Last week during church camp, some of the younger fellas (in their early 20s) asked me to join them to play paintball. Growing up, I never played any team sports or considered myself athletic (I still don’t). The first ‘sport’ I got into was paintball. Though many do not considered as a sport, for me, it is the first sport I got serious (next to triathlon).
Normally, I try to write a spiritual posts but I like to use this post to jot down some pointers on how to be a better paintball player. Not that I am an expert at it. I just want to recollect some of the thoughts I picked up along the way.
It was my close friend, Len, who I met in 2nd year in University that got me hooked into the game. Other than getting the adrenaline rush, we treated the game like chess. We focused on technical skills (shoot straight, run fast) and tactical skills (work as a team, flanking).
Once a week, we go to a paintball field and run drills. One of the skills I learnt which was very useful was to shoot with either hand. We would spend countless hours kneeling behind a bunker popping out to shoot a box or some target down the field. Being able to shoot with both hands allow you to be a better player with greater flexibility.
For me, the first thing most important is work together as a team. It isn’t even about having better equipment. Team work is essential in a game where everything can change in split seconds. Team work means communicating with each other where the other team is. Usually there are two teams competing against one another in a field filled with bunkers. Since you cannot see everything at once, your team is like your eyes to the field. It is also important to communicate what is the other team is doing. Are they pushing one side? Or are they playing defensive? By understanding what the other team is doing (or not doing), we can adjust our plan accordingly.
In the game, I try to keep tabs on how many players are tagged (shot) out. I need to know the game situation. If my team members who are supposed to defend are getting tagged out, then my base (if we are playing capture the flag) is vulnerable. Depend on the situation, I either move back to play more defensive or risk it and play more aggressive to surprise the other team. This is the same for the other team. If I noticed more of players from the other team are getting tagged out, then I realized we have a numerical advantage (aka keep pushing).
If they don’t see you, they can’t shoot you. This is key in paintball. Have they spotted me or not? A good indicator that they spotted me is when they start shooting at me. Then I need to response accordingly. Should I move up to another bunker where they will not see me? Is my position vulnerable for them to hit me (and I can’t shoot back)? Should I shoot back and make a stand in the fight?
If they haven’t spotted me, that’s great. I will keep poking left and right of the bunker to see where the other team are. I will try to keep ‘hidden’ as much as possible. This means staying in the shadow. This also means not sticking your head over the bunker (because everyone will see you as well). There are many advantages to being discreet. There are few games where because I remain ‘hidden’, the other team run toward my bunker thinking I am not there. Stay discreet is a huge advantage because you can surprise the other team. Since a game can be won in a few seconds, these surprises can make you win the game (even when your team is losing).
Every field has a boundary or a border, it is always better to move along the boundary because you are not facing the whole field and just the front and one side. Whereas if you are in the center, you have to be mindful of the front and both sides (left and right). If you can work along the whole edge and reach to the other team’s base, you can practically flank them on the side or even from behind. Of course, there are games where you have to move up in the center. But since most players focus their effort on what’s in front of them, as oppose to what’s on their side, if you can sneak around, you can hit them without them knowing.
Lastly, going back to teamwork, it is important to be aware of where my team members are as well. If they are moving up, I will try to move up and avoid staying in the same bunker with another person. There are times when you cannot move up. If the other team has four players coming your way and there are only two of you, the wiser move is to stay back and fight defensively. This may mean moving back a bunker or expecting them to rush you.
We tend to be more aggressive right from the start of the game because the further we are in the field, the less field the other team can move. From that point on, it is a matter of working the angles (positions where you can shoot them but it is much harder for them to shoot you in return).
Paintball tends to reward those who play aggressively (aka run very fast and far into a bunker at the start of the game). Yes, there is a risk of getting shot but sometimes the risk will pay off. The best part is that it is not about equipment or even experiences, often times it is come down to out-witting your opponent.