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Monday, July 31, 2006

How to be a Winning Paintball General

The art of successfully leading players on the woodsball battlefield
By Bruce 'Charon' Johnston

originally published in the August 2006 issue of Paintball Sports Magazine
Alexander, Napoleon, Eisenhower, Rommel, Patton, Montgomery and MacArthur are some of the greatest generals and military tacticians in the history of the planet. What comes to mind when you think of these men? Courage, leadership, brilliance, resolve, paintball???

As with a person leading our army on the field of battle in a far away land all big paintball scenario games have a general leading the team onto the field. The paintball general's job is not all that different from the job of a military general. The general must set up the defense, plan the offense, organize the best players to fill each position on the team, ensure the team has adequate supplies and make decisions that will ultimately affect the outcome of the game. The same qualities that make up a great military general are the same traits that make up a great paintball general.

Exactly what does it take to become a great woodsball general? I recently saw a motivational poster in an office. The quote on the poster answers the above question perfectly.

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent."

That quote makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but it still doesn't tell you what you need to do. The specific traits or characteristics needed to be a great general are fine for discussion purposes. It is fun to argue whether tactical ability and instinct are more important than strategic oversight and player deployment in order to be a winner on the paintball field. The problem is that this type of argument will not tell you what you as a player actually have to do to become a great woodsball general. All great paintball generals share the same qualities. All of these people will without even trying are able to use everything they believe, and everything they know to provide purpose, direction, and motivate the players to accomplish the mission of winning the game.

12 keys to becoming a great paintball general

1. Know Tactics
Probably the most important thing a general needs to know is tactics. He needs to know what tactics work and which will only lead to elimination of his players. Not only does he need to know how to mount an attack but also how to prepare a defense, to assault a flag, set an ambush and employ any special weapons at his command. The paintball general must know human nature and natural tendencies to direct his players to be in the right place at the right time. Not only does the general need to know what to do but he also needs to know when it must be done. In order to effectively use his tactical knowledge the general must be aware of what is happening around him and throughout the field.

2. Keen Situational Awareness
The US Naval Aviation Command School defines situational awareness as the degree of accuracy by which one's perception of his current environment mirrors reality. In other words "Does he really know what is going on or is he making this stuff up as he goes?" Whether the general is aware of the situation because of experience, radio reports from players on the line or by magic from a crystal ball the general has to quickly and accurately be able to assess any situation and react accordingly. With a fine tuned sense of situational awareness the general can never lead his team to victory.

3. Ability to Play Any Position
The general is not necessarily the best player at every position (nor does he have to be) but he must know how to play every position. In order to be an effective leader the general must know what physical and psychological characteristics a player must posses to be affective in any given position on the field. To effectively deploy his players the woodsball general has to know who will be the most effective and where those players should be in order to have the greatest positive impact on the outcome of the game.

4. Knows the Equipment
A great paintball general know the limitations and abilities of all of the equipment under his command. Knowledge of the capabilities of markers, grenades and launchers helps the general deploy this equipment to maximum effect.
5. Decision Maker
A decision maker is a person who reduces uncertainty and doubt about alternatives to allow a reasonable course of action to be followed from among all the choices. The great general knows his tactics, his equipment and is aware of what is going on around him now he must not be afraid to put all of that knowledge into action. The general must be willing to make choices quickly and give clear decisive instructions to his players.

6. Lead by Example
The great woodsball general will always show the behavior he wants the team to emulate. The general will only show his players strength, confidence and single mindedness of purpose. "I'm eight feet tall and bullet proof so are you" is the attitude the general exudes so his players will begin to believe that they can accomplish anything. The great motivators always have a positive attitude and can find the good in any situation. They can expanding on that good for the betterment of the team. Great generals practice leadership by example.

7. Always Accessible
The great general is always around. Talking with players, motivating and encouraging them. This makes the players feel more at ease with the leader and more importantly it gives the leader a chance to get to know his players. You cannot effectively command a group of players you don't know. Even if the scenario has a large number of new players the general must make the rounds and get "a feel" for the players even if there is not enough time to properly evaluate each player's individual abilities.

8. Will Not Risk His Players
Players on the field are what wins scenario games not rows of camouflaged kids covered in brightly colored paint standing the dead zone. The great general will not throw away his players on foolish schemes or plans that have no chance of success. He will sacrifice a few players for the good of the many. When he does find it necessary to sacrifice a few players it is only maximum advantage or to inflict greater loses on the other side.

9. Mental Rehearsals
Great generals will walk the field or study a map and rehearse the game mentally a thousand times before they put on the mask and walk on the field. They are always contemplating their "If's". If these players get pinned down what do I do. If the line is breached and the enemy is charging for the base what do I do. If communications go down what do I do. This process continues over and over without end. Every possible scenario is thought through to it's conclusion. Great leaders will remember the lessons of the past to prepare for the future. It has been said that "Chance favors the prepared mind" and a great woodsball general has prepared everything in his mind.

10. Communicate Clearly Defined Objectives
Great paintball generals do not think in terms of the rewards of success and the consequences of failure. They always think of what is the best interest of the team and the best way to accomplish the objective. They also know that frequent and meaningful communication is the key to understanding. The process starts with clearly defining the expectations to the team members. If the team is aware of exactly what is expected they can focus solely on accomplishing the objective. While the general is talking to individuals or groups he will repeat the key points over and over so there can be no misunderstanding. He will actively listen to his players concerns and since he has played the game a thousand times in his mind already he can clearly address any questions.

11. Identify and Quickly Resolve Issues
If a general sees behaviour or playing style that can potentially damage the team he will quickly address the problem with the player. A quick motivational talk with a player and small correction intermixed with praise helps to correct issues and will motivate the player to try harder and bring the team closer to victory.

12. Never Make the Same Mistake Twice
The general is always watching and correcting his players but he is not above correction himself. A great leader will watch and evaluate the results from every decision he makes. He will not repeat bad decisions and will try to repeat decisions that have had a positive result.

The woodsball general is the most demanding and frustrating position on the paintball field. The position is demanding because all players are looking to you for guidance. The position is frustrating because as the general you cannot directly control the outcome of the game, you have to trust your players to execute your plan and carry the fight to the other team. Truly exceptional woodsball generals are extremely rare. The list of skills needed to be the best is long but if you focus on and practice the 12 keys points of being a great paintball general you will be able to take yourself and your team to the next level and dominate any scenario game.

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