Paintball started as an adult sport, but over the years it has become more and more accessible to younger players. But unless a kid is tough enough to play with .68 caliber paintballs, kids under twelve had limited options to play the game we all love. Enter the JT SplatMaster and the JT First Shot tournament series. First introduced last year, it’s a product that allows younger players to play and fall in love with paintball, without the pain associated with 300 feet per second and a .68 caliber ball. Once they get started playing with .50-caliber and the SplatMaster they can move up to a standard size ball and marker; it’s like training wheels for kids. The First Shot series allows younger players to play at PSP events and get a taste of what a paintball tournament is all about. PBA checks in with Sacramento XSV’s captain and JT First Shot league commissioner Rich Telford to see how the series is going.
My first experience with JT SplatMaster was at my paintball field, Extreme Paintball in Modesto, CA. The product had not yet been released and they wanted my honest, unbiased opinion. When I first shot them myself I thought they were pretty cool but I knew the real test would be what kids would think.
So I did a little test at my field with ten kids ranging from 10 to 13 in age; they had come out for a birthday party and each of them had been playing .68-caliber paintball all day. They were out of paint and waiting for their moms to pick them up, so I asked if they would like to play a couple more games for free and help me test out some new paintball guns. They agreed so I showed them the guns, how to load them and use them. So, I turned them loose on a small field with a lot of obstacles and when the game started they were all a bit tentative, staying towards the back of the field and shooting long distances at the kids on the other team. That is until the first one got shot and yelled to the other kids “Hey, it doesn’t hurt when you get hit!”
The kids instantly transformed from tentative to energetic, running down the field bunkering each other and having a blast doing it. I talked to the kids afterwards to get their impressions; all but the oldest one said that they would have rather played this all day then traditional .68 caliber paintball. I asked “why”, and they all had the same answer; that this had all the fun of paintball but didn’t hurt. With that they were sold and so was I. It was then I realized how important it is to give the younger players, those under 12, a space to grow in the sport without getting scared away by the pain.
Since then, I have had tons of similar experience with JT SplatMaster and more recently with JT First Shot. JT First Shot is a tournament series designed to introduce new people into the sport of paintball and integrate them into competitive paintball.
We held our first JT First Shot event in conjunction with the PSP Chicago Open. The event was a huge success, far exceeding our expectations. I knew we had a winner on our hands about fifteen minutes into the event; I was doing the last minute organization that has to happen with these kinds of events and the kids were getting so antsy I decided I’d let them go out and check on the field. I figured this would give them something to do while we finished getting everyone registered, etc. They were so into it that they where sweating and their little faces where flushed and smiling. I got them together for the safety speech and the look of excitement on their faces was all I needed to see to know that it was going to be a great day.
As a parent I’m always looking for things that I can do with my two girls — something that’s fun, safe, and active because they watch way too much TV and play too many video games. It was great to see all of the parents out there supporting their kids, coaching for them and having fun doing it. I really think this is one of the few activities that parents can enjoy as much as the kids that are playing.
I was talking to Thomas Taylor, one of our long time players on XVS who has two young kids himself, about any moments that happen during our events that caught his eye, and cemented his love for this new format and it’s power to get kids into the game.
He said, “One of the best moments from the Chicago First Shot event I saw, was when a kid, around 10 years old was in a 2 on 1 situation. He goes to reload and realizes he must have doped his extra tube. I could see he was making a decision as he was looking left, right, left, right and out of nowhere, he bolts down the middle of the field, grabbing the flag and running past both of his opponents to hang the flag clean. He won the game for his team on this move. I was super stoked for him because he had to choose fight or flight, and he fought for the win. He could have just given up, because he was out of paint, but he didn’t. I thought it was great lesson to learn at such a young age: you can still win in life when things aren’t going your way, you just need to do something bold, something other people don’t think is possible”.
Damian Ryan from Los Angeles Infamous, one of the best players in paintball right now how help out with the kids at the events, agreed, he said, “Man, I just wish this had been around when I was kid. Think how good all these kids are going to be if they been playing since they were 10!”
I couldn’t agree more. And I’m looking forward to growing the JT First Shot series as fast as we can, help breed the next generation who will take the reigns from us one day.
Sign your kids up for the JT First Shot series at the PSP World Cup and Mark your calendars for the biggest tournament in the world, the 2013 PSP World Cup, which takes place at the Fantasy of Flight, in Orlando, Florida. Go to pspevents.com to sign up for the event. The best teams in the world will be fighting across multiple divisions of competition to determine who’s the best. Paintball Access will be bringing all the action live, October 16th-20th. Don’t miss it!