SO YOU WANT TO PLAY PRO
Top athletes and coaches in other sports will tell you that mental skills are just as important as physical abilities. In Part 1, we talked about specific tangible ways to play at the highest level.
Paintball being the dynamic game that it is provides a host of obstacles and opportunities. Our purpose for this article is to help your position yourself to play Pro paintball. In Part 2 we are going to focus more closely now on aspects of mental toughness and recognition. We call it ‘The Mind Game’.
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “playing the game the right way”. In coach speak that covers everything from being prepared to respecting the game. As we did last time, we’d like to start with an exercise to get your brain in the right mode of thinking.
Below are five situations any paintball player might find themselves in. Match the circumstance with the appropriate mental trait. The answers are listed below.
Did you notice that you didn’t have to rely on any physical paintball skill to match these up? Likewise, when it’s really happening on the field it will be because of your ability to mentally adjust.
Your mental skills are just as important to master as the ones we talked about in Part I if you want to play Pro. In fact, being a divisional player offers you an opportune time to really begin applying these qualities. That time being NOW.
So let’s take each one of the mental skills and break them done and see if we can put it all together. Oh and here is the answer to our quiz: IC IID IIIE IVA VB.
Do you have the ‘ability to bounce back’ from adversity? The opposite of being resilient is giving up. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you, it can. It can happen in the NFL and in college sports as well. It happens individually and it can happen collectively as a team.
Being resilient means you’re coming back from adversity, an obstacle, or setback. So what do you do when . . .?
THE OBSTACLE After a good week of practice, you’ve underperformed early in the tournament. Shot off the break 3 out of 7 games, it’s looking like today is your day to be a paint magnet.
THE CHALLENGE Fight through negative thinking and some self-doubt.
THE SOLUTION Like speed and heart, resiliency is not taught. It is a process that over time can become a habit. But it’s up to you. The fix for this challenge is to identify opportunities in practice and in any activity you engage in. When situations arise where you feel it’s easier to quit or give up, slow it down, regroup and work through it.
Often it’s a small adjustment that can be the difference. In our example of the obstacle, a different bunker on the break may be the answer. Maybe running and shooting your way in.
Those who can tap into resiliency learn from their experiences and become stronger and smarter.
Sometimes college football teams will practice with piped in crowd noise when preparing to play in a particularly LOUD venue. They do this to help their focus. While we presently don’t play in front of large, hostile crowds, there is a need for focus.
Your ability to focus lends itself to consistency. Consistency puts you in a better place to win. Over the course of a tournament, you play a variety of teams. How good is your focus when . . .?
THE OBSTACLE your team is about to go up against an opponent you‘ve shut down three times this season. The margin of victory has been lopsided. You sense everyone on your team feels this one is in the W column already.
THE CHALLENGE Avoid an upset by being overconfident. Use every live rep to as a stepping stone to winning the tournament.
THE SOLUTION We have all been subject to this kind of upset. The one where no one was mentally prepared to take care of business. ‘Yeah coach kept warning us about it’. How well you focus is about your mental preparation.
You’ve probably heard the term Robots in a negative way when talking about sideline coaching. A few years ago, Boston Red Legion was called Robots on more than one occasion. But here is the thing. You want to be methodical. Play with the same intensity throughout. It’s good to know tendencies and scout the other team, but aside from that you approach them all with the same intensity.
It’s not just the will to win. It is the desire to stick with that will. Do you have it? The funny thing is everyone thinks they do. It is not how loud you shout. It is not how upset you get. It is calling upon your resources to find a way to get the job done. Determination is the fuel that drives you to succeed.
It is also about sharing it with your teammates. Helping them by your encouragement and actions. Whether it’s fighting through adversity or . . .
THE OBSTACLE finishing out the match by holding off a comeback. Your team was up 5-1 and now its 5-4.
THE CHALLENGE You can’t win the match by yourself. But you have to do your part.
THE SOLUTION First of all a well placed timeout can help. But that’s on coach. Now, here is where a sustained ‘will to win’ comes in. This is when you need to know what you abilities are, know your game and call it out. Determination is a quality that can be contagious. In our challenge the use of your determination is to forget the score and play one point at a time is key.
At first glance, you may be wondering why appreciation needs to be part of your mental game to play at the highest level of our sport. The majority of players who reach the Pro ranks thank their family for all the work that goes into supporting the kind of emphasis it takes to play Pro.
But it goes way beyond that. Sure, you’ve sacrificed a lot, but you’re not alone. You know this and you may even say it on occasion, but when it’s time for action to speak louder than words. . .
THE OBSTACLE will you rationalize reasons to miss a practice. Yeah, the tournament is still a month away. Maybe the team as a whole is buying in, but you are just not feeling it.
THE CHALLENGE To be there when you needed. To put team above self.
THE SOLUTION More than one Pro team has tossed in the towel with lack of appreciation being the final straw. Whether or not your ‘feeling’ a practice or any arrangement a team may have setup, you show appreciation. It is necessary in divisional play and IF you want to play on the Pro level, there is no option for being indifferent. The enthusiasm you muster for whatever the team needs will translate into a good vibe for yourself and your teammates.
Respect is the foundation on which a good team is build. We respect the efforts of everyone involved. We respect what a team’s history and former players have done for the game. We must respect the game. Without respect, we lose the ability to view ourselves as part of a whole. In a team sport that relies on coordinated efforts, the absence of respect is disastrous.
One way we show respect can be in team meetings. Not talking over one another, genuinely listening and weighing in where appropriate shows respect. Still another way is on the field. How do you show respect when . . .
THE OBSTACLE you just lost a tough match? It was close and hotly contested, but in the end the other team prevailed. You feel sick about it, knowing your team should have won. In Pro paintball you will be shaking hands following the match. The last thing you want to do is go out onto the field and give the other team credit for beating you.
THE CHALLENGE To go out with your team and acknowledge the other teams accomplishment.
THE SOLUTION You don’t have to like it. But it’s part of the game. The ability to recognize a loss and move on showing respect does a number of things. You can use it as motivation. Believe it or not I’ve seen captains not go out with their team after a loss. The message that needs to be embraced here is;”We stand together and we fall together”. Tomorrow is another day. You tuck that little piece of knowledge away and you respect the game.
So there is a lot that goes into playing Pro paintball. I don’t know of one player who embodies all the physical skills of Part 1 with the mental skills of Part 2 perfectly. IF you find satisfaction in the pursuit of being the complete player, then you’re on the right path.