Like the title says this is an interview with Ken Bryson of the Palm Beach Vipers. When I first heard about Ken's plan to expand the Vipers I was intrigued. Not because I couldn't wait for lots of new little snakes slithering around but because his plans sounded like they were addressing an issue I've blogged about before and continue to think is one of the core problems facing tournament paintball--the lack of leadership in the formation and maintenance of teams. I ask Ken about that and more so read on.
1--Seems like there's quite a lot of talk about the Vipers regional plans but not always much information. Can you lay out the basic concept, Ken?
Our plan is to start and build Palm Beach associated teams built from local players in areas where there are or have been strong regional sized tournament series. For instance we will build teams in NC that will focus on the CFOA, in GA to play GFOA events (also able to attend CFOA). In FL to support our struggling regional CFPS and SPCS events. In the Chicago area to play the MW events as well as a mid-division USPL/NPPL team. And finally 2 teams in CA, one north and one south, to play RPL and WCPPL. In the process of building these regional programs I hope to motivate other teams to strengthen their programs as well, if for no other reason than to come out and beat on Palm Beach. Join the teams because you like what we're doing or build your own teams because you hate us. Either way is fine with me, it still helps achieve the end result.
2--Part of the internet chatter has pronounced this a money making scheme. Is it?
Not at all. I have heard the same talk about this issue. Every time I see some 'internet qualified paintball expert' chime in about my grand plan to fleece the player base and line my pockets with all these millions of dollars I will be collecting I have to laugh. You know as well as I do that there is no money to be made running paintball teams. Anyone that thinks there is, or knows how to do it please let me know.
3--How does it benefit the players?
Hopefully the plans will all go as we hope and we will be able to keep the players interested in participating (in) the regional and national tournament series. Anyone that joins in and commits to playing the season with (the) team in their region will have all of the same benefits, entitlements and responsibilities that the rest of the Palm Beach teams for 2010. A big part of the over all plans are to encourage all of the team players to get back to inviting new people out to play as often as they can. Paintball needs new money, that will only come from marketing and promoting the game to their friends and families and even total strangers.
4--What are the benefits, entitlements and responsibilities of a Palm Beach Viper?
The responsibilities are most important to me, those include promoting the local paintball scene, specifically the playing facilities and stores that our players live on and around. Without these people we are all done playing; they need our support. On a larger scale I expect out players to represent the team, our sponsors, the industry and paintball in general in a mature professional manner that will not cause them drama or embarrassment. Basically act like a human being and don't do shit you or I will have to apologize for later. Our younger players who are still in school are expected to maintain a reasonable grade point average and take care of all their family responsibilities. If mom and dad are happy so am I. Older players are expected to be able to sustain themselves financially, and be able to manage their money properly so that their bills are paid, and be responsible with their spending and budgeting so they can afford to play for the team. The players are expected to bring new people into the sport and help develop the player base. And our players must understand that they are a marketing tool for paintball, our sponsors and supporting companies and for the team.
The entitlements and benefits include all of the discounts, support and sponsorship that we have been fortunate to receive from the industry and some from outside the industry companies and individuals who believe in what the team represents, and what were doing. Paintball companies that support the team know we are a very effective marketing tool, were lucky to be visible and well known, and the size of the team gives them access to a huge network of players all over the world. And they all get to be Facebook pals with Sinan and say they know DQ.
5--Doesn't it also benefit the team's sponsors? And the more players involved the better the sponsors like it?
The plans have been exceptionally well received by all of the companies that are working with Palm Beach. I have given them all the run down on how things are going to work and how each will benefit from the expansion. The various field owners around the country that will end up hosting the teams are the most supportive, as they all realize that they will be the ones that benefit the most.
6--If it's not about making money then why do it?
Well because it needs to be done. Why conquer the peaks of K2 and Everest? Frankly and honestly there is a bit of an ego boost, owning the world's largest paintball organization is pretty cool. I'm not going to deny it. In the last 26 years paintball has given me a lifetime of fantastic memories. I have met amazing people and built lifelong friendships, traveled all over the country and seen places I might not have had the chance to do otherwise. I want all of my players to have the same chances to do the same things as I have. But more importantly I am hoping that in some tiny measure what we are doing together as a team will keep some of our players out of trouble, off the street, away from drugs, and focused on educating themselves and life outside paintball. If in the process we can introduce a new crop of players that will carry the torch for the next and keep money flowing in the industry, all the better.
7--That sounds like a lot of work. How actively involved can you be with so many teams?
It will be a ton of work, no doubt of that. I will be around the regional teams as much as I can but there's no way for me to be there all the time and I never planned to be, that wasn't part of the idea. This isn't about duplicating the Palm Beach core everywhere else. I know I can't train or coach all of these players and teams. It's logistically impossible. Each region will have a director that I will work closely with in guiding them on how to manage the logistical part of the teams operation. Practices and the events each team will be attending will be arranged by that team's director. The directors will be held to some pretty rigid expectations, we have been fortunate to find guys in the areas that we have announced tryout dates for that are dedicated, committed and believe in what we are trying to do together. In the end the success or failure of these regional teams will depend on the level of commitment from the players on those teams.
8--So that mean a critical piece of the puzzle will be regional leadership. Who are they and how did they get involved?
The regional directors are players that live in the area, play at the local fields and are well known and well connected in those areas. They all came to me after we posted the plans for the expansion asking for the chance to help to organize and help us. Each of them have said the right things to me and I believe that we have chosen guys that will have the best interest of the teams in mind. All of them have a fair amount of tournament experience and know their local player base well.
9--Okay, but your regional guys aren't new to paintball, are they? They've run teams before. How is this different? How is this helping?
All of the regional directors do have experience either running or managing teams of their own or were involved in the management of the teams that they have played with in the past. None of them are currently on teams for one reason or another. They all needed teams or wanted to create teams on their own. We are offering them the things they are short on, direction, support and the access to industry sponsorship that will help them get players who are recently out of the game or not playing as often as they can back on the field.
10--What about the notion that all the regional teams will do is cannibalize players from other teams?
I cannot stop players from leaving their teams to come and tryout or play with Palm Beach. I encourage them to stay there and keep their own programs strong. I have said often that I am not looking to scalp talent away from teams for the regional programs. Our plans are to offer teamless and newer players who may not have a chance to play tournaments that opportunity. If players do leave teams to play with us I'd have to question why they would want to do that or what was going wrong with their current teams that would motivate them to want to leave in the first place. Palm Beach should not be viewed as the vulture circling the dying man in the desert just waiting for them to drop. If there are teams who are struggling and worried that we are moving in to kill them off I want them to contact me and we can work together to help them find ways to strengthen their teams with access to our contacts in and out of paintball.
11--What do you hope to accomplish with this project?
I'd like to be named paintball czar and wear a really cool hat. If we can keep regional paintball active I believe that it will filter up to the national series and down to the local level to help revitalize the local scene. All of the regional teams will be working with their local pro shops for most of their equipment needs and with their fields to play and practice. We are also working on a project in cooperation with Draxxus and some of our other sponsors that will produce free play passes for the local fields and discounts for local pro shops. We will have more on that after we get all the details worked out and the passes produced. They will be free and anyone can get them from us to pass around to get people out to the field and playing paintball on a regular basis.
12--Who are the Vipers sponsors this year?
We made some huge changes this past off season. As most know we had been with Proto from the beginning. After 5 years it was decided on both sides that we should consider some new directions for the team. It was a friendly parting, I still love all of the guys over at Dye and certainly owe them an undying debt of gratitude. Were it not for Dye Palm Beach would never have lasted this long.
For 2010 the teams will be using Macdev guns, the PSP focused teams; semipro, Div1, two in Div2 and Div3, will all be shooting the new Clone. The regional teams will have a choice to shoot the Clone, Cyborg or Droid.
We will all be wearing custom Titan Pro jerseys designed by Tanked and our own Rick Applegarth and wearing Tanked pants.
Draxxus will again be on board with us for paint, and we will be wearing Grill masks as well.
Guerrilla Air will be the teams choice for tanks and regulators.
Packs, pads and luggage by NxE.
Gen X Global will be supplying the teams with pods.
KM Straps will be doing some new straps for our Grills.
Mike's Paintball Supply in West Palm Beach has always taken care of us along with just about every other player in the area.
13--What else would you like people to know about the PBV regional program?
Stay updated with all of the regional news and tryout dates on the Viper forums on the team website www.palmbeachvipers.com
Anyone interested in a regional team in their area should let us know and we can talk about plans to help make that happen.
If you are interested in more information on supporting the Palm Beach program or marketing your businesses thru us; contact me to discuss plans and ideas.
Okay, on that final bit of self-promotion let's call it an interview. Thanks, Ken.