Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Golden Age of Paintball: Professional

By Mike McGowan

Leonid Smotrov #27, age 16, pictured far right huddled with his teammates on Moscow Red Legion.

One of the best aspects of paintball is that players come from all walks of life, age, and places.  These misfit tribes and the diverse personalities therein come together and not just play, but excel.  Paintball has those intangibles needed far outside your height, your vertical leap, or your 40 yard dash time.  A wide-range between the youthful and the birthday-rich stand at the box at the highest level, whether Leonid Smotrov (16) of Legion, or Brandon Cornell (18) Ironmen, or Dmitry Berdnikov (50) Red Storm, or Shane Pestana (43) Ironmen.

But is there an age that players “peak”?  Is there a goldilocks zone between youth/athleticism and maturity/experience?  Let’s first take a look at the Pro rosters to see if any consistent data shakes out. 

Below we’ve listed each team in order by their current PSP ranking, the average age of their rostered players from World Cup 2014, and the youngest and oldest player from each roster.  Individual outliers exceeding the age of their teammates by more than 10 years or only played Cup were not included but are posted for reference.

Champions Division

Edmonton Impact
Avg. Age:  26.55
Zane Yachimec 24  | Dave Bains 32

Tampa Bay Damage
Avg. Age:  26.1
Jacob Edwards 19  | Dan Holliday 31 

Los Angeles Ironmen
Avg. Age:  26.58
Brandon Cornell 17  | Shane Pestana 43

Omaha Vicious
Avg. Age:  24.5
Bryan Bortol/Trevor Resar 23  |  Zach Sherman 27

San Diego Dynasty
Avg. Age:  29
Kyle Spicka 24  |  Ryan Greenspan/Oliver Lang 32

Art Chaos
Avg. Age:  25.33
Roman Lazarev 20  |  Mikhail “Mishka” Knyazev 32

San Antonio X-Factor
Avg. Age: 28.22, 30.3 with Team Owner Alex Martinez 49
Demetrius Ninios 21  |  Colt Roberts/Dixon Yang 32

Los Angeles Infamous
Avg. Age:   26.2,  27.36 with Coach Travis Lemanski 39
Zach Patient 22  | Nicky Cuba 33

Moscow Red Legion
Avg. Age:  25
Leonid Smotrov 16  |  Fabrice Colombo/Loic Voulot 32

Baltimore Revo
Avg. Age:  24.4  (23 without outlier)
Jonathon Hartman 20  |  Stacy Smith 37

Challengers Division

Houston Heat
Avg. Age:  26.9
Ronnie Dizon 22  |  Thomas Taylor 34

upTon 187 cRew
Avg. Age:  25.67
William Huntoon 23  |  Thomas Mantoni Jr 29

Chicago Aftershock
Avg. Age:  26.5
Jacop Tiilikainen 22  |  Aaron Tholey 31

Houston VcK
Avg. Age:  23.25
Mitchell Andrus 20  |  John Jackson 28

Trenton Topgun Union
Avg. Age:  25.7
Chris Schehr 23  |  Andrew Johnson III 28

Avg. Age:  27.67
Eliot Weaver 20  |  Chris Jansen 31

Seattle Thunder
Avg. Age:  26
Nico Perry 18  |  Michael Lew 33

Chattanooga CEP
Avg. Age:  25.7, (24 without outlier)
Mike Zuppa 20  |  Osvaldo Lopes 41

Sacramento XSV
Avg. Age:  30
Jaime Lopez Jr 22  |  Rich Telford 45

Red Storm
Avg. Age:  34.4
Joshua Victorio  23  |  Dmitriy Berdnikov 50

*Players only rostered for World Cup:
Jordan Howe Edmonton Impact 20,  CJ Botsolas Jr TB Damage 36
Xander Pond! Omaha Vicious  9, Petr Mares Red Storm 22, Casey Cain Seattle Thunder 37

Avg. Age Champions:  26.19

Avg. Age Challengers:  27.18

Avg. Age Professional:  26.685

Dmitry Berdnikov, age 50, pictured 4th from left among his Red Storm teammates at the PSP Dallas Open 2014.

So the average age of a professional paintball player is 26 going on 27 years old.  The top teams bare a consistent resemblance:  Impact 26.55, Damage 26.1, Ironmen 26.58.  The bottom two Professional teams, XSV 30 and Red Storm 34.4, happen to be the oldest.

Does this mean you have to be 26 years old to be a quality professional player?  Of course not.  But the average age may speak to the attributes, experience, or even maturity level needed to compete in the division.  The age could also simply be a byproduct of external factors outside of the game’s on-field requirements.

Before we start drawing conclusions, we’ll follow up with the Divisional ranks to see how their age composition differs, if at all, to Professional.  Then we’ll compare paintball to other sports, their ages of “peak performance,” and what that may inform us about the sport of paintball.

Special Thanks to Gary Baum and for photos.