Sunday, November 30, 2014

You Will Never Play Professional Paintball

I've stolen this post title (nicely provocative, just the way I like them!) from an item posted at PBN by Grayson Goff of X-Factor (and BKi.) I encourage you to read Grayson's OP here. [Disclaimer: Grayson is both a friend and former player of mine as are all the X-Factor kids.] G's post is one reason I post here and not at PBN. While it has generated 10 pages of comments lots of them have little or nothing to do with the topic presented. While I encourage comments here I also know they will be a cut well above the PBN norm.
If you were the lazy slacker you usually are and didn't bother reading G's post the upshot is that the dividing line between pro level play and not pro level play is the mental toughness, determination and drive of the players and that the current generation shows a decided inclination to be *ahem* soft. And further Grayson's answer is to drive those showing any inclination to be the best with a combination of positive and negative reinforcement--though the article focuses on the negative.
While it's easy to get hung up on what form that negative reinforcement takes the real issue is how best to drive players to reach their potential. And make no mistake most players of any era or generation require some outside influence or motivation to maximize their ability whatever the game or sport may be. Is an unrelenting barrage of negativity the best option? Probably not but does it have a place in the process? For many perhaps even most there is a time and place for negative reinforcement. It's not all the time or in an absence of occasional positive reinforcement but nothing but pats on the head and "good job" will never get the most out of most players.
The other contentious point challenged the dedication and drive of the players of today. And not a minute too soon. If I hadn't made the same claims myself in the past I'd second Grayson's claim without hesitation. That doesn't mean there aren't some dedicated driven up-and-coming young players but again the issue raised was the next generation of pro players. And the reality is there have been individuals making the move (rarely) but the current generation has been passed by. The great majority of today's pro players whether they are Challengers or Champions are in their mid to late twenties and there is no wave of late teen phenoms pushing to take their places. The reason isn't a lack of technical skills. It is in part a developmental failure based on how most teams and players currently train but it is also a failure to bring to the table the requisite intangibles. (A case might be made that the pool of potential or future pro players has shrunken too making it more difficult to replace the current crop of aging players.)
There may be reasons. There are always obstacles to be overcome and hardships to be endured but there are no excuses.


Grayson Goff said...

Thanks Paul. I definitely took a risk posting on PBNation. I'm following the Eminem style of promotion. Any press is good press.

ca$$money said...

I liked Grayson's post on PBN quite a bit and growing up playing paintball in the era of that Avalanche photo really made it all ring even truer. I remember going to practice Bob's Ironmen and getting pummeled to the ground, all the while getting yelled at, pulled out, and over shot. But it hardened everyone on the team and inevitably earned us a lot more respect when we came back and won a game or two. And I remembered those practices and those welts all the time while playing and come tournament time, we made people pay. It was the mantra back then. If you ran through, you better believe you were getting lit the f*ck up.
Today's players have definitely become softer. But not all. I would Ironmen consistently show they can pick up new talent and mold them into strong players and the fact they initiate every single one with 100's of rounds to the body only goes to show that bit of toughness still lingers, even today. Look at someone like Brandon Cornell and tell me that kid aint tough.
Paintball has definitely lost some of it's toughness. That extreme-sports-ness that it used to have. Most paintball players today want to be the Tony Hawk's of paintball and not the Tony Alva's or Jay Adam's. Too much fluff now.

Anonymous said...

I think the early poster on PBN had it right; our society has changed rather dramatically and now everyone gets a trophy, even if you suck! The result is a bunch of pansies who can't take constructive criticism (isn't that what you call it when you say "dude, you suck") and quit at the first sign of challenge.

Cornell is tough enough; it is just that he is the exception to the rule. IMHO, the real challenge for pro paintball is the change in society, and the difficulty in finding the Cornell's that are out there among a bunch of freaking sheep.

Anonymous said...

It is a bit sad that for some reason this current crop of pros will be on one hand the most remembered because we have the PBA stats and on the other the most forgettable because when we think of the best pros we go back in time to lanche and shock.

But it's not cause those guys were dicks but I'd suggest scarcity had something to do with it. 5 events and 8-12 games and event. Now the pros play as many games (points) in an event as the pro teams played in a year.

An epic 20 minute game back in the day was just as memorable as an epic 1minute one. Now we get bored at the Long points and quickly forget to memory the fast ones.

It's got nothing to do with attitude but the nature of the game

Reiner Schafer said...

I've always wondered if a generation growing up on first person shooter video games doesn't mentally quite relate to the concept of getting "killed"...always another life waiting in the wings to enable another try at the crown.

Old-in-402 said...

Delusional. That is the state of mind you need to be mentally tough in today's game. Frankly, if your able to mentally commit to going pro, and will do whatever is necessary than your delusional, in an unhealthy manner. Unless your born into paintball's aristocracy, or come from a family with extremely disposable income than to make the sacrifices to go pro require an unhealthy commitment and sacrifice in every other part of your life. This relates to the "pool" you mentioned.

The lower-class is expanding, the middle-class is almost non-existent. A kid, aged 14-16, from either the lower or middle class has only a slight chance at being able to make the commitment at the pro-level. But, why would they even want to? The less means available to a player results in more sacrifices they have to make.

What is the reward for the toughness and the sacrifice? Am I going to be the champion, or simply the biggest turd left on shit mountain? Can I redeem my D2 PSP trophy for an education I couldn't afford while playing paintball, or to mend my broken relationship, or to buy a friend who isn't in the game, or to fix my car? I think its obvious the number of new players has been on a significant decline for the last 6-7 years. Along with the player base I think everyone can steadily see a decline in the investment from the industry (I use this term in a very broad sense, from local fields to distributors, to retailers, up to manufacturers, so don't just say PBAccess without thinking about everything else).

Is the thrill of victory simply enough to keep investing? No. If that were such a blanket applicable principal then why do we not all enter the spaceX race? The possibility of victory has to be feasible right? Paintball is steadily creeping into a realm where it is no longer worth trumping the rest of your life because the possibility of success or victory is unfeasible. For those that need a little more than simply victory as motivation they're out of luck in this game. There are no endorsements like we hoped. There's no market or financing to open a field anywhere or support a line of soft goods.

The pool of potential players left has significantly shrunk and for good reason. Unless your part of the upper-crust, your delusional to think the reward is worth the sacrifice.

Patrick Smith said...

Old in 402 hit it on the head. At one time(AKA Lanche era) there was a HUGE incentive to climb. An up and coming D2ish team could actually pay their bills from winnings. That's how many of the next generation(Dynarats, Strange, Doc's, Trauma) got through the doldrums of middle divisions without going broke.

Now even bottom rung pros are looking at overall losses. Who is the last pro you saw transition from player to income wielding retired pro? What kind of a message does it send to up and comers if one of the most appealing and well organized programs of the current generation(Vicious) walks away?

There is no incentive to be 'mentally tough' in this sport, much less put up with the level of macho harassment bullshit that has alienated both players and investors.

You want 'tough' players in the pro ranks? Change the pro paradigm. Teach local field owners to make effective business decisions and drive their revenues. Organize effective farm systems that are inclusive and yet rigorous enough to hone latent talent. Build the base methodically and sustainably.

This sport is rotting from the bottom up and yet most would rather debate the intricacies of minutia at the top then get their hands dirty making effective improvements to the bottom.

Until that changes in a big way, the sport will be effectively dying. Ya'll just don't seem to acknowledge that yet.

Baca Loco said...

Feel better after getting that off your chest? Usually you have something to say that's on topic. Who, btw, are the paintball aristocracy? Just curious.

Mr. Smith
Just a couple of questions since you seem to have answers. What constitutes effective business decisions for field owners? Many of the most successful field owners preach avoiding having anything to do with tournament paintball or players. Also, any hints on who is going to organize these farm systems and who is going to pay for it? Also, what is an inclusive farm system?
Oh, btw, welcome to VFTD. You're obviously not a regular reader.

Mark said...

Not seeing it posted here nor did I wish to scan 11+ pages of PbN drivel, but how about the fact that divisional teams no longer draw a game or 2 against a pro team in the prelims like in the days of yore Grayson reminisces of?

Sure, today it would most likely be a laugher of a match, but I bring this up only because the practice wasn't continued to the present day.

Without any on-field interaction with pro teams (especially in a real game), any negative reinforcement towards todays' wanna-be's would surely appear to be dick-ish.

Case in point: My teams' 2nd ever pro draw in 10-man (as AmB, roughly equal to today's D2) was vs. Aftershock whom, after destroying our front an mid players, impaled themselves on our excellent back-line. Taking them down to a 4 on 3 we began to feel confident that we could make something of these odds. That was until a certain 'Shock player (and current coach) ran forward into our guns and did an Andy Dufresne into a gross-ass puddle of putrid water they had on those SC Village hyperball fields, and came out clean on the other side. We were so fixated on him and his ability to instantly wash off all of our hits that our yelling to the refs diverted out attention from the remaining 3 players who finished us off, and with extreme brutality I may add.
Oh, it's like THAT huh?!?!?!
Our "Shock-shank redemption" came two events later when we flat out beat them in Alantic City 2001.

I really don't see how, the way today's game is played and the current vast disparity of team talent, can we ever return to these days. Nor how without it can we see the interaction Grayson refers to having the effect it once did.

Old-in-402 said...

Baca, I thought I did stay relatively on topic. I agree "pats on the head" and a "good job" won't be enough for players, and that is why I began to discuss the deteriorating outside incentives. I guess, I read Grayson's post regrading toughness to be more than simply "15 welts", but also the mental fortitude to tell your mother "I can't go to graduation, I have practice." I was making a comment on the disconnect between Grayson's developmental stage and the status quo.

The overshooting, the welts, the pain, the bad attitudes, that was easy to deal with. That is temporary and easy to put aside when success meant landing a job at a pro shop making just above poverty line to travel, sell some free gear along the way, and play for free, all at the D1-2 level. It's the missed graduations, the abandoned extra curiculars, the sacrificed relationships, the shitty roommates you bring aboard to cover rent, the jobs you turn down in order to travel that require the true toughness. It's being able to look back at all that is sacrificed and still smile that requires true toughness if what you reached for was valuable, but its delusion if that reward is trivial.

So, if there is no pot o'gold at the end of the rainbow, why chase it? I think Smith made a good point with the bottom rotting out. To back that up I would point to the D3 and D4 local tournaments. There is no legitimate prize packages there anymore. The majority of local tournaments act as fundraisers for the hosting team. Show some new kid how he and his buddies can get more than there money back for coming in 3rd out of 8 in a D4 and now you've enticed him to put up with the bullshit.

I understand that Goff's article was more of a comment on the new political correctness of paintball. For the most part I agree with him. I understood the only way I was going to get respect was to work hard enough to find myself in a position to throw those bonus balls right back. And, I love to bonus ball. But, you pivoted this argument into a bigger question of why no more talent is going pro, and to correctly answer that the logistics of motivation can't be ignored.

Baca Loco said...

Fair enough but I still see the distinction as being about how one is most likely to make the grade versus why would one even choose to attempt it given present realities? Which in my mind are two different things.
I'm also inclined to think if one's only metric for value is a monetary payoff one is likely to miss out on a lot of what life has to offer.

Playing pro teams and mixing divisions in the prelims was a grossly unfair way to determine which teams moved on and was a practice that needed to end. And no divisional team ever learned anything by taking a whooping. They only learned in the process what their deficiencies were and only if they were capable of a reasonably dispassionate self-evaluation. After that it was still on them to figure out to correct those deficiencies. Still a good story. :)

NewPro said...

The NHL doesn't permit AHL teams to jump in at any moment and play the Pros. How can you attempt to build a legitimate top echelon when any odd group could jump in and play them. Lets be honest, it was more bragging rights for an AM team to go home and say"we played them close for the first 60 seconds, then we got a bad call and we crashed and burned".

Call it a generational thing, a commitment thing, whatever you want to blame it on but today's current crop doesn't want it, especially at the lower levels. "I bought a $1500.00 gun, i don't need to learn how to one ball, i can shoot 15BPS brap.

I hate using broad sweeping identifiers but sorry, its like this with everything, PB, work environment, the switch from kids outside playing to indoors playing and lets not forget the "everybody wins" mentality of the Y2K+.
Graysons post goes so much further than the pos and cons of negative reinforcement and by the amount of resulting butthurt, most on the receiving end of negative reinforcement didn't take it for what it was. they picked up their $5000 worth of gear and headed to the rec-ball field, where they were the best.

MissyQ said...

I prefer the guys that spend $5G to play rec-ball to the kids who have to sacrifice everything they have to travel around and play tournaments.
The tournament kid is broke, and as romantic as his story may sound to like-minded individuals, he's not contributing, he's a burden. Someone else is going to have to foot at least a part of his bill, because that's how he's going to judge success - by how much of his tab he can get someone else to pay for him. Sounds unkind I know, but that doesn't make it less true once you remove the emotional elements.
The $5g guy is heading to the field, he may even shoot a bunch of people, and some of those people are going to go out and buy a rig just like his, so that they don't get out-gunned next time, or so they can have their turn as the 'guy with the fancy machinegun'. $5G guy contributes, and his goal is to spend more money to get himself better and cooler gear. Tournament kids' goal is not only to pay nothing to play, but also to make money at the same time.
Given the disparity in comparative contributions, why does the $5g guy get 'looked down at', while we earnestly struggle to find ways for the tournament kid to realize his dreams and make money playing paintball? To me, it's all upside down.

Baca Loco said...

Because VFTD's point of reference is the competitive player and the bulk of the readership is players.

Also, anyone spending money to play paintball isn't making a "contribution." PB Industry may at times seem like a needy charity but it isn't.

Anonymous said...

The game has changed. The dream is gone, and the money just doesn't flow into the sport from the ground level like it did back during the time periods referenced by Grayson.

The promise of a bright future of paid professionals has evaporated into a puddle of gooey paint - that stuff you find along the edges of the field. It stinks and makes you gag on a hot, summer afternoon.

MissyQ said...

The tournament community does not exist in a bubble outside of real-life, although naturally VFTD can choose to. for the PB industry, money still makes it turn. When people talk about prize monies/prize packages, sponsorships etc, that's likely all coming from the industry in one way or another. Money made from the $5g guy to give to the broke kid with the dream of playing for free.

So who's the real charity case?

Is it the evil Paintball Industry, or is it the nice folks that play Pro Paintball but don't want to pay for it?

Baca Loco said...

Now now Missy
No fair moving the goalpost. You are welcome to your opinion but not welcome to make mine up for me as it's convenient.
On a blog about playing competitive paintball do you really expect paeans to the industry? Nor has this blog ever ignored reality or dissed rec players or any of that other nonsense.
And you remain the one who used "contribute" to reference a customer purchasing paintball gear. Nor has VFTD ever claimed any player pro or otherwise is owed anything by anybody.

MQ said...

Sorry Loco, I hadn't realized I was being contentious. I certainly wouldn't attempt to state your opinion for you, etc. Must be a misunderstanding/language barrier, that sort of thing....

As for the 2xtrigger-word - 'contribute':

Teams used to buy equipment and pay for things, then they would progress through the ranks until they were hopefully worthy of sponsorship. They 'contributed' to the pot for years before they took from it (the 'pot' being the finite pile of money that represents the Paintball Industry). Perhaps it's my choice of words, but I'm not sure why this is so offensive, or requires so many VFTD disclaimers. I'm just a fan of your blog like everyone else, putting across a POV that I felt balanced the one before me.

Baca Loco said...

Fair enough Missy
I didn't connect your comments to NewPro's until now. I may have read them out of order so I took your remarks as directed at the OP.
Now I see what you're saying but I'm still struggling with contribute.
The pot only exists because the industry believes there is some value to be had--not because teams have "contributed" to it for x nos. of years. I just think that's a confusing (and inaccurate) way of defining the relationship between industry and sponsored teams.
Carry on. :)

Anonymous said...

Newpro I saw many upsets back in the day when pros played ams. Huge upsets because the ams had nothing to lose and the pros were under pressure to win as many games as possible.

Remember the first especially where turtles knocked out Ironmen? That's just one example, but there were plenty of upsets where pro teams missed the cut because of a balls to the wall am team pulling off something incredible. Was it all the time? Of course not, but it happened and definitely developed the base.

MikeM said...

Grayson Goff's statement appears to be, The paintball culture (influenced by the PC culture at large) has failed to develop players with the proper mental toughness to compete at the Pro level.

Here's the problem with that statement. Paintball has already developed these players.

The current Pro system instead of being the closed loop that it's been since maybe a team could buy an NXL spot (I'm thinking Ultimate)? Is now an open door with the Promotion and Relegation system. Infuriating so many "OG" Pros.

As a viewer, I don't care about the Pro team that got 9th and wants to play the team that got 1st in the Challenger's division. You had your crack, I want to see how far apart these teams really are. That's the entertainment. We've learned, simply, they ain't. Perhaps never were.

Revo beat X-Factor. They competed intensely again in the same tournament. Revo relegated Houston Heat, the OG pros, at Cup. VcK beat Art Chaos in Chicago. 187 crew has relegated how many teams now? Vicious never got relegated this season. Ironmen is made up almost entirely of Royalty players. Not sure if Royalty was originally built as an Ironmen farm team, but it's probably the only one I've ever seen work. Why is no one else trying to create their own Iron Kids (aka DYNASTY)?

Pro paintball franchises are lazy. They splash money at current or seasoned Pros. They don't develop players with farm teams or even scout for players. They just hold up a sign that says "Tryouts" and hope the best show up. Sure there was Entourage or X-Factor II but how many of these were sustained as farm teams?

It's like watching MMA/UFC now. I miss the personality of the Pride era fighters versus the just athletes of now. Think Rampage Jackson or Don Frye vs Chris Weidman. But I don't try to pretend the new guys aren't better at their craft and doing what it takes to win.

I agree. Mental toughness on an individual basis is really important in being competitive. As a person responsible for developing these players at the divisional level I am also astounded at times by the lack of physical and mental toughness of many, but definitely not all, of the up and coming players.

However, there are other variables in the formula. I believe discipline, rational self-evaluation, and team-play are more important than being able to take a beating. I consciously don't pound them into the ground because I want them to also be unemotional, intelligent, and willing to make mistakes in practice. You drop the hammer on your opponents, not your teammates. You perfect your craft and win, or you take a seat. That's the negative consequence.

Konstantin Federov is a player long ridiculed by other Pros for his lack of toughness with overshooting. Yet, he's still stealing paintball tournaments away from how many teams for how many years? Perhaps it's all the other parts of the formula in building a killer paintball player.

MikeM said...

A Grayson Goff comment on PBN:

"What some of you guys forget is that I have been in and will still be in the process of scouting new talent for X-factor. I see the ALL the players coming up because I'm out at a paintball field almost every weekend and love to watch the game. Doesn't matter if it's recball or two higher divisional team scrimaging, I'm watching, studying, analyzing, and looking for the next great kid to give a shot to. Over the course of my 8 years pro, I've seen very few who had the mental tenacity to hang at our level. That **** you attitude it takes to compete at the top level.

Trevor Resar was a perfect example. Kid drove all the way down from Oklahoma to tryout for X-factor in 2010 (aka the Dark Ages of X-factor) and I knew only after watching him play a few games he would be an incredible player. He had that hunger and desire no one else had that day. Demetri Ninios was at that tryout too. He played some good ****ing paintball that day, but wasn't quite ready. Fast forward a few years, Now he's one of my teammates and will etch his name into this game like I have.

You're correct in that turning a team pro is a lot tougher. You need to have someone there to foot the bills but this wasn't directed at a team. It was directed to individual players that can become great if there's no such opportunity to make that jump as a team (IE Trevor and Demetri)."

Baca Loco said...

First comments first. Winning a match isn't winning an event or even having that opportunity. As soon as recent Challengers start competing for wins then you may have a case. Until then random wins over "better" teams is just that and no more.

The recent history--last decade--of the pro game is littered with efforts by established pro teams to develop farm systems and/or teams and home grow players but they all failed more or less because a) it wasn't paying off and b) it's damned expensive and the majority don't have the resources or time to make that effort work.

Finally if you review the ages of the players across the pro team spectrum you will discover that whether or not they are Champs or Challengers the great majority all fall into a common age grouping. And that means the current up-and-coming generation is underrepresented and part of the reason why is what Grayson is speaking to in his post.

MikeM said...

Not getting top 2 in an event is pretty harsh coach!

Premiere League and Champions League soccer players peak at the same age grouping. 24-30, peaking at age 27. This could be the same for paintball. The same age many of those Avalanche guys were in the early 2000s.

I will review the history. I am quite intrigued as to why these farm teams broke down.

Ironically, I agree with much by the OP and have felt exactly what he's talking about on a number of occasions. After losing a tournament isn't the only time players should feel like hell and hate losing. That level of fight and competition has to be there in practice. "Why has no one taken my spot yet?!" haha. Negative reinforcement absolutely has a place in making that happen. Especially for certain personality types as you've mentioned.

Baca Loco said...

I meant making the semis on Sunday. Top 4 teams is 40% of the Champions each event. Not just the finalists.

Could be but what age were the current pros when they first made a pro roster? (Hint: it wasn't 24-30)

There is another issue and that's learning how to win. Back in the day teams moved up on their own and mostly did it after they started winning where they were. The present system moves players up the ladder of divisions without most ever winning anything--at least at the PSP level.

Nick Slowiak said...

I'd like to know why Old-in-402 is so negative? Extremely delusional, jeeze, thanks man. What, you cannot apply this to every other main stream sport because they can make millions of dollars if they make it to the pro level? How many athletes try to go pro in every other major sport and do not make it? How much did they sacrifice? How do you gauge the cost of someone trying to be the best in a sport, a sport that they love?

You're saying that while someone works their way through the paintball ranks they do not learn anything along the way or gain life skills/lessons, friendships, bonds. experiences that they can somehow apply further down the road in life?

Your post made me a little sick.

Some of us made choices to do this, to climb our way to the top, to make sacrifices, to strive to be the best, and why did we do all of it?

I know why I have.


You prefer the kid who spends $5,000 to a kid who plays tournament paintball? How much does the tournament kid spend to play paintball? Over what period of time are we basing these spending numbers on? How did we get a 5K figure for the rec player?

You say that tournament players are broke. I'm not sure what sense of the word broke you mean, they still seem to get out and play paintball. Yet if you don't play tournaments you have 5K to spend, you think the average rec player didn't get help to start playing? To start buying equipment, paint, get rides to the field, upgrade to the latest gun...that he/she probably saw a tournament player using and that is what lead them to spend more money...

People, rec players - new players, see tournament players using the best, flashiest, most expensive equipment, which is who most if not all of that gear is made for. Young tournament players are the ones who keep upgrading constantly to look "cooler" and to have the best gear to keep up with the players in they are competing with. Yes this is also easily the case for almost every level of play, but it is an absolute must for tournament players, period.
I'm not sure how you're looked down on or where that even fits into the equation. I cannot for the life of me figure out why everyone keeps going back to making money at the pro level. Jeeze ask any kid working his way up to become a pro and see how many answer, "To make money." Who is delusional now?


The one thing I'd like to point out is how much, and Grayson is a huge part in this, each pro team, and most if not all pro players, are immersed in younger, up and coming players. We want to see people make it like we did, we want there to be a future for the sport.
You do not need a farm system for this and if anything it has proven to have less then desirable effects. We started one when we had the first combine at Badlandz for Aftershock in 08/09. We had 120 players come out, way more then we could handle. What did we do. Made as many teams as we could with as many players as possible. Why did it after a few years fail...lots of reasons, mostly, IMO, lack of structure and discipline.

I am writing this very stream of conscious and have not gone back to look at most of what I have typed, just felt like I had to say something.

MQ said...

Nick, you've asked me some questions, but to be honest the answers are already in the thread. Just read it all, and you will see. Seems like you scanned until you found something you didn't like reading, and then didn't consider context when crafting your knee-jerk response.
Easily done.

Nick Slowiak said...

I've read every word. Thanks for answering my questions MQ, full of context. The things I didn't like reading I addressed and I guess am still waiting on the answers too.