Monday, December 14, 2015


I have often used the martial arts or rather, more specifically, the practice of hand to hand combat techniques, training, and philosophies to help players better understand instruction.  I am a huge believer in “biomechanics” and “kinematics”.  Now, I am no scientist and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that I am an expert on these topics.  I don’t even use the terms in the literal sense when I reference them.  However, these techniques have proven to work and that’s what I choose to call it, so… there.

Now, many people believe that Kung Fu is a martial art from China and they would be partially correct.  It is not necessarily inaccurate but the literal translation for the Chinese term Kung Fu is “hard work” and can be applied to anything someone has achieved great skill in by studying or dedicating themselves to its pursuit.  Keep that in mind as you read on.

Paintball can certainly be approached from a martial perspective.  If you look at it from the perspective of a set of skills to be applied in order to defeat your opponent, it can translate very well.  Especially when applied to the physical as well as the mental.  We use footwork, body positioning, conditioning, active and reactive response to our opponents, tactics and strategies… we apply techniques to keep us safe and to ultimately defeat our competitors.

The author working some basic Kali stick drills
That being said, starting next year and hopefully with assistance from some friends of mine in the professional paintball community, we will try and bring you some paintball “Gun-Fu” lessons.  The details are being hashed out now and I am really excited about this opportunity to share with you what I really hope to be an impactful endeavor by Prime and the programs good friends and sponsors.  So keep an eye out for these lessons in Gun Fu… they should be fun but most importantly, informative.

On a completely separate topic, I wanted to make some quick comments about the off season.  Something that is often overlooked and every bit as important as putting in the time and hard work required to become a better player.  It may appear counter intuitive but I assure you that is not the case.  I am willing to bet the majority of pros use this very simplistic technique.

Let’s talk about taking a break from paintball.

 Nearly every professional athlete isn’t a professional athlete 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Just as important as training is the time athletes take off to rest, relax, and recover – mentally and physically. While that off-season break can look different for different people, it nearly always involves a few days or weeks completely off from the sport after their last big event.  It is usually a mini vacation, some time doing other activities they are interested in and a lot of catching up on… well…. life.

Dr. Doug Graham, who coaches elite track and field athletes and who founded FoodnSport says, “If you train year-round in your sport, you don’t do as well as if you take two to six weeks off.”  I agree with his assessment.  Countless times the guys/team comes back after a few weekends off rip roaring ready to go.  They missed their boys, they missed that mission, and they missed that adrenalin that is our sport.

Most professional athletes – from the up-and-comers to the seasoned veterans – use a few weeks to do everything they don’t during the season: they don’t worry about what they are eating, they aren’t wigging out about their schedule or their training. They catch up on errands, spend a lot of time on the couch, and pig out a little.  They see family and friends and do things they don’t necessarily get to do during the regular season.  And why not???  How many of you LIVE for paintball?  If you do, you’re doing it wrong.

A little relaxation at the range
 Now this doesn’t mean you throw your regimen out the window completely.  You don’t start smoking cigarettes, getting trashed, eating fast food every day or stop physical activity altogether.  Toxic is toxic according to Graham and I certainly agree with him on this as well.  He says, “It’s not a treat to abuse yourself even a little.”

If I had to sum it up, it’s the time to mix it up a little.  Spend some time with the girlfriend, go see your mother and tell her you love her, eat some pizza or chocolate, catch up on those movies you missed, have one of those micro brews you’ve been meaning to try, travel, hit the beach, whatever…
However, just in case you were thinking of getting straight back into training for next year, here is some reasoning on why you should probably take a few weeks of active recovery and definitely take a break.

The Physiological Aspect:
The end of season break allows for the body to fully repair any tissue damage. Granted, body fat levels may increase but it will also allow your stores of essential vitamins and minerals to be restored.  And your immune system usually needs it too.  Your immune system has to work overtime if you are constantly training.  Giving it a break gives it a chance to fully recover and reduce your risk of illness throughout the winter.

Something I am constantly aware of is recurring injuries.  By resting and following a rehab program for a recurring injury, you decrease the chance of… you guessed it…the injury happening again.  Use the time off from training to get a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment. An extra couple of weeks off at this time of year will not effect next year’s performance but not treating an injury correctly certainly will.

Down time on the couch with my son
 The Psychological Aspect:
The end of season break, especially this particular off season, has helped me see some really important qualities that I miss during the regular season.  Before I can be Mike Bianca, member of Prime, I have to be Mike Bianca, husband, father, son and friend.  This season I have spent some quality time with my wife, children, friends, and family.  It has been AWESOME!  They have helped me recover from this past season which saw a lot of undue stress and its fair share of issues and problems with the program.  I have not stepped on the Prime field since our tryouts back in November and it has been incredible.  I stepped out on the field for the first time yesterday (December 13th) and I noticed something almost right away.  I really enjoyed being there… I wanted to be there!  And my game was anything but stale.  As a matter of fact, someone said, “Whoa! You looked like a 25 year old out there!” (Take that Grayson… lol… kidding brother! But not really…)  I am going to take a few more weekends off for the holidays and then hit it hard in January.  My batteries should be fully charged by then.  I am going to use that time to constructively review the previous season and identify strengths and weaknesses for myself and the team.  I will more than likely set a goal for myself and hopefully for the team.  I will get a certain nagging injury further under control and finally, get ready and plan for my in depth training.
Serenading the wife... romantic, I know

This post has proven to be much longer than I anticipated.  If you are still reading, here is my suggestions/recommendations for those of you who feel taking a small break will do you some good: 
– Train when you feel like it
– No high intensity work outs
– At least two rest days per week if you do train
– Try to avoid running.
– Maximum 30 minutes per session

Remember the goals; Recover from injury, recharge the batteries,  analyze performances from this past season, set goals for next season, but most importantly…enjoy life man!

Be water my friends,
Mike Bianca
Team Prime

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Do or do not. There is no try…

Winning is an easy motivator.  But a true champion needs a motivation beyond winning, right?  When you attempt to inspire your team to work harder after losing, falling short of expectations or having a less than expected season, I assure you it is no easy task.  Motivating a team that has no other reason to be out on that field, no other reason to spend money and time on a pursuit that has nothing more to offer than a prideful glory… that is a feat.  Maintaining team motivation is especially difficult at the divisional level because of individual player’s personal levels of commitment (family, school, money).  I am pretty sure it was President Eisenhower who said, “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”  Well alrightie then Dwight…

But how?  Remember, it is motivation not manipulation.  These two should never be confused.  Any attempt to motivate in this context should be based off discipline.  This obviously has a lot to do with the attitudes and drivers associated with your team (that whole environment deal we have talked about before).  If you have recruited wisely, it shouldn’t be too far of a leap to make happen.  Remember, the secret of discipline is motivation. When a man or team is sufficiently motivated, discipline will take care of itself.

    We be motivatin’

The Prime leadership has always believed and continues to believe in hard working players.  I will take the motivated hard working player over the super star every time.  Why?  Because motivation will, over time, almost always beat out talent alone.  But here’s the catch; motivation only gets you so far.  It gets you started.  Once that hard work becomes a habit, then you really start to see results.  So you need to learn how to convince your team to develop the habit of working hard.  Sure, you can have a player who is worth two players but he can’t be two people.  He needs to inspire the guy next to him to step up and then it needs to become contagious.  The domino effect, if you will.  There are some who believe that motivation is “easy” - eliminate those who aren’t motivated.  Now, that shouldn’t be confused with creating fear.  Sure, that may work in the zombie apocalypse if your name is Carol but that doesn’t usually work for paintball teams.  You can motivate by reward but how many of us, besides professional programs, have the means to do this right?  Both ways have their merits I suppose but the best motivator?  That will always be self- motivation.

The off season tells the tale of a paintball team whether it is the team’s rebirth/rejuvenation or the beginning of its death/demise.  The off season is where you see where each member’s level of motivation (commitment to improving) really lies and it can almost certainly tell you how well you may expect to do (especially in the divisional levels) the following season.  Everyone knows, and I think this applies in all sports; champions are made in the off season.

2nd place can be a strong motivator…

Now, every team needs a break from the grind, a time to heal, rest up physically or depending on the team’s performance that season, mentally.  I have nightmares about how our competition, the teams we will be facing next season (and those that beat us the previous season), are outworking us.  They are all homeschooled or have unlimited funds and paint and sponsorships and practice every day.  And then there is us… we only have a few weekends to prepare for them.  I mean, it really is a lot of sleepless nights for me.  Of course I recognize these as nightmares and not reality.  However, they get the better of me sometimes, especially if my guys have a lot going on and struggle to get to practice (hint, hint).

Remember the saying that "Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard”?  Here are some ideas I have thought about to motivate my guys.  Perhaps you might want to use them as well.  They may work, they may not, but we are darn sure going to try them and see what it gets us:

1. Remember how we have talked about training tired?  One of the ways I motivate myself when I am out there with Prime and I am tired is, I will remember a team or match we lost during the season (for this off season, I don’t have to think too hard… just back to World Cup).  I will fire myself up by dedicating my efforts to “those guys”.   For example, right before I get on the box to start a drill or point, I will think to myself “This one is for Team so and so".  Now, there is no reason that this can’t be a team effort as well.  Perhaps when you get to practice, your team captain says we are dedicating this practice to that loss at Cup!  And every opportunity you have, you mention it throughout the day.  That will get some blood flowing, I bet.
2. I thought of this one the other day.  Pin a print out or list of your teams finishes for the past season up where everyone can see it.  Remember how they felt?  Yeah, well I remember every one of them and to me that is motivating.  If you see guys on the team that are OKAY with those finishes, especially if they aren’t podium finishes...cull them.  You could even combine this one with the first by posting a picture of the teams that beat you that past season… oh yeah… that’s motivation there.

I want to devour the liver of my enemies! Motivation…

3. Have a very organized schedule.  As soon as the season ends, this is the time to develop a schedule that might involve a team dinner or team activity.  It is also important to give them a few weeks off but then make sure they understand it is time to work.  Plan drill days; work out days, clinics, whatever you have to do to keep them focused on the goal of getting better for the next season.  Once the schedule is solidified, stick to it.  There should be no surprises and they can ask employers for those days off work. Talk to as many of your players as you can and do your best to match schedules.
4. Not every team can do this one but now that Prime has lights; I plan on being available during the week.  I am actually excited about practicing in the evening, especially during the season (when it is much cooler in balmy Alabama).  If you can find the time, set up dates that aren’t status quo.  It doesn’t have to be with a paintball gun.  It can be getting together in the gym or track to run.
5.  Acknowledge those that put in the work.  Whether it is through social media announcements, internal emails let those who do put in the time and effort know that you see it.  I once gave out fun “dollar store” toys to the guys.  They got to pick their prize.  Turned out to be pretty fun and everyone had a laugh (but you could tell it was appreciated).  Recognition can be a great motivator.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last” – strive for #1

And those are just a few of the ideas.  What are some of yours?  Post them up or let me know.  Shoot me a message on our public Facebook page or hit us up on our PBNation thread in the Alabama forum found in the Southeast area.
Whatever you do… do SOMETHING.  Because if you don’t, well… you’ll get what you put in.
Oh, before I forget a big thank you to one of our biggest supporters, Ken Osvath!  He’s the man who keeps the pit running smooth for team prime.  And he is a great motivator!  Check out this video he made to pump us up (click the link below)

In the meantime, be water my friends
Mike Bianca 
Team Prime              


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Retreat? Hell, we just got here!

“There is a destiny
That makes us brothers
 None goes his way alone
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.”

The NXL’s World Cup is just a week and a half away and I, for one, am rather pumped up.  There are a lot of things to be excited about; the venue, the competition… I can tell you the atmosphere here at Prime is pretty intense and with good cause.  The camaraderie of the Prime family never ceases to amaze me. 

But I want to take a moment and reach out to those of you who may not be as excited, who may be dealing with issues that don’t often get addressed in paintball, who may not feel so “blessed”.  I want to talk about internal issues, those aspects of being on a competitive national team that are often overlooked but have a significant impact on a team as a whole.  Not the physical and mental aspects of playing the game, per say, but those issues that have a negative effect and lie off the field.  They can manifest themselves in several different forms creeping in slowly and infesting an otherwise solid crew of friends and teammates until one day, BAM!  It’s all gone leaving some angry and/or disappointed, others confused and everyone with memories of "remember when" or worse "what if?"
No one wants to experience that … some reading this may have already.  But how do you avoid it for the first or in some cases another time?  Here's how:

Surrender.  Yep, I can see many of your faces now. “What is up with Bianca on this one?  You mean give in?  You flipped on us and found religion?”  Nope, I have always been religious and most will tell you I have always been crazy.  Once again, I am going to ask you to bear with me.

To too many people in today's society (the era of social media/narcissism and instant gratification), this post is going to be a very foreign concept.  But it wasn't so foreign in the eras of the Great Depression, WWI and WWII.  Yeah, yeah, I digress but you get the point…I hope… shut up and listen.

If you are still reading (thank you), it has a lot to do with being selfless versus being selfish.  Many of you who know me personally have heard me say, “Don’t be a bad guy, be a good guy.”  Let me share with you what influenced this latest blog and why I felt the need to address this topic:

Recently a good friend and mentor of mine shared a Forbes article with me on leadership.  I felt the article really personified the “Prime way”.  I love reading and learning about leadership styles and accomplishments from historical figures.  The article itself emphasized broad leadership and management style traits BUT it translates well into a broader spectrum that we can all benefit from if we apply it appropriately.  

In it, the author said, “A leader operates at their best when they understand their ability to INFLUENCE is far more fruitful than their ability to CONTROL – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on you, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. CONTROL, in contrast, is about power – not leadership."  Here's where giving in and being selfless enters in...  "SURRENDER allows a leader to get out of the way and focus on increasing the value to those whom they serve... Controlling leaders operate in a world of ADDITION and SUBTRACTION, while the return on investment (ROI) of a leader who understands SURRENDER is built on exponential multiplication!"  

Whoa! Deep stuff, right?  That surrender comment from earlier makes more sense now, doesn't it!?  Mikey and I like to use the term “Force multiplier” when referring to aspects of the game but I think it applies here too.

At Prime, from the outside looking in, there are leaders like Mikey McGowan and myself each with traits that benefit the program. Mikey drives and leads the team and provides assets most programs would kill for.  I am more of an NCO…lol…. Shut it.  Prime, the team however, is full of leaders.  Not something every team is fortunate to have.  Every member brings something to the table. It's the sum total that makes the team successful:

·         Leadership isn't about position or stature

·         Leaders grow/have a wish bone and a funny bone.  In other words, they develop a vision (wish bone) and have a sense of humor (funny bone).  They don't take themselves too seriously or it will tear them apart.  Trust me on this one

·         Leaders build confidence; they have a positive attitude

·         Leaders control their emotions and don’t let them cloud their judgment

·         Leaders recognize and appreciate the benefit of diversity and different perspectives; everything isn't black or white, all or nothing, there can be a compromise usually that benefits all.

·         Leaders are able to accept unjust criticism 

·         Leaders are passionate 

·         Leaders have excellent communication skills, verbal (looking someone in the eye and talk with them), listening, body language. Text, Email and phone are not effective tools since there is no inflection

·         Lead with questions not answers. Leaders don't have to have all the answers 

The Prime team has been selfless and this has led to our longevity and cohesiveness.   Let me put it this way: if my Primates and I had to “clear a room” in a house where we knew the first guy through the door was going to take the hit, we would all be fighting for the spot.

So, back to “surrender”.  I assume what the author of the Forbes article meant is not the contemporary meaning of the word.  Unless, of course, you mean to serve those you lead.  You surrender to the needs of the team or greater whole and focus on improving the team and the team’s environment, putting self- ambitions to the side.  

When everyone on a team has this attitude, it's a truly remarkable thing to behold.  Things become smooth and fluid.  Groovy if you will… they become a Prime environment for improvement and success (see what I did there? Clever… I know).  And those self ambitions?  They will be met.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not to say there are not moments of conflict, disagreement or tension.  We are, after all, only human.  We will make mistakes, we will address internal issues inappropriately at times.  This is not to say there are not moments when CONTROL is certainly required. Those moments and scenarios certainly exist.  It’s how we address them later, how we respond or grow from them, that shows a cohesiveness and understanding of what is required for success.  Once you recognize the mistake, you address it and you address it the second you recognize it.  You don’t wait.  I saw this recently in a young man I know.  And the young people he led and humbled himself before gave him what he had sought after in the first place.  It was AWESOME!

I’m going to switch gears on you for a second and look at it from another perspective.

Bruce Lee didn’t believe in “styles”.  He felt once you bought into the concept or idea that you are of this style or that style, you had already limited yourself.  If they do this, I will react this way.  But as with all things, especially say… a street fight, things don’t always happen the way you think they will and you had best be prepared.  

A teammate or leader who does not serve or surrender and is controlling (his way or the highway) would be a single style martial artist.  He is limited in his approach and therefore will be limited in what he gets out of his players/team members.  He does great in his weight class and against people without his experience but usually ends up bloody, maimed or dead when he finds himself in a knife-fight or up against someone with more varied experience. Make sense? 

The author of that Forbes article said, “CONTROL restricts potential, limits initiative, and inhibits talent. SURRENDER fosters collaboration, encourages innovation and enables possibility”.  Man, sounds like this guy read Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”.  And I can dig it.

Finally, and I think it is worth mentioning, a controlling leader or teammate usually lacks TRUST in his team members and therefore will not be trusted in return. How many times have you heard that if you don’t trust the guy in front of you, next to you or behind you, you can’t win in paintball?  The guy who doesn’t trust the guys he has been in the trenches with will more than likely be arrogant and insensitive and probably not even realize it.  In essence, he’s a bully.  I hate bullies. Bullies have hurt many of my friends.  (Unless the Bully is America.  And then I am all for it… but I digress.)

If you find yourself on a weak team, I bet there's a lot of stress on the leader.  He more than likely feels there is a tremendous amount of pressure on him.  And, more than likely, there is a fear among the team members.  Yes, I said fear.  Chances are they are scared to address the issue.  This is what a controlling leadership brings to the table. This is the environment it breeds, one of discomfort, inefficiency and distrust.  You know what it doesn’t foster?  Winning…

Contrary to that, the good leaders learn to serve.  Good teammates will look past themselves and give everything they can.  They want to help, they want to bring the best out of everyone, they want to build on a foundation and improve it, making it stronger.  No, this doesn’t mean everyone gets a trophy for participating, that’s all bullstuff and doesn’t fit into this discussion.  But it does mean the quickest way to improve something is not to destroy it.  Remember, a good leader or team member who serves his teammates, will not only add value but will certainly gain value in return.

Here’s the thing… there is a saying that true leadership can’t be taught, it has to be learned.  And it’s a tough class.

“When what you seek is to build into others more than glorifying self you have developed a level of leadership maturity that values surrender over control. SURRENDER is the mindset which creates the desire for leaders to give credit rather than take it, to prefer hearing over being heard, to dialogue instead of monologue, to have an open mind over a closed mind, to value unlearning as much as learning. CONTROL messages selfishness, while SURRENDER conveys selflessness – which is more important to you?”

I want to buy that Forbes guy a beer.

So, take stock in what you have.  If you have a control freak for a teammate or leader, talk to them.  Find out what is motivating them.  There is a chance they are facing things you aren’t aware of.   You will be glad you did because one of two things will happen.  Either you will work things out or you will discover you need to make a change.  And that’s okay.   If you find yourself already a part of something that resembles the “service” environment of good leadership like Prime, count yourself lucky my friend… chances are you have podiumed or will podium real soon.  Congratulations.  Revel in it.  In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate what I have on Prime.  McGowan and I have been friends a long time and thanks to the Prime Program, we are surrounded by friends and family who will be friends and family long after this Prime thing is gone.

Be water my friends,
Mike Bianca – Team Prime