Monday, October 29, 2012

Staffing a Paintball Field

Of all the jobs involved with running a paintball field, staffing and dealing with employees is probably the most difficult, in my opinion.  The number of staff we need at our field varies greatly.  For instance, if my business partner and myself are both present at the field when open for business and we only have a small group of players (which happens often on weekdays with small private bookings), we only need one extra staff member.  On the other hand if we have several games going on simultaneously with 150 or more players present at the field, we might need 12 or even more staff.

Therefore we need a sizable list of part time, on call employees to draw from.  We can’t promise these employees a lot of work, because there often is not a lot of work available for them.  Yet on occasion we do need them, desperately.  Luckily by offering discounts to employees, we have quite a few regular players that are willing to put in a shift now and then.

Like any business, we see a wide range of employees.  Some are great, others, not so much.  Those that don’t do so well, get called back very infrequently, or not at all.  Those that do really well, get called often.  It’s only natural.

One of our competitors advertises that they use only adult refs.  It’s an obvious dig at us, as we have both adult and teenage staff members.  And I’ve seen many a forum discussion over the years about how “kids” shouldn’t be allowed to ref.  Kids can’t handle altercations that take place at paintball fields and can’t stand up for themselves, is the main argument.  It’s a fair statement, IF those things are commonplace at those fields.  But they aren’t at our field.  The intensity level is low enough that altercations are rare.  We also have adult or senior refs on duty every day that could step in if necessary.

Could we have only adult staff?  Yeah probably, but the overall quality of the staff would slip seriously.  Why?  To get 12 or more refs for busy days, we need an extensive call list.  We usually have about 40 or so names on the list to draw from, but sometimes, that’s not enough, especially in the summertime, which also happens to be our busiest time.  Most competent, responsible adults have other full time employment as well as having other adult responsibilities.  Imagine trying to have 40 or more responsible adults on call to put in a shift at a paintball field every once in a while.  It would be nearly impossible.  Sure, you could probably find 40 irresponsible adults that might be willing to show up now and then, but who wants them?

On the other hand, the younger teenage staff we have to draw from is quite extensive.  They are also eager, at least many of them.  For many it’s their first job and coupled with discounts on playing the game they love, they usually try quite hard.  They are often in better physical shape, meaning they can run to paintchecks much quicker.

Some of our younger refs over the years have stayed with us to become adult refs, but most move on to bigger and better things, which is what I expect them to do.  If they are good, eager teenage employees, then chances are they are going to become responsible energetic adults.  They aren’t going to stick around working at a paintball field when there is so much more out there waiting for them.

Therefore, when a paintball field advertises that they have only adult employees, then my radar goes on alert and I wonder how good the overall staffing is.  Unless the field has very little business and needs very few refs, my intuition tells me that some of those “adult” refs may not necessarily be stellar employees.  By not discriminating by age, we have the ability to attract and keep more good staff.  That’s the way I see it anyway.


  1. I had the chance to be an on-call ref at the local field, but as an adult, it wasn't worth it to me. They couldn't have come close (in any combination of pay and discounts) to what I get paid at my real job, and if I'm going to the field, I'd want to play. If I'm not playing, I have other stuff to do like work around the house, spend time with the family, etc.

  2. I understand completely. If I didn't own a paintball field but was a paintball player, I too would not be interested in reffing for the same reasons. But we are all different. We do have some adult refs that are great and love to work at the field every once in a while because it is so much different from their real job...and it pretty much pays for their paintball. But yeah, if you do the math, most adults would be better off spending an extra day here and there at their real job and probably be way better off.

  3. Reiner. Check your hip. Is there a scar? I swear we were once Siamese twins.

    "Kids can’t handle altercations that take place at paintball fields and can’t stand up for themselves, is the main argument. It’s a fair statement, IF those things are commonplace at those fields. But they aren’t at our field. The intensity level is low enough that altercations are rare. We also have adult or senior refs on duty every day that could step in if necessary."

    Bravo. You might notice I haven't blogged in awhile over at the T-Square Paintblog. You have been doing it for me.

    Play on brother.

  4. Reiner,

    As an employee of "the competition" I feel I have to weigh in on this.

    Writing about the business of paintball is one thing, but calling to question the competency of the employees of a competitor - several of whom you know - is another.

    As a newspaper columnist myself, I can tell you this piece started out business but ended personal - whether you intended that or not.

    You can't call to question the competency of people you know without it becoming such.

    I've always felt there was a good relationship between our two fields - and I have nothing but good things to say about you guys - but please, let's keep things strictly business, not personal.


    1. Hi Jay. How does my very brief mention of an unnamed competitor on a blog that probably only a handful of our local players will ever see compare to calling into question a competitor's staffing choices in media meant for advertising to the local paintball market? Just wondering.

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  6. I do feel lucky as a field owner (somewhat, as I don't have 150 walk-ons), in that most of my business is reservations, and 2 days a month are walk-on days (usually regular players and staff of no more than 30-40 players). So I know, usually 2-3 weeks ahead, how many staff I need. And 2-3 days before hand within 1-2 players how many player I will have out.
    Even then, I have an extensive list too, of available staff/players/friends, that can and will help out.
    I need younger staff, as older staff, can help once in a while, but are not always available.
    I have a S.O.P. manual that all staff must read and sign off on. I'm starting to be more interested in non-player staff too. Giovanni from Hollywood Sports, doesn't use paintballers for staff. It takes away potential customers, and many don't have the right customer service attitude.
    I need energenic, reliable staff that can interact with players 5-70 years old. Adults are better, but there are some super star kids that really get it. I'm introducing some new birthday party training for next year. Training does go a long way, but having a great attidiute from the start seems to be the best. If the kids aren't lazy, they make great refs. Of course I don't allow iphones and ipods by the staff to use. I have a spot they leave them for the day.

    1. Nice to see you drop in George. Our staffing needs can change literally hourly and sometimes less than a day ahead of game time. Trying to find staff for Saturday on a Friday night can be frustrating.

      Training and supervision are key, but that goes for any business. Paintball fields aren't any different there, although some of the fields that I've gone to I would wonder if the "staff" have had any sort of training at all.

      Some of our best employees over the years have been non-paintball players. Some of the worst have been avid players. One of our all time favourite employees never played paintball, started with us when he was 14 and left to pursue higher education before he turned 18. If all my employees were as conscientious, customer service oriented, and ambitious as he was, we'd be laughing.

      Some kids don't get it though. They think a paintball field is a place for playing so when they come to work, they still seem to be in play mode and want to hang out with their friends instead of working. Some adults are the same.

      I won't discriminate by age because I've experienced good and bad with all ages.

      It's just like players. Trouble makers come in all ages. In all honesty, I have more problems with players over 18 than I do with players under 18.

  7. I know you deleted my last post Reiner, but you are a completely fat faggot :D

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