Monday, December 12, 2011

Baca's Mailbag, Dec 12

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. 


Anonymous said...

Speaking to your comments "fewer fields dedicated to supporting local team(s); a broadly younger demographic" and "Fewer leaders and fewer homes that welcome competitive players and teams makes it more difficult to build teams."

What is in it for the field owner? The cost of building and maintaining a tournament (or even practice, given the current set of expectations) worthy field is disproportionately high in comparison to either the cost of a rec-player oriented field or reasonable income expectations.

And then you factor in the attitudes and behaviors of the majority of tournament players. You know as well as I that tournament players are more likely to lift masks on the field (in between points, but the 11 year old birthday party watching doesn't get that nuance) or to use swabs instead of barrel socks. And mom (and maybe her kids) will be intimidated and turned off by the ROF of the tourney guns. And all that ignores the swearing and occasional incidents. It’s bad mojo for any field with a rec customer base.

So, do you see any way for the industry to help make tourney play more attractive to field owners, who can then sponsor and give refuge to more teams (who then buy more high end guns and cases of paint)?

Reiner Schafer said...

Good points J.S. As an owner of a paintball field that was totally determined to run both rec (scenario/woodsball type games), and also tournament type games at our facility when we first started our field, I can totally relate to the predicament. For us, it only took one speedball practice with a few of the local teams attending and doig what it is they do, to come to the realization that we were heading down the wrong road (from a business perspective). We now have our signature rec field in the spot we had leveled for speedball fields, and have no regrets reversing that decision.

I've heard similar stories from many field owners. I know one field owner in Vancouver who was very active in tournament ball for many years, playing on relatively high level teams that has very nice speedball fields, who has seriously contemplated just totally abandoning his beloved sport and concentrating solely on the rec portion of his business.

Baca Loco said...

You know, I wouldn't mind as easy question once in a while--like what's my favorite color paintball maybe. Putting it out there.

What's in it for the field owner? Depends. We've already learned that paintball hobbyists tend not to make good field owners, or at least those that don't are unlikely to still be around--and those that do are less likely to be active in the tourney scene or still do it for the love of the game and have worked to minimize the cost to their overall business. Not a great working model for the future, I agree.
That said I think there are some options that might work depending on how involved the industry wants to be. I'll address those in a separate mailbag--cus it ain't gonna be brief.

Re: attitudes and behaviors I can't help you. Field owners have to take responsibility for what is acceptable and allowable at their field(s) and make it stick. Especially the smaller ones where it's hard to impossible to keep all the varied groups separated.

Anonymous said...

Boooo. Non-answer.

The entire competitive scene needs to be torn down and rebuilt into a cooperative model that benefits the industry, the fields, the stores, the leagues. And the cost for all this needs to be borne by the players.

And I understand I am suggesting retiring about 90% of all active tournament players (at least 90% of all national tourney players), but without that, we're just waiting to perish.

BTW, what is your favorite color paint and why?

Mark said...

So there you have it prospective competitive paintball player; the game that you and your teammates are hot for is an albatros around the neck of all involved and should be destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Not the game, per se. The single most impactful negative is the attitude of the people playing.

Change that and you can have lower cost practices, lower cost fields and without the worries of negatively impacting other business.

Mark said...

Funny you should mention "attitudes" (assuming you meant the bad variety) as I was just recently recollecting how, in my area, they have been almost conspicuously absent.

I say "almost" because it's not like they were missed or anything.

This has also coincided with a significant drop in active teams competing both locally and nationally. Of course the economy had a lot to do with the drop, but the attitudes are for the most part better because, among other things, fewer teams mean teams can be more chosey about the attitudes they pick up, and players with bad attitudes are more than likely to say "the hell with it!" and quit when no teams show interest.
However, the few bad attitudes we do get are soon put in check by the vast majority of positive ones.

Now I need to just point this out to our paint suppliers so they can lower our costs on practice paint, right?

Anonymous said...

Not sure how that last comment was meant.
If you mean the industry should reward good behavior... good luck with that. Would, should, could but almost certainly won't. Unless you can somehow correlate good behavior with increased sales.

If you mean that I am proposing a model where prices drop for a win-win-win, I'm not. I think costs should stay the same or go up. I don't care if that comes from the player, an industry sponsor or a sugar daddy.

If a team wants to control costs, the team should find new ways of practicing (or new ways of earning money).

Baca Loco said...

It's not a non-answer. It's a delayed answer because it isn't an easy answer.

Ruby Premium Gold.

FYI teams are controlling costs. By practicing and playing less. ;-)

Neal said...

Baca you hit the nail on the head. Divisional play is very tough to even experience a little success. When players like myself with two jobs, a house, and a significant other sacrifice money and time only to deal with disappointment and consistent lack of reciprocation from the fields and events (a 500 dollar tournament gets you a porta-potty and mediocre reffing if you're lucky. A 500 dollar green fee gets you PGA world class courses, restrooms with attendants, a golf cart, ocean views. Too bad I hate golf). A lot of us end up asking if the end game (fun) isn't worth the sacrifice.
As for field owners, the separation of speedball and woodsball has failed the industry. Owners need to think creatively to integrate the two worlds and show casual woods players that there are legitimate and challenging options for growth into speedball. Most woodsball players you talk to are scared to death of speedball and don't have a grasp of the concepts. That is a travesty.

Mark said...

Jeff said,
"So, do you see any way for the industry to help make tourney play more attractive to field owners....."
"I think costs should stay the same or go up. I don't care if that comes from .... an industry sponsor ...."

If the industry helps field owners so they in turn help the tourney players pay more in costs in order to provide a tourney-worthy field and some of those costs are paid by an industry sponsor....ugh! What am I missing here?

raehl said...

The easiest way for paintball fields to make tournament play more profitable is to cut the costs of operating paintball tournaments (and practices).

Now, what is the #1 cost of operating paintball tournaments/practices?

dan. said...

I don't mind paying $500 for shooting people and not going to jail. To me, that's money much better spent than hitting a stupid white little ball with a club. But about the topic, I agree, the entry level tourney play today is much tougher than when i started in the mid -90's when the absolute best gun out there (automag) was more expensive but not totally outclassing the entry level spyder.

TODAY, entry level spyder's or Tippman's that many aspiring tourney players have to begin with just can't do the job and they don't even attempt to start playing against other kids with serious gear.

I'm currently helping a local middle school start their paintball club and these kids are going to be a very very good indication of where this sport is. Some want to play PSP style like they've seen on the internet, others are totally clueless and just think it's way cool, while the other clique loves just hanging out in the woods. It's definitely going to be interesting to watch them progress and find their way. I've told them I'm totally open to helping them in any capacity they so desire. But these kids will need encouragement and leadership and someone who sees them not as a customer, but really the future of our sport - we just can not and must not sell ourselves short because we don't have the long term vision.

Reiner Schafer said...

@ Neal

Separation of speedball and woodsball has failed speedball. I don't think it has failed the industry.

It's not the recreational field owner's job to educate people about speedball. Speedball has been around for a long time now. Why is that the antiquated version of paintball has had no problem spreading the the word and gathering the masses and speedball has not been able to do the same? Do we really need to invite people into the woods so we can say, "oh, by the way, there is this other kind of paintball that you might be interested in right next door to the woodsball field". If speedball was a valued pastime for people, it would be booming by now. It would seem to me, that the masses don't see speedball as good value. When you find a way to change that, then the masses will come.

Anonymous said...

To expand on your sponsorship comment, I think a lot of inexperienced players misunderstand what sponsorship really is. Unless the team is very high level or taken care of by their local field, sponsorship is typically that you have to outfit 75% of your team with our jerseys/pants, but we'll cut you a price break at somewhere between retail and wholesale, plus you get a 10% discount on other gear we sell. One manufacturer was actually solicting teams to apply to be sponsored, and ended up 'sponsoring' a woodsball team that started up this year. The younger guys look up to the 'sponsored' teams, but they don't realize that to be 'sponsored' you basically have to buy stuff you weren't going to buy in the first place.