I’ve seen many posts over the years regarding players that say paintball has lost its lustre for them. I’ve also witnessed it many times at our field. Players will play (recreationally) every week and even twice a week for months on end. Then one day they stop coming and we never see them again. While exciting at first, playing paintball gets boring for them. I have seen it so often at our field that I actually worn players that I see playing regularly that they will probably burnout if they keep coming as often as they do. The ones that I see coming for several years are the ones that only play once every month or two.
On occasion, some of these players will move over to competitive play. This ups the ante as far as learning necessary skill goes, so the boredom aspect is not nearly as common, in my opinion. Competitive players live for competitive play, and the amount of time actually spent playing on a field in competitive play tends to be less than recreational play. Whereas boredom is the prevalent factor for paintball burnout in recreational paintball, financial burden is the most prevalent in competitive paintball. Most former competitive paintballers I’ve met have told me it was the cost that eventually made them give up the sport. Time commitment is usually mentioned as well, but most of us live for doing stuff that makes us happy. We will find time to pursue those endeavors, but if those activities are also milking us financially, most often we give them up.
I grew up playing hockey as a kid. My son grew up playing soccer and I spent a lot of time at the soccer field because of it. Both sports have kids starting fairly young and although every year there tend to be a few drop outs, both sports still see adults playing many years later, especially in soccer. The game never seems to lose its luster for those players. My son is 29 now and still plays soccer and I can see him continuing for a few years yet. I see players in competitive leagues playing into their 50’s. But other than some travelling expenses to relatively close towns, the cost to play competitive soccer is probably only $400-500 per year. It’s not a huge financial burden. That’s not the case in paintball.
Competitive paintball is expensive to take part in. Even recreational paintball isn’t cheap (btw, the players that tend to last the longest in recreational play are the ones that play with a pump and use far fewer paintballs), but it’s nothing like competitive paintball. I wrote in one of my posts a little while ago that we are seeing much more movement and aggressive play from younger players in our Low Impact 50 caliber games. They are getting involved in the play much quicker. This is something that coaches of young kids in hockey and soccer try to get those participants doing as quick as possible. They know if the kids get more involved, they will end up having more fun and it will speed up the kids’ learning of skills. I also wrote that I thought this would make for more and better competitive players since the Low Impact paintball was getting more kids involved and getting those kids involved in the play quicker. I still believe this can be true, but what about paintball burnout? It doesn’t matter how much fun the game is for the kids and how skilled they are, if they end up getting paintball burnout due to the financial strain the game puts on the players, or in the kids’ situation, the financial strain on their parents, the kids won’t be playing when they are older.
In the end, it always comes back to money. How many high level paintball players would actually be playing the game if they had to pay all their own costs including paintballs? How many players actually make it to the high levels where some of the cost is paid by others? You can answer that one by looking around and seeing for yourself. There are some, but not nearly as many as there would like to be playing. If we start having players play competitively even younger, will that just mean they will burnout at a younger age? Will we end up with less, rather than more competitive players? It’s a good question to ponder and it always comes back to cost.