BY KYLE SPICKA
2018 LA Ironmen, where to begin...?
How we let our fans down, or
how we “overhyped” ourselves?
How we were traitors?
It’s funny how it all played out because as a professional athlete in this sport you know how tough it is to win an event, or even be in the top 4. As individuals we knew that going into the creation of this new squad it was going to be a struggle. As a collective squad there has to be sharp confidence and the willingnesses to overcome obstacles. Any new team understands it's going to be a tough road in the beginning, but you're not going to come out and say you expect to play like shit until you have time to pull it together. I think a lot of players on other teams felt like we overhyped our predicted performance. Then on top of that we didn't live up to the expectations of our fans. But our intention wasn't to come out claiming some type of unearned respect.
There is a part of our sport just like any other sport that is built around marketing and sponsorship, as an individual as well as representing a brand. Its part of being an ambassador of the sport, you’re promoting yourself, the team, and the companies. I feel like this can easily be misconstrued for bragging or boasting.
As far as the individual mindsets, everyone obviously wants to come out and gel immediately, and win. I think in our minds, especially the veterans on this team knew it wasn't going to be handed over just because of the players on our roster. I want us to succeed for the legacy of everyone that has ever worn this jersey. I want to uphold the name and keep the recognition that they have built strong.
In those first two events it seemed that all the factors that we pulled together to win, were actually working in the opposite fashion. We had been utilized on other teams to flourish in our specific area of expertise, and as Ironmen it just wasn't working. We didn't know each other strengths, weakness, or in depth playing styles. I mean we knew each other through this small community we inhabit, but we didn't really know one another on a personal level.
I strongly believe at this level you have to care about the person next to you. I say this over and over. There needs to be something that holds deep value, past skill and ability. That comes from building a rapport off the field as well. Most of our guys are spread out all over the country and even further, Alan Goulding, lives in Europe. Getting together is something that we have very minimal time to work with; I think that this showed our first two events.
I wanted to stray off course here and touch on the coaching change that happened along with my 2018 move. Although I think many people have an understanding of Rusty as well as Todd, they don't have the true experience of being in the pit with either. I had been on Dynasty for 5 years under Rusty and he gave me an incredible outlook on the game. That guy is second to none on trying to find the most statistically efficient way to play each point. He’s a numbers guy, and that showed me the value in looking at our sport from more of an analytical standpoint. I don't mean solely from a scouting aspect, this mindset transitioned into my game and I was able to start making more proficient decisions. He showed me how to fix my weaknesses and helped me form better habits. I owe a lot to that guy. Then I come over to Ironmen and coach, Todd Martinez.
I've known Todd for probably as long as I have been in San Diego, but we never really talked paintball nor have had a chance to play together. To be honest I was pretty excited to play for him, as he is extremely passionate about the game. His drive and passion had me pumped about what we could do together. Some of my best moments as a player have been when I went into a full flow state, and I get there through immense energy by the individuals around me. Todd is hands down one of the best motivational speakers in the game and I noticed that even as a divisional kid watching paintball videos. He will definitely give you the boost you need to feel relentless when you step on the field. With that comes high passion in the other direction as well; Todd doesn't accept people slacking or making mistakes multiple times. I think thats the frustration side people see but may not understand as a player, and as a player, I thrive off this. I want to see what my mind and body are capable of, and what extreme I can push it to, Todd, helps me reach toward attaining this goal every time we are out there working together. I think the explosive side you see from him is what enables him to be that motivational rockstar. Todd has a lot of tricks and understands that in this game you have to be adaptable to change. Both very different coaches, and I'm fortunate enough that I have been given the opportunity to evolve my game through them.
Now as far as our team performance from a technical view I don't believe we had anything in the right place. I think I can speak for everyone on the team when I say that. To be honest it was a mess, everyone was trying to scramble and fix holes. We were running around doing everything as individual players. I think everyone was confused as if they should be playing their own game or helping someone else play theirs. It’s like in basketball when you have a breakaway and you either drive the ball or send up the assist… It didn't matter if we were up bodies or down, we were just having a massive brain fart and turning the ball over and over and over and over.
Another factor we were dealing with as a squad was understanding the new bunker kits. Every time the fields get changed there is a small reassessment of how the gameplay will unfold. These new layouts are more complex then they were with the Wall. In the last few years it was either you made a skillful shot and you were playing Up 5v4 otherwise typically it would quickly be a 4v4 game. Now there is a whole new collection of variables that have been added to our game. To be efficient and competitive you have to understand your job as well as what the other 4 guys are doing at all times. The teams that are making the correct split second decisions are typically the ones that prevail on the specific point.
We are starting to understand what it takes to be successful and I think everyone saw that last event. I don't want to leave you with some cheesy cliche statements on how we will be better. We’re past that.
At this point I’m just ready to let our actions and future performance take it from here.
Kyle Spicka #05 | LA Ironmen