Preseason Analysis: Tampa Bay Damage, Complacent

By Paul Richards

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Complacent was probably a poor choice of words–for Damage’s hint. I struggled to come up with the right word. I thought about content but that was wrong too. I should have gone with comfortable instead. Anyway, you can see a pattern of sorts. Damage has the advantage of having the majority of the team together for a number of years. They are a tight knit group and there aren’t, or shouldn’t be, any surprises left in how the individual pieces fit together anymore. They are also a very strong team with an unshakable belief in their ability to win tournaments. This would seem to be a very good thing but there is a downside. Particularly when matched with the style of play the team has adopted.

But before we go down that path let’s take a look at this season’s additions; Jason Wheeler (ex RL) and Dalton Vanderbyl (ex Dynasty.) Two solid pros with Wheeler a steady and consistent performer and Vanderbyl the more explosive player. While it is always nice to have an excess of talent any time new players are introduced it alters team chemistry. Now this may prove to be a good thing for Damage. Shaking things up may be just what’s needed. Personality-wise both Wheeler and Vanderbyl will be good fits for Damage. Or, the introduction of highly competitive new players could undermine group cohesion. Damage was long past setting an internal hierarchy. The admittance of new, high value players will change that, particularly the Vanderbyl signing. Was that too subtle for you? Throwing a fat cash new guy into a settled team scenario like Damage is like tossing a live hand grenade blind-folded. It’s gonna go off. The question is who does it take out in the process, us or them?

On a team like Damage that damage, if it occurs, won’t be visible from the outside. It’s not in the team’s nature but it will end up being seen on the field.

Damage prides itself on being a player-for-player match for any team and consequently has developed a style of play that minimizes most risk taking while relying on superior skill to do their damage. (This isn’t universally true but we’ll to get to that in a minute.) And given that it is a fundamentally accurate perception it works most of the time. Damage is seldom challenged anymore by inferior teams or even the better teams in the prelims. They handle business and there is little or no pressure. Sunday becomes another issue. Over the last two seasons the team, by its own admission, has failed to meet its own expectations and it isn’t because they aren’t capable.

It is because practice has become a rote exercise. Even when the team scrimmages other top teams. It no longer improves the team and reinforces the comfortable factor. It is because they struggle when the pressure builds to find another gear, to step up their game. (It is a testament to how good they are that they routinely challenge for wins anyway.) And, it is because they leave an opening to any opponent willing to try an exploit a small weakness.
The one situation where Damage will take a considerable (or considered) risk is OTB though with their team speed they may consider it less a risk than others would. Regardless, the results are instructive. Successful aggressive breaks normally result in quick dominating points. They also make it difficult for an opponent to project what’s next and prepare effectively to counter OTB. The team is more than capable of high speed high pressure aggressive play but don’t prepare to play that way. Consequently when the going gets tougher they become more defensive instead of less.

And therein lies the opportunity. To attack. Something no team seems to want to do to Damage. Is Damage strong OTB with their guns? Yes. Are they competent at covering lanes? Controlling and containing? Yes to all of it but if a team is losing playing Damage’s game why play that game?

Part of the invisible game of competitive paintball is player spacing and occupying various positions. A team pushes the fifty to (ideally) keep the opponent at bay, apply pressure and improve the number and ease of shots available that will eliminate the opposition. But one of the features of recent seasons is teams, almost regardless of numbers, holding back and when both teams do it there’s a substantial no-man’s land in-between. This is the ground that must be taken in order to challenge defensive play. A constant and determined effort to apply pressure and force errors is the way to crack open the defensive game and conversely it’s also a way to push players who are comfortable and settled in their ways.

2014 presents Damage with a real opportunity to be the dominating team they believe they should be. Will they find a way or will the competition stumble? Or will the status quo remain?

Next time, Art Chaos. Hint: reunited.

Source: SocialPaintball.com, Preseason Analysis: Tampa Bay Damage, Complacent

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