Friday, July 17, 2015

Whippersnappers and Adversity

As a member of the upper echelon of competitive tournament paintball players when it comes to age, I sometimes find it difficult to understand viewpoints presented by younger players.  No, this is not going to be a sociopolitical rant about how terrible the younger generations are when it comes to responsibility, history, vision, work ethic, common sense, consequences of actions, Bernie Sanders and a plethora of other issues that boggle my mind.  No, this will be something different.  This will be more or less a bit of an emotional rant.  I want to talk about adversity and how we approach it.  More specifically, how Prime did not meet its normal exacting standards prior to the last event and how that should be expected to change. 

Shortly after Prime took its 4th second place finish at a national event (Dallas PSP), the paintball community was dealt a mini off season as things between the PSP and the NXL were being ironed out (or not for that matter).  It was expected (<<< operative word there) that we would meet this opportunity with the same fervor and zeal we do a normal off season… with blood, sweat, hard work and determination to improve our game.  We have always prided ourselves on that.  It doesn’t matter if it is 103 degrees outside or if we are shoveling snow off the field before practice, members of Prime could be found practicing and honing skills.  If you are a member of Prime, you have pretty much said goodbye to the majority of your weekends throughout the year.  That is expected because that is how we, since the foundation of this team, did things and how we found initial success.  It is also how you grow as a team and as a player.  That’s what Champions do… they sacrifice and this program, or any program for that matter, should do the same if they wish to build a winning, competitive team.

That didn’t happen after Dallas…

We were “okay” with a 2nd place.  After all, it was our first event in D1 and we did “okay”.  We got our groove after the prelims and proved we “deserved” to be there.  I personally (see previous blog post – The Riddle of Steel) tried to motivate myself and others on the team into recognizing we were on the cusp.  I fear I may have given players an out or rather, a way to rationalize our performance. My mistake.  But I learn from them and hopefully this version of Prime does too.

Instead of taking advantage of the time given us to hone our skills, work as a team and improve upon our performance like we have in the past, we fell into complacency.  That is the only way to describe it without becoming foul mouthed.  We become complacent.  Complacent means “feeling so satisfied with your own abilities or situation that you feel you do not need to try any harder”


Granted, no one on the team believed that and no one on the team ever came out and said that (nor would they).  However, it is the only way to describe what happened.  Perhaps subconsciously?  I don’t know.  All I do know is that team members began to focus on other things almost as if to say, “we can play in that division, we will be fine!” not realizing that the other teams were not being complacent.  I am by no means saying that the Prime guys can’t have lives.  That is not the point here and my statements should not be construed as such. 

What I am saying is, somewhere along the line between last season and this season, that fire, that drive, that quest for winning lost its way.  You cannot afford to become complacent for one second in the competitive national paintball scene or you will simply create new adversity… one that is difficult to overcome.  Was the team burnt out?  Were we working too hard too often and now we were tired and wanted a reprieve?  Maybe.

I faced my own adversity prior to the first NXL.  I injured myself and was unable to attend the event (the irony being I did so after posting the last blog – see Cowboy Up from last month).  I have been healing for the past several weeks.  Those of you who know me know that I push things and I have a tendency to push too hard.  Well, it caught up to me.  If I really want to overcome my injury, I need to listen to my body and my doctor and follow a strict regimen.  So far, I have done so because I want to play with my team.  I have done it because that is what is EXPECTED by normal rational teammates who want me as a teammate at the next event.  I have had to go against my nature in order to overcome.  I will not miss the next event.  That’s how I view things and how I had hoped my teammates viewed things.  We were on the cusp… meaning we should have continued with what we were doing… we should have listened to our “doctor” and realized we should have tried harder to make it happen.  We didn’t.

The first NXL was not our finest moment.  For the first time in 3 seasons, Prime failed to make Sunday.  I heard all sorts of reasoning.  Team members were quick to rationalize one thing or the other.  But deep down, I think everyone on both squads (our D3 squad did not perform well either) knew the real reason.  No one put in the time needed.  No one committed the effort that is required to win.  No one was on that practice field as often as they should/could have been.  D1 teams are next in line for the pro division and we were anything like a team vying for a pro spot leading up to that event.  The proof is right there in front of the squad.  Prior to Dallas, we had some of the most in depth and intense practices we have ever had and it equated to a 2nd place finish in division 1 paintball (a 3rd place for D3).  Contrary to that and prior to the first NXL in Cleveland, we had some of the most automaton (going through the motions, lets practice what we are good at and that should make up for what we are bad at mentality) practices with scarce participation from all members and it equated to a 2-2 performance topped with a 13th place finish.

There are consequences to action or, in this case, inaction.  And it hit us in the face…hard.

We are re-evaluating because we were shown that we may not have what it takes to be a professional program.  That is why Prime was started.  A grass roots program to work our way up to the professional ranks.  We are almost there but to be honest with you, I don’t want it if we can’t compete.  I don’t want it if the guys don’t give 150%.  I don’t want it if we are just going to be a flash in the pan.  I don’t want it so I can say we are “pro”.  I want it because we earned it.  I want it because we can do it.  I want it because we can win.  I want it because the guy behind me, in front of and next to me in that matching jersey wants it.  And I will always do what I can to help my boys achieve that.  Can all the members of the program say that to one another?  If not, you better call me because we need to have a talk.

Say what you will about us.  Love us or hate us, I know what the soul of this team is and I hope to see it again.  I saw some of it this past weekend when professional player for San Antonio X-Factor, Grayson Goff came out and banged with us in 100 degree weather.  I hope to see more of that in action and deed, not just word.

Gen. George S. Patton said, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”  Here’s to one hell of a bounce after Cleveland.  Whatever Prime decides to do prior to Virginia Beach, you can rest assured it is in the best interest of the team.   

Be water my friends, 

*On a side note, I want to take another moment to remember my friend, Boca Loca himself, Coach Paul Richards.  Words can’t express the sincere feeling of loss at his passing.  Rest In Peace, Top.