There is a lost generation of paintball players all around us going about their daily lives. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and skill levels. The one thing they have in common is they used to play paintball and they don't anymore--but many, if not most will play again--all we have to do is reach out and invite them back. (Okay, that's probably a bit of hyperbole but even if just 25% came back think how many players that would be. APPA claims to have records on 80K plus. How many are still active? What if 25% of those former players came back?)
As much fun as it is to tweak raehl now and again the intent of the last two posts hasn't been to bemoan the evils of APPA or the UPC. Both are works in progress and both are useful tools. And we could go round endlessly debating which cause had what effect on the decline in the number of tourney players in recent years. But VFTD has been there and done that (on more than one occasion) and while it engenders lots of debate it doesn't do much else and what I'm really interested in is discussing ways to get former players back into the fold.
Before jumping in with both feet though there is something else to be said about APPA and local promoters. Even if we assume the lion's share of the problem of team and player attrition is more about Big Picture economics (or outta control ROF) (or raising the skill & commitment bar to entry too high) (or whatever other option you prefer) the fact remains APPA & the UPC is in the business of grading players with an unavoidably very blunt instrument; team results--and then determining what those results mean relative to all other players. If competitive paintball was in fact unequivocally a sport this probably wouldn't be an issue or at least as big a one as it is--but it's not. Especially at the local level where hopeful up-and-comers vie with a large contingent of mostly hobbyists (whether they would describe themselves as such or not.) And herein lies a problem. Local leagues are subject to the same ranking attrition that the national level teams and players are. At the national level where the game aspires to be sport it might be possible to make a case that it is an unavoidable consequence of the competitive process but at the local level it is a foolish and counterproductive waste. It is also a difficult problem to remedy because of APPA's utility to the local promoter as time saver and standard. How do you use the system without being part of the system? (At least insomuch as it dictates what happens to players/teams.)
Everybody wants to see paintball flourish--and the majority of VFTD readers also want to see competitive paintball regain lost ground too and continue to grow. There may be a few things we as individuals can do; like inviting old friends who used to play to give it a try again and encourage our local fields to find creative ways to reach out to the pool of potential players most likely to respond, former players. Like it or not this effort really falls on the local field owners (who are so inclined) and local promoters. It wasn't very many years ago Florida had multiple series to choose from and well over a 100 teams competing in primarily D3 and below. That's a lot of former tourney ballers. In the past VFTD has suggested ideas like Friday Night street ball, start a paintball club, work with local businesses to promote youth paintball, promote and maintain a local available player list, offer discounts to old timers who bring in an old team jersey, etc. There have got to be ways to reach out to local ex-players and invite them to give the game a try again. Got any other ideas? Heard of an effort that seemed to work? Let's hear 'em.