Tell me this, what is the purpose of a Beanie?
You remember that old anti drug campaign of the splattered egg frying in the pan; “This is your brain on drugs?” Well, call me old, but that was the quintessential “war on drugs” TV campaign and, while it is funny to imagine the actual correlation to my brain and a sunny side up egg in a frying pan, the metaphor rings true in what I have been trying to teach lately. I want you to ask yourself, why you use a beanie? I mean, what purpose was it created to serve? While some people can argue that is a fashion statement or it can be used as a bit of protection, the reason for wearing a wool type fitted skull cap is for warmth, plain and simple. Although we aren’t frying eggs, there is something to think about when considering excessive heat and our brains.
If you have ever been to one of my pro clinics before, you may remember me saying early on in the day that I am constantly learning and finding ways to better teach you. I am constantly augmenting my training regiments in order for the information to be better absorbed and so drills can become more efficient. I am constantly trimming the fat in an effort to make you a better player.
While on a recent trip to Indonesia to train my friend Jimmy Koh and the Octosquad, I had an epiphany. While we were running drill after drill in the scorching heat, I noticeably saw production, effort and focus start to diminish. This was especially true in the attention to details and the overall comprehension of what our goals were in each drill. Communication as a whole also decreased as it got hotter, and we all know how difficult communication is already. While this trend of decreased productivity is something noticeably constant with all players during hot playing days, there was something that I picked up on that I can’t believe I hadn’t realized in the past. Why, in 90 degree heat and 80%+ humidity, are all the guys wearing beanies? Now, lets take a step back and think about what exactly beanies used for? Well, most simply put, COLD WEATHER, that is what beanies were designed for and where they are most prevalent. I mentioned that i noticed a decline in overall comprehension, but I also can see players tire out faster when it is hot. I get tired and lethargic when I get hot also, this isn’t just me picking on this specific group off guys. So, I asked them to take off their beanies and as they did I could see a relief on their faces as their bodies were now able to breathe! So lets have a look at some facts here…
Studies show that your body operates best at around 75 F degrees. Brain function is sharper when it is even slightly cooler than that in some studies. Your brain, one of the more delicate and most important organs in your body is constantly regulating its temperature at the expense of energy. In order to maintain a healthy internal temperature we shiver or we sweat, depending on if we are cold or hot. These two processes, however, are not equally taxing. Cooling the body requires less energy than warming it up. With that said, hotter environments result in your body overheating, thus consuming more energy. While that doesn’t seem like a big problem right away since we are constantly exerting energy on the field in the form of physical activity, studies show that higher ambient temperatures change our patterns of decision making, and this is where the problem occurs. As our bodies struggle to maintain a healthy internal temperature, we use up resources that would otherwise be available for mental processes. As a result, we are less able to make complex decisions when our bodies are overheating. Complex decisions are arguably the very backbone of our sport. We tend to give up early, make mistakes, and even shy away from making these decisions in the first place. We often choose the easy option. I have seen this countless times when players decide to run out in the open for a “easy trade out” rather than executing specific, more advanced, maneuvers in the same way we have practiced over and over.
As your body experiences temperatures in excess of 90 F degrees, youre body begins to overheat. This overheating can result in up to a 15% decrease in cognitive abilities. I feel like during most practices and events I am operating in 90+ weather on a pretty regular basis. Mind you, that is just the outside temperature without accounting for our gear. While reaction time isn’t the most affected cognitive ability, things like attention, comprehension and memory take a big hit, while your ability to perform mathematical processing also has a sharp decline. We all know that being overly hot is uncomfortable by itself. Pairing that discomfort with all of our paintball gear and topping it off with a mask which limits breathability and placing a cold weather beanie on your head and it is now easier to see the correlation between your brain and a fried egg.
So let’s discuss some of the major concerns, those that lay outside the realm of just wanting to look good while playing. What are the long term effects of being shot in the head? Are there any studies to show what these impacts do to your noggin? Unfortunately, no, there aren’t any scientific studies to show the detrimental effect of paintball impacts to the head. My guess is, although it does hurt, the effects are nominal. We can say, with certainty, that a paintball breaking on impact substantially lessens the overall force in which it exerts at the beginning, that is science. Please note this is only a small disclaimer and a statement that I hope will deter some of the negative comments which will ultimately come in stating that a projectile traveling at 200 MPH can do serious damage and yada yada. However, there are scientific facts which lay out the importance of maintaining your body and brain’s internal temperatures and that is something that we can control.
Think of this; you’re running to the snake corner and you have to shoot at an opponent in the back center in order to get your inside player to move underneath you into his secondary spot. Once that happens you have a series of other objectives to complete in order to help your team win the game. More specifically, you are playing the NXL Dallas Open and it is 90 F degrees outside with 60% humidity. You have to perform your moves and your actions better than the guys on the other side of the field from you in order to win the point/game/event. We are all on the field with one goal; we are attempting to solve a large complex problem, together, before our opponents figure it out first. There are a million variables on the field and we need to take every advantage as possible. Sometimes, the best advantage to take is to limit your disadvantages right away. Find ways to make yourself more efficient and more effective. I am constantly trying to find an edge on the field. I don’t wear a beanie because I get too hot, I noticed that my personal performance and ability to turn points around is lower when I am hot. So the simple solution is be comfortable and be as effective as possible. Although, I get it if you wanna look cool too. I actually don’t wear gloves for the same reason, but I feel like less people wear gloves these days, so I won’t write an entire article on that subject…
While Outliers in our sport exist, we must take into consideration that overall performance is affected by our body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Everyone can agree that the functionality of a beanie is to keep your body warm. With that said, your head is one of the major areas of your body in which heat is released, i.e. your head also keeps your body cool. So, with a few simple facts and deductive reasoning we can determine that a beanie, while protecting your head at times, may have an adverse effect on your overall performance. So what, maybe you will get shot a few more times in your head and it’ll hurt. But think of this, maybe your increase in performance after ditching that beanie will result in you kicking more ass and ultimately getting shot in the head A LOT LESS (results may vary). Give it a try and see if you notice any difference.