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A New Model for a Paintball Community

A New Model for a Paintball Community

There is a growing systemic problem in the paintball community which I feel needs to be addressed: the education and retention of new players. At the present moment too many players lack the fundamental skills of playing; necessary knowledge base to be truly competent paintball players; and lack an organization that would allow them to further their paintball “education.” The lack of this community ultimately leads to burnout, thousands of lost dollars and less players in the sport, which is the reason I am calling on paintball players of all areas to rethink the way they organize themselves. The era of having hundreds of teams at local events (ala CFOA 2004-2006) is gone and for the sport to continue to thrive I feel that paintball teams, shops, and fields should consider moving to a less traditional “club” model, similar to the American whitewater kayaking and rafting community.

Paintball is one of the few sports that is designed to push players out from the moment they buy their own gear, which often happens in the wrong order, too early in the development of a player. I realize that selling gear is what drives a lot of the sport, but by pushing gear onto new players we are setting them up for failure from the beginning because of a lack of educational structure. Consider: the first exposure that a potential paddler may have is usually in the form of going rafting with a church group, birthday party or group of friends wanting to try something new. Sounds familiar right? They have a great time, saw some guys doing neat tricks on their kayaks and want a piece of the action! However, what the newbie paddler has on their side, that paintball lacks, is an extensive network of whitewater and paddling clubs that are run by the local gear shops and experienced paddlers but are joined by almost every paddler in an area because of the wealth of knowledge and support they provide. These clubs organize trips of varying skill levels; hold basic clinics that cover every area from “how to buy your first kayak” to “level V whitewater;” promote the kayaking industry in their local town and at their local run; and often have demo days which are strictly showing newbies how to get into the sport.

Why is it that there is are no organizations dedicated to promoting paintball safety so that worried parents can come to a meeting and get a feel of what Little Herp and Derpina will be doing on Saturday for their birthday; basic gun and gear maintenance; how to properly adjust velocity and gun settings; and on a more advance level: how to “tree walk,” “snap shooting 101” or even just watching the latest Social Paintball video together just for the fun of it? Why does the paintball community feel that it is okay to let a player step on the field with a new high end marker and expect to compete with players who have been playing for several years? Imagine how much more fun a player would have if they knew before they even touched the field what snap shooting was; how to slide into a bunker correctly or even how to hold a marker! No wonder the average lifespan of a paintball player is sub 2 years – there is nobody teaching new players fundamentals and everyone seems to be okay with letting new players get way over their heads, way too quickly. In the whitewater community there is a bit of a catch-all that prevents new paddlers from hitting class V whitewater their first time out: the fear of possible, if not probably, death. Luckily for us, we do not have that. However that does not mean that we should let D6 Johnny Derp practice with a bunch of D2, heck, even D4 players his first time out even if he thinks he knows what he is doing because he read several threads on Pbnation. The probability of him not returning is exponentially heightened if he feels completely overwhelmed, without any guidance.

Perhaps a better analogy to paintball would be: when a young kid is beginning to play organized sports, does the coach run scrimmages from day one, or do they drill for several practices and learn the game? An even more accurate analogy may come from golf. A wise man once told me “Don’t ever play golf on a golf course for the first time. Go to a driving range and learn how to hit the ball first.” The same holds true for skiing and snowboarding: how many people go buy all new snowboard gear after their first time out and hit the mega-pipe the next weekend? It just doesn’t happen; but in paintball, it does.

I am not just talking competitive paintball either: recreational players should continue their education of proper technique and skills, all it will do is create a better time for them which will eventually lead to player retention. Also, having a community like this may also have the possibility to break the barriers of “speedballers” and “woodsballers” as this is still an issue at-large in the paintball community. In kayaking there are people who specialize in play-yaking and river running – however virtually all of them can seamlessly go from one style to the other because at the end of the day it’s still paddling and the same fundamental skills are used.

Field and store owners: think about how much easier it would be to retain players with a system like this in your city. Right now the money making market is the birthday parties and such, but what if you could retain those players and turn them from once a year rental players to gear buying, (at your store) monthly players. In my opinion, that should be the goal of every field and store and every player has the ability to make this a reality.

On a more tournament-specific level there is the creation of a new set of divisions which allow new, and old players to compete in a friendly environment. Right now there is a debate on the use of APPA on the local and regional level. The fact is: the current ranking system pushes players up, and out, and that there is a large portion of the paintball world that considers themselves mostly hobbyist which do not have the time or money (or care) to become professional players. On a recent webcast I heard Matty Marshall say something to effect of “the reason why we all play is to have the chance to go pro.” That is just not true anymore. Maybe in the early to mid 2000’s when there was a huge influx of new, young players who were willing to throw themselves into the fire blindly; but now those young teens are young adults who have other priorities, but still want to compete. There is also the issue of the guys who got out of the game because they were supporting the young guns in order to win, but got burn out due to monetary reasons. We are starting to see those guys filter back into the game, but they are only destined for doom as the APPA will push them into a level of competition that will force them out again. They will wait another five or ten years until their rankings are back down, then try it again – if their knees are still okay.

But what if these guys had a place to invest themselves into, to give back to the game and still be able to compete? I am not saying that the club model can solve all of the problems faced with APPA, but I think that it is a step in the right direction for everyone involved. Eventually we have to find a way to make this work, why not try something new?

19 Comments
  • Peter Pocztarski
    May 4, 2012

    Nice Nice

  • Mathieu MacAdam
    May 5, 2012

    100% agree with this article – In addition more need to be said about equipment failure – I know of many people who have just quit because they spend soo much on what was told them to be awesome gear just to have it fail on them when they are trying to have fun! Us store owners need to step up our collective games and only let people who understand proper maintenance walk away with complex markers – even if it means making a few dollars less!

  • James Moeller
    May 5, 2012

    cool

  • Marc Ryan Ariss
    May 5, 2012

    Fantastic Article, hit the nail on the head, big commercial fields along with manufacturers are not helping the sport either, more and more it feels as though you are at a carnival specializing in taking all your money for a minimum (often disorganized) thrill, and on the manufacturer end the prices set are driving up the price of everything so the retailer can make a bit of a profit margin , often very little actually, unless your at a big game, then the profit margin can go several hundred percent above cost, which is great for the field, but makes the game a once a year thing for many many of the players…..at one field near me its close to 50.00 for 500 balls on their "cheap night".

    • John H.
      May 6, 2012

      Bud I agree 100%, I can't stand to see a 300-400% mark up on paint and stuff. I know they have expenses too but come on there's gotta be something that can keep it reasonable.
      I make a very reasonable income and I have no idea how some people play commercial fields several times a month.

    • Terrence Lee Bowman
      May 8, 2012

      Neither of you really understand the market if you think $50 for 500 balls is too much. Just because YOU might enjoy going out and shooting a case or more does not mean that new rec players will too. Spend some time in the "Field & Store Owners" forum on Nation and you will understand that the good fields are charging $100+ for a case of paint. They sell fun, not paintballs.

    • Marc Ryan Ariss
      May 8, 2012

      Terrence Lee Bowman I happen to know exactly what wholesale is worth, I work at a field, I know store owners, its not like I am pulling this out of my ass my friend.

    • Terrence Lee Bowman
      May 8, 2012

      I never claimed that you didn't know what wholesale is worth. I never even mentioned wholesale in my response.

      I said you don't understand the market. Just because you work at a field doesn't mean that you understand the market. For all I know, you could be apart of the problem. Selling kids cases at ~$35/case doesn't mean a field is doing things right. It potentially means that some newbs are stepping on the field to get slaughtered by players that are ramping. It scares new players and keeps them from jumping into the sport.

      There are plenty of other points that I could make, but it's mostly OT and not worth my time.

    • Marc Ryan Ariss
      May 8, 2012

      Terrence Lee Bowman So your just making assumptions about how every field and every player play then ?….I understand the market just fine, I also understand the mark up and what percentage it is above cost, I also understand price gouging….and you defend 100 + dollar cases at big games (full of noobs btw) which doesn't stop the vets from buying a whole case and lighting up the guys with rentals….so Im not understanding your position….and I know paint price doesn't keep people from ramping either, its just price gouging, and it starts at the manufacturer and hence flows through to the retailer. Just imagine if you could go to a big game and spend 10 bucks on a ticket and say 50 for a case, now that everyone has saved 100 + dollars maybe they will go spend at the vendor tents at the game….or maybe go to more than one big game, or take that money and buy a mask to actually get into the sport, and at that rate and with a good turnout the field is still making 25-30 a case with a bulk discount on a skid, and even if you only get 100 or so people to show up for your big game you have still made money above overhead and labour.

    • Terrence Lee Bowman
      May 8, 2012

      No, you don't understand, and I don't care to explain it to you honestly. You seem set on your ways and I don't have any intentions of changing them.

      Good luck with your field.

    • Marc Ryan Ariss
      May 8, 2012

      Terrence Lee Bowman Thanks, its doing well.

  • Alex DelVecchio
    May 5, 2012

    What weird timing. I just got back from a coaching session I've started doing to do exactly this. I've been volunteering time to help the newer guys break into speedball and develop their skills at a pace they can enjoy and effectively improve. I foresee a growing awareness of this as it's no mystery why a lot of people don't return to speedball after a session with the local "agglets" as I call them. =o)

  • CW
    May 6, 2012

    Great article. Appa does prevent some sandbagging that occurs but I def agree with you that it pushes people up and out. I personally don’t want to go pro, I do however enjoy tournaments…..

  • Kenny Ricker
    May 7, 2012

    great article, something needs to be done to help the newer players return and keep with the sport in which we all love…

  • Jason Delawder
    May 10, 2012

    Awesome Article Gen Hawk.

    I have been saying this since the late 80’s early 90’s when I first got into the sport. At that time running ball would cost you $50 for CO2 carts and about $80 for enough paint to last all day, and that was for about six of us. Woodsball was THE ONLY BALL, and we would play day and night. When local pro shops did start to open up, all they wanted to do was dump $65-$70 a case paint and $3-$400 guns down your throat because what you had wouldnt COMPETE. When all the fields opened up for walkons with $50 a case FPO, $10 FF and $10 ADA I started telling my local field to drop the FPO and just charge more for FF and ADA. To say the least noone saw the genious in this…..being if you charged more for air and field fee they would bring a case of thier own paint. Your refs would run games faster and more of them so then they would be at your field and out of paint because they played so much. Now they buy more paint from the field,Ding DING DING.

    The idea of a Farm system is not a new idea for sports, I just cant see why paintball fields havent figured it out yet. They see hundreds of players a month between walkons, scenarios and tourneys, MAYBE (and this is just a idea) start farming these players when you see them. Give them something to want to play for. RECRUIT THEM, FARM THEM and TEACH THEM. When they see someone who gives a crap about them, then they start really caring about our sport.

    Just saying

    Its about time someone actually writes it so people can read it.

  • Luís Oliveira
    May 11, 2012

    I loved the article.

  • wei
    May 14, 2012

    I think socialpaintball needs to creat a website for new player 🙂

  • Domenico Morrone
    June 8, 2012

    100% agree with this article and I have a couple of thoughts as well….

    Where I enjoy playing paintball, they charge $23 for rental (gun, mask, 50 balls, and jacket). For an additional $45 you can get 500 additional balls, or for $140, you can get 2000 balls. Going out with 4 people who are renting would cost each person $65 taxes in.

    If you consider someone who decides to buy into the sport with equipment, you're realistically talking approximately $400 for marker, tank, quality mask. That means in rental costs, you could play 6 times before spending as much as your equipment costs. The problem here is that when you show up at your local field, they still charge ~$15 for non renters, plus the cost of balls. So even though you've invested $400, you're still spending $55 to play. Take that into account, and by having your own equipment, you're only saving $10 vs. renting. Now you'd have to play 40 times to make up your initial purchase. Granted, you can play in the woods and not pay anything more than balls when you head out. But if you play twice a month (6 months a year, cuz Canada has long winters), you'd play for 3 years before you actually save money from having your own gear.

    As well, I believe ball cost at fields is far too high. I can buy a case of 2,000 quality rec/woods balls for $40 at my local pro shop (not at a field). Most retailers mark up product by 52%, not 350%. Why do I pay $140 at the field? Plus, fields probably buy direct from the factory or distributor, meaning their cost is significantly less. The only time it makes sense to play is on the BYOB days.

    Anyway, I think the point here is to really try to get people more interested in the sport, and keep playing. I'm fortunate to have great friends who are invested in the sport and I know I have a support team if I ever have questions, or just a great group of people if I want to get out and play, but without them, there is no way for me to understand the sport, the equipment or anything else about paintball for that matter. This is what the sport needs, even for people who are not looking to play at a pro level.

  • Domenico Morrone
    June 8, 2012

    100% agree with this article and I have a couple of thoughts as well….

    Where I enjoy playing paintball, they charge $23 for rental (gun, mask, 50 balls, and jacket). For an additional $45 you can get 500 additional balls, or for $140, you can get 2000 balls. Going out with 4 people who are renting would cost each person $65 taxes in.

    If you consider someone who decides to buy into the sport with equipment, you're realistically talking approximately $400 for marker, tank, quality mask. That means in rental costs, you could play 6 times before spending as much as your equipment costs. The problem here is that when you show up at your local field, they still charge ~$15 for non renters, plus the cost of balls. So even though you've invested $400, you're still spending $55 to play. Take that into account, and by having your own equipment, you're only saving $10 vs. renting. Now you'd have to play 40 times to make up your initial purchase. Granted, you can play in the woods and not pay anything more than balls when you head out. But if you play twice a month (6 months a year, cuz Canada has long winters), you'd play for 3 years before you actually save money from having your own gear.

    As well, I believe ball cost at fields is far too high. I can buy a case of 2,000 quality rec/woods balls for $40 at my local pro shop (not at a field). Most retailers mark up product by 52%, not 350%. Why do I pay $140 at the field? Plus, fields probably buy direct from the factory or distributor, meaning their cost is significantly less. The only time it makes sense to play is on the BYOB days.

    Anyway, I think the point here is to really try to get people more interested in the sport, and keep playing. I'm fortunate to have great friends who are invested in the sport and I know I have a support team if I ever have questions, or just a great group of people if I want to get out and play, but without them, there is no way for me to understand the sport, the equipment or anything else about paintball for that matter. This is what the sport needs, even for people who are not looking to play at a pro level.

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