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By Bill Mills - Feb 2005
Building on a history as the largest and longest running western US tournament series, the Proto XPSL, which began as the Great Western Series (GWS) then became the PanAm, and now the XPSL, is preparing to launch its 2005 tournament season.
During the 2004 season promoter Dan Bonebrake brought in Shawn Walker who learned about the series’ operation, and stepped into his current role as head of operations in time for the last two events of the year. Walker, who grew up in the Southern California paintball scene worked at a family owned indoor paintball field in San Diego, and for Paintball Junkies before heading north to attend the University of Oregon, and eventually settle in the northwest.
For the new year the XPSL will do a few things differently than in the past. One of the most noticeable changes will be in the way players and teams are ranked. As the GWS and Pan Am, the circuit was one of the first large scale tournament series to run a player photo ID card system, doing so well before the NPPL or PSP. The purpose of what the XPSL now calls the IPPI (International Paintball Player Identification) cards is to keep a database of all the players in the league and their experience levels. This database is a tool used to fight sandbagging – players competing at a level below where they are ranked, to increase their chance of a win.
Under the old IPPI system players and teams were classified as rookies for their first year of competition, regardless of where the competition took place. The next two years, a player would be classified as novice, and after that they would be classified as an amateur. Pro status is not achieved from within the XPSL, but rather because the XPSL also recognizes and uses the highest ranking a player has achieved in a major circuit like the NPPL or PSP. Although the XPSL does not have pro competitions, they do allow a restricted number of above class players on a roster (i.e. an amateur team can be led by a pro player, with the rest of the team being amateurs.)
The problem discovered with the old ranking system is that some teams would hold off from playing in local events so that they could get their full year in as rookies the next year in the XPSL. As one of the league’s goals is to foster the growth of tournament paintball, this was counter-productive.
The new ranking system still gives players a year as rookies, but starts the clock ticking with their first competition in an NPPL, PSP, EXP or XPSL tournament. Advancement from novice to rookie will no longer be based on the 2 year limit, but how it will be done is as yet undecided. The league plans to develop advancement criteria to have in place by the end of the year to keep a structure similar to that employed by the NPPL.
Regardless of forced advancement, one incentive that novice teams will now have to advance to amateur is the switch to a cash purse for that division. Previously the league had operated entirely on a product based prize structure. The switch to cash, something more valuable to serious traveling tournament teams was based on feedback from teams competing in the series.
The 2005 XPSL season will start at SC Village’s new Astro Turf fields, then move to Fairgrounds Paintball Park in Santa Clara. The third, fourth and final legs of the tournament are still being planned with at least one to be held at Redlands Outlaw Paintball Park. The choice of venues marks another change for the new year – all California based events, reflecting the location of the majority of the series’ competing teams. Like 2004 the series will be reffed by NPPL PRO trained referees who do not compete within the league.
Another change appears before the series name – the Proto XPSL 2005 series. Proto Paintball, a division of DYE has signed on as the title sponsor to support west coast paintball. As in the past the series remains a bring your own paint format, with PMI, Zap, System X and Severe available for purchase on site through event sponsors.
“We are trying to provide
a professionally produced event for the teams that can’t afford to travel
to all of the national events,” said Walker. “I think we have found
our niche, we had over 100 teams at every event last year.”
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