Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Winds of Change

I'm feeling vaguely philosophic. Tomorrow is set-up for Riverside--at least our small portion of the set-up. Burt and the boys have been here for days already. And I'm genuinely looking forward to this event as it should prove to be an all day every day war across the divisions. At the same time I've been wondering lately where competitive paintball is headed. And what, if anything can be done about it or are we all simply along for the ride?
10 years ago the world was paintball's future oyster and all was going according to plan--or so it seemed to many. Competitive paintball was becoming a sport. For my part it was a change I fully supported. Much of the change was driven by innovations, advancing technology and yes, the mainstream promises TV seemed to offer. Today we play a game focused on a demographic that can't afford it in an ever worsening economic environment. Now there's no point in making pronouncements with the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight or even wishing some things were different. Looking back does however offer us an opportunity to consider the future in light of the past.
Look, everything's fine. There are always a few bumps in any road. That certainly sounds good to me--and may even be true. But even if it is the game will continue to evolve; to change. There have been big changes and a little tinkering around the margins. The agents of change have been many. There are almost as many reasons given as there have been changes made. What if a time of austerity is coming for competitive paintball? None of the players in our game are too big to fail and the would-be international federation isn't going to step in an bail us out. And such difficult circumstances would almost certainly precipitate new changes, wouldn't they? Or should the plan be to ride out any tough times and wait to grow again when good times return? Or should the game be changed now to deflect an expected future reality? Or is that simply foolishness masquerading as planning ahead?
But before answering any of those questions best decide what kind of future you envision for the sport. Is it destined to remain on the fringes? Or is there a way to make it more accessible to a larger audience? (With or without losing what we already have achieved?) Does that even matter? Is it more important to preserve the existing game in some fashion--or preserve a game that can carry the sport forward? And how does anyone know?


Michael Brozak said...

Wow Paul! very interesting post. I wonder this every time I head to coach a practice or when I ask for a head count of who will attend, so that I can determine what drills we will run and how much paint we will need. I get little if any responses from players. Most say they don't have the money to attend practice. All this to our team equates to less practice = less prepared = less chance to be competitive at a tournament which lessens the motivation to keep going. This isn't a "do I have the heart" problem, its strictly financial.

There has to be something coming that will help paintball spread to the masses. Sounds to me like we need some sort of counsel, committee, or roundtable that can research ideas (regardless of how crazy they may sound at first) to address the growth issue. Thing is, I believe that it has to be made up of a mix of the "real" people (the little guys so to speak) and industry reps. Not just industry guys that only care about profit margins. Survey the guys at the local and regional levels and determine where their struggles lie.

I believe that there are some key issues that need to be addressed in order to grow our sport, but the most glaring and the one that most fall back to when asked (at least in my area)is the cost. pure and simple.

Why do players feel the pressure to have a $1500.00 gun? In order to be competitive? I even find myself telling new parents that the low end guns that their kids have wont allow them to keep up with the other players. its discouraging, but I don't want them going in with a disadvantage to start.

What's required to play competitive paintball? Guns, Masks, a field (with bunkers and air) and of course the paint.

Sorry for the rant...

Reiner Schafer said...

Anyone thinking competitive paintball will recover alongside the economy "recovering" better have a really good plan B, as there is no guarantee that the economy will every truly "recover". What we have now is probably much closer to the new reality than many would like to believe, and the hay days may never return. Things could in fact get worse instead of better. So yes, affordability will continue to be the #1 factor in how popular competitive paintball becomes.

Anonymous said...

Reiner hit the nail on the head. The "good times" are over or will be for such an extent that waiting for them will be suicidal. Competitive paintball in its current incarnation will have some serious questions to answer in the near future for its survival. Paintball, however, will be just fine.

Competitive paintball will need to decide whether it wants to go mainstream or maintain the status quo. We are definitely the minority in finding the current form entertaining in its broadcast. A serious market research and, likely, format change will be necessary. I predict the fear of the unknown will outweigh the potential benefits and not much will change until it's forced to change.

I look at competitive paintball and realize that I have neither the time, finances, or youth to participate. Hitting up the recball field with my mates on the weekend with a bag of paint and some beers? I'm there. When I was a kid my mom flat out told me that we couldn't afford me playing hockey or football because the cost was just too high. That didn't stop me from playing shinny on the local pond or flag football at recess. I view competitive paintball much the same. It can do as it pleases--I'll be playing paintball and having fun no matter what it's doing.

Rereading that, hopefully it didn't come off as too Kumbaya. Eh, either way, best of luck at the WCO and looking forward to the next article.

ScotchMonster said...

Your title is a nice segue for today-the first day of WCO-any updates as a coach for all the teams?

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy to solve this problem of yours for $135,000 a year.

Anonymous said...

The "500 FPS Club" showcases the fastest speeds in action sports Today- 300 yards of brutal, "Big Ball" shootin' mayhem against the back drop of KISS and "Hot For Teacher". 30 men go in- ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE!

Anonymous said...

The FPS 500 Club* sounds better.

Baca Loco said...

Everybody knows 'Hot for Teacher' is Van Halen.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea. :dodgy: