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"Why would I want to pay more to play paintball?"
Tournament paintball is recreational ball brought up to the next level. It consists of high paced play, extreme levels of determination, stress, and most important, team play. Brought on with the increased cost of play, travel costs, team equipment, and other factors, tournament paintball can get rather expensive. You don't need to have all the coordinating uniforms, tricked out guns, and many of the other nice things that sponsored teams have, but you cannot escape the tournament entry fees, travel expenses, and hotel accomodations that can make a simple paintball tournament into a financial nightmare.
When the cost of playing tournament level paintball is significantly higher the rec ball, it discourages people from trying it. Not many people would be willing to try something new, especially if it was going to cost them money, and if they were not guaranteed something out of it. Most players reactions would be, we probably wouldn't stand a chance anyhow, and would probably get punished on the field as well.
"What do I have to gain from playing tourneys?"
The bad news is, yes, it will cost you, and yes, you might get punished? So why play? The good and most importatnt thing that you get extreme amounts of (which is not as apparent in rec ball) is experience. Most teams play in tourneys to see whos the best. How do you become the best, with practice. If you practice with so-so players, you will only becomes as good as they are. Upon confrontation with each player you encounter, there is always something you learn to do and not do. When you play with/against players at high levels of experience, it only makes you better.
Recreational ball has many of the same factors but is lacking one thing, organized team play. Rec ball is for the players who like to go out on the weekend, shoot people up, and basically have a good time. In my many years of experience, I have encountered players of all levels of experience when playing walk-on. The players who usually excel on the field, are those who have taken the initiative to organize a group of players, to play as team. I'm not saying that you need to have a team to be a good player, I'm saying that it helps to play with a group of people that you know, so that you can back and help each other out on the field.
"How do I find out about tourneys, and how do I get started?"
First of all, get a team, or a close bunch of friends together. Even if your paintball skills aren't extraordinary, get an organized, committed group together. This is the most important step in having a long term relationship with a team. Teams which lack organization don't work well on the field and usually end up disbanding within a short period of time.
Second, find out what local teams/groups play in your area. Contact them and organize team scrimmages, etc. Ask them for advice if they have played in a tourney before. Most players can't wait to tell others about stories which they have experienced and would probably spill their guts to you. Learn from them. Afterall, this is why you are doing it, to learn and get experience to prep you for the tourneys.
The final step is to sign up. Ask your local paintball store about tourneys going on in your area. Don't forget to mention that it is your first time, so you don't get mixed up with the novice or amatuer players. After you sign up, just follow up to make sure that you are entered into the tourney, you pay promptly to reserve your team a spot in that tourney, and finally, make sure that you show up early on game day! You wouldn't want to start off your first tourney experience by being late and disqualified!
Tournament paintball is a great experince. You get to play with teams from all over the US, including international teams when they come out. You will also notice that you will see alot of the same teams at your local tourneys. Tourneys also get you alot of publicity (exposure to the players, paintball resources (internet, magazines, papers), and people in the paintball industry); this is how teams get to where they are today with all of their sponsorships. If you have been waiting to play in a tourney, but have been afraid to do it, now's your chance! Go for it, you might suprise yourself at what you can do as a team!