I received a great email today from Steve Grundy of Annandale Paintball and all the credit for the contents of this post belong to him. (Thanks, Steve.)
Remember the tactics the small ball crowd used to promote the idea of switching from 68 cal? More efficient, less energy required so less painful, breaks better, cheaper etc.Whatever one thought of the merits of the arguments everyone agreed, by and large, that all those things were positive steps forward, if true. And more than a few touted the potential breakthrough benefits of better breaking less painful paint. While small ball has yet to prove itself and peeps still debate most of the claims on its behalf there already exists paint that fits the breaks better less painful bill. Generically its usually called tournament grade paint.
Yes, I know it's more expensive than field grade paint. And yes, I am aware of the usual arguments in favor of field grade paints. They're cheaper and plenty of players want cheaper--because nobody bothers to remind them they are also on the receiving end of those marbles. Rental equipment isn't suited to thin-shelled tourney paints. There needs to be a balance between getting it out of the field rental and breech and/or barrel breaks. And others. But are they legit reasons given current technology or excuses to be lazy and do things the way they've always been done?
Recently at Steve's field a logistical mishap forced them to purchase a highly recommended but different skid of paint from their usual order. (Their usual paint is a good quality field paint that also frequently passes muster as a cheap tourney paint.) As Steve also plays he noticed the paint wasn't up to their usual standard (it broke less often and stung more in the process) and with a little investigating it also appeared they weren't selling as much paint per customer as usual either. Then last week they had a group of first time 11 year olds. Concerned Steve switched out their paint for a higher grade paint and reported they had a great time and no issues with stinging hits or painful welts. Of course no paint guarantees painless breaks all the time but a reduced incidence along with a reduction in stinging hits is one way to optimize the playing experience that virtually everyone agrees on.
What's it worth to a field to send their first timers home happy, especially the kids? How many fields are selling an experience rather than trying to hold the line on costs while calculating profits piecemeal in game play essentials? Does anybody advertise or promote fun, safe game play? Or make an effort to educate the occasional rec player about the potential benefits of spending a bit more for paint? How many additional players per weekend would be needed to make up the difference if a field operator clipped their own margins by providing better paint at a perhaps higher but still competitive price? Or does a field operator need to reconsider their whole operation, top to bottom, to implement this sort of change? Or perhaps simply experiment in limited ways with changes around the edges?
Somewhere in this calculus the field operator needs to make money but ironically in too many instances we are seeing what happens when a field opts for lowest possible cost and high volume--and most of the time it isn't pretty.