Thursday, May 13, 2010

Paintball 101

If you haven't read yesterday's post, Competitive Paintball as Recreation?, check it out before you continue here. (Or don't. Doesn't affect me one way or the other but this one will be better understood in the context of yesterday's post. However, I believe in your freedom to choose. Besides, screwing up here doesn't entail bitter, crushing consequences. Not unlike if you worked for Goldman Sachs apparently. But alas, no six figure bonuses.)

The weak link in yesterday's suggestion is that merely hanging around a paintball field doesn't imbue the average slacker with the skills or knowledge of the game by osmosis. And the principle pleasure in playing a competitive style of paintball is in matching wit and skill against your opponents. Unlike newbie paintball where the big thrills are the unknown, the consequent adrenaline rush and getting to shoot at people (and get shot at) all forms of competitive style play require varying degrees of knowledge and skills.
What? Oh, quit your whining. Yes, sure, woodsball and all the traditional forms of recreational play benefit from player knowledge and skill too but it isn't a perquisite. Don't get me wrong. A group of first timers could play on a speedball field and have a great time but it isn't the field that distinguishes styles of play. The new player plays any kind of field largely on instinct and with the aid perhaps of a few tips from friendly temporary teammates.

(Tangential thought: has anybody considered the possibility paintball loses players to boredom? Here's a separate post topic for you while I'm at it: How Do Newbies Learn To Play Paintball?)

One reason I suggested more optional competitive style play for recreational purposes is because I believe the game has more depth, is more demanding and more satisfying as a player begins to learn more about playing the game. Anybody can play but not everybody can play well. And learning to play well brings with it a whole new level of reward that has nothing to do with winning or losing. It also provides additional reasons and motivations to play. It's okay to feel lost and confused the first time. Not so much the tenth time. Or so it seems to me. But there also needs to be someone (or a number of someones) available and willing to teach new players (or long time rec players who want more from paintball) how to play the game; the fundamental tactics and the basic techniques.

How many fields use their field team as weekend referees? Has anybody ever assigned one or two of them to teach interested regulars more about how to play the game? How many local fields offer free classes? Doesn't need to be an all day dealio or particularly rigorous. How about 2 classes a month? One for beginners and one more advanced. How long would it take before players started showing up because of the classes? And how long would it take before they wanted more?
This isn't a cunning plan to create more tourney players though I think it likely would. But if local fields mixed the idea of educating their customers and offering them a more eclectic variety of play, who knows, it might go a long way towards building a long term, more loyal customer base playing paintball the way they want to play.


Twisted Games Of Texas Paintball said...

We tried a free 2 hour clinic with paid entry every Saturday and taught by our national level players. On the first day, two players participated and said it was the best two hours they have ever had. The next weekend only one player was interested. On the third, no one stepped up. We discontinued the program after that. Seems that no one wanted to take two hours out of their day to learn the basics. They just wanted to shoot someone. Was very disappointing.

We also tried a tournament limiting paint - 2 players, 10 balls with 90 seconds between points to reload. Super low entry which included paint (not that they would have needed a lot). Medals and paint to the winners with medals for 2nd place finishers. The whole idea was to introduce new players to the tourney scene without 12.5 balls per second coming at them. It was also marketed as a great event for fathers/sons since dads could compete in this format. The event was canceled due to the lack of interest. Only two teams signed up.

Believe me, Baca. We are trying out here in the trenches!

Baca Loco said...

Thanks for the feedback, Kim. I know there are plenty of dedicated operators out there and I appreciate you sharing your experience. I'm just a guy filling up cyberspace one post at a time. ;-)

How 'bout something less intensive? Do you take a lunch break? if so maybe use 15 minutes of the break to offer bite-sized chunks of paintball wisdom. And give them catchy titles--Getting the drop on your opponent or killing with deadly accuracy. Trick the lazy slackers.

Anonymous said...

imbue the average slacker! LIKE

anonachris said...

Twisted, it's great to hear a field owner thinking... but both of those ideas seem rather intense. One it relies on wanting to spend 2 hours doing something. It's like advertising a vacation package to a person while on vacation. Sure it might work....

The other idea relies on the hard work of getting someone to come back and try something they've never done.

Why not simply take your walk-ons, divide them up into groups of 5 and form a mini round robin tournament with them right there on the spot? Is there any reason why a field doesn't just run an impromptu tournament with its players? Think of the sudden camaraderie between guys that probably don't know each other that well suddenly playing in a tight group to claim the top spot. Have an award ceremony with pumping music, disco girls a la pure promotions, if you want to go all out.

But I imagine if you tried this with your walk ons, and then said, "hey by the way, we have a monthly event/5 man no pressure "pick-up league", where you can just just come and join a team or bring your own team and do what you just did" you might have better effect. Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

pb players will do what they do, be it woods, scenario, tournament, something for everyone. all levels of pb and info are available across the USA. clinics, tournaments, friends, u can learn all u want anytime u want, key is show up, shut up, and pla, to many talk about it but don't live it. they talk about the big wins they'll have, and it never will materialize cause talk is cheap, always has been always will be. (ref: smackbox) they will never know the immense sacrifices - financial, time, resources, coordination, it takes to make any of it happen, so u can show up and bitch. I don't know anyone who started on a pro team? It depends on what u want from the sport as to where u land. trial by fire is always invaluable ingrained memory recall vs blah, blah talk. get out there pla pb have fun!

Anonymous said...

if I were a field owner, and concerned about my business, and I had a rec woodsball field, but no 'tournament/speedball' facilities, then the last thing I would do is encourage players to assemble a team and go play tournaments. I probably wouldn't even mention tournaments, unless I cared more about the 'good of the game' than I did about putting food on my families table.

Reiner Schafer said...

Well Anon, it's not the "good of the game" you would need to be concerned about but rather "the good of tournament play". If part of your business was to promote tournaments and make money from teams practicing at your field and such, then you would want to consider doing something along the lines of what Baca is suggesting. If you are running a recreational paintball facility only, then you would be promoting another type of business and it would make no sense at all. It would be like McDonalds giving away caviar samples and suggesting people should really try fine dining.

We have a recreational only paintball facility and once one of my regular players joins a team and starts playing tournament ball, many times we don't see them again. Sometimes they will come back once they've got tournament paintball out of their system, but one thing I and my staff have noticed many, many times, is that once players start playing tournament ball, when they do return to our rec field, they have a completely different attitude. And it's not an attitude that has changed for the better, at least as far as our rec field is concerned. This is not for ALL returning players, but definitely a good percentage.

I look at tournament style play and recreational paintball as two different types of businesses. Some fields choose to be in both. They look at it as "diversification". I look at running a rec field as "specialization". So it really depends on your business. Many areas, where land is expensive and hard to come by, smaller tournament type fields are much more common. Those businesses are much more likely to feel the need to diversify (or concentrate solely on tournament type play). But for areas where land is more readily available, and larger fields are common, then specializing in the more lucrative recreational side of paintball is more common. Mixing in tournament type play and players is detrimental to the recreational side of the business, in my opinion. tournament players don't like to hear that, but that is the reality of business. So for those fields it comes down to choosing promoting tourmnament type play or like you said, putting more food on your family's table. My kids like to eat.

Twisted Games Of Texas Paintball said...

We are primarily rec-ball and only open up our x-ball field to walk-ons one day a month for our "X-Ball Fun Day". Otherwise, the field is only used by VcK (my son's team) and invited teams. The Fun Day draws 50-60 players every month from numerous fields across the area. The number one rule at Fun Days is "If you are deemed to be sucking the fun out of someone else's day, you are the one who gets to go home." Its basically street ball - first five up go and games run back to back to back. We do not put up with attitudes and all the other crap normally seen on a tourney field and players know it. The ones in the area who are known to cause problems don't bother to show up. The field and tourney staging area is segregated from our rec-ballers but as soon as paint starts hitting the bunkers, many run to the field to watch. Since there are customers as well as parents, church leaders, etc, watching, we demand that all play on the tourney field reflect positively on the field, the sport and the players themselves. It is all perception.

As for dividing up rec-ball walk-ons for a round robin tourney on a speedball field. Been there, done that. It doesn't work as many complain about the time it takes and how they have to wait their turn instead of playing.

Most casual rec-ballers do not care about learning the basics - something as simple as "talking" to those on their team. It is a recreation to them, not unlike playing laser tag or going bowling. They want to shoot guns and brag about how they haven't gotten hit all day. And that's ok since we cater to those types of players 98% of the time.

Our refs do work with the players who are interested in learning something but they are very far and few between. But I do like the 15 minute lunch break mini info blast. Might give it a try this weekend!

Missy Q said...

I also think than anon is 'on the money'. But then I would say that...

Anonymous said...

we had 56 players come out to our field yesterday... towards the middle of the day the majority of them wanted to try out the speedball field. me and two other guys from the fields sponsored team ref out there on weekends, we divided up teams into groups of 7 and ran a round robin sort of tournament. it worked really well and everyone had fun.