So you want to start a paintball team…
Put ten equipped players together, get to the event, pay your entry, and boom, you’re playing the event. On paper, putting a team together doesn’t seem too hard — and yes, these are all the required steps to play the tournament. Now, in reality, putting a team together is more challenging than it seems, especially if you want to have a chance to win. It can be a giant headache if you don’t know what to expect (hell, it’s going to be a giant headache even if you know what to expect). But don’t let this get you down or make you decide to give up and do whatever lame outing your girlfriend (or boyfriend) has been hassling you about now for months. This quick guide will help you weave through the details, so you can look back on what was a very rewarding experience in the end, even if you guys sucked and took last. After all, it’s still paintball, and a terrible day on the field is better than most every other type of day in the real world.
I’m going to run down all the ins and outs of putting together a solid team, and if you learn to handle all the details and have access to a little bit of talent, you can put yourself and your team in the best possible position to excel. This guide should help make that happen and steer you clear of the minute things that always come up to derail your progress towards the winner’s podium. But first things first, I need to talk to your captain…if you aren’t the captain, cool, no problem, email him this link… but you should read it anyway in case you take the reins one day, and just to understand where he is coming from — because you are going to be on the brunt end of his decisions on and off the field.
A Note to the Captain
Dear inspiring new paintball team captain, wow, I’m stoked that you have the balls to start a team. Many have tried, many have failed, but they all had fun, and some of them are talked about in hushed tones at fields, stores, and over beers all over the world. Maybe that will be you one day.
I hope you are ready for the responsibility, the glory, the headache. You are going to the center for all things regarding your new team. You will be the rock everybody loves if the team does well, the hero if you win and the scapegoat for all the things that go wrong. If you are a natural leader, great, and if you’re not, well…like we always used to say, fake it until you figure it out. You need to think about how you’re going to run the team, because, just in life, there are many ways to govern your new entity. You can have a democracy where everyone has a say and you vote on decisions, you can have a dictatorship, where you are the ironclad leader with a vice-like grip on the control of the team, or every type of leadership style in between.
Now, what you SHOULD do is govern the way a pirate ship used to run. A pirate ship was basically a democracy, everyone on the ship had a say, but during battle the captain was a despot. I’ve seen every type of team organization there is and the pirate ship model is the best. You need to take in every player’s opinion, but you are going to be the end all, say all, decision maker. You should also let a few of the more experienced players’ opinions carry more weight than the other on the team. This way everyone feels their input is being taken into account (or else they might mutiny) but you decide the best course to take. Be prepared to be the asshole sometimes. When the battle begins you’ll need to have the wisdom and the gumption to make command decisions. Just as in any good business, you don’t need to do everything yourself, but everything needs to get done. So delegate responsibilities. Use your resources, but use them wisely; don’t put the guy who couldn’t even figure out a 20 percent tip for the cute girl who waited on you at dinner last night in charge of adding up the points to see who goes into the finals.
Make sure the field gets walked thoroughly. Nothing is more important than walking the fields. Woodsball fields are much more challenging to walk than airball fields because there are so many variables to take into account. Have everyone walk all the spots on the field, from both sides. This may take a long time. This is not the time to let the team get lazy. Figure out where the best spots are and which side is the best to push, and then put your most aggressive players on that side. Even though the people who make the fields try as hard as they can to make the field even from both sides, on most fields the natural terrain isn’t symmetrical, identify if one side has a tactical advantage.
Good luck my friend. And I mean that, I’d rather be lucky than good any day. The role of the captain is complicated and complex but just remember that everyone is going to look to you to make this happen. I will go into this subject at length in another article, but just know this for now: be decisive about who plays and who sits and make sure everything is clear, from who is picking up the paint, to who owes money, to who is going to certain spots on the field. The clearer everything is the better, so everyone can understand their role and help the team towards the goal, whether that’s to have fun or to destroy everyone in your way.
Paint and money go in the same category because they are the most important part to your equation. Paint is the most important thing your team needs to win — and it is expensive, so you need to try to get the best deal possible. And obviously without money none of this happens at all.
There are paintballs available at the event but since you can bring your own, try to get a discount at your local store and have someone drive the paint to the event if it’s possible. If you are flying to the event, you might be able to find a store close to the field, call ahead and get a decent price.
You should also spend the money on good paint if you can afford it. Woodsball is a hard game to master and there is nothing more frustrating than making a great move or an epic crawl only to take the one shot you have, watch it go wide, or bounce off your target because you decided to save 10 bucks a case. Think about it, you make the sweet move, the five kill run through, the 25 minute 100 foot crawl to blow open the side, the 5 on 1 defensive stand; you’re going to be telling the story for the rest of your life. Do you want it end with, “and then I missed the shot!”, or “it bounced off his goggles!” Hell no! So get the good stuff.
You also need to take good care of the paint, especially for those of you playing in a harsh climate. Summer heat and humidity will take grade-A paint and turn it into gummy bears if you leave it in the sun for too long. Bring ice chests or keep the paint in a running car. If there’s a long wait in-between games, get the paint off your back and into the shade. It would blow your mind how many pros just come back from the last match and throw their half full packs onto the ground, in the full sun even when it’s 100 degrees. Don’t make the captain have to be the guy reminding everyone to put the paint in the shade.
Also paint usage differs from position to position. The back player with the machine gun is going to use WAY more paint than the guy with the pump. This is something that should be talked about before hand so nobody gets pissed. Everyone should split the paint evenly. However, paintball teams always have a few guys who are considerably more broke than the other guys. And for some reason it’s always one of the best guys on team. If you are one of the broke guys just be open about your need for help on the paint and maybe the other guys can hook you up. If you are the rich guy, remember that if the little broke college kid isn’t running around shooting everybody the team might not do as well, and you also might have been on the short end of the money stick at one point. But don’t give away the house and don’t get taken advantage of. Don’t let that come up at the event either; get it figured out ahead of time.
Money is the biggest thing married couples fight over, so it should come as no surprise that money issues break up more teams than any other issue. Be frank about the situation.
Everyone should try to have their own gear ready at the event. I know this sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, akin to me saying “make sure you hold you breath when going underwater”, but if I had half a peso for every time someone forgot a major piece of gear, you wouldn’t be reading this — I would be in some tropical locale sipping a beverage under an umbrella with a flock of girls calling me “Papi”. Triple check you have everything before heading to the event. Ideally you should have two of everything because guns love to break, swabs get lost, and loaders go down. On Dynasty you have to carry everyone’s bags around if you forget to double up on gear. I understand money might keep you from making this happen but try hard anyway; borrow another friend’s stuff if they aren’t playing that weekend. Trust me, you’d rather shoot an old gun that hardly works over playing a man down because you couldn’t get that $1500 pimp whip on the right setting.
Make sure you are familiar with the unique rules the UWL has regarding the types of guns available for each level of play. I like playing in the skills division, with a old school cocker because the slower rate of fire allows for a great deal of movement on the field and reminds me of all the years I spent playing in tournaments before the electro arms race took hold of the sport. Now, that being said, there is nothing like hold a chain gun in you hands that even your 10 year old sister could shoot into double digit BPS with one finger. Any division is going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, but don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, prepare properly, read the rules. If you want to win make sure you have the firepower to do so. Make a list of who is shooting each type of gun. This leads us to our next subject…
On Field Roles
No one player is the most important player on a team, because without all your teammates doing their jobs, the team will not win. You might pull some crazy insane move out of your ass, which does happen and is how legends are made, but that’s not how teams do well on a regular basis. Even the best player can be replaced. Everyone should know their role on the team. Just like in the airball world, the more positions everyone can play the better your team is going to be.
The make up of the team can be broken down into three different roles, or positions. There is no cardinal rule regarding how many of each type of player you want on the field at any one time but the spread should be dictated by the layout of the field. You are going to want put more front guys on the side of the field you want to more aggressive on, the side you want to push. Ideally you should be pushing both sides of the field but not all fields are laid out that way. Also, just like on an airball field, the roles are interchangeable; you never know what spot you are going to end up in during the fight — especially with the UWL format where every ten minutes you get your dead players back in the game. More often than not a back player ends up in a front position and a front player has to be the back guy after he dies then reinserts. If you are a back player you need to know what the front players are looking at, what their needs are, who can shoot at them and what they think their moves are going to be. A front player needs to know what his back player can and cannot do, whom he can and cannot shoot at. It’s not enough to just know where your front players, mid or back players are going to be. You need to know what they are thinking.
Each one of these positions is it’s own article but here are a few quick things you need know about building a team around your positions. The back players need to be able to shoot a lot of paint; they should carry at least double what the front players are carrying. And if you are playing the Skills Division, the heavy gunner needs to be able to shoot at as many positions as possible, and shoot a ton of paint, the more the better. For the opposing team, it’s very hard to make moves while listening to that big gun open up over and over again on your position. The back player also needs to talk constantly, giving everyone updates on everything he knows, the more info the better. In fact talking, shooting and listening are the most important things they have to do. Listening is very important, because that’s how you get information about what is going on the other side of the field. All this commotion is going to make them easy targets so they need to understand where most of the incoming fire is going to funnel from, and have a high level of survivability.
Make sure your front players are aggressive. They need to have faith in that their mid players will be able to get into a good spot if they die going forward. And that is the only time they should die. Please, if you are a front player, don’t get shot out of your spot unless you get bunkered. We have to fill that spot again if you do, and that could cost us another body. They need to take as much ground as possible. In the UWL format controlling the flags on the sides on the field is a very important part of a winning strategy. So get your front player on the tape lines to focus on gaining ground, your mid player and back players can focus on keeping it. The front player needs to be able to have intense focus under pressure more than any other position because many times they are going to be in very precarious positions, where if they get to greedy or sloppy they are going to doom their team. It common for a front player to get in a good spot and then blow it by trying to gunfight everyone. Gunfight by all means, but do not get shot.
The mid player is the linebacker and most of the time the best players on the team. They HAVE to be able to play every spot the field, and are responsible for making the big moves. This is because the front players are normally in a tight spot, getting shot at, or engaging in very close combat gunfights. The mid player is most times close enough to the line of action to make a clutch, quick move and either run through or bunker a key spot while everyone is focusing the fire on the big guns in the back or the front players right up in their faces.
So there is your basic run down of a few things you must know if you are starting a team. There’s going to be a lot of articles coming soon about how to play positions, how to crawl, how to walk fields, how to push, to play aggressive, the end game, how to take on multiple opponents, and how to play the UWL format in general. And all of this will be available in book format this fall. Good luck, play fast, be clutch. It’s your will against the world.