Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother’s Day

I gave up spending time with the mother of my children and my own mother to run paintball games yesterday (Mother’s Day). I had taken everyone out for dinner the night before, so I did earn most of the Brownie Points that I would have normally earned on Mother’s Day anyway.

But Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:00 like I do virtually every Sunday morning, got all my last minute stuff done and drove to our warehouse where our truck is parked and all our paintball gear is stored. After doing all the little stuff I need to do there (my business partner is usually up until about midnight Saturday night doing most of the preparation for the next day), I rolled out just before 8:00 and headed to paintball field to meet the staff members we had lined up for the day (they too were kind enough to give up being with their mothers to cater to our customers of the day).

We are located in a fairly remote area and there is no one living near enough to the facility to make sure our belongings are safe. Therefore, we don’t leave anything of great value there. We unload much of what we need out of our 5-ton truck (26’ box) and at the end of the day load everything back up.

We open up for customers at 9:00. By 9:15, we had two customers show up. We didn’t bother signing them up and getting them rental gear as we need a few more to actually play paintball. By 10:00 we had 5 customers there. Still not enough. At that point I made the call and cancelled paintball for the day. We packed everything back into the truck. And everyone went home. The staff is paid for 4 hours (minimum required by law) and the customers that did show up were given apologies and free passes to use on their next visit.

Father’s Day is one of our busiest days of the year, but Mother’s Day is traditionally quite slow. This is the first time I recall not having a game at all, but it’s always quite slow. We need to get more moms (and other females) playing this game.

Paintball is, and always will be, a game enjoyed more by males than females. We can wish for that to change, but I think it’s in our wiring. Girls just don’t enjoy getting dirty and feeling “unnecessary” discomfort for the sake of a game as much as men do. That’s just the way it is. Give a man a day to spend however he likes, and there is a good chance he might go to play paintball. Give a woman a day to spend however she likes, she’s more likely to head to a spa. That’s just the way it is and as much as we want that to change, it’s not going to happen.


  1. I don't know that it'll never change, but we'll never change it. I've noticed as a general trend that girls who play sports are willing to give paintball a go, and girls who are not athletically-oriented are more likely to not be interested in paintball. I was once dating a girl who came out to the field with us, and we explained the rules of capture the flag, and she replied "But couldn't we just wait here for 20 minutes and the result would be the same?" Not a competitive bone in her body.

    As a society, we just don't socially train our girls to be interested in sports like we do our guys. So as long as more men are playing sports than women, that will be our ceiling on women playing paintball.

    On the flip side, I also think we do worse in terms of female participation than other sports, and I don't see any reason why that should be the case other than lack of information. Sure, paintballs leave a welt, but in the grand scheme of athletic activity, that's actually a pretty low amount of discomfort.

    So I think we could see some improvement in this area with better marketing.

  2. I am 38 started playing only a year ago. In my short experience I was wondering why fields never put together a league. xxx amount per player have tryouts/coaches pick teams and get the cheesy five dollar trophy at the end.

  3. Raehl, I think you are right in that there is a lack of marketing towards the ladies. Also when they get there and 95% or more of the participants are male, they probably feel a bit out of place. I know I would if I went to an activity where 95% of the participants were women.

    Anonymous, I think the biggest problem with leagues is commitment (or lack of it) by participants. I don't think that is an issue for paintbal alone. I think that's a society and cultural issue. People are just so darn busy these days. Many people your age and even my age (48) are really busy with their kids for instance. They are so busy driving their kids to their functions, they barely have enough time to fit in grocery shopping. Trying to throw a weekly or bi-weekly paintball night in there gets tough. Add to that the cost...well, it all adds up to just not working very well and having a lack of commitment.

    I was involved with trying to get a fun pump speedball league going last year (not at our field). There were only 4 events and the team size was only 3 players. The first event, we had about 18 guys out. By the time the third event rolled around we had 8 show up. We didn't bother with the fourth one. There were always other things that got in the way for participants.

  4. I don't know that I'm advocating marketing to the ladies so much as providing information in general. I don't think we need a specifically female pitch, we just need everyone to have a better understanding of what paintball is and that should take some of the edge off. It's just that women are more likely to be dissuaded by any perceived 'edge'.

    As far as an ongoing league goes, and this is something I tell my college and high school clubs all the time, the key thing to recognize is that unless you're getting paid, all human activity is SOCIAL. As a corollary to that, success demands beer.

    There is a reason sports like golf and bowling are successful with the general masses - and that reason is they are an excuse to get people together to be social. How much of a golf outing is spent actually swinging the club vs. talking to your party or populating the 19th hole? How much of bowling league night is spent throwing the ball and how much is drinking the beer?

    For a few years I played in a volleyball league each summer. Sponsored by the bar. Yeah, we played some volleyball, but we were really competing to be the team that drank the most beer over the course of the summer. (Given that I live in WI, the beer consumption prize was a far more prestigious prize than the best volleyball team prize. Who cares if you won volleyball if you weren't drinking?!?!)

    Even when I was still working full time and took the coworkers out to play, the 'value' was stopping at the bar on the way back and the stories told in the office for years to come. And on the same token, I spent two years on a drinking team with a paintball problem (when I was done with college and not playing serious-practice-twice-a-week-national-champion paintball and on to I-have-a-job-and-can-actually-afford-paint-paintball) where, sure, we played some paintball, but the highlight of the practice/tournament was the trip to the bar afterwards. (Our biggest "sponsor" was actually that bar, on our jerseys and everything, although truth is it was a rebate.)

    Anyway, long story short, make paintball SOCIAL.

  5. My cheesy attempt to get girls interested.

    Mom's Day paintball was slow (non-existent) here also - thou not typical. We usually have a few dozen players.

  6. Mick, I remember seeing those articles/interviews. They were good, but the women in my life didn't see them. The women in my life don't surf paintball sites.

    We have geared some of our radio ads towards the gentler sex every once in a while. It's really hard to judge if that does much good or not. I'm sure it doesn't have a negative impact. It's just hard to measure the impact in general. I find that with many forms of mass advertising.

    Raehl, now you've got me wanting to open a Pub on the route back into town from our field. The Pubs we have are all a little too far away to be considered local. Maybe a city-wide Pub Challenge is in order. Fun woodsball games with 8 or 10 man teams from each Pub once a month or so, with celebrations at rotating Pubs afterwards to rehash the battles. I'll have to run that past my business partner and see what he thinks.