Kyle Spicka: Mental Games

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Kyle Spicka: Mental Games

Mensaje por JohannRozd el Mar Jul 03, 2012 8:51 am

Kyle Spicka, one of the most talented young players on the Ironmen roster, talks about his struggles during the 2012 PSP Chicago Open. The Ironmen took 4th, but they are not playing up their potential. Spicka breaks down the mental game in a two-part series, as he talks about how the game of paintball, at the top level, is almost entirely played in your mind.

I remember a moment vividly as we were coming off the field after a very successful practice set against Heat and Dynasty, a week before the event, when Skinny Kevin pulled all the Ironmen aside and said, “Do you guys now realize what your capable of?”
Part 1
Looking into everyone eyes I could really see the new incarnation of this old team, understand what type of skill we harnessed, and what needed to be done every time we step on the field.

As our team was approaching Chicago you could tell through everyone’s actions that we want this…. The motivation and drive that I could see before me was stronger than I’ve seen in this team since I’ve been here. Everyone has been stepping up fighting for every point in practice. The team vibe had been on fire the past few weekends. The weekend before the event we were missing almost half the team, and some of the keys players, Mike Paxson, Justin “LJ” Schwarz , Raney Stanzeck, and Eric Humphries.


We had a 3-way rotation going along with Dynasty and Houston heat, arguably two of the best teams in the league, in my eyes. Playing with what we could pull together for this practice we were winning a great majority of the points against these two teams on Saturday. Grinding each point out, fighting as a unit, it was becoming easy for us. We went through two hard days of scrimmages, tired and drained physically, but mentally, we were energetic and hungry for what was to come. Namely, the PSP Chicago Open, one of the hardest events to win.

Ranking in the top 4 for the series this year gave us what appeared, at least on paper, a very good draw. Playing, in order, Upton 187 Crew, C.E.P, Infamous, and X-Factor. After the badass practice, we went into the first match with our heads high, feeling stronger than the previous event.

I don’t think anyone was expecting the type of paintball that Upton put down on us. At the beginning of the game, we knew they were going come running down the field and our plan was to pick them off, then go to work. The plan backfired on us and they ran down the field, we didn’t shoot any of them, and they just picked us out of our bunkers. I remember every other point either getting shot of the break, or early after the point started.

Each point walking back to the pits I would try to go over what I did wrong, wondering how the hell these new kids were literally stomping us; I wasn’t even able to get to a secondary bunker with out losing a stupid gunfight or looking into incoming paintballs. We ended up putting a few points on the board, but nothing crucial, and 187 finished the game out strong, beating us 7-2.

What a terrible way to start off the event, getting our asses handed to us by the rookies in the league. As I’m taking off my gear going over the points in my head I don’t understand how myself and the whole team could have come out with such a poor performance; there was no way 187 is anywhere close to our skill level. Or so we thought.


Shaking off our embarrassing loss, we prepare ourselves for the next match. Going into the last prelim match of Friday we’re up against C.E.P.

We came out angry, ready to redeem ourselves.

Each point was being played like we die tomorrow. Smashing them some points, other points bringing it back from 5 on 3’s and 4 on 2’s. We managed to break down and capitalize on every point winning 7-0.

Even though we had just won the match, a complete turnaround from the first game, I still felt something was wrong. I personally had another game where I could’ve played 20 times better than I did, especially against possibly the easiest team in our draw.

Mentally beating myself up all night, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I need to change, what I was doing wrong. How was I not playing the phenomenal paintball I was playing against the two powerhouses we practiced against? What was different now than before? Overloading my brain with all the questions I started second guessing myself.

Tossing and turning in bed, I know tomorrow is Sunday, when the real tournament starts, so I hope I can think my way out of this funk, asap.

Part 2
Saturday was a new day, everyone on the Ironmen squad knew we had to sack up for these matches to shake off Friday’s disappointments. It’s like the Navy SEALs say —The only easy day was yesterday. Going into the first match against Infamous we knew it would be a grinder. Infamous is a very solid team and you can never expect what they will throw at you. It was a tough fought game, but we couldn’t pull it together and Infamous comes out with the win.

After losing that match we knew it was essential to beat San Antonio X-Factor to move on. It was win or go home at this point, and we’d worked way to hard to go home. X-Factor is another team looking to reform themselves on the field; they’d been looking good this year, actually really good in some games during the last event in Phoenix.

The match goes to overtime, where we play a long point, until Colt Roberts makes a brilliant move. Or it looks that way at first, as he launches a perfectly timed run down the Dorito side, but he draws a major penalty trying to get two kills when he should have settled for one, and we take the victory. I rather have us beat them down for the win, but we’ll take it anyway it comes.

Going into Sunday I was at wits end as to why I was playing so bad. I had tried everything, even switching my headgear and undershirt, trying to dispel the bad luck demons. It was like I was going crazy. Mental games aside, I knew what had to be done. Sunday’s quarterfinals match was up against Dynasty, who we haven’t beat in over a year. Dynasty is our biggest rival in the league and we want nothing more than to knock them out of the tournament.

As the first few points transpire I was having an awful game, again, shot off the break or out of my bunker most points. I just didn’t have it this event. Our coach, Kevin “SK” Bredthauer, and I didn’t even have to talk about it, we both knew I wasn’t cutting it and someone else had to do the job. The big issue is that I’m the first guy in the snake, which is arguably the most important position on the field. If your first guy in the snake is having problems, typically the team is having problems.

The talented rookie Tokahe Hamil was our breath of fresh air. He was straight handling: winning two on ones, making moves, shooting people in the back of the head. It was a back and forth battle. Dynasty ended up getting a few majors that let us put points on the board, and our own Mike Paxson earned a Major penalty by putting Alex “Mouse” Goldman into the nets with a little extra love. The match was becoming an all out war, not just to see who moves on, but to settle who was coming back to San Diego head high with bragging rights.

We went into overtime 5v5.

As I watched through the netting, from the pit, looking at the stands and I could see everyone on their feet. Tensions were high and punches were about to be thrown. The buzzer goes off for the last point. Right away, two Dynasty players immediately walk off. We can taste the win just seconds away, and sure enough, slowly the remaining Dynasty players get eliminated and we take the win.


As we go into the semi-finals against Infamous, we’re looking for revenge.

As the match starts I get two points to try to redeem myself for my poor performance all tournament. Once again, I‘m mentally overthinking everything.
Infamous begins putting points on the board. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, and we looked and the scoreboard, confused, thinking, “What the hell is happening?!”

Seeing our fate unfold before us was crushing everyone as they came back into the pits, losing point after point. I tried to keep everyone motivated to keep fighting, as Infamous put two more on the board. It was now 6-0 with 8 minutes left. Logically thinking, we have lost the match, but we have to attempt to scratch and claw for the impossible.

Our coach, SK, throws me in; at this point we were trying anything. I remember being in the corner with paint flying all over my bunker realizing that there was no time to play safe and overthink things, like I’d been doing all event. I started gunfighting players in, running through lanes as a last hope. This worked, we were finally playing the paintball myself and the whole team should have been playing all event: aggressive, in your face, Ironmen paintball.

I continued to play the last few points as we brought it to 6-3 before Infamous finished the game off. I looked around at the whole team, crushed from a crucial loss. I felt like a failure to my team; I wasn’t able to step up all tournament. I had a job to do and didn’t complete it. It hurt to think what we could have achieved if I had played to my potential.

This was our last game, taking 4th for Chicago.

Awhile back, at the Germany Millennium event Tampa Bay Damage player Chad Busiere and I were talking, after we were both knocked out of the tournament, about how hard it is losing in Europe, because as US Pros, we feel that we are the best in the world. I remember Chad saying, “It’s so hard, because when you lose, it makes you mentally revaluate your skills”. Coming from, in my eyes, one of the top players in the game, a player whose skill level I greatly respect, made me realize how much mental strength is the biggest asset of all.


What I’ve taken out of these past two events is that once you get to a certain point in your paintball career, once you have fine tuned the fundamentals of paintball, it turns into a mind game. You have to be mentally stronger than your competition in order to grow and become the best. You have to get past the obstacles that are thrown at you.

As someone who still struggles at the top I can tell you this league, the PSP, and each of their events, are incredibly challenging. Everyday I try to think of ways to get better, and now I understand how big a factor mental tenacity is to success out there on the field.

Everybody has those “Ah Ha!” moments where you understand a new aspect about yourself. Once you accept a weakness exists in your game, you can turn it into strength, as long as you are hungry to move forward and are willing to do the necessary work.

I will only get better. I will only get better. I will only get better. This is my new mantra.

The most important word in this sentence is ”Will”. Force of will creates the world I live in. Believe that.
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