Thursday, January 16, 2014

Recycled Pros

It has been my concern for some time that competitive paintball isn't breeding the same number of pro caliber players it once did. Most blame it on sideline coaching but the beginning of the decline pre-dates sideline coaching. (While sideline coaching hasn't helped it's a symptom not the problem.) Others blame it on the current dominant format and I understand why but I'm convinced it's less about the format than the way the majority of new players are taught to play the Race To format. (And, yes, other formats did put an emphasis on different aspects of playing the game. Some of which aren't particularly relevant any more.) What matters can still be taught however. It's just that the average competitive player's paintball education is incomplete--and I'm not drawing the line anywhere along the spectrum of player experience.

Partly as a consequence what we see today in the off season are established pros being recycled like NFL head coaches. Like NFL head coaches the pool of players with a track record of competitive pro level ability is small--and not really getting larger, certainly not at a noticeable rate anyway--so the established pros end up shuffling around between top tier teams instead of those teams developing new players or taking risks bringing in untested talent. (This isn't universally true but close enough to be readily apparent.) The only pool smaller than the pro player pool is the successful pro paintball coaches pool. (But I digress.) And, yes, while I'm at it, it's true some teams have tried developmental squads and players but the results haven't matched the expenditures so most no longer attempt it.

Today I'm wondering if the Champions bracket hasn't exacerbated the reliance on recycled pros. The ten teams that became the Champions bracket in Dallas last season lasted a single event. By rule two Champions teams are relegated each event. Four are at risk of relegation. Only five teams didn't face the risk of relegation all last season. Five teams. The pressure is enormous. To use another football analogy it used to be that new coaches had a window of time to implement their system and fill the roster with capable players. Four or five years wasn't uncommon. Now a new coach is lucky if he gets two years to turn losing franchises around. (With the frequent result that those teams stay mired in mediocrity while recycling the same guys over and over again.) Top tier pro paintball teams have always wanted to succeed. Everyone plays to win but the new formula doesn't allow for having a bad tournament much less a rebuilding season. Some team's reputations survive down times but once the top tier status is in question sponsorship goes elsewhere. The known commodity is the safe bet. Lose a player, replace him with another player of equal ability if possible. Avoid the relegation churn. If the deep pockets aren't deep enough, for whatever reason, it's gonna be hard to turn the inevitable slide around. And even if they are there is no guarantee the next batch of recycled pros will deliver the desired results.


Anonymous said...

How can any team develop talent over the long term when no team contracts players to play for them for longer than a year?

The best case scenario for a team that invests in new talent is they are right and the player enters the free market the next season at a much higher price.

When that's the best case scenario, there's no reason to try new talent.

Baca Loco said...

A) That's not correct, and B) there is no restriction on contracted terms. For example, the Heat's Russians originally signed for two years and played 2 years.

Dave Painter said...

So many places to go – where to start.

First a question – Has Sponsorship been reduced because teams didn’t perform? Or has sponsorship been reduced because the paintball industry hasn’t preformed? I can tell you that our sponsorship has stayed the same or gotten stronger every year and we’re not a top 4 team yet.

How to develop talent; work with the up and coming teams like VCK, Red Storm and 187 to bring new blood into the league. We (187) have 4-5 top tier players right now on our roster and we will continue to grow more local talent into professional players. I know our players are talented because the top teams in the league keep coming after them. Nick isn’t the only one that teams wanted to grab. You can’t get pro experience without playing pro. Our guys have grown leaps and bounds over the last two seasons. While the results don’t always show the progress we’re making the recruiting does.

How many rookies come into the NFL and make an impact – as a percentage of all players in the NFL. I have no statistics, but I imagine the number is fairly low. Players take time to develop. Heck, how many rookies come into the NFL and make opening day rosters? 10%? Less? Let’s go with 10% - that means if every pro team picked up one “Rookie” each year we’d be introducing the same amount of new talent into our ranks as Pro football and giving them a stable environment to grow in. Much better than fielding a complete team of rookies like the system current has us doing.

You make it sound so bad that “only five teams didn’t face the risk of relegation…” – we started with 10 teams in the Champions bracket after Dallas. The system calls for the bottom 4 to face the risk of relegation. That only leaves 6 teams left. Over the course of the next 3 events (Chicago, CA, Cup) only 1 additional team faced the risk of relegation. Based on the system in place for relegation that actually appears pretty stable to me.

Oh yeah….all Pro paintball teams want to succeed – not just the top tier ones.

NStoer said...

I think the main regions of paintball - California, Florida, and Texas - have done a fairly good job at breeding talent up to this point. There's now a ton of decent players in each area because of it.

However, if you're not located in one of these States, it's extremely tough. There's not enough of a professional player presence to learn off of, and the professional teams that are there have very little time to commit to breeding new talent since they're always traveling or having closed practices to stay competitive. Why add young potential talent that's out-of-state, may have to fly or make huge driving commitments, when you could just grab a recycled pro nearby?

This brings a question to mind - last year Damage picked up LP and Alex Young but still ended up signing Jason Wheeler for this season. Did being apart of the Damage camp, receiving good practice time but almost no tournament experience, hurt or help LP and Alex?

Baca Loco said...

Sponsorship declined based on the state of the industry.

Try a little experiment. Compare your top players with those on other Champions rosters. Do the other teams have more top players? Better top players? If you see only marginal differences in your estimation of comparative talent then that's not the team's problem area.
As to pro experience the only experience that matters is winning experience and the version of 187 that joined the pro ranks had that. Is the pro game played on a different level? Yes, but once in the mix players and teams either adjust or they don't.

New talent isn't the same thing as equivalent talent. The NFL takes the very best talent from a vastly larger pool of trained and talented players than does paintball.

My point was in comparison with the way things used to be done the demands are greater today with smaller margins for error.

Of course all teams want to succeed. The context of the whole post however was top tier teams.

Decent talent doesn't cut it.

Damage originally attempted to run a D1 feeder team but it was too expensive. The more cost effective alternative was to carry rostered players who worked in the system as plug and play or for unexpected circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Sponsorship declined because team performance declined, but the deck was stacked.

Note that for purposes of sponsorship, team performance is entirely ability to increase sales of the sponsor's product.

The deck is stacked in the sense that margins and volume, especially on guns, has plummeted since the mid-2000's. It's a lot easier to justify sponsor dollars to promote the sales of tens of thousands of $500 plus margin guns a year than it is thousands of dollars of $150-margin guns.

Anonymous said...

Key word being increase sales. Most mfgs don't get this. Little return for Kee to keep sponsoring Dynasty with big bucks, but if HK ever gets the KLR out it makes sense for them.

Best way for a team to justify big dollars is to go to a company with a new product. Also means that a stable group of industry companies will reduce sponsorship for the teams. When you have X% market share, you're not going to see much change by sponsorship. But when you're an entrant the sky is the limit and teams can stand to benefit.