Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Please take a look at our sport and do something...

If this means anything to anyone... I am writing this topic in hoping to get the attention of influential authorities in Singapore to take a look at the sport that we all love. As it is, paintball guns (markers, that's how paintballers like to call it) are consider as firearms in Singapore and illegal for individual possession, meaning unlike conventional sports such as football, archery and wakeboarding, etc, where interested individuals can participate the sport using their own equipment and enjoying the game at specific location, paintball is often classified as an unfriendly sport. Major parts of this being the fact that serious paintballers are not allow to possess their own personal paintball markers in Singapore.

It is not hard to understand that if you want to do bowling, you will need to go to a bowling alley and if you want to play squash, you have to go to a squash court and if you want to do boxing, you need to step into the boxing ring. Likewise for paintball, if you want to paint, you will have to go to a paintball center... Well, that's a given and most people are very clear about this. The truth is... before paintballers become hardcore players, they are often introduced to recreational paintball using house rental markers and making progression into the sport. However, if these players decide to participate paintball at a competitive level then problems start arising. In the past, there used to be a center divider in the middle of the field which restrict players from going across to the opposite side thus preventing players from getting into body contact... tell this to any hardcore paintballers and they will tell you that paintball is a non physical contact sport. This restriction was enforced in Singapore for the last 11 years and was officially removed in November 2009. Kudos to the authorities for doing that... seriously, it meant a lot to Singapore paintball as we are in the midst of doing "catching up" to our neighbours, Malaysia. Many players around the Asia region highly regard Malaysia as the "Paintball Hub of Asia" which I have no complains about... Malaysia is indeed the paintball hub of Asia! Just look at the number of tournaments, the number of people playing paintball and the number of paintball field sprouting across the country in the last 3 years. Surely, Singapore paintball is in no comparison to Malaysia’s development as the latter has received tremendous support from its grassroots and all the way to government sectors such as the sports ministry and the tourism board. With the welcoming of the sports also see a level of flexibility in the possession of paintball markers. This being said... Singaporeans were actually introduced to paintball earlier than Malaysians (told to me by one of the seniors of the industry). That's the kind of "catching up" that I am referring to.

With a restriction on individual possession in Singapore, is this the end of competitive paintball for Singaporeans? Seriously, I don't have an answer; I don't think anyone has an answer to that (well, at least for now...). Ask anyone in Malaysia about paintball and they can describe to you what it is... well, at least the part of the game causing pain and bruises. Ask any Singaporean on the street and you might end up with "Ping Pong" (Allan, if you are reading this, I am not talking about you). So what is preventing paintball from getting the same level of awareness as in Malaysia? I really don’t know... perhaps it is our typical Singaporean attitude of being “bochup, don’t care, don’t know” attitude. What we really need is to make paintball more informative and please if you are serious about promoting paintball in Singapore, don’t go around showing off your battle scars to people who have not played the game before... don’t take photos of your scars and post them on Facebook... that is 100% not the right way to introduce people to playing the sport.

Providing facts of the game is what we really need now... what we need is a good piece of study paper supported by reputable universities stating the advantages of playing paintball, the safety aspects of participating in paintball, the number of people playing paintball, the development and progress of the game... maybe until we have a good compilation of these facts and figures then somebody from the authorities might bother to look at our sport. Still... it is not the perfect solution. We still need a very supportive representative who is also a good presenter who is willing to put his job on the line for the good cause of paintball. He/she will need to present the studies to his higher management which are very likely to know paintball as a recreational sport and it being dangerous. At least that's how it works in Singapore... Of course during the meeting, when you get questions like "where are the risks assessments?", "how can it benefit us?", "how safe is safe?”, “how many people are we catering this sport to?", “who watches paintball?” all the representative need to do is to throw his arms wide open and goes "TAAADAAAAHHH!!!!", shouting out loud "THERE YOU GO! I CAME PREPARED!" That's not all...you have to convince him to do the same thing when his boss ask him the same questions later. And we all know that it might never come...

Something that always puzzled me... and I am not saying bad about other sports but drawing some comparison against other sports in Singapore. For example, archery... well, school kids participate in archery, living the Robin Hood in them (yeah, I am stereotypic). You see them carrying their bow and arrows around the school... on the MRT... and you think it is safe? Think again...

Well... firstly, for paintball markers to work, we will need air pump into these markers and trust me, air doesn’t come easily without the right equipment and knowledge of tank filling. Second, kids will always be kids... shooting an apple off my friend’s head is something I always wanted to do... but of course, my sub conscious mind will tell me that it is very dangerous to do that so you never see that happening. Arrows are sharp; they pierce through things... like human bodies DOH! Compound bow arrows can travel up to 300 fps... hey... similar to the speed of a travelling paintball. Er... but paintballers are smart, we put on paintball goggle. Paintballs break on impact, paintball doesn't stain and it is biodegradable. So yeah!!!! We are more concern about the safety of the sport and we are a safer sport! We even have an age restriction to participate in paintball games!

So then...it leave us with the word “intention”... ask any serious archers to go around public places carrying a bow and some arrows and "play Robin Hood" in HDBs or parks and they will tell you that you must be crazy. Reason is simple, they don't do that. They love the sport too much to be acting like fools playing “Robin Hood” in public. Likewise, ask any serious paintballers to go around shooting paintballs in the public and they will tell you go "Frack off" because they know that it is not right. So what's the problem of having individual possession? Didn't we do it for real guns... like guns stored in gun clubs? Hmmm.... I just don't understand the differences, since when are paintball guns more lethal than real guns or it is a case of not wanting to embrace the change of the paintball? Paintball has come a long way from playing in the jungle to a multimillion sport business. Millions of people have played paintball before... a child in his teens has played paintball before, a senior person has played paintball before, a lady who leads a sedentary lifestyle has played paintball before... and they all came out fine. Not only that... ask them about their first paintball experience and they will be tell you details as though it just happened yesterday. Because paintball is fun!

Paintball is dangerous! Surely a sweeping statement... if the sport of boxing and wrestling can be in the YOG... how dangerous can paintball be? I don’t participate in recreational boxing... and I don’t do recreational wrestling... but I am sure millions of corporate office blue and white collar workers have played paintball before.

Let's put this into perspective... if you are a boxer, would you be afraid of receiving punches from your opponents? If you are a wrestler, would you be afraid of your opponents twisting your arms and legs? I think the answer is obvious... if you are a serious paintballer or for the matter of fact someone who pays to play paintball with your friends, would you be afraid of being shot? Well, yes... I would. But no I don’t if I know that this is part and parcel of getting into the sport. So what is so dangerous about paintball? You might have heard of people getting injured from playing paintball... broken ankle, twisted arm, blar blar blar... well... I am sure you have also heard of stories where people died while boxing, people who drowned while swimming, people who fought during a rugby match (well... yeah, those are kids from reputable schools)... its part and parcel of participating in a sport and not just any sport, it is an adrenaline rushing sport, aren’t we talking about promoting extreme sports in Singapore? I read articles of kids driving go kart with the recent go kart hype... we are talking about teenagers who do not need a driving licence to kart... I am not sure about you; I have done karting a few times but everytime I stepped onto the track... I feel vulnerable. And I am a licenced driver.

And recently, there's MMA... "that's so dangerous!!!" tell that to the people who love it... surely, there are some misconception in paintball.

We need to change... we need to adapt to changes. Haven’t we heard this long enough? Tell that to my granny and she will tell you that she needs to learn how to surf the net to keep up to the changes. Paintball has evolved... it started as a recreational game and now it has evolved into a sport. We need to change the regulations to keep ourselves relevant to the changes. One of the most classic examples... the casino. Not only do we have one casino... we have two casinos! We need to embrace the change guys... look into your system and change the regulations accordingly or fall into the mistake of being outclassed.

Enough is enough... we have heard of your invalid excuses of “How many people in Singapore plays paintball?”, “How many spectators can your sport draw as compared to F1? We have a total of 50000 runners!!!”... I will be the first to tell you not to compare apples with oranges. Both are different in nature. Don't compare the S-league with the BPL... you will not convince us. I am actually flattered when paintball was compared to a local marathon in terms of the number of participants.

Sometimes we need to be realistic too. It takes 2 hands to clap... so we understand the need for everyone to work together to make things work, especially in Singapore. We would love to have the biggest paintball event in Singapore, we would love to be allow to store our paintball markers in paintball centers (the word is “our” and not rentals), we would love to see students in school participating in paintball tournaments with all the different divisions. But we also need to be realistic... we need to ask ourselves: “What are we doing to achieve that?” Promoting and starting a brand new sport in a school is one of the toughest things in Singapore... we should be glad that there is a proper system that we can work towards to... the CCA branch’s door one that we should be knocking on. We will then be asked the same question again... “how many people are playing paintball competitively in Singapore?”... okay... say we allow you to promote paintball in our school, can you please appoint a coach for us? For those who are not really into sports, in order to be a certified coach recognized by the Singapore Sports Council, you will need to pass the National Coaching Accreditation Programme (NCAP) theory and practical. It is easy to register for the NCAP theory... where you will need to undergo classes such as sports psychology, sports nutrition, sports fitness, etc. But what about the practical part? Hmmm... paintball has only 30 years of history and as far as I know, there is no certification for paintball coaching in the world... so food for thoughts in a paper chase country like Singapore. Is this the end or the beginning? We will be there eventually... but let’s help ourselves to get this game going first.

As an ardent supporter and promoter of Singapore paintball, I would love to see progress for the sport. As mentioned in my previous entry, we will need the support of these 3 parties to make a transformation: organizers, players and government agencies. As players, we will also need to know that not only do we form the basis of the game; we are also ambassadors for this sport. Let’s help ourselves to get this game going... instead of relying on others. We have a new interim committee for PBAS, so please lend them your support too!

PS. If you are reading this article and you think that there are some truth to this writing, please help to circulate it to anyone whom you deemed fit, otherwise, just ignore the rumblings...