The most common question among up and coming players today is; What makes the difference between being a pro level player vs a divisional player?
The Answer: Field Awareness & Understanding StrategyYes! That is it. Period. The end.
Now, knowing the answer, if you really want to become a better player, go the extra mile and read the rest of this article to understand why.
The fact is paintball requires numerous skills. These skills might include running low, snap shooting, shooting off the break, sliding and so on. In reality, these are just skills. In this case, skills are no more than a bunch of movements that with repetitive practice and muscle memory, anyone could master! These skills are essential to the game and in becoming a talented individual player, but unfortunately that will only move you so far up the ranks because there are 1,000s of players mastering those same skills at the same time.
So, how do you learn to rise above and become a professional player?
Learn the game, not the skills!
The best players in the world always seem to move through the field flawlessly or turn just in time to catch someone moving. That is no accident or stroke of luck. That is a high level player being aware of their surroundings and reacting to them as quickly as possible. Paintball is a game of chess with guns. This means that for every move, there is a counter move or expected result. The best way to figure out what that result will be is to put yourself in the other team’s shoes. Every time you hear that the opponent has made a move, stop and think, “what did they do and why did they do it?”
Now, this is why we practice the same moves over and over again. Based on where you know the opponents were, you can make an educated guess as to why they made a certain move and where they came from. Next, react. Reacting to what just happened will always leave you one step behind. Your job is to understand what the next move needs to be, whether that is just changing your positioning, changing which way you are shooting or making a counter move.
It is your ability to react that can win a point and make you a more valuable player to a high level team. A great way to improve your field awareness skills is to make sure that every time you finish a point or drill in practice, you understand what happened. Make sure you take the extra time with your teammates to understand how and why you won or lost that point. The more you understand how the game broke down, the more you can make your field awareness a muscle memory movement rather than a slow and confusing thought process.
Strategy is the other defining factor between divisional and professional level players. All too often, divisional players will get caught in a “robotic” or “one-speed” style of play. What I mean is that no matter how the game breaks down, a player does the exact same moves in the exact same way every time. This becomes more of a trick you can perform than it is being a paintball player. Paintball points are constantly evolving and changing. It is your job to adapt to it as it happens.
Again, this is why we practice field layouts over and over and over prior to going into a tournament. The point is not to master small movements. The point is to develop your ability to adjust as you are put in different game situations and play teams with different strategies. Understanding how a field layout should be played before you start the point is the best way to prepare yourself to adapt.
When you understand how a field should be played, you can begin to make educated guesses as to what each player is doing on the other side of the field. This will then allow you understand their general strategy and make counter moves to poke holes in their game plan.
The best way to practice developing your understanding of strategy is to take the time to watch high-level teams play. This does not mean, sit at the computer and watch highlight reels of players getting bunkered. This means you should take the time to watch a match and see how each point breaks down. Try to understand what allowed each team to win and what you think the best counter move would be.
Now, if you went the extra mile, you had a chance to learn how to develop the skills that will allow you to rise above the 1,000s of others that didn’t. Put it to good use and go out to learn so you can dominate the game!