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Are You Ready?
Practicing for your FIRST paintball tournament
Story and Photos by Robert Haselwander, UMR Paintball Club
September, 2004

You have finally assembled the number of friends necessary to start your own paintball team, but now that you have a team youíre not really sure what to do with it.  Naturally, one of your biggest concerns is going to be finding a tournament to play in, and working out all the logistics so your whole team can be at the tournament on time, ready to play.  As important as all this is, there are critical things to consider long before you ever stand in a staging area, or have your back to the field, waiting while the ref counts down. 

Thereís a single, proven path to playing well which is generally disliked, but is necessary for your team to play their best.  What is it?  Practice.  Yes, the 5, 6, 7 . . . well, it might as well be a four letter word!  Everyone has a bad practice memory from sports, but donít let that stop you from practicing paintball.  Practice is the key to victory; it will improve both your individual skills and your ability as a team.  Best of all, itís fun, because youíre still playing paintball!

The first, most important thing that you have to do is practice as a team, so you can get to know each otherís style and so you can trust your teammates.  Does this mean hours of boring drills?  Not at all!  Rocky Knuth, Captain of the Pro team Naughty Dogs, said that his team spends about 20% of their practice time on the field doing drills, and 80% of their time actually out scrimmaging, just playing paintball, against each other and against other teams. 

As a new team, you can go to your local field and at least begin practicing and playing together by going to open play.  This play together will help you become familiar with each other and it can be a good first step.  Next, you might try to find another local team and setting up a scrimmage with them.  Donít be overawed the first time you play another team, itís very possible that you wonít win the first time you play, but your team will improve, and thatís what really matters.  The first time I set up a scrimmage with another team, my teammates were so intimidated by the other teams matching uniforms and guns that they were joking about shooting me off the break.  Itís a difficult beginning step to take, but if you put the effort forth and actually scrimmage with another team before you go to a tournament you wonít have a reason to be intimidated at the tournament and most importantly, youíll play better.

Now that your team has started to play together and get a feel for each otherís strengths and weaknesses, itís important to really focus on some of the nuts and bolts of play.  One of the most important parts of playing as a team on the field is communication.  Of course, the best way to build good communication is by playing and practicing together, and the longer you have played and practiced together, the better your communication will be.  However, that doesnít mean that there arenít some things you can do to help improve your communication in practice.  One drill that will help you improve your communication skills is a simple two on two game between members of your team. 

There are several different ways you might set up this drill, but the best set up is using a small field, preferably speedball, and a single flag set in the center of the field, also known as center flag format.  Remember, the focus of this drill is the building of good communication, so you want to focus on offensive tactics, like advancing using cover fire provided by your teammate. You can find a great example of this kind of teamwork in streaming video, courtesy of Web Dog Radio here

There are some important things that your teammates will need to know when youíre on the field, and youíll want to keep these things in mind.  The most important things here are the simplest; you need to tell your teammates where your opponents are on the field, warn them when theyíre about to get bunkered, and find out when you need to start laying cover fire.  The best way to communicate these things is the original way, good old yell power, but youíll have to practice them countless times before they are a fluid part of your game.

So far weíve covered some basic things that can make a big difference in your game and help your team do better in a tournament, but that isnít the most important thing about paintball.  Ultimately, win or lose, the most important thing about paintball is having fun; after all, none of us would be playing this if it wasnít fun.  A great way to keep this fun in practice is to include some fun drills just for relaxation. 

ďThe GauntletĒ is one such drill, which combines quick movement, quick shooting, and accuracy.  Itís a fun break, from scrimmaging and it helps to develop snap shooting skills.  The drill is very simple, all you need is some targets (empty soda bottles or old license plates work great) and a field to play on.  Set up as many (or as few) targets as you want, behind bunkers, on top of bunkers, wherever, and then practice your shooting skills by running through with your gun, trying to hit as many targets as you can while you run.  The idea is very simple, and you can even turn it into a competitive game among your teammates by timing everyone as they go through the course, to see who has the best time and the best score on hitting the targets.  You can make the gauntlet more challenging by having your team captain or coach call out specific targets to shoot, like ďSprite!Ē or ďCalifornia!Ē as you run up on a group of targets.  This keeps the gauntlet from becoming repetitive and forces the player to keep listening to his or her team-mates while running and shooting.  You can see the Ironmen make use of both The Gauntlet and scrimmaging on PigTV here.

Donít let this suggestion limit you though; come up with your own drills and see what works best for your team.  Just remember to work hard and have fun; the harder you work during your training for the big tournament, the better youíll do in the tournament.  After all, you donít want to come home looking like this guy, do you? 

 


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