In any sport, networking plays an essential role in developing your skills and creating opportunities to progress. Paintball is no different. There are only 18 professional teams in the United States, and even fewer high level teams beyond that. With roughly 10 players per team, there are only 180 positions available, total! Now, we have all had that dream of stumbling under the eyes of a professional and being recruited on the spot, but the fact is, that is only a dream! Making it to the highest level, especially in such a small sports community, requires networking.
I started out just like anyone else. I was young, didn’t know much about paintball, but I knew I loved it. Years later I received a phone call from a professional team on the West Coast (I lived in North Attleboro, MA). Now, how do you get to be a kid from a small town in New England with an opportunity to play for a professional team out of California?
You create a solid network in your paintball community!
The first and most important way to create a foundation for a paintball network is to show up. You need to be at the local practice field every weekend. Showing up to play consistently demonstrates dedication. It is never easy to promise your weekends away, no matter what age you are. There will always be distractions, but if you truly want to progress, the first step is to show up. Showing up consistently will not only give you the best chance of developing your skills, but will also make you a recognizable face. As you become more recognized, better players (who are also there every weekend) are far more likely to offer help.
The next step in creating a large paintball network is to be a good person. Sounds dumb, right? Well the fact is there are many different kinds of people in paintball. The sport attracts computer workers, athletes and war enthusiasts alike. With such a broad spectrum of people, meeting and conversing with everyone can become a challenge, especially after a heated game sparks arguments. You have to remain level headed and humble. No one wants to help the guy that is always yelling at people or complaining about the refs. Being a good person will keep you in the right light of the players around you.
The third and possibly the most important step in creating your paintball network is to always play to your highest caliber. If you truly want to become the best player you can, you should always be looking to challenge yourself by competing against the best possible competition you have access to. In paintball, this is much easier said than done because let’s be honest, losing hurts! Stay dedicated and continuously try to learn from the losses. Playing at the highest level will absolutely put you in front of the players who can help you progress. Not only will the willing players offer advice, but also the players who may not have normally, will be forced to because they don’t want to lose either!
These are the steps that I took when I started playing paintball 13 years ago. I showed up every weekend, I stayed humble, I learned and I always played against the highest competition I could. I received that phone call to play on the West Coast. I took it and continued to follow these rules. Now I play for one of the best professional teams in the world as my full time job and have an opportunity to travel all over the world to compete.
It is simple. If you want to take this sport as far as it can take you and become the best player you can, create a network and allow your network to create opportunity.