The Change it had to come
The Russian Legion got the ball rolling by demonstrating what was possible with modern training methods and a full time schedule committed to playing paintball. Even though they weren’t winning everything in sight their example raised the bar on what it took to be a pro team and began pushing all the top teams and players–-as well as more than a few who aspired to that level–-to begin emulating the Russian Legion’s commitment as best they were able. The result has changed the baseline for what it takes to even contemplate competing at the Pro level. It has also changed the price tag. (A lot more about this aspect coming up later ‘cause when you get right down to it, it’s all about the money. And not in a good way.)
Coming into focus as well is what sort of infrastructure is required to put a team in position to prepare and train like professionals. Right now nobody does it quite like the Legion but more and more teams are attempting to implement Legion-like concepts and besides the facilities, the time and the basic resources there are also greater manpower and managerial demands placed on the teams. It isn’t enough to want to be more professional. The support pieces must be in place, too. As a result the list of basic necessities continues to grow as teams strive to remain competitive.
At, or around, the same time as the Legion Effect was beginning to take hold tourney ball saw a split in leagues and formats. This practically doubled everything from the teams’ point of view. Any attempt to be universally competitive now requires practice, training, preparation and time for competitions times two different leagues and games. The result has been that a significant number of Pro teams haven’t even made the attempt and are, in essence, staking their future on one format or the other. (Yes, there is some overlap as the basic skills remain the same and some cross-pollination exists as Xball continues to influence how all competitive paintball is played. So even if every factor isn’t literally doubled the impact remains large.)
Today’s Pro teams are in a state of transition foursquare on the path to professionalism if not real professional status. The price tag on professionalism is not for the faint of heart. And that is the crux of the problem. The demands on the Pro teams have never been greater and the expectations have never been higher yet most teams lack the means of the real professional. Meanwhile the standard model for support–sponsorship–hasn’t changed and primarily paintball industry sponsorship alone isn’t enough anymore. In fact, there are new pressures coming to bear that will probably decrease sponsorship dollars across the board.