Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paintball Clubs cont.

Worried that I had forgotten all about paintball clubs? Or afraid that I hadn't and that this day--and post (with others to follow)--was soon coming? If it's any consolation I almost wish I had forgotten or become bored with the idea and moved along. Mostly because I'm still not exactly sure how to proceed. What I am sure of is that the potential of the paintball club is bigger than the boxes we are so far trying to limit ourselves to. For example, I write "paintball club" and our Euro friends automatically envision a European style club structure from the grassroots to the international federation. Which is fine--but not really what I had in mind. (Although if it works and a particular area, region, country whatever is receptive to that particular idea then I'm all for it.) Nor am I in favor of replacing the local tourney scene with club competitions. Among other reasons I don't see enough clubs forming, but ...
Hang on. Did you miss the first post--and especially the comments that followed? If you did it would be worth your while, assuming this topic interests you at all, to go back and catch up. Go here. (I'll wait.)

Up to speed? Cool. Let's continue. The paintball club concept I want to focus on today is an adjunct to an existing paintball field. This paintball club is something the field owners and staff organize and offer to their regular customers and as a different way to attract new (regular) customers. Okay, so what does the club do? Anything and everything you want it to.
What are the impediments to enjoying playing paintball as a newbie? No friends playing with you maybe? Lack of experience, don't really know what you're doing. Gun doesn't work all of a sudden. Nervous? Timid? The club can deal with all those. Join the club and get free access to special monthly classes. What should be in your gear bag and why? Routine maintenance. Playing paintball--in the woods--on the speedball field. Intro to tournament paintball. Beginning skills. Intermediate and advanced play. This Saturday is the routine maintenance class and then you can play the rest of the day.
Perhaps restricted games and reserved field and play times for club members. Want to open the facilities weekdays or evenings but don't know what to expect or how to get people thinking in terms of playing some paintball during the week? Try it out by offering some club only activities first on a trial basis. The club can be as simple as a positive proactive way to assure that as many of your customers have a good time as possible and want to come back to your field again and again. But there's no reason the club can't include teams & competition too.
Couldn't all these ideas be incorporated into the services the field offers without calling it a paintball club? Well, if you're hung up on the club being a specific thing then sure, why not. What this club does do is provide a unique place to be a part of. How many times do you see a couple of kids show up at a field because they had a good time at a birthday party event but on their own are isolated and lost? And what sort of follow-up does the local field make, if any, to get that first timer or party participant to come back again? To feel welcome and like somebody made a special effort on their behalf? The club provides not only a place to fit in but also guidance, structure and a controlled environment to learn and play in.

Maybe, you're thinking, but I ain't doing all that for free. Of course not--you're doing it to grow your business but nobody really appreciates anything that's simply given to them. Joining the club is an option not a requirement but it needs to be an attractive option (keeping in mind one of the goals is to keep that customer coming back.) Offer basic memberships on a trial, bi-annual or annual fee basis. Have a ready calendar to show class schedules, club play days etc. Kick in a "free" T-shirt (like the 'Property of ' assorted sports teams) that prominently displays your field, location, contacts and featured relationships you may have with various distributors. Maybe you kick in free air too or maybe you have levels of membership that offer different perks like discounted entries or discounts on pro shop purchases or airsmithing services. (The kinds of things that get players coming back to your field, not just playing more paintball somewhere.) Whatever and however you do it the club needs to be special and make your customers feel special. And of course add to their enjoyment every time they come out to play some paintball.

There's a nearly limitless number of possibilities available to encourage people to play paintball and get as involved as they want to be in the way they want to whether you call it a club or not. Is it right for your field? Start small, keep it simple and find out.

Next time, paintball club and local field working together.


Full Bore said...

Your idea of a club is pretty much like mine, the only issue is making it happen, commercial field operators need to be convinced of the benefits and that it isn't going to take a slice out of their income, but could enhance it. There have to be clear benefits for all involved. In my view a club structure should support multiple teams.

Nick Brockdorrf said...

I don't like the idewa of clubs. We got it wrong in Europe. The US model is better.

Anonymous said...

Next time you feel compelled to add new content to prevent readers from staying please just post a "Happy New Years" pic instead. Your concept of a paintball club is so broad a reader has no idea what the hell your talking about.
Admittedly, you say all of your ideas don't have to be incorporated as part of a "club". If that is the case, your either talking about a field improving its services or your talking about just labeling something as part of a "club" in order to make it feel like it is something more than a marketing ploy.

I believe your purpose in this blog is to generate a discussion about paintball but to also provide a little focus to that discussion. This post may accomplish the former, but definitely not the latter. Essentially it is a fluff piece, written only for the sake of writing.

Please, give us your description of an ideal club. Identify and analyze the positives and negatives. Conclude your thoughts. Then invite others to the conversation. Trust, we will have an opinion. Adjust your thoughts based on feedback accordingly.

P.S. The commentariat appreciates you for keeping anonymous posting available.

sdawg said...

First, everything you are describing has already been done in other sports. Really, there's nothing new here. What works in other sports clubs, will work in paintball. Just go check out the programs offered by your local tennis club.

However, paintball has inherent disadvantages in that 1) it can be prohibitively expensive and 2) opportunities for local and regional amateur competition are not only very limited but also very expensive, compared to other sports. And, 3) for a young person (high-school age), sticking with paintball as a sport provides fewer avenues for tiered participation compared to other mainstream and alternative (e.g., Olympic) sports. As you've discussed, young paintballers can find themselves thrust very quickly into the national level of competition and find themselves with no way to compete locally.

The other side of the equation are the field owners, who may not have a motivation to provide a "club experience" because they likely make enough money just doing walk-on and private parties. From a business perspective, the field owner now has to retain staff for the club i.e., instructors and coordinators, who will probably be adults requiring higher pay that the teenagers reffing the recball games. I suspect the money to be made from a club program would be marginal compared to the rec-ball income.

So, what you are really counting on are field owners would be supporting a club to "give back" without a financial motive.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Great, I have a faker now - how flattering :D

Baca Loco said...

Anon 528
Yeah. I'll get right on that.

First I don't recall claiming any great insight or innovation. Second I don't see many if any paintball fields doing much of anything vaguely creative, proactive or like real work to keep their businesses in the black so maybe a tired well trod worn out idea or two isn't completely out of order.

Finally I'm not counting on anything. I'm doing what I always do--posting on paintball-related topics of interest to me.

Don't flatter yourself. :)

raehl said...

Just because we've allowed paintball to stay prohibitively expensive doesn't mean it has to be.

Mike said...

So, what you are really counting on are field owners would be supporting a club to "give back" without a financial motive."

One of the local fields has a D5 practice overseen by D3/D2 players twice a month. The field charges an extra five dollars for the practice and the D5 players get good one on one instruction from the "instructors and coordinators".It varies between ten to fifteen players. The instructors are "paid" with free entry when they go to the field to practice with their teams. The field makes a little on the arrangement up front and in a few months the field will offer a D5 tourney which will make them more money. Paintball needs to be built from the bottom up and this is one way to do that. What Baca is counting on is a little imagination out their in the paintball hinter lands...

Reiner Schafer said...

We have two fields here on Vancouver Island whose owners are tournament players from way back. They have both had "clubs" at their fields for years. Basically anyone that comes up a few times is offered membership in the "club" which I believe is free. They then get super discounted field/air rates and paint rates and they get the status of saying they are part of a club.

The rates are so low that I know (being a field owner in the same region) could never sustain a paintball field. Their recreation portion of their business basically subsidizes the club. The only reason they do this, the way I see it, is that they are both passionate about tourney ball and I think there is a bit of an ego issue there as well.

They have multi-level teams all playing under the same club/team name and players are groomed and moved along the path. They have done this for as long as I've been involved in paintball (about 25 years).

Not having been around paintball in a lot of different areas, I always assumed it was similar at many fields. Am I mistaken?

Anonymous said...

It isn't a 'club' but 187's home field Fox 4 runs an X-Ball league that is well attended, with good levels of local competition. It keeps their speed ball field busy.