Thursday, May 10, 2012

Even Playing Field

Can we play serious competitive paintball in the woods?  I was pondering this after someone asked elsewhere if there will ever be any serious competitive leagues played on woodsball fields.

Team sports need to be played in an environment where both competing teams have, as close as possible, the same advantages and disadvantages.  The term, "even playing field" comes to mind.  Can a natural setting like a forest area ever be truly equal for both teams?  I think not, and if not, how serious can we take the competition?  How much did the variance of the field, play part in deciding the victor?

A game like soccer is played on a fairly level field, both sides of the field identical and the only real variable on any given day could be the direction and strength of the wind (which can affect the game considerably) and the location of the sun.  Could competitive soccer be played on naturally formed sand dunes?  Sure, but we would definitely take it a lot less seriously, so why bother?  Can we play some recreational soccer on naturally built sand dunes?  Sure, it might even be a lot of fun, but don't ask me to spend a lot of money and time practicing and take it very seriously.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Excellence in Sports

It occurred to me recently that just about all sporting events are about striving to find the most talented and skilled athletes taking part in the sport competing at the time. The Olympics are probably one of the best examples of singling out the best athlete at that particular time in a particular sport. The winner of the men's 100 meter run is touted as being the fastest man on the planet (at that time) and there is a good chance that it's true. There is always a small chance that there is some unknown person somewhere that could run faster, that has just never trained for events such as that, but the odds are slim. If there are naturally talented athletes, usually they themselves will know it and get involved in the sport they are talented in or someone else will notice them and push them in the right direction. If a particularly young talented soccer player for instance plays with his friends in the park and is totally dominating because of his superior talents and skills more than likely someone will notice and suggest he play organized soccer. Once in organized soccer, if he is truly exceptional, he will rise in the ranks and maybe one day will be surpassing Beckham's benchmarks.

The point I'm trying to make that most sports attract and mold talented athletes so that they rise to the top of their sport. But it gets more difficult with sports that utilize technology (equipment) or need an abundant amount of supplies to participate. A poor native in Kenya can be pulled from his village and has a shot at becoming the world's best marathon runner. But the chances of someone from that village the world's best Formula 1 driver are pretty slim, although there might be a person in that village that has all the right instincts and co ordinations required.

How does this relate to paintball? The skills of paintball players are getting better. This is most obvious in the competitive paintball scene. Today's competitive paintball players are much more athletic and have much better skills than those of yesteryear. There was a time when anyone that had the money and inclination could compete at the highest level of paintball. But that doesn't mean that they were necessarily at the top of their game. Today you are not going to be playing in the PSP Pro division unless you truly are good enough to be there. Lower divisions will still let you basically play at higher levels than you should, but overall with ranking systems in place players are playing at levels close to where they should be playing (with others of similar talents and skill levels).

So does that mean that paintball is seeing the best athletes playing paintball as good as it can be played today? I don't think so. The high costs associated with the game is keeping too many people out of competing. I know at our recreational field we have many players playing recreational paintball who would probably do very well in competitive paintball. Some of them excel in other sports because they are great athletes. Some of those same players have tried competitive paintball, and although they did very well at the levels they competed at, and would most likely keep advancing, they drop out. Mostly due to the cost. The financial cost and the cost in time. If you are married and possibly have a family, chances are high level competitive paintball is not going to work for you. If you have ambitions to go to University, chances are high level competitive paintball is not going to work for you. Even if you are just a regular guy that wants to achieve something in life like buy a house or have a career, chances are high level competitive paintball is not going to work for you. To play high level competitive paintball and even to get to relatively high level competitive paintball, a player needs to be extremely dedicated (probably true in any sport), but also needs to be satisfied with living in perpetual poverty and giving up most other things in life that many of us want (family, house, career, etc.). That's a huge sacrifice required with basically zero chance of any kind of financial reward, even if a player becomes one of the top ranked players in paintball.

Those talented players I see at our recreational field that could possibly become great competitive players, won't. They won't because they choose to not even try. They know the sacrifices that are needed and aren't willing to make them. So the competitive paintball we see today, although played at a much higher skill and talent level than yesteryear, is still a long shot from what it could be if the truly best athletes in the world were taking part and I don't think that will change. For that to change, the prohibitive cost to participate would need to be alleviated (which it won't) or the reward at the top would have to become so great that enough people would make the sacrifices needed in the hopes of reaching the top. This also will most likely never happen. But even if the reward at the top was extremely high, that Kenyan villager, or even the lower class Torontonian, although they might have the perfect natural talents and co-ordinations to become the best paintball player in the world, chances are they are not going to have the finances available to get there. But it would attract a much wider spectrum of players willing to make the sacrifice and overall, high level competitive paintball would be played at a considerably higher level than it is today.