Develop Your Sixth Sense
Have you ever seen a game from the sidelines that seemed destined for a stalemate until, all of a sudden, some fool gets up and runs down all four of his opponents as if he knew exactly where everyone was and what time to get up and go, like he had some type of sixth sense? Developing this sixth sense, what we'll call timing, is the result of conscious and unconscious actions resulting from experience. It might take you a few years before you're pulling run-throughs like main man Chris Lasoya, but you'll get there. It just takes time.
Let's say your corner guy gets shot out and you have a guy in the snake. What do you do? Someone needs to fill the corner to provide support for your snake player; this is basic paintball strategy—protect your front guy. But knowing to protect your front guy in theory is different from actually filling behind him on the field. On the field you don't think; you know. Once you see your guy's armband come off, you move. What if you don't make that move? Your guy could get bunkered or shot out and you'll lose the tape, leaving yourself in prime position for a flanking. With you in the corner, your snake guy has cover and your plan holds up. This is just one example of how you need to incorporate timing and field awareness to make a move. Every game's different, but I'll give you a skill set you can use to maximize your success.
Games develop over time. They have a beginning, a middle, and endgame. Knowing what stage of the game you're in will help you make decisions on the field. If a guy on the other team makes a bold move to the snake at the beginning of the game, it may be wiser to wait him out (knowing that time is on your side) rather than sending a guy to bunker him. If there's a minute left in the game, you'll have to react differently than if there are 7 minutes left. Also think about what your opponent might do at different times. If you don't need the win but your opponent does, sit back in the end game. An aggressive team might push earlier than a defensive team. If you're playing a defensive team, maybe push earlier knowing they won't be coming for you.
Making big moves on the field takes field awareness. Field awareness requires knowledge of where everyone is on the field and what they're doing. Game-breaking moves aren't usually made at the beginning of the game. Occasionally, a game plan goes right or horribly wrong and a player makes a big move off the break. Generally speaking, good teams will have the lanes locked up, and you will need to wait for the game to develop. Once you figure out what the other team is doing, you will begin to see moves open up and a way to break the game open.
Teams with high levels of field awareness communicate well. If you know a guy is trying to move, your team should know. Good teams operate as one cell, sharing information across the field in order to shift or reassign duties if necessary. This will prevent the big move from being made on you. If your game plan requires keeping the other team out of the snake, what happens when your guy watching the snake gets shot? Someone has to watch that lane or your plan is blown. It's not necessary to know every detail of all your teammates' plans, but you should have a good idea of what everyone is doing in order to pick up the slack when necessary.
As with all sports, paintball is very easy to understand at face value, but is full of subtle nuances that separate good players from great ones. Games often lock up during the middle because both sides have even numbers and are waiting for the big move. When numbers are low, it is crucial to understand what everyone is doing on the field and where they are. One of the best ways to do this is to watch lanes of paint. If you see paint only coming out of one side of a bunker, that guy is probably watching a lane. This will allow you to determine what lane he's watching, and how to formulate your attack. If he won't battle or even acknowledge you, he's probably waiting to chop down someone coming through his lane.
Generally speaking, players are either watching a lane (playing defense, trying to keep your team out of an area or a bunker) or playing heads-up, looking for a move or a kill (playing offense, trying to move or win a gunfight). Know who is where and what threat they pose. If you leave a man unattended, can he get out of his bunker and bust a move? Is anyone else on your team watching him? Is he so busy watching that lane that you can go and stick him? You'll develop these mental checklists over time. Paintball is a lot like chess—everyone is playing a different role on the field. Some guys are only watching up and down the field lanes (like a rook), while others are going to be coming around through the middle looking to cut down someone with a quick move (like a knight). If you understand what these roles are and what your opponents are doing, finding a move to put the other team into checkmate becomes that much easier.
Once you have found the lanes or who's holding you up, you can work with teammates to put your guy in and go. If they're trying to keep you out of the snake you can either put a guy in to get there or say “f--- it” and go up the middle of the field. Where, when and how you move depends on so many variables—time remaining, how many guys they have, how many guys you have, how you're doing in the tournament, who you're playing. Eventually these variables will make sense through some equation in your head that you figure out from experience.
Timing comes from time spent on the field. Early in your career you get stuck in a situation where you're second-guessing yourself: “Should I move?” “Should I stay put and try to take this 2-on-2?” Eventually it all becomes intuitive. The only way to develop these skills is practice. Drills can only teach you so much; your timing will develop with every real game you play. Every paintball game is unique, but certain things will happen where experience tells you what to do. Basically it comes down to practice, practice, practice. There's no cut-and-dry answer for what to do in any situation. Paintball is a game of angles, chance, trial-and-error and luck. Sometimes you can get an angle, sometimes you make that error, and sometimes you get lucky. You have to practice these game-breaking moves before you get to the finals on Sunday.
So, what does it take for you to start running fools down in time for tonight's highlight reel on SportsCenter? Easy: awareness. Know where the other team is, know what they're doing, know your team's plan.
Time: How much time is left? Does your move need to happen now or do you have time?
Position: Put yourself in a good position to make a move.
Guts: Just get up and go.
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