How College Paintball Works

How College Paintball Works – University of Illinois

The Illini Paintball Warriors are the paintball club and team for the University of Illinoisat Urbana/Champaign. The paid membership for the 2000-01 school year is approximately 150 students(so far) with an email list of 1200 interested students. Students do not need to be members to play,and most people who do go to the recreational outings are not paid members. Paid members pay $5/yrand get a membership card good for various discounts at local fields and stores in exchange for theircontribution.
IPW basically operates on a two tier system, with a large base of recreational players and a smallergroup of roughly 25 tournament players. Most of the recreational players have played 3 or less timesif at all, the tournament players range from newbies with just a few rec games experience to those whohave been playing tournament paintball for a few years.

For the recreational player, IPW offers an easy an inexpensive way for the student to play paintball.We answer the players questions, get deals with the local fields, make the reservations, and get ridesto the field for players without a car. We keep players involved with the organization through informationalmeetings, mass emails to those who have signed up for our list, and the club web page. We also offer t-shirtsand membership cards as a way of keeping our players involved with the club over the long haul.

Any given year starts out with Quad Day, where every student organization has a chance to set up abooth on the quad. The bulk of our players are attracted in this manner, so we put a lot of effort intoit. We have several of our members on hand to answer questions, take people’s email adresses so we canemail them later, and hand out flyers advertising our first informational meeting and game as well as ourweb page and contact information. We also distribute and post the fliers around campus for those who miss quad day.

Quad Day is quickly followed up by an informational meeting. This is the key step in transforminginterested students into regular players. Any given year we can expect150-250 students to show up to this meeting, the vast majority of which are new players for that year.(The old ones are already informed.) Seeing that many other students show up is a very powerful motivatorfor getting players to take the step to actually playing. We also make sure to ask how many players havenever played before (and played less than 3 times) so new players know that pretty much everyone else isin the same boat they are. We describe paintball, assure them that they really don’t hurt that much, andanswer all their questions. We take signups for the first game, for membership, sell t-shirts, take ordersfor more tshirts, and describe the tournament team to those interested. And we give out free pizza.

As you can see, the college club provides a lot of advertising and information and organization thata local field couldn’t possibly hope to provide. Not only have we answerred the questions of 250 peoplewho otherwise would never have had a chance to get informed, we’ve given them all (AND their friends) aneasy way to actually get on the field – all they have to do is sign up and show up. None of them have toworry about finding a local field to play at, or figuring out where it is, or getting other people to playwith them so they’re not alone, or worry about wether there is going to be some 35 year old weekend warriorguy bent on winning the game at all costs showing up, since we rent the field out for ourselves. We makesure students (esp. freshmen) who don’t have cars on campus (and thus no hope of getting to a field on theirown) have a ride. We tell them what they need to bring, what they don’t need to bring, how much it will cost,basically everything they don’t know that’s keeping them from playing that they have pretty much no other wayto easily find out.

The first big game is Saturday September 9th. It’s scheduled to avoid home football games and Labor Dayweekend. We meet at 8 AM. We pick up students at the various dorms and give them a ride to a staging point and make sureeveryone has a ride to the field. 80 players have shown up to play, a roughly even mix of players from theyears before, players who got the info at quad day or went to the meeting, and friends of those people.Our local fields know we can deliver large groups of players to them and appreciate that we’re pretty mucha self-reffing bunch, and we’ve managed to arrange a great deal for our players accordingly: $5 field fee,$5 rental, and $75/case for paint (RPS Tiger). Over the course of the day, the new players spend $28.50 each($10 field fee and rental plus a quarter case), some of the more trigger happy and veteran players buy more paint.The officers and tournament team players don’t usually play and instead ref and help instruct the new playerson what to do. More tshirts are sold, more membership dues are taken, those who want to leave early getrides home early and those who want to stay longer get to stay longer. Everyone has a great time, virtuallyall swear to come back to the next event. The field owners are happy to have us, aside from a labor intensiveperiod of selling us paint in the morning and a couple refs to satisfy the insurance requirements, we’repretty much self-sufficient for the day and they’re able to run an open game on other fields. Besides, theyjust had 80 players who they normally never would have had who will also need a place to play by themselvesor with their dorm floors or fraternities or churches or whatever later, and now the students have a field they knowabout to do it at.

We also organize smaller events for other groups on campus who get in touch with us and arn’t qutie sure whatthey need, wether it be fraternities, service organizations, churches, departments or dorm floors. Thislets them have access to the price discounts the club as a whole has access to, and we get to again helpout the fields who help us out by bringing them more customers. We also send an officer or two along tomake sure everything runs smoothly.

On the tournament front, the tournament team has been practicing every Thursday and Sunday at a localfield. The owner is kind enough to charge us nothing to play, his team needs another team to play againstand he also gets refs and field referalls for small university groups in exchange. He sells us paint atcost (or we can bring our own) and we practice in the off-hours. College nationals are September 30th as partof USPL’s Paintfest 2000and the MICT (Midwest Intercollegiate Tournament) is November 11th. We have about 10 returning tournamentplayers as well as 15 new ones, a few of whom have never even played paintball before, most of whom havea few rec games, and a couple of which are freshman who play on amatuer teams. Those with lots of experiencedo lots of coaching for those with little experience, the goal is to enter two experienced teams in nationalsplus one team of “newbies” who feel comfortable playing tournaments after 4 weeks of practice, and thenenter 4 full teams in regionals in November. Not all the players have their own guns, but we have enoughextra to fullfill the need until they get around to buying their own. Of the experienced players, only 2played tournament paintball before college, and only 3 of the new players have – which means 80% of thesetournament players wouldn’t be playing tournament paintball if the college team didn’t exist.

The main thing keeping college players from tournament play is the expense. Since college playersarn’t really interested in big prize packages, we’re able to keep tournament entry fees low, about $30a person, and offer paint cheaply, just expensive enough to make the hosting field a little money. Thatstill leaves a lot of ground to cover though, with paint for practice, uniforms, guns and other equipment,plus travel, food, and hotel costs to tournaments. IPW is lucky enough to get some help from the University,but most colleges arn’t so lucky. Most colleges can manage to scrape up enough for a local tournament, but$150 for travel and hotel and food and fees and paint is tough; another $300 for airfare to a national tournamentis next to impossible.

In summary, what we’ve accomlished is given a local field an additional 80 players a month plus someuniversity students a way to get into paintball. In the long run, after people graduate, thismeans we’ve created a few hundred recreational players and a good group of tournament players for life.Players who have had the chance to play with IPW are more likely to play again on their own, are morelikely to invest in their own equipment, are more likely to bring their friends next time they play andget them hooked, and they’re more likely to have an enjoyable time playing with a large group of othercollege students than they would showing up by themselves or with a few friends and finding themselvesat the mercy of the open recball game crowd and the veteran newbie hunters.

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