Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to save Tournament Paintball

I know this is going to be met with controversy, but that's what puts butts in the seats and gets the dialog going.

I have a radical idea for how to increase the numbers of attending teams and players for national and local tournament circuits and in turn infuse our industry with much needed cheddar.

Pay the Pro's. Pay them a decent, living wage, for now. Pay them as well as possible and keep paying them more as you can.

Right now, the carrot dangling from the end of the stick for moving yourself up the ranks and working hard to improve your game to one day finally make a pro team is wilted, dried, and mangy. What is there to motivate the young, up and coming players? Sure, you can point to all manner of intangibles like Glory, Friendship, Achievement. Some even try to re-introduce the idea of "fun" being a motivator to participate and compete. But you know what? That only works for a few. Those few who are already motivated beyond earthly reward. There will always be those in the sport who compete for the sake of competition. Improve themselves for the sake of being "the best." Sacrifice all in their lives to stand tallest on that podium.

But as you can tell from looking around, those few are just that: FEW. And far between. You can't build an industry off of a few crazy people. You need to fill in the gaps with all those normal people who want to stand amongst the crazies. For every Michael Jordan, who would be killing himself to be the best no matter what you pay him, you need 11 other jagoffs who are there for the paycheck and the chance to play with a monster like Jordan. And I'm not saying none of those other Bulls players weren't there to win and feel the glory and all that... but how many of them would be there if they weren't making a living doing it? How many kids would be buying their shoes and trying to some day be one of them if there wasn't a financial reward for all of that hard work?

I'm not so stupid as to think that Oliver Lang should get a multi-million dollar contract. But if I were a kid and looked up to Oliver and wanted to be him one day, I shouldn't have to choose between being able to feed myself AT ALL and playing Pro one day. And you know what, if that choice wasn't there... if there was a reasonable expectation of being able to pay my bills, then the D3's and D2's and D1's would be chock full of hopefulls working their way to the top.

Would all of them make it? No. Would all of them expect to make it? No. But they'd shell out the dough for the chance. Just like all of those amateurs in the mainstreams sports. And how much better is Chuck's and Lane's weekends when their lower divisions are all full and their tournaments are hopping?

Where do we get the money to pay our Pro's? Damned if I know. That's your problem to figure out, not mine. I'm the idea guy.


mick said...

"Pard me while I take a swing at this wasp nest.

You want controversy? I can go you one better. Why does tournament ball need to be saved at all? Tournament ball has done nothing for me as a field owner or for my players. For every reason someone might have for tournament ball helping paintball I can give one for tournament ball hurting paintball. Maybe two. We all know the debate(s).

The players who come to my field and pay my bills don't know who Lang or Cuba or Vegas is and they don't care who they are. Potential players who do know who they are, because they saw them on some obscure sports special, have a distorted view of the game and will never try it or let their kids try it - or their church group, birthday party, sports/scout group, etc. (And the players who want to come to my field and try to be a pro - I encourage them to stay away.)

To use current news as an analogy - You want to bailout AIG (tourney ball) with my tax money (sponsor money the industry should use to bolster grass roots paintball). That dog won't hunt.

Passion for the sport? You bet.

I'm just saying.

Reiner Schafer said...

There is only one possible source for that money and tat would be from the people that feel they can benefit from having pros on pedestals, manufacturers. The amount they can pay is determined by simple economics. The benefits (returns) have to outweigh the outlay. That's been going on for many years already in the forms of sponsorships. Apparently the manufacturers have figured out that the returns suck, so sponsorships are drying up. Paying pros in paintball is just not going to happen in any meaningful way.

You want to save tournament paintball (or any other kind of paintball)? Make it fun so that the new participant that tries it doesn't leave pissed off at the tend of the day instead of having the best time of his life. That first time player will not be around long enough to ever find out about Ollie or anyone else.

Don Saavedra said...

If you want to save tournament paintball by making it fun, remove first place through last place, give everybody a trophy, and take the teams out for ice cream afterwards.

Reiner Schafer said...

If you are dealing with children, that might work, but I have a feeling most teens and grwn-ups are looking for a different kind of fun.

Notice I said "or any other kind of paintball" in brackets. There is a reason I did that. That's because the root of tournament paintball problems are deeper than tournament paintball itself (not that it doesn't have problems unto itself, I totally understand that it does). The deep rooted problem however is numbers. They are dwindling. If tournament paintball were still growing, we would not be having this conversation.

The problem is when that nerdy, 12 year old kid comes to the field, hates what he expereinces and dosen't want to come cack, never giving him a chance to grow up and idolize Ollie and the gang along the way. The number of players entering the game and playing on a regular basis is lower than the number of players leaving and retiring. Until we do something to reverse that elementary problem, numbers will keep dwindling in ALL paintball and we can argue about the problems with tournament paintball until we are blue in the face. It won't change a thing.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

I made a comment on Pro Paintball about this almost exact subject under "The Pro Designation" article. Yes, we should pay Pro Paintball Players, but where are the Pro Ballers that are purchased by which Team Owners, that own stadiums that attract the FANS that are willing to PAY for a seat for 2 or 3 hours to watch Mutiny battle against Infamous, and then during the second half, the reason most of the FANS are there, is to see the Ironmen go head to head with Dynasty? I'm willing to pay for a seat, who else is? We only need 9,999 to 19,999 more FANS.

Anonymous said...

Pro skateboarders, BMX riders, basketball player, etc get paid because there is return on investment. The companies don't do it for the love of the game, they do it for the almighty dollar.

The companies offer endorsement deals for players and the players can make money selling themselves as well.

The ironmen's players don't pose in dye clothing for free. They are getting something, that something is what dye feels is their value to the company.

The truly talented arn't doing this for free. Ollie, Lasoya, Martinez, and Cuba have all made money because of their skills as pro players. It's the supporting players that aren't getting money and rightfully so becuase they arn't putting people in C10 jerseys. Make a name for yourself and make some money. Be the 8th guy on the naughty dogs and your not going to make a dime. Work your way to the top and be the best and you'll get rewarded for it.

Don Saavedra said...

Enough to live like a human being?

John said...

The Pro Paintballer is not worth that much...yet. The general public still doesn't care enough about paintball, so we are a limited audience, let a lone a paying one.

The problem is much more fundamental and a true "grass roots" effort must be achieved!

The best example I can give is: I personally live next to a really nice Little League baseball field that is composed of pristine turf. What I played on in Little League, a little more than 15 year ago, was a really nice field, but compared to this one, was a joke. The great thing is that it is a totally free field that anyone can play on, BUT ITS A BASEBALL FIELD AND NOT A PAINTBALL FIELD! I would love to see a small field like this one in the middle of a park with a bunch of 10 year olds running around blasting each other with their coaches yelling at them and their parents cheering them on. This is what is required to get paintball mainstream... we need a "Friday Night Lights" for paintball, television is in the right direction, that makes people aware, but we haven't taken the first steps to win over the general public... from the ground up. I am thrilled that Kingman is doing their part and setting up people to play for free in Vegas. That's what I'm talking about! Everyone can swing a bat, kick a ball, catch a ball with a glove, throw a ball in a hoop, but can everyone wield a marker?

Don Saavedra said...

Why do the kids want to run around on a baseball field? Because they dream of doing that for a living. Key words: FOR A LIVING. That's the key. Everything else comes after. TV shows, mainstream attention, etc. just serves to increase the paychecks, it doesn't create them to begin with. It seems counter intuitive, but the only reason kids everywhere clamber for little league, pop warner, etc. is because that's what they want to be when they grow up. It provides this juicy, cash infused base for the mainstream sports that we are sorely lacking in ours. The ones spending all the money in paintball are there for the "fun" of it, and generally don't care at all about what's going on in the tournament scene. And that divorce of conscience is killing one side of the sport.

John said...

It seems that we're having a "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" argument. So we might have to agree to disagree. During my last year in Little League, my team won the City Championships, and during that entire season, I don't recall one conversation about who was winning, or who won the World Series. Most of us were just lerpy kids where our parents were making us play, not because we were trying to live the Major League Dream. So when you say the "reason kids everywhere clamber for little league…", I think your premise is way, way off. My point is we have such a small pool of kids wanting to live the Paintball Dream because most kids don’t know anything about paintball.

Football was an example of a sport that the pros, in the beginning, didn't play for a big paycheck, the Super Bowl, was, well… not so super. If you look at the bleachers in the early years, they were mostly empty. So what happened? What drove the demand to have football as a sport played in High School and sooner? Why isn't Ping Pong big? Super big in a nation of over a billion, and over in Europe. Ping Pong stars don’t make 40 million a year from Stiga or Butterfly, but I bet more people play Ping Pong than every other sport, but Soccer.

Of course most people play paintball for fun. It's expensive and there isn't any real structure in terms of ' there needs to be only one way to play paintball'. It's more like Monopoly. You can play like a million variations, so how can you teach someone the way it is played in the Pros? We don't have quarters, halves, or sets. We got nothing! But X-ball I guess is closer to having some sort of athleticism in the game.