deadbox, the blog from the coach of pro team Tampa Bay Damage.


This is where the money comes from, how teams can afford to compete at these national events.  Sponsorships are never a something-for-nothing deal, and many teams have to put in tons of work to receive these benefits.  Depending on the level of sponsorship, a contract is usually involved, and you will be committed for the season.  Do your jobs to pay it forward, keep your sponsors happy and to help out in your community, and you will have a more fulfilling life in paintball.
  For example, as part of our sponsorship with Flagswipe paintball for practice field time, Canadian Express maintains the airball field at the outdoor location and sets up, runs and refs the ESPL (Empire Series Paintball League) for 6 events per season.  Although we spent weekends putting in work, this also helps to reduce the costs paid by each player over the season, and creates a situation that helps all parties involved.

Commitments and Connections: Where it all pays off.

This past 2012 season has been a huge transition from playing recreational paintball to being part of a committed team.  As an Empire team, Canadian Express spent the season reffing ESPL to provide a tournament series for local players, played D3 in the NPPL and also took the opportunity to pit for pro team Infamous during the last two events in DC and Vegas.  While some players may loathe working in the pits, we rose to the challenge to keep Infamous ready to play on the field during all of their matches.  Life in the pits was hectic, packed with two pro teams, their coaches and pit crew, and we had to work fast to develop a system that worked smoothly and kept the pits clear for the players to focus.  It's a great feeling to be a small part of a crew helping pro teams run their games, and especially when you get thanks from the pro players who you've grown up admiring.
Here's where it all pays off: the connections from your sponsors and the teams you help can lead to possibilities that you may have never imagined.  Recently, our team has announced tryouts for the 2013 season, and as we began posting our tryout flyers, we received a pleasant surprise in the form of promotion from the Infamous Facebook page, as well as a few of their players' pages.  This was way more support than I was expecting, and I'm really glad to see that the effort that we put in was appreciated by the players and the team.  The share from Drew Templeton praising us as, "Best pit crew in paintball! Show some support and check this event out." really makes people feel appreciated for the hard work that they put in.

There you have it, proof that putting hard work into your season on and off the field can pay off in ways that you never expect.  Your commitments to your sponsors and associated teams can lead you to connections that few other players ever get the chance to make.