I’ve seen this so many times at our field I can predict the future more times than not now. That is the “evolution” of a typical young paintball player that starts his paintball playing “career” at TNT Paintball. This may be different than a paintball player that starts his career at other fields, although there probably are some similarities.
Step 1. A player comes for his first day of paintball ever at TNT, usually with a group of friends or family. They have a great time playing, using the rental gear of course.
Step 2. The player comes to play several more times in the next few months. He may use rental gear a time or two more, but usually he gets his own entry-level marker and a mask quite quickly. He buys a Discount Card for $20 from us that entitle him to get his paint for $35/500 instead of $45/500. The entry level semi is hard for him to control the amount of paint shot to stay within his limited budget, creeping closer and closer to 1,000 paintball per day, which he can’t afford.
Step 3. He has always watched the multitude of regulars at TNT that plays with pump markers and decides that getting a pump will help him keep his costs down. Besides, those pump players seem to be pretty good even though they can only shoot one ball at a time. His skills improve and he can once again afford to play, keeping his paintball consumption somewhere between 3-500 paintballs for a day of play.
Step 4. His itchy trigger finger and seeing all those cool players playing tournaments in magazines and on the internet call to him. He enjoyed shooting that semi, just couldn’t afford it. He enjoys playing against other “skilled” players. The field catering to tournament players is selling paintballs at $50/2,000. He saves up for (or asks mommy and daddy) for an entry-level tournament marker and hooks up with a local Rookie team.
Step 5. He practices regularly, plays tournaments and moves up the ranks as his skills improve. Usually there is a change in markers one or more times to help him improve his game. The pump he bought for play at TNT Paintball is quite often sold to help fund his tournament play. We hear through the grapevine, or an actual visit from the player, how the player is doing playing tournaments and the successes he is having.
Step. 6. We don’t hear anything for a while about the player and then one day he shows up at the TNT again with a pump he has either bought or borrowed from one of his old friends he originally met at TNT Paintball. He informs us that he has quit the tournament scene because it was too expensive and taking up too much of his time. He may still have his tournament level semi in his gear bag that he brings out every once in a while at the end of the day to shoot off the left over paintballs he has and show off his shooting skills at the target range or possibly even on the field (they always wait until the last game though because they can’t afford to play with it much longer and they know we will not tolerate them shooting high volumes for very long at all).
These are steps that many players need to go through. I don’t discourage the transition to tournament play. The fact that I am losing a customer is not the end of the world and I think a player needs to do what he feels is right for him. But having dabbled in tournament paintball myself at one time, I know it is very difficult to sustain over a long period. It takes a lot of dedication and has to be the main focus in your life. But lets face it there is very little “future” in being a career tournament player. The chances of making it to the point where you are getting a “free ride” and having all your expenses paid for are very small. To make it to the point where you are actually making money playing is much, much smaller yet. So unless a player is totally driven and has no other interests and does not want to commit to getting a career and starting his life in the real world, most will come to the realization that although their tournament play is a lot of fun, it is keeping them from their “life”. That’s when we see them again at TNT Paintball having fun in their free time. The evolution has come full circle.