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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keeping it Together. Stay together and stay strong!

Don't let your team become an ugly statistic.. Stay together and stay strong!
By Bruce 'Charon' Johnston

originally published in the November 2006 issue of Paintball Sports Magazine
Every weekend, you call up the same group of guys. You pool your money to buy paint, then, piling your gear bags into the back o f a van, head off to the local field. After a few months, it's really starting to come together. Other players hunt you down during the game-or ask you for tips afterwards! The head ref puts on the other team with the walk-ons with their baggy sweatshirts and rental markers to "even out the sides"
It's only a matter of time, now, before you decide to take this casual coalition one step further and start a real scenario paintball team. Maybe you want to compete in the SPPL, or just become a recognizable force in the scenario community.

But forming a team takes a little more than just calling yourself a team and coming up with a cool name, it takes dedication and hard work to be successful.

Most scenario teams (and speedball teams, too) can't seem to stay together past the first year. A number of factors can tear teams apart just as they are starting to make progress on the field. How can you avoid these situations and make sure you team will stand the test of time?

Fortunately, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. The longstanding teams out there have already figured it out. Follow their lead, while staying away from the pitfalls the one year wonders encounter. Keep these key points in mind when you first start your team, and you'll be laying down the foundation in which scenario paintball superstars can grow and thrive.

Every Player Must be Dedicated to the Team
Playing on a paintball team takes a certain amount of dedication to the team. Everyone has a number of things going on in their lives, but if you decide to join a team you must be committed to the team. Plan your schedule so you are available to play.

What about other school sports, family commitments, or spending time with your girl? Everyone understands that you have a life outside of paintball (well, maybe you do), but make sure you can devote a reasonable amount of time to practices, competitions, or large-scale scenario games your team chooses to attend. If you can't commit to the team, then it isn't fair to everyone else to say that you will play.

Support From Your Parents and Girlfriend Makes it Easier
Make sure your parents and girlfriend know what you are doing and that they understand your long range plans for the team. Keeping a team together can be tough under the best of circumstances, but it is even harder to do if you are doing battle against other teams on the field and with your parents and girlfriend at home. If everyone knows what is going on, it will be much easier to make the time to play.

Have Realistic Expectations of Costs
Many teams seem to dissolve when the bills start piling up. Playing competitive paintball in a league like the SPPL, or even playing in large scenario games as a team costs money. You will need to pay for markers, uniforms, travel, hotels, meals, paint and other expenses as they come up. Sometimes, this means making tradeoffs. When all of your friends are going out on Friday night to see a movie, you may have to say, "Sorry, guys, I'm saving my money for paintball this weekend."
Always be on the lookout for ways to make some extra money for the team too. Talk to your local field owner about fundraisers for the team, raffle off a marker, ref a tournament, the possibilities are endless.
Many teams believe that sponsorship is the solution to all of their financial hardship. But even sponsorships come with an investment in time and a commitment to a certain company. Whether its cash from working a part time job or paint you receive from sponsors, in one way or another you work for everything you get.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice whenever you can. The only way you are going to get better is practice. Every professional paintball team in the world spends a considerable amount of time practicing, and, if you want to win in a woodsball league or really shine during scenarios, you'll need to do the same thing.
Not only will you play better with practice, you'll come together as a team. Having players who won't or can't practice can spell doom, not only for the team's skills but for the team's morale.

Check Your Ego
Forget about your ego. Some players on the team will be better than others, but everyone will bring something different and special to the team. When you're practicing, you should focus on the areas in which you need to improve as a player. But when you look at your teammates, focus on their strengths. Adjust your style of play to each player's strengths. This will build a stronger team even as you work on improving your weak areas during practices. As soon as you start thinking you are better than a teammate, your team will be in trouble.

Recognize Each Player's Contribution
Maybe one player has that big van that gets you to and from scenario games across the country. Maybe another player loves to cook, so he takes the initiative to grill up a great meal after games. If you have someone on the team who is extremely personable and of the written word, they might make a great public relations coordinator, while someone else knows how to design your team's website.
On the field, one player might be a sniper, laying low in his Ghillie suit to rack up those eliminations, while someone else is always in the thick of the firefight, as your team captain hangs back and commands the troops.
Each person's contribution, no matter how large or small, is equally valid and should be respected. The idea of a team - on and off the field - is to work together to accomplish your goals.

Be Willing to Change
Be on the lookout for new players. No team can remain unchanged forever. Life happens; people move away, get full time jobs and sometimes, even the unimaginable happens - people lose interest in the game! That's just the way it goes.
Make sure that losing one or two players doesn't cripple your team. Always have more players on your roster than you need for any given competition. If you get enough players on the team, you can enter two squads for events. Not only will having extra players available help the team stay together, you will also have people to scrimmage against when you all show up to the field.

Always Have Fun
This should be at the top of your list. Paintball is supposed to be fun. People don't play woodsball to feed their families or pay the bills. We started playing the game because it is fun and you have to make sure that you always keep it that way. The minute you're not having fun anymore, your team is in trouble. Having fun playing paintball with each other is your most important goal. Nothing else matters when it comes to keeping your team together.

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