How do you start and run an Airsoft team?
This is one of those questions that gets asked around quite often in our sport. In this article, we will examine first your motivations for wanting to start an Airsoft team, whether any other options might be better for you, and if you still are determined to start your own team then we’ll discuss some appropriate basic steps to accomplishing this task. I have played as both an independent player, and a member of several Airsoft teams over the past decade, and started my own team last year. To write this article I will draw on advice I’ve received and heard over the years, tips I have read in online forums, and personal experience from my own efforts starting and building a team of my own. This article is by no means a complete step by step, “do it this way or you will fail” guide, but rather a discussion of why and how you put together a team that will last and happy to be a part of.
This is part two of the two part article on “How do you start and run an Airsoft Team?”. You can find part one here.
How to Run an Airsoft team?
First off, a team, by definition is a group of people united for a common purpose. So you need people, and a common purpose. The common purpose is to play airsoft of course, but how exactly do you want to play, what do you want your team to look like, act like, and what style of game do you want to be involved in? Also, who will make up your team. These are 2 crucial, inter-linked questions that must be considered together.
The team will be made up of people, but who?
- Do you simply talk to all your friends and see who are interested?
- Do you try to recruit from the existing pool of players at your local field, or from existing teams in the area?
- Do you make a post on your local airsoft (or even paintball) forum looking for team mates?
All of these approaches might yield good results (but trying to head-hunt players from existing teams may not make you very popular at the local field, so be cautious about that).
Essentially, you need to find a small group of people who do play, or want to play, and who you enjoy hanging out with. If you get a group of people who might be excellent players and have the same ideas about a team that you do, but you don’t like being with them (i.e. personality clashes), you will not enjoy being on a team with them. Choose carefully who you want to make a team with. I recommend not focusing on numbers of players right away. Quantity is not as important as quality at this stage. Your concern when starting should be forming a strong core for your team, which starts with finding a group of people who all get along and like being together.
At the same time as finding your core group, you must communicate clearly together on what you want this team to be. It will do you little good to get a great group together, only to find out that you want a team to look like high speed, low drag modern operator types, but a few of your new team mates want to do something more akin to WWII re-enacting. That will quickly become a divisive issue within your team. This is why I said it is necessary to consider “People” and “Purpose” at the same time. Clear communication through out the process, and a willingness to modify the concept of the team to some degree to accommodate everyone’s interest’s and vision’s of the team may be necessary. If you have a vision of your team that you don’t want to stray from, you might still accomplish that, but likely at the cost of less people wanting to join you in your concept of the team. The decision on whether to compromise on your exact concept of what you want your team to be, or to hold fast and sacrifice some of your potential team mates is a difficult one, and a decision that every team or team founder must make for themselves.
Next, you must take your fledgling team and decide on a team structure, how you will organize and make decisions affecting the team both on and off the field. You must consider how you will keep a team together, and make your team into a well run organization working together towards your common vision.
Things you need to consider in this regard are:
Should your team have a leadership structure?
If so, what form would suit the team best? Examples: A team captain where one person makes the major decisions for your team, or a team leadership council where 2 or more people are making the decisions and running the team. You might also choose to not have a team leadership, and instead let everyone’s opinions have equal importance. All of these are valid choices, and all have their positive and negative points. Having one main leader tends to be faster for getting things done (assuming your leader is motivated), but also has the potential for turning into a “my way or the highway” situation if a difficult decision must be made.
Having a council (multiple people working together to lead the team) tends to be more democratic, and often represents the wishes and opinions of the majority of the team better, but mayresult in more discussion, and can therefore make any decision take longer.
Deciding to have no leadership is a difficult way to run a team, and not recommended for larger groups. In this type of team, everyone has an equal say in what to do and how to do it. If everyone is in agreement all the time, it works wonderfully. Rarely will you find that everyone can agree on everything though, so this type of structure can actually hinder the development of a new team.
How will you handle the administrative tasks for the team?
How will you communicate, who will set schedules for games or practices, and how will the schedule be communicated to the team. The convenience of modern social media, email, texts, chats, private pages on your local airsoft forum, your own website for your team, etc. are all possible ways to stay in touch, and pass information along to the team as a whole.
How will you keep your team together?
How will you motivate your team mates to stay interested in the team? Having fun together is one obvious solution, and easy enough in our sport, but is it enough? Being a well organized and well run team will go a long way to keeping people involved. Making your team a group everyone can feel some pride in belonging to is a good step, but how do you do that? This is where good communication and strong leadership will serve your team well. Have a sit down, and talk together. Learn what everyone’s motivations and interests and likes are. Form your team to accommodate as many of these interests and preferences as you can, while not losing sight of the team concept that brought you together in the first place. A well run team, that comes to games (or puts on its own games) and is ready to go, has good team work, and shows good sportsmanship will be soon admired by other teams or individual players who you interact with. Before you know it, you’ll be making a good name for your team, and there will be interest from new players asking about joining your team.
How will you identify your team?
What will set you apart from other teams at your local field? You need something to identify yourselves as part of the team, and separate from other teams or un-affiliated players. Whether it be a common uniform, and / or team badge, or a common piece of gear (i.e. a rare helmet design, etc). Something about your team must stand out and serve as your unique identifier. The most common ones are a team uniform or a team badge, or both. Think of the badge as your logo, or your team brand. My own team chose to go with both. We chose a camouflage pattern that is not in common usage yet, and we designed a badge for the team, we have come to think of these items as representing our team identity / brand. These item have become a symbol of our team, not only identifying us, but also giving our new recruits something to look forward to earning their way into. This may sound silly, or elitist to some, but it is a good way to set ourselves apart, while instilling a sense of pride in team members. All of this helps with team morale, which in turn helps us to retain members, and attract new members. These are just 2 examples of things your team could do to make yourselves unique.
How will you make your team better?
No one wants to join a team, and put in the effort to get organized, and equipped, only to hit the field and be the loser in every game they play. Even if you get a group of great individual players together, and they are skilled, they still need to develop team work. A new team may often find that they have a tough time winning against teams that have been around for a while. It is often because of a low level of team work. It doesn’t mean that the other team are better players (although they might be), but they have worked and gamed alongside each other, know what is expected of them, know how their fellow team mates operate, and have developed the ability to work well together towards a common goal. Even if your new team does win the majority (or all) of its games, you could still be better. You could go on to operate together at a previously unexpected level of efficiency and skill, and soon you will be looking for bigger challenges, such as regional or national events, and the ever popular 24 (+) hour milsim events. Whether that level of play appeals to you or not, developing your team is a key to being successful, keeping players interested, and preventing attrition. My recommendation is to set a regular practice for your team. Schedule your practice day to include as many of your team as possible (all of them if possible), and get together at your local field, or any appropriate location. Run your team through some drills and scenario’s, practice the basics first, then move onto advanced skills. Remember that not only does “practice make perfect”, but “PERFECT practice makes PERFECT”. Run your drills and practices until you are not only getting it right, but everyone can get it right all the time.
Now that you have a team set up, have found a way to identify yourselves as a unique group, and have started practicing together, you will find yourselves starting to act and feel like a proper team. There is still much work to be done, but that will all come in good time. Once you’ve gotten this far, take a breather, and be sure to have a good time as a group. Get out to some games, hit the field together and enjoy the sport with your new team.
Written by Sean Walsh
Photo by Ross Mackerracher (many thanks)