As paintball has gained popularity over the past several years, speedball has claimed its own niche because of the high intensity, quick pace and endless variability of objectives. There are many things you can do to improve your speedball skills, but these are a few of the top tips that you can initiate immediately and with only a little practice.
Tip 1: Communicate with your team members
Although the pace is frenzied and the intensity is high during a speedball match, communication with your teammates will prove invaluable. If you have set a clear team objective before the match starts (which is always a good idea) and each player is given a specific set of mission objectives to follow, you can only know if they are being accomplished if you see them with your own eyes or are told about them from a trustworthy source. With 10 minutes on the clock and no time to waste, you don’t have time to observe every movement, so you must rely on your teammates to give you communications updates quickly, effectively and without giving alert to opposing team members. This is something you can easily practice off the field. Whether it is hand signals, code words or hands-free communication devices, team members should constantly be “talking” to each other. With a little practice, you can drastically improve your knowledge of your team’s movements and the progress of your team objective. Take that on the speedball field and you have just implemented a HUGE improvement in your game.
Tip 2: Don’t move just to be moving
Players are constantly running around on the paintball field, but these movements are often wasteful, dangerous (for the team objective) and just plain unnecessary. Watch just a single match played by experts, specifically focused on their movements, and you will see that a major difference in a rookie and a pro is in how, where, and how often he moves. It is a good idea (and necessary) to move regularly during a speedball match, but consider the purpose of your move before making it. Are you in danger of being shot by the move? Are you under poor cover and see an opportunity for better cover nearby? Does your team, position, objective, or the warning clock dictate you move up the field? While there are many good reasons to move, there are just as many reasons to stay put. This aspect of adjusting your game can be immediately implemented and should be.
Tip 3: Use cover effectively
The most effective way to not be shot during a speedball match is to avoid being seen. This doesn’t mean you have the option to hide behind a single piece of cover and never move. This is ineffective and downright selfish, not to mention pretty boring if you want to have fun during the match! However, like outlined in the tip above, you should only move as needed. If you’re behind a bunker and are able to take out an opponent or make positive progress toward your team’s objective, don’t move from behind that bunker until there’s a good reason to do so. Unlike in woodsball, if you come from behind a bunker in speedball, you will be seen and in great risk of being shot.
Tip 4: Manage your stress
During a game of paintball (especially speedball), there is a good chance you will be shot and, if you’ve never experienced it, it hurts! It also takes you out of the game. Knowing this before you begin builds a lot of stress. Your team is depending on you, you have personal pride, and you likely have bragging rights, money or another prize on the line. Getting shot is at odds with all of those ideals. Your body will dump adrenaline into your bloodstream just as a match begins and your ability to recognize what’s happening and deal with it in an effective manner will keep you ahead of your opponents. You will think and behave differently under stress. Some of the ability to manage your stress only comes with time and experience, but simply knowing that your body is going to change rapidly and stress is coming will help you prepare for it.
Tip 5: Use your eyes
A major issue for those in any shooting scenario, be it paintball, airsoft or even real shooting incidents, is tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is a restriction of your abilities to use peripheral vision, causing you to focus on only one “threat.” This removes your ability to consider the other threats that may be around you. For example, if an opponent emerges from a nearby bunker while you’re reloading, you immediately have heightened stress because you can’t shoot him (you’re reloading!), so your body unconsciously heightens the focus on your speed of reloading and taking out that single opponent and narrows your field of vision to that objective. If other opponents emerge during this time, you are very likely to miss them altogether. You probably won’t see them or consider they might be there. However, you can train your body to recover from tunnel vision much more rapidly than is natural. Police and tactical teams are trained to neutralize a threat and immediately scan their surroundings (using their entire body, not just their head) for additional opponents. Making this a habit during training eventually embeds it into muscle memory. Practice this skill and you can quickly improve your ability to use your eyes to scan more territory and recover from a tunnel vision scenario when (not if) it comes.