The question(s) that follow are very common. I have heard them repeated for as long as I've been involved in this game and there was a time when I asked most of them. I don't have definitive answers. The best I can do is some observations based on too many years experience. I invite the rest of you slackers to include your take on these questions in the comments.
(A) Ok, What type of back round do most of the pro players or regular tourney player have ??? (B) How do you afford it? is a question I am asked many times over the couse of a season? (C) I see a lot of the newer players having a tough time, when they look at the commitment needed to play on a regular basis. Our team is made up of a mix of people, ages and incomes and we are in a rual area.. (D) We have to buget and save to do what we do. We have no team sponsors and by no means do I think we have money to throw around.. We didnt go to a couple of major event due to the cost of traveling (air fare) How how do most players afford to play ...? (E) Do sponsors make up some of the difference, has it really become a rich man's sport? (F) What your feeling on the paintball landscape and the cost of playing competitive ball?
I'm going to respond to the questions in the order they come up and in order to keep things as clear as possible I've divided the query into sections.
(A)--from an economic perspective there is no type. I joke occasionally about the lack of diverse sports interest and background among tourney players but I doubt it's much different from the generalized norm. I just find it a bit curious since most competitive people are competitive about almost everything, and as kids, tend to try more things--or did a hundred years ago when I was a kid.
(B)--the usual way most players do. By prioritizing their spending in such a way that they can keep playing paintball. Figure out what you can afford and then spend more--is the way it frequently ends up. I'm not even sure it's all that much different, cost-wise, than it used to be. (But I do think there are a couple of contributing factors that are different today than in the past.) Back in the day we shot less paint but it cost a lot more. The last IAO I played Hellfire was $105 bucks a case of 2000 (including tax.) High end guns weren't much cheaper and national events were a larger time commitment, more days off school or work. A serious tourney jones has never been cheap. The biggest difference today is practice costs.
(C)--Nothing new here either although I do think it's tougher to get started in tourney paintball than it once was. My first team had players with money but no time and players with time but no money. Some were super gung ho, others a lot less so. Our biggest issue was getting enough time & money & commitment together for actual events. We were a decent practice team and a lousy competition team.
(D)--Again, not uncommon. So does most everybody else involved in the tourney side of the game. What often happens is one or two guys end up taking on extra financial burdens (to be paid back later) which almost inevitably turn into (more) problems later. Two things are required of a serious team; strong leadership and a plan. And once the plan is agreed to everyone needs to hold up their end--or they get replaced. More problems arise here in that lots of times the team is a mix of friends and ages and resources and that has always been and remains a recipe for frustration more often than not. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, everybody understands the difficulties but if the team is actually going to function there has to be a bottom line commitment from everyone actively involved. The big difference is today the level of commitment is higher lower down the divisional ladder than it once was, or so it seems to me.
(E)--Sponsors make up some of the difference for very few teams any more. And the lion's share of what remains of real sponsorship, not discount product deals, is product. For example, Team A gets X number of guns from sponsor Q. The guns are for the team with the understanding the extra guns are sold to help fund the team. There are a relative handful of teams that do better than that.
(F)--In many respects very little has changed. Serious competition isn't cheap, it requires some level of commitment. A commitment in time & money. It is what it is. Beyond that I have one serious concern and I think there are a couple of factors in play today that are significantly different from times past.
My fear is decisions about the game's future direction will be based too much on the current rough economic times. Somewhere there's a boundary between keeping the sport alive and killing it in an effort to get more peeps to play.
Having said all that I also think there are things that make it more difficult to compete than in times past: fewer fields dedicated to supporting local team(s); a broadly younger demographic; what practice has become. The first one seems pretty straighforward. Toss into the mix the larger number of younger players and you've got kids without direction and fewer leaders. Fewer leaders and fewer homes that welcome competitive players and teams makes it more difficult to build teams. And somewhere during the last decade the romance of the grind has token hold of all divisions of competition. Which isn't a bad thing but it has upped the ante to competing in virtually every division of play. Kick in scrimming on the event layout and the game--for too many--becomes about reps, practice points played and nearly endless cases of paint shot--and we're talking about so-called introductory levels of play. The entry bar has been raised too high and it's going to be nigh on impossible to lower it.