July, 17 2012
Arlington Heights, Il.
Lessons to be taught! Safety Ambassadors Part I
The Catshack: We have decided to incorporate the readers views and opinions in a series of articles based on safety and education. I felt it was anÂ interactive way to create discussion, input, advice and feedback.We brought on Mr. Kelly Wical who is fairly new to Paintball in general but in his recent experiencesÂ has witnessed some safety issues and concerns when it comes to integrating the children into the game. This will be a first part article with a follow up piece. “A Blog of sorts”Â This is considered the beginning and a long version of whats to follow. The idea is to gather feedback from our readers and post replies, answers and opinions in a second article which will post on August 6th. Once this article has completed both from readers and the writer a new subject will be published with the same concept on the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month. The Catshack Reports is a positive publication, we welcome all opinions and hope to spread the safety guidelines, answer questions and most importantly teach our next generation the “correct” way to play paintball.. If you would like to send an anonymous email directly to Kelly with thoughts or opinions directed at this article please see links below. You may also comment in the comment box at the end of the article for open reading. Thank you all for taking the time to read Kelly’s article and I look forward to watching this safety series grow!
Kelly Wical: A few months ago, my 12-year-old son (Matt) and I played our first scenario game. It was by far the most fun I have had playing paintball. A few weeks ago we played our second game, both very different from rec ball as well as a change from our first game. Although Matt and I had a boisterous time at both games we did experienced a few safety issues but nothing that would in any way deter me from continuing to play scenarios.
With that said, I spent time after the games reading blogs from others about their experiences at these two games. Although much of what I read about covered some fairly serious safety issues that specifically were harmful to kids, itâ€™s not my intention to address these specific issues in this article (although I will in the future.) I noticed a common underlying theme, sometimes caused by unruly players, inappropriate reffing and game operations. The comments that stuck with me were along the lines of â€œdonâ€™t bring kids to scenario gamesâ€ and â€œthat is why I donâ€™t bring my kids to scenario games.”
There were enough of these comments that I felt I really needed to think about this. I normally play paintball with my son and a few friends of his. I try to watch out for any situations that seem to be developing that I donâ€™t want them to be part of. I find myself on unsteady ground with this â€“ as we want to play. I think fields need kids and families not just for regular games but for scenario games and kids need to be thought of and enabled to play safely – yet I am in no way going to endanger anyone that’s with me.
Being stubborn and determined to keep playing at scenario games with Matt, I forged ahead, attempting to identify and solve the issues to my liking (in my mind only at this time, but that is a start). What I decided is that the issues of safety were not specifically what was important but rather the differences between a scenario game and regular play, where I think the safety level for kids is much different. So my research follows in that direction.
The fundamental issue is that the scenario games are too large and unruly to maintain control, at least in present form. The level of â€˜competitionâ€™ is dramatically increased. The displays of bravado, the execution of trained teams that move from fun and practice to implementation, the number of noobs playing in a situation that is more complex than regular play and individual issues of select players who can get away with poor even sometimes drunken behavior during these games. To add, these games are designed without kids in mind (or I have no evidence that they are) and you have the situation present where kids or anyone not paying attention all the time are increasing their likelihood of possible injury (getting lit up, getting hit with greatly increased-velocity shots, taking hits in safe zonesâ€¦).
With all of this to consider, talking to a number of new adult players like myself and to a number of kids. I believe there are basic ways that would not cost the field or promoter much of an expense and will not impact the kind of play that more serious players want. The plan is to enable noobs, kids and other less-serious players to fully take part in the experience in a much safer way. I will address these not just as ideas for kids, but with different types of people interacting in a scenario game – specifically the fields/owners, promoters, XOs, teams, refs, experienced players, noobs (adults), parents, and kids. Below are some of the main themes from my discussions.
From a field ownersâ€™ perspective (and the game promoters), my impressions is that they want kids and parents participating (they represent both money and the future of the sport). I see no evidence to the contrary and if what I hear about quite often in the paintball community is the need to recruit the next generation of players (ifÂ this being directed towards kids) is true, then the fields future financial livelihood seems to be directly connected to drawing in the kids. With the many legal, insurance, safety, and other considerations that are difficult and complex to alter, it seems imperative that any position addressing kids safety should not be at the expense of adding more and more cost to the fields, promoters and eventually players. Kid safety can be readily incorporated into existing literature, game organization and style of play, and I will be detailing these thoughts below and in follow-up articles.
I have had very different experiences in the two games I have played. Matt and I were part of the wandering groups not directly involved with the missions, just out there playing as best as we could. In our first game (about 2000 players or so), we had no direct involvement with any XOs or other ranks in charge. Never even saw my XO and I really didnâ€™t think anything about it since I didnâ€™t know how to be part of any organized squad anyway. In our second game (3-400 players a guess), we ended up constantly involved with general skirmish areas and calls for help by the XO and others leading the way. We stepped up our involvement and understanding of missions a bit and saw play in a more coordinated fashion much of the time. The more I understand about the missions, what is going on, and organized play, the more fun it becomes! Being part of the team and missions is what itâ€™s all about. I also witnessed how the XO’s work can have a direct impact on the kids experience as well as their safety. I am convinced that using their (XO) experience with some simple role-playing for the kids, can create a significant impact on kids fun and safety with little effort.
For teams, from my experience what I see is that you need to step up your coordination and team-skills, past the point where you can communicate well while rushing the enemy in sophisticated ways and winning the battle. Where you can accomplish this while enabling the gaggle of kids hiding around that next building from being pelted by paintballs up close. That pelting just cost the field thousands of dollars from kids and parents who decide that was more than they wanted. Self control and situational kid awareness needs to be heavily incorporated into the teamsâ€™ skills for the safety of the kids.
For refs and the relatives to kids, you need to take more charge of situations and restrict play when needed. Safety has to be slanted towards keeping kids out of situations they should not be in or getting them out of these situations when they are in them. Kids will often hunker down when scared; they will not always run or ask what to do, nor will they fire when they should or perhaps not and bring an assault on them by mistake. Donâ€™t wait for this to happen, you have the moral high ground as the parents as well as the safety responsibility of the kids, so use it. The few parents who are outside that area, “toughening up their kids” or other similar parenting tactics that I have heard, are much the minority over parents who want their kids to have fun but mostly be safe.
For experienced players, be aware, like the ref comments above of kids who need guidance. Make suggestions, take a few seconds and tell them what is going on. I actually see a lot of this, not just directed towards kids but adults like me who look lost as well. I appreciate every person who asks if I need anythingÂ or tells me to be careful over there or tells me that someone in that building is firing very hot. Donâ€™t think that others see what you do. We donâ€™t know where to look and how to recognize situations very well. That is what experience gives you that we need your help with. Matt and I thank you for the dozens of times this help has come our way.
For adult noobs, the main thing is to be aware of what is and is not accepted such as â€œblind fireâ€ you need to know the correct meaning of this and if you are shepherding kids around, worry about them first and your own play second.Â Ask refs or experienced players for info when you need it.
For parents, if you can get to this site and continue reading here, you will certainly receive the information that you need and your kids will have a great, safe time! Help your kids understand what you learn. Not in a dry go-to-school way but make safety interactive with what they are doing. These articles will show you how to do this. There are a small handful of really important safety lessons that need to be taught to the kids. What follows here will directly address what you should be doing before the kids take off to play.
For kids, from what I see over and over, you are doing what you can at this point. Keep doing it, It is up to the rest of us to do our parts better.
Now, working from the bottom â€“ up, meaning the kids starting experience up to the different types of people interacting with them, here are some specific ideas. I will provide more on each of these as these articles progress down the road. “Kids should not have to be part of any of this, or have to play in kid-missions/areas, but it should be optionally available to those who would like to get the rich, role-playing experience in a safe way.”
- Advertise, promote and provide information directed at parents
- Provide a parent checklist â€“ parents need to know that they have done what needs to be done to prepare their kids to play safely. Not too many items so they get ignored just focus on the main things.
- Provide a parent blog for questions â€“ for parents who want to know more but donâ€™t understand much of the conversations going on in regular blogs (or canâ€™t even find a blog that addresses the scenario). Someone should edit comments, as this is both a selling opportunity and also an area where inappropriate comments can cause parents to decide against the game.
- Â Parent briefings start the scenario â€“ kids should be directed as to their part in the game right from the start. This can be done easily without personalizing it to any individual, by defining a small number of kid missions (discussed below)Â providing safety and engagement briefing material for the parent. This enables the parent to set expectations and tell the kids what they are expected to do. All in a form â€˜from the commanding officer, this is your missionâ€¦â€™ full role play that the parents can work with the kids, this will be giving them their full attention so it becomes a part of the game that the parents are delivering.
- Safe/Staging zones need to be safe, without compromise
- Kids are big violators of coming in without barrel socks on and must be checked
- Donâ€™t let kids fill their own tanks
- Donâ€™t let paintballs be capable of being fired into these areas
- Â Ambassadors â€“ kids like to be in charge. Just like XOs and other lieutenants of the game. They will do many positive things you donâ€™t expect if you lightly enable, guide and encourage it. Experienced players, who would likely also be the parent of a kid playing would be one type of ambassador who would spend some of their time in separate briefing areas for the kids. Kids can also role-model this, and be part of the briefings. You will see strong engagement and a new level of safety coming from them to the other kids. These briefings should be coordinated and an extension of what the parents were asked to do in the game pre-prep.
- Â Kid platoons â€“ kids need to be able to form up with other kids and work missions that are appropriate for them. Ask for adult ambassadors to lead these platoons. They can form up ad-hoc in staging areas. If need be any fabricated mission will work. Just have a bunch of maps so kids are taking part and get a souvenir then lead them in safe areas and missions. When they are out (paint hit), they re-form back at the staging area and wait for friends if need be then go back into the next kid platoon forming up. Role-play the whole thing and give the kids something to talk about.
- Â Kid field sections â€“ it may be possible for kids to play against kids, or for them to play on certain sections of the field that have some kind of restrictions, such as they cannot be overrun, limited people… They can still count into game scores by holding (or not) their positions or other similar mission ideas.
- Â Kid missionsâ€“ here are a few samples of what I hear kids wanting to partake in and ideas I have done successfully:
1. Cover fire missions â€“ kids stick to the back areas a lot and fire at anything they can. Dress this up as an area for cover fire missions or create special cover fire sections for certain missions. Make a special section for longer range shots for kids with apex or similar type barrels (they like this) and the players running the full missions should expect it and acknowledge its importance. Most kids will hang around these areas for most of the event, have a great time and feel they contributed. Most importantly, they will have stories to tell other kids for the next game.
Sniper missions â€“ kids can have special sniper areas with restricted rules such as limited numbers and surrender rulesâ€¦ Kids like the idea of being the sniper but need mechanisms that donâ€™t leave them without action for long, that makes it easy to retreat when needed.
Ambush missionsâ€“ kids can set up special ambush areas that could be specially monitored by refs or played against other kids who have sniper or patrol missions.
Patrol missions â€“ contain the area, mix it up with snipers and ambush missions.
Mattâ€™s Safety Net
How to know when to surrender
Matt Wical: Big games are lots of fun but can be kind of scary when you are surrounded and there are lots of people shooting everywhere. Â When you start out initially on your side on the field you are always safe. But when you go into enemy territory that’s where kids and people mostly surrender. Basically because if your all by yourself or with a parent and your surprised by running into 10 other enemies then most kids will start shooting. You can always surrender to save paintballs and stop from getting hit by 10-20 paintballs. It’s always better to surrender in a less than fair situation. Â Also you surrender, for example, when you are in a building on your side of the field and there are lots of enemies breaking through to your side, you are going to get shot a lot UNLESS you say, “I surrender!” then you will at least get hit by a paintball or 2 or none at all.Â If you’re by your staging area net and all the enemies charge at your base, even though you’re at a defensive advantage you are probably way outnumbered so its probably best for kids to just run and stay in the safe area because if you are out there that’s roughly 10,000 paintballs flying through the air. Â Every kid knows it’s sometimes better to stay out of the way when such action happens, if your lieutenant is not around, find a ref for directions in what to do.
I think kids should always be with an adult and know when it is time to surrender, “PARENTS AND ENEMIES NEED TO LET US SURRENDER!” IfÂ playing with friends you need a plan of what to do when someone gets out,, this helps in not losing each other as well as not losing your lieutenant.
Kelly: I will do a follow-up in two weeks, addressing comments. Note, any comments I receive will be treated as anonymous with the hope that those who would not otherwise say anything will feel comfortable in doing so. Just provide some guidance of your involvement and point of view, i.e. experienced player, field owner, kid so that can be related appropriately to the comment.
Send your anonymous comments to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you, Kelly Wical
See you in the game!