Aug 13th 2012
KELLY: One of the proudest moments I have had was while judging a karate tournament, one of the masters (very high rank black belt, school owner, and promoter) came up to me and told me that he needed to have someone take my place as the judge. I thought â€˜great, I have really screwed this up somehowâ€™Â He took me aside and said this, “Mr. Wical, I have a lot of students in a ring over here and the parents are all making decisions on whether to continue with martial arts. This is a really big thing for me and I really need someone who will make sure they are judged properly, are safe and have a good time. I like how you handle a ring, so if you donâ€™t mind would you take over this ring?”
I have always tried to remember what we directly see, how an individual is behaving or what an individual is experiencing, touching much more than that individual person and is usually just one of several important connected events. For paintball businesses to succeed it requires lots of other peopleâ€™s positive influence on their customers. I always think as I watch kids play paintball, â€˜Is that kids experience such that he feels safe and is the experience positive enough to keep him playing?â€™ Someone, some field, some equipment manufacturer, gear maker, promoter and store owner is counting on this and investing their money in the hopes that these kids have that great experience and return. Safety has to come first and then the experience and then the businesses make money.
For the topic of safe/staging areas (or hot insertion areas, bases) I started making notes from two big scenario games Matt and I played in, a number of regular walk-on and small scenario games. The story that follows is what we have experienced but blended together from a number of events and fields to make the point easier.
A typical paintball field, where it can be used as a number of different, individual fields or as a single field for scenario games.
We (Matt and I) got our spot in the main gathering area â€œS1â€, gathered our equipment and headed out to our teamâ€™s base/insertion area â€œT1â€. We put on our goggles, walked through a flapped net area attended to by a field employee making sure masks were on. We hung around our insertion area till the signal sounded then headed out to a wooded area where a general was yelling that help was needed!
We ran out of paint before we took a hit for a change, (smiling) so headed back to our picnic table in the main area â€œS1â€ to fill up, and then back out again! We had a different experience this time, our trail (in green) to get to our insertion area â€œT1â€ was in the middle of the battle, with no netting on it,, we were taking hits the entire way, from both sides. There was just a rope that showed the boundary of where to walk but a foot away were players shooting and being shot at. Many kids (and some adults) turned around and went back to the main area. First issue, should there be a safe way to get into the game? I think there needs to be. Kids need all their chances to play and this just took away both the safety aspect and the fun aspect for a number of them.
We eventually get back to our insertion area â€œT1â€ at about this time, our area was pretty well overrun (our team held the blue line, and the enemy held the yellow line below).
With the XO calling for all to get out into battle, out I went! Matt would not go, along with a number of other kids and adults. I didnâ€™t last long, firing off all my paint at a million targets and then running back in with lots of paint hitting me..
Again back inside the insertion â€œsafeâ€ area â€œT1â€, which had a double flap type entrance/exit, two things happened. First, there was no way for us to leave for quite a while to get paint. There was eventually a halt called but even then we did not have time to actually get back before the game resumed and we took a lot of hits on the way out [Matt was being very slow]. The design of placing either team in areas where you canâ€™t get back to the main supply area is not good for kids and seems like both sides should be able to resupply. The second thing that occurred was a “hot insertion” our guys (those who still had paint) trapped in â€œS1â€ jump in the game. About 30 or so charged out and the enemy opened up fire. This sent a LOT of paint inside the SAFE area, needless to say those of us still in there were not wearing masks,, why, do you ask? “It was a safe zone” now we are trapped in a supposedly safe area with paint flying in!
This can actually make a â€œsafeâ€ area the most dangerous place on the field, as most people have their masks off and their guard down and kids are certainly not having a fun time. I realize that safe areas on walk-on type 15 minute games are not this way but to novices there is little difference in their experience other than if they go to a scenario game they expect even more â€˜themedâ€™ fun.
Here is a recap of my experiences with safe areas (what should have been done):
- Safety nets cannot have simple flaps that allow paint to come in. There needs to be some kind of tunnel or L-Shape so it is not possible for paint to go through the outer and inner linings.
- Refs should stop games when it gets to levels as I have described. Not because the adults canâ€™t handle it but the kids donâ€™t need to be in that situation.
- Exit and entrance areas should not be routed through where main battles will be. A stray shot is one thing but in the middle of battle with many players and paint flying is another.
- There should always be access to a safe exit back to the main area. Kids canâ€™t hang out that long before they just want to quit. They are there to play, build experiences and remember they have little patience.
- When time is called to let people out, it needs to be long enough for people herding kids along to make it out.
- Â An official needs to tend the safe areas. There are just too many cases of adults and kids heading out with no mask on and coming back with no barrel sock on. Although other players quickly correct this, it was still a number of seconds where someone, usually new, is walking around with marker wagging and no barrel sock.
- I was also wondering what people think about netting over the top of the safe areas. I have an Apex barrel, and can make dive-bombs with paint. Perhaps it never really happens where these kinds of shots enter a safe area from above but kind of got me thinking.
As you can see in the typical field example provided kindly by Flag Raiders paintball games, there is a single “L” shaped entry into the field. During Big Games, each player takes their path toward their “insertion Point”. What cannot be clearly seen in the map overview is that the blue team heads down along the road just outside Saigon. There is no netting to protect players taking this path, however the majority of the playable area is elevated up on a hill. Generally no fire comes down that way. Refs do what they can to prevent battle taking place to close to the boundary lines, and will initiate an AIR strike to disperse live fire in those areas. The blue team continues down the road (WALKING DOWN OUT OF BOUNDS AREA) and hangs a right then continues down the road. At this point, they are shielded by the hill of Saigon and can only be hit by lobbed balls. They continue down the road and pop up in an area of paths which is seldom battled and into their insertion area. Again, if battles are taking place to close to the boundary rope an air strike is called to disperse the players.
The “orange” team walks a similar path in an out of bounds area, toward their insertion area. They travel beside a road path which is not normally battled in, but sometimes there are battles taking place. This route is slightly more risky for getting shot, however, refs will penalize players
who shoot toward the insertion paths.
The field is laid out in such a way that it is never strategic to be near the insertion boundary lines. Generally, as long as you can get to your original insertion base, you have a fairly safe path to head towards the exits. There are always 2+ staff members in the L to insure masks are kept on until in staging, and barrel bags are on before entering staging.
There are improvements on safety that could be made, however, the field in this example has done a great job in allowing players to enter and leave the battle grounds safely.
KELLY: Please remember, when laying out a field, kids need to keep busy. By allowing them to do what they came to do it sets that experience to turn into â€˜mom, can I please have my own marker and play more paintball?â€™ That good experience makes good stories and is what keeps the kids going and businesses happy.
MATT: Safe areas are where you are supposed to be safe but this is not always so. I was hit in the shoulder and by my ear from people shooting at people leaving a safety net area. I think it is best to just say, you still have to watch out in safe areas, just like in the main battle. I stand away from the entrance although this time I was hit way inside, I also donâ€™t stand too close to the net because balls can hit you pretty hard as they hit the net. Kids also need more reminders. My dad asks me if I see the signs that say to put on a barrel sock or put your mask on. I said what signs? So he instructed me, they are at the exits and entrances. I guess I have too many other things to think about. I do believe kids need more signs as well as larger ones, this way they are not missed.. I donâ€™t stand near the entrance because lots of kids come out without their barrel socks on and could shoot you. Many times the kids come out without the socks on because they are being shot and are trying to get away fast! There needs to be a larger area for kids to be safe while they find their socks and get them on. It takes a while, let the adults be by the entrance and yell at kids to get their socks on and let the adults get hit first if there is an accident.
Remember, tell your parents if you get hit by paintballs inside the safe area. I was telling my friends the experience later, my Father was unaware this had happened and got mad at me for not telling him at the time.. Safety First!
Written by, Kelly Wical, Matt Wical and Tyler Carruthers