Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can Paintball Clubs Rebuild the Grassroots?

VFTD has touched on this topic before. (Is there anything new under the sun?) And it's one I've been giving some more thought to lately. My view has long been that one of the big disconnects for competitive paintball in the last decade or so has been the loss of a lot of adult players who are/were in the prime position to take over bringing up the next generation. When I began playing the average player age was older than it is now--at least on the tournament side of paintball. Younger players were more often than not brought into existing teams and mentored by experienced players. In the transitionary years post 10-man NPPL 1.0 (Pure Promotions) initially picked up the older skewing demo with their 7-man format but almost as quickly began to lose them. Meanwhile Xball pushed the demographic younger and younger and pushed out a lot of the older players used to a different--dare I say more sedate?--format. And in the process broke the 'natural' team-formation process. Experienced and dedicated adult players on teams looking for new players or breaking away from old teams looking for new players. Fathers and sons. Older brothers and younger brothers. New to paintball kids hanging out at fields looking for opportunities to get into the tourney scene frequently had opportunities.
Okay, but isn't that same process happening today? Sure but not in the numbers it once did. Then there's the school of thought that would attribute losses to the grassroots team-forming structures to the loss of a lot of fields and field owners who got into paintball the business because they loved playing the game--often to the detriment of their business when it came to starting and funding tournament teams. And I'm sure there has been some of that as well. The bottom line is the typical Race 2 player is a teen-aged male and they aren't in a position or generally capable of organizing their own teams and leaning how to play the game. The next generation needs experienced older players to once again take up the roles they used to perform in the grassroots process of building tournament teams or something else needs to take their place--and this is where the paintball club comes in. The well organized and properly run club could not only be a stable source of teams but also a sustaining anchor in the local tourney scene and a way to maximize the available experience and talent, both in leaders and players.
Consider this an introduction to the subject. I'll dig a little deeper next time.

Team Clinics Update

I do not have the permanent link up yet but if you would like information about hosting a clinic drop me a line via the mailbag. (Link on sidebar.) There is already a clinic scheduled in mid-January and any additional dates would be tentative only until we see 2013 league schedules. [Using last year's event dates will provide a rough estimate of open weekends.]
For those currently waiting for the information sheet I will (hopefully) get them all out tomorrow. If I somehow overlook your previously sent request please hit me up again.
New requests should include information about hosts and host facility (owner/operator/manager) field name & location, sponsored team(s) [if any] and additional contact info.
The clinic limit will be 10 - 12 max for 2013.
Reminder: the clinics are based around (and designed for) team participation as the purpose of the clinic is to teach teams how to train, practice & compete as a unit; as a real team. It is a unique concept unavailable anywhere else. It requires teams to participate to maximize the learning experience. As such no fewer than 5 players per team may participate though numbers greater than 5 are welcome. There is also a max participation limit as too many participants will detract from clinic experience. I expect each clinic will have between 3 and 8 teams depending on the numbers per team participating.
Each clinic is a two-day process intended to be completed over a weekend. Each day will have a full schedule of activities so expect between 6-8 hours daily.
Feel free to drop any additional questions you might have to the mailbag anytime. Clinics will be scheduled in the order requested. Dates cannot be reserved in advance.

I'm sure I've left something out but that should get everyone interested started. Thanks

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Descent Into Mediocrity

The NPPL has (apparently) given the thumb's up to two new pro teams for the 2013 season. Both groups have posted their intentions on Facebook and the kids from CRU (to be called 'Crush') have a new thread in the NPPL forum on PBN. Which reminds me: What's up, PBN, no pro team forums yet for these guys? Where's the love? The other team will be backed by TradeMyGun out of Indiana. In the case of Crush they have a mission; "We look forward to showing the world what everyday players can do once given the opportunity!!!" The Indiana-based crew are (so far) keeping a lower profile. Will they too roster "everyday players" or recycle some old pros outta the Midwest or a bit of both? Who knows (and if I were feeling unkind I might add who cares. Seriously.) At this point it would be easy to tear down the new kids but I'm not going there. I'm far more interested in how the league is (mis)handling this and what the longer term implications are likely to be.
What's going on? Is the NPPL filling empty spots? Trying to get back to a 16 team pro division? What? If you look at the participating teams by event last year Vegas had fifteen teams by including Phoenix Contact and letting Heat play. If we assume Heat was a one off then there are/were 2 slots to fill to maintain a 16 team division. But then there are the past season and off season rumors of teams leaving the NPPL too? What happens then? And why isn't the league taking charge, being proactive? And what will be the result of making moves like this?
Best case scenario the NPPL is filling up to 16 teams. (Okay, real best case--least worse case?--would be to promote the best teams possible.) Why isn't the league controlling the release of information? If this is the best course why aren't they out in front of this making their case? Instead it's like stuff happens and the league goes, oh yeah, that's right. Whose running this league?
If the league also loses some pro teams these sorts of additions simply accelerate the division's decline and if the pro division becomes a laughing stock it reflects badly on the whole league.
Two teams from the league ownership's inner circle are (apparently) returning to the PSP. Whether at the behest of their sponsors or on their own the easy conclusion to draw is they need to be in the PSP in order to validate their pro status and/or to be a relevant pro team in the eyes of paintball fans.
Maybe the league doesn't have anything to say because they are embarrassed by the whole thing too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Extra Bunkers Hoax

Okay so maybe, just maybe, hoax is a little strong--but only a little because the addition of the extra bunkers is aimed at solving a problem the bunkers won't, yes you read that correctly, won't fix. And of course Adrenaline Games is claiming the extra bunkers will fix the problem. "... adding a few more bunkers to the existing PSP field is the best remedy to slow Race-to games." (For complete press release title is link.) Four bunkers, even though we don't know yet which four we're getting, can't fix the problem of slow matches going to time from the lowest division right up to the pro game because extra bunkers doesn't address the problem. And if the sample "fix" offered by Adrenaline Games is indicative of how they intend to use the four bunkers in the future they won't make any difference at all. The only thing the sample illustrates is that Adrenaline Games doesn't understand the problem much less how to fix it.
Okay, maybe so but you want to ask what if. What if the extra props were used more, um, better? You know, to fix the problem of too many matches going to time. Even without knowing what kind of prop the extra bunkers will be the answer remains no, four extra bunkers ain't gonna do it. But can they help at all? Maybe. (And that's a seriously qualified maybe that would require someone(s) who actually knew what the result of their design would be. But it's a band-aid solution when what is required is outpatient surgery.)
Looking at the diagram the grey zones indicate approximately the areas a Home shooter can't see or shoot OTB. On the sample field the extra bunkers are redundant. On the D-side they don't affect rotation to the wire at all and--because Home can still shoot the N1 to N2 gap and because most teams once they get a look at the field will want to got N2 OTB--and on the snake side the new bunkers actually increase the difficulty in reaching the snake OTB because a runner is now forced into a deeper path that will allow a good Home shooter to target either a snake or corner runner simultaneously. Of course the problem of slow play wasn't the inability to reach the wires anyway--and if it had been adding an extra bump along the path isn't a remedy to either--it's just another move to be made.
The positions players were being shot OTB with some degree of success are circled in red. (Can the extra bunkers as used in the sample help get players alive to the wires? Not if the other team is already on the wire. And it won't be any more quickly than before because reaching the wires is not where the slow down occurs.) Let me repeat that: Reaching the wires is not where the slow down occurs.
Now take a look at the red arrows. They indicate lanes the Home shooter has. On the D-side he can control the D1 and on the snake side he can contest the bump into snake 1 and the player's ability to use snake 1 offensively. These are the two choke points that initially slowed the game with many teams choosing to play the upfield Can or MT (on the cross) to increase their control over the snake. (And if you played this layout you should also be aware the next problem was that the fifties didn't kill anybody either.)
Bottom line the slow down is a phenomenon of the 2011 & 2012 seasons as proven in the post, Twenty Feet Too Far. The field designs can and do on occasion highlight the problem as happened at Cup but in and of themselves aren't the source of the problem.
Since the grid was handy I thought I would also illustrate the source of many of the long pro points on the upper half highlighted in aqua. [For more details check out the Movement: Play of the Game post below.] As long as moving upfield offers no benefit to the risk taker it won't happen. This was exacerbated at Cup because of the ability of the Home shooter to effectively control/contain both or either wire. The other live players would then look to reach D1 and Snake 1 to complete the cross up without putting themselves at greater risk and when both sides have a reduced number of live players the smarter play is the waiting game, no matter how tedious it gets for spectators.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movement: Playing The Game

In the recent post, 'Twenty Feet Too Far', the comments suggest a general failure to understand how movement fits into the game, movements relationship with ROF and the cause of some of the "problems" enumerated in the post. For a more in depth review of Movement & ROF a blog search using those two key words should result in more posts than you'll want to read.
Herein I will endeavor to clarify the situation moving from the specific to the general. Much of the concern (and the follow on spate of "solutions"--like adding bunkers) is the result of the consensus view that World Cup pro matches were too often long drawn out dull affairs, especially those overtime points. And there were in fact more of those sorts of points at this most recent World Cup. But the assumption being made--that the points were like that because the players couldn't move--is mistaken. Likewise the fixes predicated on erroneous perceptions.
The long points were long not because the players couldn't move but because they chose not to--and they chose not to because the risk didn't yield any significant reward in the majority of situations. And that was a defect of the layout design in combination with the extended field length of 2011 & '12. Many of the long points evolved into Home, Snake 1 & D1. Could the d-wire player(s) advance to the fifty? Yes but making the move didn't offer an advantage. All it did was put the player who moved closer to his wire-side opponent in a position where the opponent's supporting Home gun was more effective. A similar outcome was achieved moving into the middle segment of the snake. No clear advantage, only more proximate to players and guns that could eliminate you after moving further away from your own support. They didn't move 'cus it didn't make game sense to move. If aggressive moves upfield are rewarded with real opportunities to get important eliminations the moves will be made. At least in the pro division.
About that extra 10 feet at each end that stills seems (to some of you at least) so negligible despite the overwhelming evidence derived from the data here's another way to look at it. The half field diagram is the Galveston '12 layout. The orange SD is where the d-wire corner would have been if the layout was 150 feet long instead of 170 feet long. The orange and red lines indicate the angle of difference for a shooter at the 50 snake. It is approx. 6 degrees tighter on the shorter field; a 35 degree angle compared to a nearly 41 degree angle and if that looks inconsequential to you test it out sometime and see much harder it is for a player in the orange SD to live than in the original.
Let's move on to the new "extra" bunkers. (Rumor is that it will be 4 props and Sup'Air is already contacting their customer data base to buy this year's kit as everything else will stay the same.) Would the extra props have altered play at Cup? Given the same layout with two more props on each side chances are they wouldn't. The only way they make a difference at Cup would have been to force the Home player to move somewhere else. Okay, but what about in the future? Will four bunkers "fix" the current problem? No. But it will make it easier for players to move, right? Depending on where the bunkers are in relation to the layout as a whole--sure--to a limited degree--but all the evidence suggests that between the designer(s) and whoever chooses the layouts the league uses there is minimal understanding of what sorts of outcomes the various designs will deliver. And I don't see how that will change.
For now the extra bunkers fall into the couldn't hurt category. Keep in mind too we will apparently enjoy the technical snake again next season and the biggest impact the new snake had was in how it limited layout designs and required numerous "supporting" props to make it playable.
In closing a word or three about the relationship between ROF and movement. As the game is currently played movement is recognized as a skill both in making big moves and in knowing when and how to make small moves--but only because there is a degree of difficulty attached. And that degree of difficulty comes from the ability of opponents to shoot players on the move. In pump play it is possible to run around the field with near impunity (assuming basic knowledge of the game and a bit of confidence) simply because pump guns can't put out enough paint to stop movement. At the other end of the scale it is possible to make some moves nearly impossible. That isn't a problem, that is a characteristic of the game. When watching pro players move they move with a skill and ease despite the potential volume of paint in the air and that is one of the distinguishing features of a pro level player. A lower ROF at the pro level only reduces the skill set required to compete. On the other hand a tiered ROF based on skill level would improve divisional play and contribute to making players generally better faster.

UPDATE: When your only tool is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Adrenaline Games has confirmed 4 new unspecified props in the upgrade kit. To display how the extra props will "help" a modified WC field is offered. It is damn near perfect for showing why the extra bunker mentality is simply wrong. I will be posting a follow up tomorrow complete with illustration provided by Sup'Air.

Mighty Mouse

Who knew the movie 'Idiocracy' would turn out to be a documentary? And so soon. When Skynet becomes sentient it isn't out of some malevolent urge to dominate but rather out of necessity. And humanity won't rise up and resist the machines--not as long as the machines provide cable TV sports, Twinkies and the illusion of normalcy. Oh no, peeps be popping those blue pills as fast as they can and washing them down with their Starbucks. As Western Civilization slowly crumbles it is being replaced not by another state but rather by a state of mind I call Numptopia. In Numptopia wishing will make it so and there is no answer that can't be found on Google so the ability to reason atrophies. It is only in Numptopia that Alex 'Mouse' Goldman is being paid $50K to play paintball.
It isn't true. It was never true. What is the matter with you people? But but but it was posted on the internet, it must be true!
Here's how it went down. The story of Mouse's official signing up to play for Damage in 2013 was given to Social Paintball. When asked for how much Social was told $50K. It was suggested sarcastically and meant to convey the fact the team had no intentions of giving a real number. It was taken at face value and reported as such--until a rep for the team saw it posted and called them back. Shortly after the original story was posted somebody posts about it on PBN putting the $50K claim in the thread title--and the rest is Numpty history.
Anytime you feel yourself slipping into Numptopia here's a dose of reality that can help pull you back. There are only a handful of pro teams capable of compensating their players based on ownerships resources and/or their level of sponsorship. And when I say handful it's a hand missing digits lost in an horrific chainsaw accident. At no time should you ever believe any number that appears in public even if--or especially if--it came out of a player's mouth. It might be true but odds are any number you ever see or read about or hear somebody insist so-and-so told his third cousin for sure is not true. NOT true. Other pro teams fall into the "free ride" category although that is often a misnomer as well as some costs, often minor, still fall on the players. Not bad, pretty darn good, but nothing like the silly stories one hears or reads. And lastly there are the pro teams dangling on a shoestring budget with players paying their share of expenses same as divisional kids even if some of their gear is sponsored.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Twenty Feet Too Far

You know where this is going, right? As long as I'm already busy winning friends and influencing people I figured where's the harm. (In for a penny in for a pound. Heh.) I was reminded of this issue by a thread over at PBN in the PSP forum. (Link is the title.) It's a poll about the Race 2 format(s) and any changes peeps might want to suggest. It's well above average in content and tone so check it out if you're interested.
Anyway, I'm not looking to change any PSP formats. (Not today anyway.) What I do want to do is remind everyone about a rule PSP introduced at the beginning of the 2011 season. You know the one. The one that added that harmless extra 20 feet to the length of a standard PSP Race 2 field. The one intended, along with those additional bigger props (that not only never materialized but actually shrank in 2012) to encourage the return to national tourney play of the older, fatter, slower crowd. You know, former players. (The guys who played 10-man at Cup.)
Prior to that rule taking effect VFTD strongly urged the league to reconsider on the basis it would slow points and games down and result in a lot more matches played to time than score. During the 2011 season I followed up a few times in event reports. (See herehere.) While those numbers suggested the warnings were justified I failed to follow up except to periodically remind everyone (ahem) that the games were dragging--as if it wasn't apparent to everyone competing.
Here we are in the off season between 2012 and 2013. Now I have two seasons of data on games played to time instead of score and I have data collected from the 2010 season to serve as a comparison. Before the extra twenty feet were added to the length of a field and after. I'm gonna limit the numbers (to keep this from getting more boring.) For the 2010 season--the last season with the field at 150 feet in length--8% of all preliminary Pro matches went to time. 16% of Sunday matches went to time. (Still) in 2010 13% of all preliminary D1 matches went to time. That bumped up to 16% on Sundays. 14% of all preliminary matches in D2 went to time sliding up to 23% on Sundays. In D3 prelim numbers were 8% of prelims moving up to 18% on Sunday.
In 2011 the seasonal numbers for games played to time in the Pros jumped to (45%) in the prelims and (33%) on Sundays. The 2011 numbers for D1 are (51%) prelims and (50%) Sundays. [The D2 & D3 numbers are similar in terms of percentages of change.]
In 2012 the seasonal numbers for games played in the Pros was (43%) in the prelims and (80%) on Sundays. For D1 the numbers are (54%) prelims and (62%) Sundays.
The rate(s) of change are both dramatic and pretty consistent--and, do I have to say it?--undeniable. What else happened between 2010 and 2011 that could account for such a distinct difference in results? (Hint: the answer is nothing.)
Look, the extra length isn't the whole problem. Field designs are also contributing to the lag in play as did the contortions required by the new technical snake but on the old field dimensions the concern would be about playability. There has been some talk about adding more props to the field kits and while I favor that change, conditionally at least, I'm not convinced that change alone will suffice because it will rely on the designer(s) knowing what to do with those extra bunkers. On the whole it would be easier to get rid of the extra twenty feet. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Paintball Show

Is the latest offering on real broadcast TV delivering paintball to the masses--over in Euroland. Originating in the UK the show follows the common formula of news magazine style shows with a routine series of short segments, interviewees and guest panel that keeps the show moving along. (Or something like that.)
The last few posts on VFTD have been about as popular as the mainstream media's interest in the Benghazi debacle or the average American's concerns over the looming Fiscal Cliff--if it were really important somebody surely would have mentioned it before now. So I am switching gears and moving on. Best of all we're still talking TV. (The title links to the producers website where easily found links to 'TV Show' & 'watch' will hook you up with the complete series of shows to date. No, I couldn't provide a direct link. You'll see why.) And it's easy button TV at that!
If you're interested I'd encourage you to watch an episode or two or whatever. There's nothing terribly unique but there's also nothing just plain terrible. It's a UK centric presentation as well it ought to be given it's a UK show. This sort of thing has been done before but it's really about quality and the ability to sustain interest rather than some sort of ground-breaking cleverness. As an old, jaded and cynical competition fan I'ma forego passing any judgment on 'The Paintball Show' but that doesn't mean you can't sound off in the comments. To be on the safe side though sprinkle a few paeans of gratitude in with any criticisms you might have. We wouldn't want anyone to think you were ungrateful. After all who are you to have a opinion when you haven't made your own TV show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paintball, TV & Money

This continues to be a highly polarizing subject--at least in some quarters. I suspect most of y'all hold a strong opinion about this one way or the other but defending that opinion isn't a very high priority. This subject usually comes up when there's a whiff of greenbacks in the air or the latest announcement of competitive paintball's imminent success on TV is made. ('Cus everybody knows TV=buckets o' cash.) And it will continue to come up--whether VFTD gets that ball rolling or not--because nobody ever does anything about it. Yet, if real money arrives it will bring its own set of problems to be resolved.
First another history lesson. (I know, I'm starting to hate them too.) The game's first encounter with TV (ESPN even!) occurred in 1996 (I think) and featured a custom made pallet field carved out of an orange grove and eventually led to Jerry Braun threatening ESPN with lawsuits for breach of contract over air times, if I remember correctly. Needless to say that didn't pan out. (Braun was part of the group that by that time had been named as the promoters of NPPL events and who would become one of the original PSP owners.) Without getting too bogged down in details the next few forays into TV were promoted by both the newly independent NPPL (1.0) run by Pure Promotions and the NXL--as distinct from the PSP. In the case of the NXL it was structured like the NFL with franchise teams owning the league. TV would ostensibly have seen the teams organize around agreed upon terms, etc. with players under contract. The NPPL 1.0 version merely promised the existing pro teams that there would be an opportunity if TV jumped in with both feet. As envisioned the TV deal would be with the league and since teams that were in the league would be on TV they could make their own separate deals with potential sponsors. Now that may sound reasonable and workable but it largely isn't. First thing it doesn't address is oversight of the sport--which NPPL 1.0 had negligible interest in anyway--and the second thing it didn't address was the fact the league would be in competition with its teams for sponsors--and have an enormous built-in advantage.
Back to the present nothing much has changed. NPPL 3.0 is closer to the NXL model but without the organization, contracts and paperwork--just the big idea of one day collecting TV cheese. And the PSP is a tournament promoter tied to the PBA by shared ownership stakes. (Part of the PSP ownership also owns part of PBA.) Where the NPPL 3.0 has made no real progress landing the TV whale it remains their reason to exist. The PBA has gone a different direction. It is using new technologies to build an audience that sponsors will want to reach with advertising. Be it TV or live webcasting the income source is the same.
For fifteen plus years elements of the industry and two leagues have chased TV money. And what have they been trying to sell? Pro paintball. And just who plays pro paintball? The pro teams.
Today PBA is working hard, spending a bunch of money, doing an excellent job with their webcast and building an audience. An audience that is watching pro paintball matches.
Today the PSP determines who will play in the Pro division and who won't. (As does NPPL 3.0) There is no independent oversight or rules governing the sport. (There is no sport.)
If/when PBA begins to see ad revenues coming in what happens? Do they collect as much as they can and everyone goes home happy? [Were you aware PBA is looking to expand beyond the paintball market in the future into other arenas where they might make live broadcasting profitable?]
The answer of course is no. And it remains no no matter what anyone thinks or how anyone feels about it. It's still no whether it's right or wrong in your's or the next guy's estimation. It's no because the transaction hinges on the pro teams playing matches and as soon as anybody turns those teams into a commodity that has some value they will insist on receiving value in return.
Today nobody sweats the details. Nobody is worried about rights or licenses or use permissions for a whole host of things related to the teams playing and the webcast broadcasting them. And being on the webcast is better than not but make no mistake--the pro teams only have the option of making passive decisions, decisions available only on the margins.
But but but . . . it isn't fair! Somebody else spent all the money and took all the risk. So what? Did anyone put a gun to their heads? Do you honestly think either the PSP or PBA would sell shares of either company to any of the pro teams that have the means to buy in? Sure they took a risk but they also called all the shots. It doesn't mean they alone should profit--not when they're selling something they neither own or have any agreements with or rights to.
Look I'm not saying this is good or bad or something in-between. I'm saying it's something that will be a problem and a big one at that if everyone simply waits around until forced to do something. It is far more prudent and sensible to think about now and begin to lay the groundwork for resolving these concerns before things get ugly. What's wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confessions of a Paintball Blogger

It seems like it's that time again. Time to spell out the perspective and motivations behind VFTD given the turn some of the recent posts have taken and the outpouring of confusion in response. (This comes up every couple of years so I was probably due.)
Here's how this is gonna work: I spell out the VFTD Big Picture position on some fundamental competitive paintball issues so that you have them available for future reference whenever I espouse some off-the-wall or seemingly contradictory position and maybe, just maybe, you'll see where I'm coming from. I know, I know, some of the stuff I advocate is still crazy talk. You gotta remember though I'm a paintball anarchist and I'm willing to blow this whole thing up and start fresh--so you better not tempt me.

First Principle: VFTD believes in the potential of competitive paintball as sport. (The hard part is getting there from here.)
Second Principle: VFTD is an advocate for the players (whether they like it or not.)

VFTD favors a separation of powers; as long as the industry and/or leagues hold all the decision-making power competitive paintball will necessarily remain a game and not a sport.
VFTD tends to favor two national leagues as the best available option for delivering the best game possible to the players.
As a step beyond the status quo VFTD favors any structure that moves the game closer to the realm of sport be it a Euro-style federation or team ownership of the league ala the NPPL or the NXL.
VFTD favors a universal classification system as a means of tracking players. VFTD does not favor the tendency of the current classification system to push local players into the national tournament scene as it is counterproductive to the task of reseeding the grassroots.
(If I've left anything out you're curious about don't hesitate to ask.)

VFTD is a critical observer. Critical observation is aimed at identifying weaknesses and pointing them out. (VFTD sometimes does this with ridicule and/or sarcasm. That is a matter of style and well, my personal amusement.) This is why it may on occasion seem that VFTD has taken up contrarian positions. For example supporting the idea of two leagues doesn't necessarily mean any actual league gets a free pass.
VFTD also makes a passing effort at being a good (or at least tolerable) citizen of the paintball community by periodically passing along lessons learned about the game and how it is played and/or promoting the players and teams that compete in this game. And finally lest that seem far too altruistic and self-serving (it kinda did) keep in mind VFTD's prime directive--I am to be entertained. All the rest is just gravy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Poll in Review

The poll followed the path I expected, more or less. Four of the teams receiving double digit percentages of the vote are in the PSP exclusively while the other eight [of 12] are in the NPPL. (There is of course some player cross over between leagues.) Ten teams received votes ranging from statistical 0% up to 6%. We can call them the established or solid pro teams--at least in the minds of the voters. Unsurprisingly the solid teams are mostly the most recently successful teams as well as teams with a "history" of success. (In reality they are anything but solid.)
My thought when posting the poll, 'Which Pro Teams Won't Make It To 2013', was merely the seasonal curiosity given the lack of stability in the pro ranks in recent years amid shrinking sponsorships and the struggle to stay motivated on a losing team.
(Warning: digression. Teams that have moved up the ranks from success to success may be better suited to handle early pro division failure but however a team reached a pro division the losses pile up and wear the players down. Winning and losing are habitual and any given team, or group of players, can only struggle and fail for so long before something has to give--whether that means calling it quits or a wholesale attempt at a rebuild.)
For purposes of evaluating the likelihood of a team making it to the 2013 season I'ma rely on two categories; finances & motivation. Being competitive in the NPPL is less expensive than the PSP given roster, practice, etc. West coast teams have greater access to practice partners. Successful teams receive more support. Losing teams get demoralized.
Three teams received votes from more than 50% of voters; CEP, Contact & Criticial. CEP is the best of the 3 but with 2 full seasons of pro experience they are at higher risk. Contact is at virtually no risk because they've only got one event under their belt. Critical is one full season in. (The new car smell hasn't quite worn off yet.) Consequently VFTD rates Contact is a net plus (+) and good to go. Critical is a wash ( / ) but VFTD predicts another NPPL season (if there is a NPPL) for the team. CEP is a net negative (--) but appears to remain highly motivated. Their off season self-evaluation and some time away will tell. VFTD calls it a coin flip.
Two teams received more than 30% shares of the vote; Thunder & Explicit. Explicit has the benefit of being a NPPL team, an apparently still motivated owner and a majority roster that was put together at the beginning of last season and a Sunday run. Thunder also had a Sunday run (early) but they are a self-sustaining PSP team. On the plus side a blend of youth and age on the roster with only one full PSP season under their belt. Explicit (+), Thunder ( / ).
Four teams were above 20%; Uprising, Vendetta, Legend & Arsenal. All are NPPL teams and all but one played on Sunday at least twice in 2012. Legend and Arsenal have team owners with the resources to keep their teams active. Uprising has players who are motivated and many of whom also play PSP. If the resources exist they will continue to compete. Uprising (--) VFTD expects both Vendetta ( / ) and Legend (+) to continue while Arsenal depends on the whim of owner, Tom Fore. ( / )
Three teams received votes in the teens; Avalanche, Aftershock & Upton 187 Crew. Avalanche is a NPPL team one full season into a new organizational structure and holds an "ownership" stake in the league. Unless unforeseen circumstances change the status quo Ava should be a (+). While ' Shock ( / ) has an illustrious name it was a new team last season and last season was the first for Upton 187 (+). In both cases it will be a lack of resources and support that would dictate what happens to both teams as they each remain highly motivated.
Don't think that the solid teams are impervious. The same forces that act on the teams that received the majority of votes play on all the pro teams. Six or seven of the solid teams exist and can continue to exist purely on the decision of their owners. Others require their sponsorship terms to survive and a couple depend on a combination of owner support and sponsor support. Of the ten solid teams VFTD would rate 2 of them ( / ).
Twenty-two pro teams played in either the PSP or the NPPL or both in 2012. VFTD predicts 19 of the 22 teams will compete in 2013.

VFTD Factoid of the Day

In 2002 World Cup was comprised of 12 fields and had its largest team turnout ever of 438 teams including 214 teams playing 10-man.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

PSP Pro Division Dilemma continued

I know, I know y'all are waiting for the next post featuring what you want and I continue to be hung up on this pro division stuff. What can I say, that's kinda how this blogging thing works.
There have been a number of excellent comments under the first post that warrant expanding on this topic. The intent of the first post was to make clear that some (more) changes are coming to the Pro Division and open a dialogue on just how to resolve some of the immediate concerns and perhaps lay the groundwork for resolving future concerns.
But first a brief history lesson. Once upon a time at the dawn of the Xball era the pros played 2 twenty-five minute halves of paintball per match. That decreased to twenty minute halves. To Race 2-9 and finally one twenty minute period or Race 2-7. All those changes were made ostensibly to benefit the teams and in an environment of ever shrinking sponsorships many of those changes were probably necessary. But they were made necessary not by any changes the teams chose to make but by changes initiated by the league(s) and/or industry. During that same period the characteristics that defined a pro paintball team changed as well, expanded. Before long it was necessary to have coaches and other staff personnel. Training and practice were also transformed and in every instance the cost to compete kept rising. Over this same period a number of Pro teams have folded and the number of pro competitors has fluctuated, sometimes event to event. Throughout this evolution the league has dictated change and in essence demanded pro teams adjust. The upshot today is a handful of independently financed pro teams, the demise of the factory team and a significant minority (or small majority) of self-sustaining teams defined by their tight budgets and (frequently) struggle to be competitive.
My point? Simply that all the teams are subject to the decisions made by the league and that none of us have any recourse except to quit or be part of another league. Okay, my other point is that the present PSP formula works now because there's no money in it--and the PSP does the best job of delivering tournament paintball. Every effort the leagues, teams or industry make into turning competitive paintball into a sport that generates some cheddar exacerbates the natural tension between the business and the sport. The problem is the PSP is a business pretending to be a sports league. (Just like all the others.) (And why the Euro effort to lay the foundation of a real sports federation spearheaded by Laurent Hamet actually matters.) As a business the league doesn't want anyone without a stake to be in a position to influence league decisions. I get that. But any success the PSP & the PBA have in finding a formula to monetize competitive paintball will be built on the pro division and the pro teams. Somewhere in there the relationships have to change or the Pro teams become nothing more than toys in a PSP sandbox.
In the meantime decisions will continue to be made. Some of the big industry players are known to prefer a 15 team pro division. And in an ideal world so would I but what if the league decides the only way to accomplish a 15 team pro division that works for the PSP is to make Pro Race 2-5 or go to 16 to accommodate all the supporting sponsors even though it would mean moving to 3 prelim games? (That is a prediction by the way.) Even if everyone hates it and objects strenuously, so what? What's anybody gonna do? What can they do? The PSP says it understands but that the decision is in everyone's best interest in the long term. That still leaves the teams with no idea just what the long term looks like or what if any part they might play.
How 'bout an association of pro teams? There's no power going it alone but if 8 or 10 of the current Pro division were to act together ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

PSP Pro Division Dilemma

Mr. Curious tells me there's a veritable stampede of interest from both sides of the Atlantic in playing PSP Pro in 2013. If even half the teams making inquiries are serious it isn't gonna work. Heck, it doesn't work now. The two party crashers at Cup only managed it because it was possible to add an extra day to the schedule and unless PSP is contemplating 4-day Pro events moving forward there needs to be another solution. (4-day events for Pro only increases the costs for everybody, promoter and teams alike.)
Right now 12 teams works well within the framework of the current tournament structure. Mr. C says the league is kinda sorta maybe leaning toward 15 teams--in part because the party crashers are looking for permanent spots too. So what would it take to expand to 15 teams? An extra day works logistically. Does it work financially or schedule-wise? How many teams will have players that, over the season, can't take all those weekdays off? There can be only one feature field--the webcast already costs a small fortune and the feature field already fills the day's broadcast. Could some matches be moved to an alternate field? Say the D1 field? Sure, but that becomes dependant on how many D1 teams are competing. Or do you start bumping D1 matches for the bumped Pro matches? Using Pro refs or divisional refs? Without intending any disrespect to the divisional refs officiating a pro game is on another level. (And then there's the matter of where the rules applied diverge--and they do.) Does the league begin to train new Pro refs--and just how do that do that if those refs aren't on the Pro field? So far I'm not seeing any obvious answers.
Okay, beyond the mechanics of making a larger division work there are also the unknowns to consider. It's still only November and VFTD is running a poll on which pro teams won't survive to start the new season. A lot of things are up in the air including just how and where a fair bit of sponsorship is gonna fall. And until the teams know more they can't decide what comes next. And what about the teams clamoring to get in? What sort of commitment are they prepared to make? Anyone after a Pro spot has to commit to the whole year in advance, don't they? How do you make decisions to let anyone in before you know what will happen with the teams already there? I'm still not seeing any obvious answers.
What about suggestions the Pro division already has some have-nots among its rank? Is adding unproven teams a remedy or a risk of further diluting the quality of the competition? It's a tough call either way.

Of course this wouldn't be VFTD if all I had were questions so I'ma throw out a couple of ideas for how to handle this Pro division dilemma too. (Not saying--yet--it's the best possible outcome, just the first that came to mind that seems to be workable--and expandable.)
Start by locking the Pro division at 12 teams. That's right, 12. Now you don't need to worry about event logistics blah blah blah. The issue becomes how to handle the current interest in being part of the Pro division. In addition a locked league creates a limitation on access, a scarcity, something not available to everyone or anyone. Nor does it have to stay permanently at 12 but right now 12 works. Reintroduce the semi-pro division and lock it too. Maybe begin with 8 teams or even 10 if there is sufficient interest. And introduce promotion and relegation. In doing that the league would create a path to Pro status. That path would assure that the best teams achieved Pro spots and by locking both semi-pro and Pro you protect those teams--at least as best the league can--and encourage sponsors to support those teams as the only ones either already Pro or with the possibility of going Pro in the near term. That's the basis for a generic solution.

To respond to the situation as it exists right now here's what I'd do. Locked at 12 means the World Cup party crashers are on the waiting list. If any of the 2012 season long participants drops out, breaks up, self-relegates? then the open spot(s) are filled from the waiting list. World Cup records determine the order of their access. If nobody drops out they go to semi-pro. (Yes, I realize this risks antagonizing some sponsors now but once the rule is established it solves future procedural problems and one likes to imagine, despite evidence to the contrary, that paintball has a few rationale members within its industry who may not like that answer but understand it.) As to the teams that want in, make them prove their fitness and commitment to the longer haul. The league isn't about accommodating their whims, it's about being top to bottom the finest competitive paintball series period. I would also provide some path to the Pro division for TopGun Union not because I think they're ready but because in recent seasons the D1 series winner has come to expect that success brings that opportunity. If that means, at best, a spot on the waiting list that would be unfortunate but still necessary. Lastly depending on what the semi-pro division numbers were looking like I'd offer spots to the top finishers in D1 in order of their finishing position until I'd filled the new Semi-pro division.
It is admittedly less than perfect. Such a course would leave some peeps and teams unhappy for the time-being. It might even be unfair to one or two. And there is no telling how it will play in future seasons. After all the PSP has done the Semi-pro thing before--just not quite like this. Nor is this "solution" guaranteed to resolve every issue that might arise. What it does do is minimize Pro division changes today based on the whims of a few teams who may or may not be committed to the PSP. It also creates a more permanent process for gaining Pro status while also doing everything possible to assure the teams that become Pro are the best available and committed to the PSP.

The invoice with my consulting fee is in the mail.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Monday Poll

Back by popular demand! (That's a lie. Nobody cared one way or the other but fortunately what y'all think doesn't matter.) It's The Monday Poll!
Silly season is in full sway--and by silly season I mean the push at the end of the year for teams to make their best sponsorship deals while the getting is, if not so good for many, at least while something remains on the table. And with the Russkies jumping on the Valken/Sly bandwagon with such alacrity and Dynasty (less than a week removed from the ending of their deal with Empire) making the move to HK Army the action behind the scenes is (apparently) fast & furious. Interestingly there was nothing about paint mentioned in the Russian deal with Valken--despite persistent rumors Valken paint will be allowed at PSP events next season--and the fact a lot of deals recently have been tied to paint availability. And the fact that Dynasty made their move so quickly suggests they had been talking to potential sponsors and there may not have been a whole lotta love for the Boys in Blue that didn't have some unacceptable demands attached to it. With Dynasty locked in to HK's soft goods package and their Planet markers they've got some maneuvering room for goggles and loaders perhaps. Rumor has that while paint drove a lot of sponsorships last year and will likely continue to have outsized influence with many teams that there will be a bigger push this year for package deals now that GI is a player with soft goods, goggles and exclusive distribution rights on a high end tourney gun--but who knows?
What I do know is the sponsorship pie ain't as big and juicy as it once was and for a lot of folks it's gonna be first come first served. How much pie will your favorite team walk away with this silly season? And will get left out in the cold?

The Monday wants to know which pro teams you think won't make it to the beginning of next season. All the pro teams that competed in NPPL Vegas and PSP World Cup will be listed. You may pick as many teams from that list as you choose. Just remember, you are picking teams you don't think will survive this off season. Vote early, vote often. Get a head start on tomorrow's election with a vote that really counts.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pro Paintball: NPPL Rumor

While it's nice to see Pro Paintball (hopefully) making a comeback it would be nicer if that comeback featured accurate information. Or maybe it does and the problem is with the NPPL. Whatever, somebody doesn't know what's going on.
While one can (perhaps) reasonably debate the relative merits of various venues--and I'll get back to that in a minute--it's kinda important to get the few existing "facts" correct.
Fact is if the NPPL has contacted the Tampa Bay Sports Commission about once again using Raymond James grass parking lots for an event they are dealing with a powerless intermediary at best. You see it's the Tampa Sports Authority that manages Ray Jay and the surrounding city properties and any deal must be negotiated with the TSA. If the NPPL hasn't and the author is trying to enhance his speculation with factoids he simply doesn't know what he's talking about. Pick one.
As to the notion that somehow past and perhaps present (or future) NPPL venues are vastly superior and advance the game the brief history of the past decade begs to disagree. Where is the evidence that any venue--used by either league--has made any identifiable difference ever? Sure HB is a cool location and lots of peeps walk, bike, skate, surf past and so what? Is turf on sand a better playing surface that flat natural grass? What has a decade of HB events done that anyone can point to and say, competitive paintball is better because of HB!
What you can make a case for is that the locations of past NPPL events have generally been more appealing to the players. Even so it seems like most of those high appeal venues require game play compromises like carpet on asphalt. Maybe the real disconnect is in recognizing what's important and what isn't.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Along with the PBA making great strides in the live presentation of PSP Pro paintball this year they augmented that live presentation with player stats and a supporting website that is bringing a new level of insider info to fans and fellow paintball players.
The move to include stats as a way to both measure the pro players performances and create a way to talk about the players and the sport is a positive step forward.
But--there's room for some improvement and I want to start with the cleverly catchy 'winfluence' rating. At best it's a misleading stat as part of a player's ranking. On the other hand as an internal team assessment tool it's a potentially useful indicator.
Here's how it works: Winfluence is currently assigned a "weight" of 15% of the total player score. As a practical matter that means that the player with the highest calculated 'winfluence' receives a 15 and everyone else is some fraction thereof. Without debating the merits of the whole stats accumulation system (today) the larger issue is just what does 'winfluence' measure? It measures percentage of points won by individual players across a team. And as a result it rewards a wide divergence of ability on a single team. For example, the top 2 'winfluence' rated players play for the same team. The players win around 62% of the points they play in. Their team as a whole wins around 52% and the difference is what 'winfluence' is measuring. The next two highest 'winfluences' among players are also both on the same team but they win around 35% of the points they play in. In neither case is the rating one that measures actual success but only comparative success--and that comparison is only amongst teammates. As a consequence all 'winfluence' tells you is that team A or B has a wide variance of something (experience, talent, skills, etc.) on their roster. Conversely a number of players on the team that won the highest percentage of points played this past season have a minimal 'winfluence' rating or a zero. So as a practical matter all 'winfluence' did this past season is over-value some aspect of a player's play based on the deficiencies of his teammates. Removing 'winfluence' would reorder the player rankings dramatically.
Keep 'winfluence' as a comparative stat within each team but in terms of ranking players replace it with something more on point--maybe something like percentage of critical points played and/or won or lost. And by critical I mean decisive points; points where the team either wins, loses or could win or lose. Who performs in crunch time? Now that I want to know.

Friday, November 2, 2012

PSP Pro Bracket 2013

This is going to be interesting--not to say a serious complication in all likelihood for the league next season. The 14 teams at Cup carried the pro event over an extra day which extended the webcast by a day. It relied on a scheduling methodology that worked--excepting it produced an 8-way tie--that was resolved by rule--but was still less than ideal because none of the teams played in sub-brackets of identical opponents which means the tiebreakers are largely arbitrary. And the play of the games at Cup reminded everyone there are a couple of areas that need some work; improving layouts and the rules covering overtime for starters.
So re-write a rule or two. What's the big deal? Nobody knows right this minute who will or won't be in the pro bracket next year but rumor has it both Impact and XSV want (or need) to stay and then there's this season's D1 series and Cup winner T1 Topgun Union who is likely to be hoping for/expecting a seat at the table. From a bracketology perspective 15 teams is fine but only for purposes of creating useful prelim brackets. And then there's the deep background rumor of another well-funded international team interested in joining the PSP pro division.
Fifteen teams works for the prelim bracketing but it creates a logistical nightmare. With one pro field, one pro ref crew 15 teams means either 4 day events for the pros all the time or it might be possible to carry over some prelims to Sunday morning and pack the Sunday webcast schedule with pro matches only. The results would be some likely near back-to-backs along with the removal of the divisional finals from the webcast. More than 12 Pro teams means earlier set-up for the pro field. More crew for more days. An extra day paying and maintaining the refs. An extra day of the webcast and its costs?
There are teams now that jigger their flights to try an accommodate working/student players so they don't miss too much time from work or school. Adding an extra day to each event may make it impossible for all the teams to have their complete rosters present all the time. (One way to diminish the impact of unavailable players would be to expand rosters slightly; to say 12)
The layout fix isn't simple but a good start would be to eliminate the giant A and add a few more bunkers. Without the A a lot of new design possibilities open up--and a return to the old snake wouldn't hurt either.
In the case of OT make the overtime period an extension of the match, not a first point scored wins and make the overtime period long enough to encourage teams to play; perhaps 10 minutes. Alternatively maybe a shootout like soccer except each team takes their top five players in the order they choose to play one-on-ones. Two minute periods and if no one wins no point is scored. The team with the most points after the shootout wins the match.
Whatever happens it's going to be an interesting off season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


With the season over--and before the off season heats up--it's time for a bit of housekeeping. Rummaging through the links, adding and/or deleting new or outdated paintball links. Perhaps consider a bit of a face lift though I confess that sounds rather like work and I still like the minimalist look of VFTD. Over the next week or so (tops) keep on the lookout for small changes--or, who knows?--maybe a large one or two.

EDIT ADDED: check out the links list as new items have been added and some old ones removed. VFTD neither recommends or dismisses any of the listed links. Some are regulars for VFTD some are not. What they have in common is they are active sites aimed at promoting paintball. If you have a website you would like to see added drop me a note with the address and I'll have a look. I do not post links to overt members of the paintball industry.

EDIT ADDED, the Sequel: Among the added website links are a number of geek or techie oriented sites. If that's you why are you here? (j/k) (No, I'm not) Anyway, the ultimate paintball geek/insider is Simon Stevens over at Simonized and there's the forum M. Carter Brown which shades to the techie-Old Skool, Tech PB and the new Paintball Tech. If that's your bag you should already know about them. If you're just curious where's the harm in looking?

As far as posting goes I will continue the Basic Tactics posts--only two or three more to go anyway and will, of course, stay on top of the latest off season happenings. Besides that I will have available (any day now) an information sheet for anyone interested in a team clinic. (Keep in mind it is a two day process.) I am hoping to be able to schedule about a dozen clinics next season and with a practical limit to the number of teams that can participate at any one clinic there will be limited availability.

Also during the off season I will be posting on another pet project; the paintball club. It's not a new idea but I certainly think it's one the competitive community could use to greater effect in rebuilding the grassroots in the future

Look too for the next animated installment of Coach & Lil Baller. Got questions? Send them to Baca's Mailbag. (link on the sidebar)