Friday, March 11, 2016

The Problem Is Not the Problem

There is a topic I have seen popping up now and again on several paintball forums I frequent.  I have stayed out of responding for the most part because I figured someone out there in the vast expanse that is the internet would have the right words at the right time for the person inquiring.    The topic, in some shape or form, has dealt with discovering the right mental fortitude for paintball.  “How can I overcome this…” or “What do you feel is the best way too gain confidence in…”  These questions appear to be more frequent than before.  It reminds me of a quote from Socrates: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”  Good stuff.  But it wasn’t until I saw one or two inquiries regarding these topics from older individuals that made me decide to write this particular blog.  Conventional wisdom states that older athletes should already know the path to success, right?  Not necessarily true and it never hurts to be reminded.  I believe we have touched on this topic a few times before but it never hurts to revisit.  Especially with the new NXL season just a few days away. 

We all know the age old sayings “Practice makes perfect” and “it’s 90% mental”.  There is good reason why these sayings are repeated generation after generation, it’s because they are true.

Practice those skills... but don't underestimate the power of hair.

How a person views and thinks about competition is very important in regards to how they will approach their practice, performance and results. All of these things must be in sync just as the mind and body must be in sync if one expects to do well.  If your mind and body are in sync then you are no doubt performing at your peak.  So let’s think about that for a moment.  Why would you not train both mind and body?  The body is easy.  It’s the mind that gets you.  So let’s discuss it.

You have read on this blog before that excuses such as “The ref made a bad call” or “it was raining and muddy”, etc. are factors beyond your control.  But you have also read here that, what are you doing on YOUR end when it comes to things you CAN control?  How hard are you working to address strengths and weaknesses in your game, in your team’s game?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Just wasn’t our day” or “we couldn’t get into a rhythm”?  If you have played competitive paintball for longer than an hour, you have heard it at least 8,000 times.  What people are really saying and don’t even realize it is, “The other player/team is better than me/us because they worked harder and found the balance of their physical and mental game”.  In other words, you got outworked.  Nothing to be ashamed of… but take note.

One thing I have prided myself on (and should probably stop) are my pep talks before a game or a practice.  They are usually quite violent and wrought with disturbing adjectives and descriptions of what we will do to the day, the other team, what have you.   

How I imagine my guys will feel after my pep talk
However, these pep talks don’t instantly make my guys into the greatest paintball team on the field that day.  The idea/goal is to put them in a positive mind set, one of a team.  We control our destiny and we will not be denied (blood, gore, filth and farth!).  However, the fact of the matter is, developing the right mental attitude started way back before the first practice.  The right attitude is just as important as the right technique in a gunfight or any competition for that matter.  You have to train your brain. . .

For those of you who have been posting on those forums I mentioned earlier (hopefully you are reading this) about preparing for an event or preparing your team for an event - you need to start well before the event.  Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?  Don’t go weak or simplistic and simply say, “I want to win!”  How do you want to win?  Set definitive goals at different levels.  Get specific.  This can focus you on specific tasks.  This will then help you develop a path to reaching your desired outcome as it will point the way on what needs to be done in order to accomplish each goal. Once you understand and recognize these steps, you can begin working on them.  It will become quite clear how much time will be required to reach them, too.

Here’s the thing. . . If you are already doubting yourself, either quit and do something else or get in the game for real.  You either want it or you don’t.  There CANNOT be an in-between.  If you are serious about being competitive, then get after it. Believe in yourself.  Believe you can do it.  Leave no room for doubt. The moment doubt enters, it will seep and fester and will detract from the goal.  Have no doubt because there is no doubt.  If you don’t believe you have what it takes, then you don’t.

This isn’t to say that if you don’t feel confident, it can’t be developed or that your doubt can’t be overcome.  It can.  Most people are naturally skeptic and often times that translates into their very own abilities.  That’s okay.  Taking the doubt in one’s head and beating it into submission is exactly what we are talking about here.  Just like the physical discipline it takes to get your body strong, there has to be the discipline it takes to believe in oneself.  Bruce Lee was a master of this.  136 lbs of pure mental and physical tenacity.  The right attitude means having the right mental fortitude and recognizing the belief in oneself.  It goes back to when we spoke about small successes.  Build it and keep building. 

Now, back to the practice makes perfect train of thought.  We all have work to do to get better or to maintain a skill set or to peak.  We have to give 100% EVERY time we train.  If we don’t and just go through the motions, we aren’t accomplishing anything, especially from the mental aspect.  Remember the other old adage, “Practice like you play”?  Again, good words to go by.  Push the envelope in practice so that you know how far you can go come game time.  You want to play a slow layout aggressively?  You better practice it aggressively and do that a lot so come game time, it is second nature.

Understand that it’s natural to have some anxiety.  The key to beating it, however, is to focus on the task, not the outcome.  When you get caught up on outcome, you open yourself to reinforce doubt.  Remember, there is no ROOM FOR DOUBT.  There is only getting better.  “It is like a finger point the way to the moon.  Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory.”

"Don't think! Feeeeeeeeeel..."

For example, when drilling on the break laning, I focus on several different factors: my position on the box based off my teammates planned breakout; how quickly I can get my gun into play and paint downrange; my foot work and mechanics of my draw; where my lanes need to be in relation to the job I am doing, where I am in relation to immediate threats on the break, etc.  If all I focused on was whether or not I hit the guy on the break, I could get discouraged rather quickly.  The guy didn’t break wide… so my lane didn’t shoot him.  But I can have small successes; For example, perhaps my job on the break was to take away the wide runner on the D side.  I bring my lane up but the runner saw the paint and goes short.  I didn’t kill my guy… but then, I didn’t have to as I still accomplished my goal.  Success.  This is why scenario training in paintball is so important.  Play 4 on 2’s or 3 on 2’s.  Practice timed heavy pushes where one team has to win the point in 45 seconds.  By doing these things, you learn to recognize them in real game situations and know what has to be done.  You have created an environment where you know what it takes to succeed and therefore, when confronted with the situation, are therefore comfortable.  There is no “unknowing” or unfamiliar territory.  It is not outside of your experience and therefore not foreign.  There is nothing to fear.

The last thing I want to leave you with this month in regards to the right mental attitude is this – Disappointment and failure to accomplish goals will happen.  It is how you decide you wish to face these defeats that will determine future success.  Losing when you know you put in the work is the worst.  We have all been there, some of us more times than we care to admit.  But you must continue forward.  Some of the biggest names in sports will always tell you about how they learned from their failures.  They didn’t let their losses define them.  They didn’t let those short comings stagnate their drive to improve.  And you shouldn’t either.  Not if you want to get better.  Listen, we will all have a day where things go wrong but if we learn from it, we will be that much better.  Cliché’?  Sure.  Fact?  You bet.

You want to be good, then work hard at improving your mind and body.  You want to be great, then you better strap yourself in and embrace a life of mental and physical tenacity.

Noah Gallaway has the right attitude. What's your excuse?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.  Remember, your mind is the greatest weapon.

Be water my friends.