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Paintball is an Extreme Sport: Displaces Snowboarding as the #4 most popular alternative sports activity in the U.S.A.
Wednesday, January 12, 2000- Paintball News Corp.--Hillsboro, NH
Mitch Fay, 11, of Joliet, Ill., wanted to do something special with his family for his birthday last year. A bowling party was out. So was miniature golf. What he really wanted was a paintball party.
Mitch is not alone in his fascination with this engrossing, fast-paced game. Last year, American Sports Data, Inc., of Hartsdale, NY, which tracks national trends in sports participation reported that six million people played the sport at least once in 1998, three million of whom were newcomers, making it the fastest-growing extreme sports activity in the United States.
According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) following a recent analysis of its Superstudy on sports participation. "Paintball wasn't even on our radar screen a few years back," said Mike May, communications director for the SGMA. "Now were very much aware of it. Its an industry phenomenon."
During a game, the whistle of paintballs flying though the air and the pop-pop of paintball markers make adrenaline skyrocket. There is constant action, as players wearing colorful costumes streak by then disappear behind trees. The intense excitement and outdoor air heighten the senses.
Since its inception in the early 1980s, paintball--a kind of glorified
game of capture-the-flag--has moved steadily into the mainstream.
Once played by groups of middle-aged men in fatigues, the sport has become
a popular for children's birthday parties and youth groups, corporate team-building
outings, and families looking for fun and weekend exercise. More than 65
percent of players are under the age of 21 and 15 percent are women.
Corporate America is accelerating the trend. Three years ago,
Brass Eagle, the nations largest manufacturer of paintball products, began
mass-marketing its wares to retailers like Wal-Mart and K-mart, making
the products highly accessible. Last year, The Coca Cola Company,
Fuji Photo Film, U.S.A., Inc., and MCI WorldCom signed national marketing
Paintball News Network, Inc., the industry's largest playfield and sports marketing organization, throwing its considerable marketing muscle behind the sport.
Good For Body, Mind, and Soul. Paintball's pure entertainment value
is not the only thing driving its popularity. The sport is also enjoyed
by a growing number of youth and church groups nationwide, who play to
encourage teamwork and togetherness.
"It helps build character because you¼re not only supporting your teammates, they're also supporting you," said Pat Osborne, a youth pastor who owns a paintball field in Edinburgh, Ind., 20 minutes south of Indianapolis. Osborne often plays with the young members of his congregation. "It appeals to their sense of adventure and excitement, but it¼s supervised. It also
lends itself to strong camaraderie."
Paintball is also an inclusive game, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical ability. "The main attraction is that it's an adrenaline-rush sport that allows anyone to play," said Ken Farris, who owns a number of paintball fields and retail stores in the Topeka, Kansas area which are members of the Paintball News Network. "Soccer is an adrenaline-rush sport, too, but not everyone can play soccer competitively because you have to practice and develop your skills," he said. "With paintball, you can have a 11-year-old compete with his 40-year-old father and do it successfully."
Doctors who specialize in child psychology say sports like paintball,
which allow adolescents to expend pent up energy often provide them with
needed release, are sometimes misunderstood. "There are people out
there who think that play is reality and that's a problem," said Dr. Richard
Butterworth, a psychologist specializing in adolescents, trauma, and violence,
writes a monthly column for Teen Magazine and often appears on major networks, including CNN and MSNBC. "Games like lazer tag and paintball don't cause violence. What causes violence in children, for the most part, are homes that are violent. Kids have been playing cops and robbers for as long as anyone can remember," he said. "Paintball is the 90s version. Paintball
provides more exercise than sitting home playing video games. It also causes fewer injuries than contact sports like hockey and football." And, unlike most video games, paintball is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
"It started out as a birthday present and became a family hobby," said
Keith Fay, Mitch's father. Fay said he and his wife, Mitch, and their two
daughters play together. For Keith Fay and his son, paintball has become
a weekend bonding activity. "It's something we can both do," Keith Fay
said. "With a school sport I'm just standing on the sidelines, but
this we do together." His son Mitch feels the same way. "My dad works
during the week and on Saturday's, but he has Sunday's off," he said. "We
go out on Sundays and I get to spend time with him. It makes me feel good
to be with him, and it's really nice to have
him on my team."
FIVE MOST POPULAR EXTREME SPORTS IN U.S.A.
US Population: 6 years of age or older
# of participants
Frequent who participated at least once in 1998
1. In-Line Skating
32,010,000 10,617,000 (25+days/year)
2. Mountain Biking
6,611,000 2,254,000 (25+ days/year)
7,190,000 1,262,000 (52+days/year)
5,923,000 793,000 (15+ days/year)
5,461,000 1,145,000 (52+ days/year)
This information has been abstracted from the new Superstudy of sports participation conducted by American Sports Data, Inc., which monitored an unprecedented 102 sports and fitness activities. This year's study has measured an additional 42 sports/activities.
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), owner of The Super Show, is the trade Association of North American manufacturers, producers and distributors of sports apparel, athletic footwear, fitness, and sporting goods equipment. SGMA represents and supports its members through programs and strategies for sports participation, market intelligence and public policy.
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