Starting and Running a Paintball Team - Tips From a Successful Team Captain
Article written by: Travis Sauer, Midwest Assassins Division 1 Paintball Team Captain
As the leader of a team I am often asked "How did you do it? How did you get this thing started?" People look at my roster and are shocked when they see 30+ names on it. Getting to this point was no cake walk, but it was less trouble than you would think. Here are a few tips of some steps to take for building a successful paintball team....
Find a home: Somewhere around you is a "home field", someplace you can get to and play at often. This is generally the best place to start. Meet up with some of the walk-ons who show up each week, make some friends, exchange numbers, find out when they are coming again. After a while you can make your own little group of people who play together. Then ask the ref if he can keep you all on the same team sometime...wow...did I just say team? Yeah it's really that easy.
Get organized: The first thing you'll need to figure out is who is the man in charge, someone has to make the arrangements and have the final say in matters (And trust me it happens a lot that you need to have final say). That person does NOT need to be the commander on the field, but must be the off-the-field-leader.
Where ya going?: It is important to figure out where you want to go with your team. Is this for fun? Is this to hopefully get good enough to get a sponsor? Is this an attempt to make a new pro team? Then figure out what events you want to do; 3 man team play, 5-man, 7, 10, x-ball, do you want to play tactical paintball? Perhaps you can decide this from what most of your guys like to play or what kind of paintball guns everyone has. If everyone has Tippmann and T68 tactical paintball guns, maybe you should lean more toward playing tactical paintball.
Start small: One of the best places to figure out what works is to go to a local tournament or a small young guns event and try yourselves against the local talent. YES you WILL get romped. But you'll find some great teams to play with who are in your area, and remember you only get better by playing people better than you.
If you don't want to start up a team from scratch, you might be able to join an already existing paintball team....
Finding a team: The best place to look for members of your team is your home paintball field. Sometimes the teams won't be there or might be reffing, ask the refs or the owners what the local sponsored teams are at that field. They will gladly hook you up with this information. Once you find them, ask if you can join or you will eventually meet up with other guys looking to join/be on a team.
Follow Gear: A good way to tell how involved a team is by looking at their paintball gear. A team in camos with Tippman paintball guns is probably a team that plays scenario paintball for fun, which is perfectly okay if that is what you're looking for, but won't be if you're looking for a fast ride to the top of the paintball world. Then again some teams have custom jerseys and $2,000+ paintball guns, which is kind of out of the league of your Spyder Xtra. So find a team that is about the same level as you, one that wants to go the same places as you and you can grow with.
Meet the team: When you meet up with a team, talk it up; remember these guys have all probably known each other a long time, so you have to get to know them and befriend them. Find out if they could use you for the day or maybe even as a walk-on in an upcoming paintball event.
Don't rush them: These guys have a system going, so jumping in and saying "My name is so and so, can I join your team?" is not the way to do it. Play with them a few times, find out when they practice and offer to come watch, help out, or practice against them. Remember, you want them to be impressed by your skills first, then they'll be more willing to talk.
Play it up: Be a mad paintballer, show them your skills and be sure to be cool about it. No one likes to hear "I just shot out that Angel guy with my Spyder"....they would much rather hear "Wow man, your good, you almost had me, glad I got you first".
Be a sit in: Sometimes teams will take potential new players to small events as alternates... it may not be a glorious job, but do it anyway. It shows your dedication to the game and who knows, they may ask you to play a game.
Picking A Team Captain
In short, finding/building a paintball team is like finding friends, because your teammates should be your friends. So don't rush; you've got time. Work on your skills and talk to the people in charge... before you know it you'll be standing at the starting box, with 9 other players at your side screaming your head off getting ready to tool fools.
AHHHH!!!! WHAT?!?! You want me to lead a rag tag bunch of guys, to places all over the nation, deal with travel arrangements, internal fights, sponsorship, and late nights just to go shoot other people? YES! Welcome to being a captain. Please understand that there are two forms of captains. The Field Captain and the Off-Field Captain. This article is about the Off-Field Captain. Sometimes it's the same person as the On-Field captain, sometimes it's not. It's confusing but don't worry, Here are a few tips to keep your head above water:
Picking the captain: When your team picks a captain, he/she does not need to be the best player on the team. In fact sometimes it's better if they are not. That way the captain can deal with issues as they come up and not kill your game if he's talking to the head ref while your team is playing another game. Pick someone who has the free time to do the job and who people will listen to.
Never be afraid to ask for help: You are the leader of a TEAM and team's need to help each other. If your teammates want to go to the World Cup, well they either have to go sweet talk mom and dad or they will have to work with you to lower costs, get support, and maybe even fundraise. If your teammates are not willing to work together to help raise money or get your team where it needs to go, then trust me; you will go nowhere.
Surround yourself with good advice: Try to be that player you can look up to to ask questions, be a good friend, or offer support when needed. Being a leader is never easy and it helps to have someone you can turn to to get the second opinion to make sure you're making the right choices.
What are the roles of the Team Captain?
Set up events: One of your duties as captain is to find events that your team wants to compete in. They might be small local events, or large national events. It's important to keep up to date on what's is going on and when events are. It helps to sit down before each season with your team and put all the hopeful events on the table, then narrow it down to the ones you really want to do. It doesn't hurt to pick some that seem iffy. Either way, it gives you a goal to try to obtain. Remember, the more your team plays together, the more experience you'll have, the better you'll get.
Organize the roster: It is the sad duty of the captain to have to cut players who simply are not pulling their weight or who might be hurting the team. This is seldom a decision left solely on the captain's shoulders as it's generally a team decision but it's something that must be done on occasion.
Get support: The captain needs to try to be in touch with as many sponsors and supporters as possible. Sometimes this is just parents, sometimes it's paintball companies or other corporate sponsors. Whatever you use to try and cover your costs or just get you to the event needs to be tracked and taken care of by the captain. Transportation to and from events can also fall under this role.
Media Rep: If you like to be in the spotlight then this is the part you'll love. When it comes time to have the reporters in your face only one voice can speak for the team. That voice should be the captain, who knows the most about the team, and knows what the plans are for the future. Also write up articles about your team from time to time and send them to magazines like APG or submit them to internet stores (like www.choicepaintballguns.com). Every few months these magazines will be short articles and will pull yours up and add you in. Things like this look really good for sponsors.
Handle disputes: Paintball is an aggressive, adrenalin driven sport. That means that no matter how much of a family you are, you WILL have disagreements. The best advice here is to just learn to roll with the punches. Learn to pick your battles. A captain cannot afford to be in the middle of every little issue that occurs, and when he is, he needs to be the one with the cool head. Remember your team is watching you. Teams that fall apart usually do so when the leader stops thinking calmly and just jumps into the fight. Don't worry too much, people will iron out their differences, if only to make sure they get a seat on that plane going down to the World Cup. Being a leader is never easy; at times, it can be very overwhelming. But there is no feeling in the world like watching all your hard work unfold into a golden trophy that your teammates insist sits on your lap on the way home....
If you're going to be the leader of a paintball team, sometimes there's things you won't want to deal with but have to. Some of them are fun to do and some aren't.....
Sponsorship: Ah yes, to many this word means "Free". Well I hate to break anyone's bubble but the only people who get anything for free are the pro's and the Am's who are good enough to be pro's. The rest of us have to deal with discount pricing and work/play deals. But DO NOT turn these offers down. One of the best and probably first deals you should work out is if your home field will let you do a work/play deal. You work for them one day, and you play for free another day. This is how MANY teams get their practice's done. Most paintball fields are more then happy to have you help out as it's cheaper for them, and it's better for you. You can help be a ref for other's that play there or basically anything else they might need; offer your services and take what they'll give you; even if it means picking up trash or working hard on their field. That is what sponsorship is about, an agreement that helps BOTH parties. A very important thing to remember is that no one will sponsor a team unless it's good for their business. So make your name known, get in the magazines, get to big events, and meet people. A lot of it is who you know.
Live it up: It is very important to trust each other on your team and that trust is built by being together. So try planning to do non-paintball stuff with each other once in a while. Play laser tag, go to the fair together, catch a flick....be a team.
Politics: Many people are scared of politics. Well I hate to tell you you're going to deal with them. Not everyone on your team will like each other, some people will have different goals than others. As a leader you have to take each one in stride and decide if it's worth fighting for, or is it worth giving it up and letting the person "Be successful elsewhere"......
Still, no matter how many headaches I get as captain of our team, walking off that field, collapsing in exhaustion from our finals game, and dragging your team to the podium all teary eyed to collect your trophies... there's nothing like it. My teammates are now my brothers and I would never give that up.
Planning For A Competition....
When you're going to a paintball competition, if you fail to plan, you're planning to fail. Here are a few tips to help you remember some of the important things before you go....
Plan: Know your game plan before you go. How are you getting there? Where is it? How much will it cost? The average tournament will cost about $150-200 for entrance fee and about $60-70/case for paintballs. You will find differences but this at least gives you a place to start. What is the format of the competition? The standard around the country for smaller events is either 3-man or 5-man team competitions. So make sure you bring the right number of people for the event - and remember to bring alternates in case something happens. Is it speedball or woodsball? Make sure you take the appropriate gear if you're going to a multi-day scenario paintball game (like D-Day) so you can plan your provisions. Not only will you need the right paintball equipment but you may also need camping gear.
Night Before: NEVER tinker with your paintball gear the night before. It is one of the ten commandments of tournaments. If you do, the only thing you'll accomplish is possibly messing something up and it's tough to get USPS to 30 second day air something to you. Plus I think the paintball gods just don't like it as something always ends up worse off the next day. Get plenty of sleep and get up 30 minutes earlier than you think you need to get up. Trust me, waking up at 4:30am can take as much as 30 minutes just to figure out how to put your car key in the ignition.
Arrival: When you arrive at the competition, you need to claim your staging area. Do this with your bags and all your paintball gear, but always make sure someone is staying with your stuff. It is a shame but there are people out there who take advantage of tournament noobs by swiping gear. Next on the list is to register and fill out waivers. Do this as quickly as possible so that you can get your schedule and walk the fields.
Take the Long walk: If you didn't get the chance to make it to the event station the night before to walk the fields then it is a good move to do so now (or as soon as humanly possible). Setting up your gear can wait, you need to know what you're doing and just what to expect from the fields. Know where everyone is going and what paintball guns everyone is shooting. It helps lessen confusion later on during the heat of the competition.
When your paintball team goes to a tournament, here are a few more tips to remember and highlights to look out for. 'Know before you go' and you'll have a much better time!
Make friends: Paintball is like any other social event, you get to meet lots of people. Whenever I got to events now I can see friendly faces and friendly teams of people we've met before and have similar interests. It's great fun to walk onto the field threatening someone from another team and then walk off laughing hysterically at how you ripped each other apart. No matter what the outcome, everyone's pretty much friends at the end of the day. Go to win, but go with a light-hearted, good spirited attitude; you'll have more fun and meet more people if you do.
Food: It usually helps to bring a packed lunch to events as the food tends to be expensive. Then again it is often tough to ignore the calling of that triple Decker cheeseburger with jumbo fries. Eat it if you wish, but my bet is it will end up on the field somewhere behind a bunker. I personally feel best with LOTs of water/PowerAde, and light snacks during the day. Granola bars, crackers, a cheese sandwich. But make that call as to how you are athletically. If you're not used to athletic events, trust me, eat light snacks throughout the day and drink plenty of water.
Bragging Rights: No one likes a bragger, even more so if they are a more defined team then yours. Everyone has a bad day and if you happen to beat that team of angels with your Wal Mart Talons don't flaunt it in their faces. They may be higher up on the food chain and might've just had their turn at a bad day. You never know, politically, they might be able to make things very difficult for you, or at least you'll make an enemy and not a friend. Simply be content with your victory and scream it to the hill tops when you get home but try to be respectful in front of the other teams.
Heading Home: Before you go make sure to thank the refs, the organizers and the other teams. Reputation is everything. Pick up your trash (you'll probably be given a trash bag when you check in) and pack up. Stay for the awards if you'd like or just go home for dinner. Over dinner try to figure out what you did right, what you did wrong and what you can do to improve. Have each member of your team write these things down as an exercise and go over it all at your next practice. This is an excellent way to grow and get better with competing and working together as a team.
The Game: You will find the game much faster and more aggressive than what you might be use to. People know if they don't make a move then they will lose the game and that hurts them in the long run, not like rec play where the games don't affect each other; you've got nothing to lose in rec ball. Bunkerings happen much more often, and peoples nerves are on edge. So don't get upset if you get bunkered or you get a bonus ball walking off. Just understand that the person didn't really have it out for you, they are just trying to win.
Points: The average points system usually revolves around a 100 point max; 50 for hang, 20 for first person to pull the flag, 4 for each opponent eliminated, 2 for each of your team left alive. But you need to go to the captains meeting to find out for sure exactly what the scoring criteria is. It may be different from other competitions.
Refs: The refs expect you to know the rules of the game. They will not talk to you, or tell you where the other guys are, or do anything other then start the game and give out penalty's. But they are nice, if you are not sure if you are hit ask for a paint check, if you think you got someone tell the ref exactly here he is and where you think you got him. Also be courteous to them and thank them for doing their job. It can only go to your advantage to have the refs like you.
Arguing Calls: If something happened that you don't think was right only the captain of your team should go to the head ref. If you have the entire team swarm the guy I can already tell you the final answer will be no. State the simple facts, and ask if there is any way to rectify the situation, usually the refs field call stands, but sometimes it changes.
Final Results: In short, expect to get rolled at your first several paintball competitions. Paintball is a lot about paying your dues by playing a lot. Many of these teams have been together for a long time and have been playing even longer. Worry not, be glad with your performance and look to improve next time. It's happened to all of us, I see way too many first timers walk away upset that they didn't win. Frankly they didn't have much of a chance to begin with. Competition speedball is a lot different than just playing paintball with your friends after school and it takes a lot of competitions to get good enough to win.
If you're the captain of the paintball team, you'll definitely want to attend the Captain's Meeting.
Captains Meeting: This is very important, you don't want to miss this. This is where they go over things like game rules, scoring, last minute changes to the schedule, fields, etc. Missing this meeting and not knowing of the different rules is going to kill you quickly on the field. Some fields have their own set of starting rules and things, as well as knowing what the starting call is. You look rather foolish making your break out when they call "ten seconds" (The standard start is for the Head Ref to call "3, 2, 1, Ten seconds" At this time the game can begin anytime within those following ten seconds when the Head Ref says "Go". This prevents people jumping the gun).
Don't be intimidated: If this is your first event you will see lots of people with cool and fast looking paintball guns all wearing personalized jerseys and drinking bottles of Gatorade with their own picture on them. Don't be intimidated, I swear to you that one day long ago they were also sitting under a tree looking at people with cool and fast paintball guns and getting ready to get spanked. Yes they will probably beat you, but they have a lot more experience then you do. Stick with it and you'll get better. Also talk to them, many of them are more then happy to help out younger players. Ask them if they will let you see their paintball markers. Get your 30 seconds of glory holding a $2,000 Planet Eclipse. Get a picture taken with it so you can lie to all your friends.
Be early: Find out quickly what paintball field your supposed to be at and be there early. Games can run behind or ahead and you don't want to get skipped over. Also watch what other teams do. Maybe a team will send someone to the same place you were going to go and he gets picked off right out of the gate 3 out of 3 times.... my guess is you should change your plan.
Paint: Your back players are going to shoot more paintballs than your front players. It is a given, but your fronts will get the added protection of that added paintball cover fire. Is it fair that your back player should have to buy 2 cases while your fronts get away with 500 rounds? I think you'll find yourself without any back players after a while anyway. So team purchasing paintballs is a must. The best way to do this is to have each person buy one case and then let everyone take from everything. As you need more paintballs make sure every chips in. Most 5 man teams go through about 5-7 cases per event. Depending if you make the finals or not.
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