NXL Chicago : Pre Game chat with Carl 'Microwave' Markowski

As we near the penultimate event of the 2017 NXL Series, the Chicago Open, we thought we'd start a new 2-part Blog series which focuses on one team and their experiences pre and post event. And who better to start with than Chicago Aftershock as they prepare for their home-town event.

After a complete team rebuild and a tough 2017 season it hasn't been the most electrifying year for the Shock boys, but that doesn't mean we love them any less.

So we grabbed some time with Aftershock's turbo man, Carl 'Microwave' Markowski, to find out where the team's heads are at in preparation for the 2017 NXL Chicago Open.

So, Chicago Open. Home turf. Are the Shock boys PUMPED for this event or what?
We always try to bring a good level of intensity into every event but the Chicago stop is different. The guys seem a lot more focused for the task at hand and have really stepped it up to prepare for this one.

What’s the mood in the Aftershock camp like right now?
I would have to say the mood is energetic. There is a buzz going around the camp that everyone can feel and feeds off of.

It’s no mystery that Aftershock have had a serious remodel for 2017 with all but… well… you, left after the 2016 season. How tricky has it been trying to rebuild?
A rebuild is always tricky. You’re looking to fill spots with solid skill, experience and field awareness but it’s a lot easier said than done. Sure you have a group to always pick from but it might not be the right fit depending on who makes it.

I guess regardless of who joins the squad, and you’ve got a ballsy, hungry squad this year, the geography and set up of the team always brings challenges right? What would you say you guys struggle with the most?
Obviously we don’t have bright and sunny weather all year round so that brings a challenge but I think our biggest setback is the lack of experience playing together with the squad that we have now. Everything takes time and its only a matter of time before you see Aftershock on those late Sunday afternoons.

Is this something you think can be overcome? 
Absolutely. The more practice we get in together and the more reps we put out will only make this team stronger and stronger.

How do you think the year has gone for Aftershock? We know results are important but in a massive rebuild year there’s more to team success than podiums. Has the squad claimed some big internal victories?
I think this year has gone somewhat as expected seeing as we are a fairly new team. Obviously we would like to be playing on Sunday a lot more but just like all of the great teams out there we need field time together, as a team, to have some success. For sure! One of the biggest victories I feel has been not only the confidence as a team but the confidence individually has increased substantially. That is always a giant hurdle that some cannot jump but the newer guys are handling it very well.

We know Rob (Velez) has come back again mid-season and Nick (Slowiak) also re-joined the band. How important is it to have some of the hardcore Aftershock vets back on board? Has it helped the newer faces? Has it helped you?
It’s always nice to have the experience of Rob and Nick back on the team. I has helped everyone across the board for sure and has only strengthened our weapons on the field.

What’s the closest the team’s been to getting a podium this year? Can you do it in Chicago?
I’m not actually sure on the placement this year. It’s hasn’t been what we would like it to be but I feel we’ve been getting better and better as the year progresses. I feel that this is the tournament to do it at if any. If we do well here I feel that we will have the momentum going into Cup.

So, let’s talk about Carl.

First up, markers. How stoked are you about the LV1 resurgence? I remember chatting about the LV at Cup last year and how much you still loved using one. Then BOOM!! LVR comes along. 
I think the LV1 series has been PE’s best kept non-secret. I’ve shot an ego ever since they were introduced in 2005 and have been hooked ever since. I’m stoked to see people jumping back on board and seeing what the marker is capable of.

Why do you like using it so much? Loving the badass tiger-stripe ano BTW.
The soft shot for sure. It’s incredibly smooth and has a great feel. For me, I need to be comfortable while I’ve been playing all day and it exceeds the expectations.

As a fast, impact player did you find it tricky to have the ‘experienced player’ label this year? I mean, when your role is to smash down doors it can be tricky to try and keep a steady ship too, if that makes sense?
No, not really. I feel like the two labels kind of coincide with one another in my situation. I’ve always been an intense player on and off the field but I wear a few different hats on the team.

And you also started up your own player podcast called the Playing On Podcast. How has that been for you?
The podcast has been a great experience! I’m really getting to know the story behind some of the biggest names in the game and I feel that these stories are a must for everyone to be a part of.

You broadcast an audio podcast AND a video podcast too on YouTube right? Is this exactly the same content?
Yes, its the same content. I upload the video to YouTube and the audio to iTunes and Soundcloud.

Which seems to work best for you? I guess video is cool for those watching at home but the beauty of an audio podcast is people can have it playing in the car. Best of both worlds!
When I started the podcast I wasn’t sure if I was going to use the video content but decided to anyway. I enjoy the audio just for the fact that you don’t have to concentrate on the video itself so it frees up your hands and eyes. The video is nice though as well because when you are at home you can just flip it on.

What have been your biggest problems with the podcast so far? You haven’t had issues with guests and content, that’s been great.
The biggest problem so far has been making time for the podcasts in between family time and my job. So far I’ve been able to average about one podcast a week but I want to eventually get out a couple in one week. As we all know, there are not enough hours in the day for everything.

You've had an amazing spread of guests so far from Rich Telford, Oliver Lang to Nick Leival. What’s been your favourite Playing On podcast so far? Best guest, or best subject matter.
I’ve really enjoyed all of them but if one sticks out in my mind it has to be the Greg Hastings podcast. It was awesome to hear all of his stories about life, paintball and his video game development over the years.

One last thing. Which of the new-wave Aftershock players has got it? Who is the one to watch? 
Well, I would have to say all of the new guys have it otherwise we wouldn’t have picked them up haha. LJ has been a killer for us on the Dorito side and Rodarte has been getting better and better up the middle. Kerr and Pesz have given us a more dynamic back line and Williams will stunt wherever you need him on the field. Even though these guys are not new to the game it takes time with a new team to get the wheels going.

Any final words to the Shock and Microwave fans out there?
Thank you to everyone out there for the support, not only for myself but for Chicago Aftershock over the years. We are giving everything we have out there on that field and are working hard to bring home a NXL gold medal back to a midwest team. None of the teams or tournaments are ever easy and it takes a lot of hard work to pull off a tournament win but we plan on doing just that. This team is on the verge of a big breakout and as long as we stay focused and believe in ourselves we can accomplish our goal. Keep an eye out for the midwest boys for this event and you will know what I’m talking about.

I also want to say thank you guys (Planet Eclipse) for being a great sponsor/company to work with. I’ve had nothing but amazing support throughout the years but Aftershock itself has had it’s ups and downs but you have always had our back. So on behalf of our organization, THANK YOU!

So that's our first Pre Game piece and we'll catch up with Carl again after the Chicago Open with part 2, the Post Game chat.

Stay tuned and be sure to watch the LIVE NXL webcast at GoSports.com

Also, help support Carl and his Playing On Podcast by subscribing, watching, listening and sharing. These things are essential to keep the paintball stories, history and education flowing and without everyone's support they will die and vanish, so you know what to to do.

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Good luck to the Aftershock boys this weekend, we're behind you all the way.