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.


  1. I think you could say the same for most any sport. Getting to the top level of anything is at least a part-time, if not full-time endeavor. Even if the sport has a low cost (like running), there is still the opportunity cost that the time you are spending training is not time you are spending working. Plus it is more difficult to hold down a 'real' job when you need the flexibility travel frequently to compete.

  2. That's true. But with paintball, you have to be working just to foot the bill of practice time, but you won't have money left over to lead a "normal" life.

    A natural marathon runner could most likely have a 40 hour a week job, pay his bills, and still be able to train. Yes, it would still be a huge time commitment, but during the maybe 10 years of training, he will still have achieved something towards his own financial independence. A paintball player taking 10 years to try to get to the top level will be committing to 10 years of perpetual poverty. Not many people will want to do that, even if they are naturally talented.

  3. I read this article in G5 first, and well, I strongly disagree.

    In fact, I love and look up to sports that have retained their "amateur" purity. There is triathlon for example. Definitely not something to make a living off, and yet it is a worldwide and widely approved and loved sport - it is not about becoming the best, it is about becoming good. That's the whole iron man spirit.

    Similarly, paintball is, so far, free from doping scandals, from sportsmen dropping dead on the field from heart failure, from rule changes aimed at making the sport more "televisable", from exclusive contracts with television stations, from eventually dying as a sport, and being reborn as another cancerous tumor of the entertainment industry.

    Originally, the Olympic games, soccer and football and baseball, and many other games and sports were amateur endeavors, driven by university teams. Top sportsmen had civilian jobs and full lives. Sports made them healthier, more driven, "superhumans" in the positivist sense of the word, superior in body and in mind. Competitions were friendly affairs, where honor and gentlemanly rivalry was in the center, instead of money and the absolute imperative of victory.
    (Compare this to today's top sportsmen, who often sacrifice health, life and honor for victory.)

    It is sick and unnatural that every year we have new records in 100 meter sprint and in freestyle swimming. It's not like the human race is evolving to compete better in the olympic games. The only things evolving are illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and the all-destroying greed of the sports industry.

    Being a top paintball player doesn't mean endless poverty, nor should it mean that. If some are able to dedicate more time and energy to playing and improving, then they deserve victory. I couldn't care less for the potential best paintball player not starting paintball. Maybe he'll start soccer. Nor do I care for someone who couldn't make it into the Pro league because he had to work all-nighters as a doctor. He's a doctor, AND a tournament player. I think that is awesome. Something to be proud of, something to look up to and aim for. Both for him, and for the sport that allowed him become a tournament player. Keep paintball clean. We don't need the sort of "pros" like cycling or soccer has.