The Clinic: Leadership with Jason Trosen

In 2012 Jason Trosen did what no other pro paintball coach has ever done—coach a first year professional team to three wins and a World Championship. Now, he had a ton of talent and experience veterans to work with, but still, it’s a magnificent achievement. If there’s a man who you can learn leadership skills from in this game, it’s Jason Trosen. Read on to find his opinions about the mindset behind leading a team to victory in this week’s edition of the PBA Clinic.

So Jason, you just lead your team, Houston Heat, to an unheard of achievement — three wins in one season and World Title. You have been on a lot of big teams, you know what it is like to work with really charismatic guys who are in big time pressure situations and get them to come together. I think a lot of guys out there, whether they be the captain of a team or a coach of a team that is coming up are probably wondering “What should I do, how should I treat my players in these certain situations, these big time pressure situations?” Which, honestly, if you are just getting into paintball, every game is a pressure situation, that’s why it’s fun. Everyone even players, not just team leaders could benefit from your knowledge. So how do you go about helping guide the comrades, what’s your thought process going into a big game, dealing with your personnel?

Jason: I think going into a big game, I mean, yeah, it is a little different sometimes, but we try to treat every game the same I guess and that is something we didn’t do in the beginning of the year, but toward the end of the year we did. We were playing a bottom rank team, I know it feels different but we try to keep the same focus all the way through.

What is that focus though? What does that mean to you? How do you make the guys keep their focus, what would you say to them?

We try to keep everybody together the whole time before a game. Everybody stretches together, we all warm up together, if we have to get paint, we do it together, everything together. I know people have their own kind of rituals before games, so they do tend to do that a little bit. Some people go look around at the field, some people listen to music, stay focused you know? We don’t like to see players going off, talking to other players before games, doing stuff that is not productive.
I just try to keep everybody focused. I always tell them, “Think about every position and spot you are going to be in,” which goes back to the meetings we have the day before. When you’re lying in bed, think about yourself in different situations, on what you are going to do when you are in different bunkers. You have this guy shooting at you, you have to help this guy make a move, kind of go through your mind, so it really starts the day before, trying to get everyone to stay focused and the task at hand.

And how do you deal with some players differently than others? That’s another something that most people don’t understand when they are trying to lead men in paintball or in real life, it doesn’t matter. It’s tough to lead other people and have them listen to you, so many different elements go into it.

I think that was one of the biggest things when I started coaching that I wasn’t good at–dealing with different people and yeah, I deal with people different, on the team. It takes time to learn what motivates some people. Some people, for example, you can’t be hard with them, they will just get down. So you kind of have to baby some people. Some people, like when I coached Ryan Moorhead, a lot of times, I would challenge him and he was somebody who was motivated by being challenged.

That is a big thing with coaching that took me a long time to learn. Now this team, I coached a lot of these guys before, so it wasn’t as difficult, but I’m definitely still learning some of the guys.

What about when you are in the deep end? It’s the finals, it is tied up 3-3 and your guys are heading into the tail end of the entire thing. And maybe you didn’t win that close point which tied it up. The guys are freaking out. What do you do in those situations? What should the guys be doing in that situation ideally?
You know, I don’t think we- that’s a big thing- you almost have to not let that situation happen. That is one thing, when you have a chaotic pit the whole time, there are points that don’t really matter as much in the beginning of the game, in the prelims-people are freaking out- we don’t really have that in the pit.

Everybody stays calm, there’s not that much time between points, there’s not really a lot of time for it to be hectic. I don’t like to call time outs. I try not to let there be enough time for it to be hectic. I know what we have to do next. I call the line up, they step on the field right away, and everybody else is just turning people around or getting ready to play.

They are all professionals, so they fight through that. We really haven’t had a moment like that where we’re like, “What do we do next?” I guess the closest moment we had like that was during the first event in the finals against Damage. They were really beating us up. We threw everything at them, but we didn’t do any good. But other than that, all year, after that we kept a calm pit, which I like, and everybody knows what their job is, so we don’t have those moments. Just because really, the time between points is so small, right away I call the line up, I step on the field, I tell them what they are doing and they do it.

If you could give a piece of advice to a captain of an up and coming team or a guy who just got into a coaching gig for maybe his son’s team, what sort of advice would you like to give? What is the first thing they need to understand?
Really try to get a good mix of players who really want the same thing. That’s a big thing on our team is we all have one goal, and it is to win. Some people may not play as much as others, but those people know that their job is to win. If they have to fill paint, turn around players, fill tanks up, you cant have people who have a bad attitude when they’re not playing a lot. Just find that good mix of players.
You don’t want anybody that’s selfish; you want people who are looking out for the next guy. We talked recently about being on the field and you want to be thinking about, not what you need, but what the guy next to you needs. Creating that team unity and good teamwork. Teamwork, that’s what wins tournaments, that’s what wins games.

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