Friday, September 11, 2009

Rethinking Tournament Paintball: Part Three

Once again I want to make a quick mention that Part Three of this series is just going to cover one aspect of tournament paintball—the various levels of tournament play. So please keep in mind that this “Part Three” is just a piece of the puzzle.

Division Four, Three, Two, One, Semi-Pro, Pro, SPL, M5… Five-Man Seven-Man, X-Ball… Are These All Really Necessary Components of National Level Play?

Sometimes if you say something out loud you can really feel the effects of a statement. So, indulge me for a second and read the title of this blog once out loud. “Division Four, Three, Two, One, Semi-Pro, Pro, SPL, M5… Five-Man Seven-Man, X-Ball… Are These All Really Necessary Components of National Level Play?”

It even SOUNDS ridiculous, doesn’t it?

And the answer is “no.” These are NOT all necessary components.

As much as I love sports like baseball, football and basketball, when I go to a major league game I don’t want to see an opening act. When I walk into a major league baseball stadium I have no desire to see a minor league game first, in-between, or after the big boys play. I’m there to see the best the sport has to offer. When I go to the X-Games I’m there to see the best of the best in freestyle motocross, BMX and skateboarding. If I want to see the lower level perform I’ll catch an FMX amateur contest. No disrespect intended to the lower level athletes of any sport including paintball, but there’s a reason the professional ranks are separated from the rest.

In other sports there are lower level regional series’ that feed into the pros—like baseball’s Instructional Leagues, A-Ball, AA Ball and AAA Ball. Why not paintball? Regional leagues are more affordable for the low to mid-level teams that are finding sponsorship dollars hard to come by. It would give teams a chance to develop (or not) before they shell out thousands of dollars to attend national-level tournaments. And it would give teams something to strive for.

From The Fan’s Perspective

Paintball has been played competitively now for 26 years and outside of a handful of fans that show up hoping to snag a Dynasty jersey at each event, competitive paintball has very little fan base. The NXL has been trying to build brand identity for its teams for close to a decade and it’s not working. The NPPL and now USPL have also tried to no avail.

It’s difficult to build team name/logo recognition when you have 90 teams playing in each event. Would it make sense to separate the pros and possibly the semi-pros from the other levels? As a fan I know I’d drive an hour or two to watch the best eight teams in the world battle for eight hours on a Saturday. Imagine what it would be like to have events like that every weekend around the U.S. all season long? Just a thought, an idea, and something to get you thinking differently.

Format Standardization Anyone?

Maybe the competitive paintball format is also just too hard to follow to develop a fan base? Maybe the sport is too fractured, too confusing, and lacking consistency. “[There are] too many options for competitive formats. [We] need to consolidate all these formats into one standard. For the game to ever be considered a sport there can only be one universal standard,” Larry Motes, founder of the CFOA told me.

For most sports, not all, that’s the case. There are three outs in every inning in every baseball game played anywhere in the world. Four balls is a walk; four bases on the diamond; nine players on the field; and three strikes and you’re gone. And it’s that way in the US., Japan, the Dominican Republic, Cuba Australia and China. Baseball is baseball. The same holds true for soccer, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and just about every other team sport you’ll find anywhere in the world. If we’re trying to build a fan base—one that attracts not just fans but future players, we need to look at this much more closely.

Maybe five-man becomes the standard, or maybe it’s X-Ball. Or more likely it’s something we haven’t tried yet. Maybe the game can take aspects of all of these formats—or none of them for that matter. I don’t know, but I do know it isn’t working. Our sport is shrinking. From the team counts at most of the national level events, to the amount of qualified refs, to the number of leagues—tournament paintball is getting smaller and less significant every year. And that’s bad news for all of us because as I’ve said in an earlier part of this series, tournament paintball is the public face of the game.

I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and feedback. Please leave a comment or shoot me an email at, I’ll be back Saturday, September 19th with another part of this blog series. Until them I’ll be in Atlanta at the Extravaganza beating this into everyone’s brain.

Thanks for reading—John Amodea

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

any follow ups to this? I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the future of tournament paintball.