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Tommy Cole Tells All ..... 'ish


Owner of this website
Jul 5, 2001
For those of you who don't know Tommy Cole, here’s a brief run-down:-

Ever since I started playing in the US in around 1990, Tommy was known as one of the good guys - Personally, I always thought he should have been on the Waltons but he ended up as top-dog on a team called Bad Company out of Maryland who at the time were one of the top five teams on the pro circuit.


Tommy Cole pondering the meaning of life ….. either that or he's got wind.

He was always regarded as a smart player, not so much a bunker-monkey in search of fame and glory but having played against him several times, I think it's fair to say he's an instinctive player.
Although he was the owner/captain of Bad Company, he wasn't the dominant male type of leader a lot of other teams seemed to have.
He led by example - when I was playing on Aftershock, Renick Miller, our team owner/captain tried to sign him up several times I seem to remember but I always tried to put Renick off from doing that just in case Tommy took my place on the team :)

In all the time I've been friends with Tommy, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one bad word said against the man which is a pretty rare accomplishment when you’ve been in the game for as long as he has.
He’s not only been heavily involved as a player and team owner/captain, he’s also made his livelihood from our sport in various associations with different companies and leagues such as the UWL and NXL.
A lot of people these days will know him from the UWL woodland series in the US that he created/owned as well as working alongside Richmond and Billy Ceranski of Gi Sports with the NXL in the US, and of course, over here in Europe.
And it is his connection with the NXL Europe that has prompted this interview - to be more precise, he's got over 200 teams signed up for Amsterdam and that's the real reason I've plonked him in the hot-seat.

Robbo: Hi Tommy, I know you’re busy and so I’ll try to be as much of an interruption as I can.
Let’s start by asking you what’s happening with the UWL, the Woodland Tournament League you started up a few years ago?

Tommy: I’ve integrated the UWL into the ICPL [International Classis Paintball League] to try and rationalise some of my interests.
I’ve made it a ten-man, two-flag format with the rate of fire set at 5.5 to try and consolidate a few of the variables we have with the woodland format.

I hope that’s the future we're all getting behind, and once all that’s settled down, we can get on with growing this sport which is obviously the best thing for all of us, both sport and industry.

Robbo: As a brief aside, when I interviewed Billy Ceranski a week or so ago, I think you’ve read it on p8ntballer if I’m not mistaken, did you agree with his thoughts on whether or not the woodland revival in the US had topped out?

Tommy: I did read it, yes, and I suppose I’d have to agree with him in that the UWL was showing signs of levelling off after the initial growth spurt but I genuinely think that once the ICPL has been established and people know what we’re about, the woodland revival will hopefully begin to go into that second phase of development.
Now, whether that proves to be the saviour some people are suggesting remains to be seen but I think there’s another possible candidate in the frame concerning the role of saviour in paintball - and that's the Open Arena format events such as the NXL over here in the US, and maybe, by the look of it, over there in Europe, namely Amsterdam - we've now seen the 200 team ceiling broken through -
it could of course be just a co-incidence Pete but personally, I don't think so.

Robbo: When we talked earlier, you mentioned the fact that you’ve seen positive indications concerning the number of teams/players involved in the tourney scene when compared to the last few years - can you flesh that out and give us some numbers?

Tommy: This year has shown more teams playing in tournaments than ever before - as I just said, Amsterdam is now booked out with over 200 teams signed up.
I’d like to think the Red Light district and a thousand cannabis cafes haven’t had that much influence on player attendance, but hey, we're talking about paintball players here, not Dominican monks.

But as for Stateside?
The 2018 World Cup saw the highest retention figure in terms of unique player attendance.

Robbo: What do you mean by that?

Tommy: I’ve compiled and tabulated all the data we've collected over the past 15 years or so in terms of World Cup attendance figures.
I’ll send you over the presentations relating to this, if you like.
I’ll let you explain their relevance since you’re supposed to be the Math smart-ass.

Robbo: Supposed to be? - you cheeky fuhka !!
And by the way, the abbreviation is ‘Maths’ not ‘Math’ FFS - it's a derivative of mathematics not mathematic, you yankee doodle dandy :confused: :mad: :(

Stop fukkin around with the English language, we invented it ya know !

As for the data tables you sent?
I'll do my best to see if there's anything worthwhile in this data-set you'll be sending over ….. by the way, how’s your family getting on, you know, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful and the rest of the crew ?

This next part of this interview/article comes with a mental health warning - I know a lot of people don’t really like statistics, and so for those who aren’t interested in these type presentations, skip past this discussion on the data-sets that Tommy has kindly compiled for us all.
The interview begins again just under the big picture of Tommy below.

Hopefully’ something interesting might pop out from the information he's sent over.

World Cup Data Set - provided by Tommy Cole aka The Danny DeVito of Paintball.

Total unique Players
Players returning from year before
Average Age

Robbo: These figures look pretty straightforward, and that's because they are, but if we scratch a little then we can maybe discern some trends that are not immediately obvious.

In 2006, the World Cup was supposedly basking in its heyday having 5245 players in attendance, the largest player attendance since these records began.
However, even though we’re now supposed to be in the middle of a protracted downturn these past years, we can see that 2018 had 4969 players, a drop of only 5% compared to its heyday year of 2006.
There seems to be somewhat of an anomaly here - if we are indeed in a slump then it ain’t much of one, that’s for sure.
But this could just be a statistical blip and so we have to look a bit deeper to extract any relevance.
The intervening years seem to tell a story anyways.

But before I venture any further into this data, I’d better clarify something fast:-

Any self-respecting statistician would first have to ask, does this World Cup data set represent tournament paintball as a whole?
Also, can we, in Europe, use these figures as a guide to assess our own marketplace?
Or, could it be, the World Cup has to be treated individually, and is not necessarily a direct indicator as to what’s going on in the world of tournament paintball using the open arena format?


Looking at that pic, is it any wonder the World Cup is paintball's very own thousand pound gorilla

Well, we’ve all heard that maxim - 'When the US gets a cold, Europe starts sneezing', and so it does seem, superficially at least, that there is a correspondence between tournament player data generated in the US as being somewhat useful as a world [US and Europe] indicator to the state of tournament paintball.

Moving on, let’s look at 2010 and see what’s happening then - there were only 3206 players attending the World Cup in that year indicating a drop of approx. 39% over 2006 which is a significant downturn by anyone’s standards.

From the year 2011 through to 2018, the attendance figures indicate a definite upward trend in the number of players with only one blip in 2015 [3327 players] but if we ignore that and put it down to a statistical aberration then we can see an authentic linear increase in player/team attendance.

Now, what’s important here is the number of players returning from the previous year which shows last year, in 2018, we had 2,648 players coming back to play from the previous year which happens to be the highest ever retention figure since the records began in 2005.

It’s also interesting to see that from 2005 through to 2011, there’s a steady decline of players returning from the previous year – this could mean that the players/customers were not satisfied [for whatever reason] with the product leastwise by those who chose not to return.
But, I don’t think this is the case, I think the decline reflects the paintball tournament market as a whole and there weren’t as many players around then and so attendance was down because of this suppressed market-place.

For those who ain’t up to speed re the significance of the World Cup, it‘s long been recognised as the number one event for all ballers across the world from the early 90s.
It’s paintball’s very own, living and breathing, thousand-pound gorilla, and rightly so


Far be it from me to malign our [UK] efforts in emulating the World Cup but this is hardly Basildon, now is it?

And if you are any self-respecting tournament player, especially so for the pros, the World Cup remains, and has always been the Numero Uno ambition.
For amateurs, novices and pros, you haven’t competed until you’ve competed in the World Cup - playing this one event is what every player would sell his granny for.
And only an elite few pros have ever been lucky enough to walk off with the ultimate title of any title, that of the World Cup Champions.

To win the Cup as a pro is the absolute pinnacle of competitive paintball, and for those of you who know me, you’ll be expecting/cringing at the thought I’m just about to bring up the fact that I’ve won the World Cup twice but I'm afraid that humility has got the better of me, and so I won’t mention it, I promise.

Getting back to the stats, I have to say that not much surprises me anymore in paintball but if we look at the average age data-set across the 14 year spread of 2005 to 2018, an interesting stat pops out - the players' age has been increasing and not decreasing as a lot of us believed.

I certainly thought the average age was declining as the new demands of the Open Arena format took hold, but the figures indicate something very different, and the figures don’t lie !

Well, actually, stats often do lie but this tends to be when people manipulate them for their own nefarious ends, however, this isn't the case here, and so you can trust this data implicitly.

Just to clarify here, we’re not talking about the average of those players who play tournament paintball, these numbers apply to those players who attended the World Cup.

Of course, we’re assuming that the World Cup data-set Tommy has provided, represents in some form, tournament ball across the board not just for the World Cup.
It may be presumptuous to assume this relationship but the point is, it may not be a 'one to one' correspondence but it ain't too far off the mark.

Statistics can be notoriously misleading if handled incompetently [or misleadingly] but an important feature is when there’s a corollary between data-sets that hasn’t been identified elsewhere.

If we now look at that upward trend in a player’s age from 2009 to 2018, and cross-reference that with the number of unique players in attendance over that same period then you’ll notice the two data-sets seem correlated, approximately so, anyway.
The upward trend is linear, it has a few anomalies but if we smooth those out then I think we can legitimately suggest that it is the influx of older players that underlies this apparent revival, at least in part, maybe a big part.

I don’t think this has ever been suggested elsewhere leastwise to my knowledge and if it is authentic, and I think it is, then the industry’s marketing boys need to get their finger out and begin adjusting how to promote our sport to this older demographic.

We need to clarify something here, the stats ain’t saying all the players in attendance for one particular year are all one year older across the board than the previous year - the reality is that the influx of new blood, is older blood.
If we have a 10% class of players who are say, 10 years older than the previous average attending for one particular year then this will have the effect of pushing up the average age figure in increments of 1, well mostly it will, in this type situation.
I’m not for one second suggesting it’s always 1, it could be 2 some years, if not more, if you get my drift.

And this is because the new influx of older players is a minor percentage of the overall number of players in attendance and so the statistical effect will be somewhat dampened.
The important aspect is though, we are growing, and we are growing because we are getting the product right, and our sport is attracting an older demographic just like it used to do before in our heyday.
Deja Vu ?
Could be ….

When I first looked at the data presented in this table, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised .... but I was !!
And so, our thanks should go to Tommy Cole for compiling and sharing this with p8ntballer.com.

Robbo: OK, Let’s get back to the interview …...


Tommy Cole looking rather dapper for an All American boy … either that or he has constipation.

Robbo: Amsterdam’s attendance figures imply you’ve done a great job marketing this Tommy, were you surprised at the number of players/teams who’ve signed up?

Tommy: Yeah, of course I was, I’d been working hard to try and get things right over in Europe because I genuinely believe that the closer the links we have between the US and Europe in the from of the NXL then the better it is for everyone, and that goes for teams/players and our industry.

At one point, when Gi pulled out of supporting the NXL in Europe, I feared for the worse, Pete.
But, an old friend of yours and mine came to our rescue.

Robbo: Billy ..?

Tommy: Yes, Billy Ceranski in the form of Gi.
Pete, Bill’s just like you and I, the man is a born baller, and competitive paintball runs in his DNA.
Billy was always going to try to support the World Cup if he could - After all, he's won it six times I think, which by the way is four more times than you, I believe?

Robbo: Yes, that's true, he has won it four more times than me but there's a very good reason for that ….

Tommy: Which is …?

Robbo: Ermmmm, I'll have to get back to you on that ……. moving swiftly on !

Tommy: As soon as Billy agreed to support the NXL in Europe, I knew we were going to be ok.
If there was going to be no Billy [Gi] then there was going to be no NXL in Europe, it was as simple as that !

Robbo: I think we’ve both got a lot to thank Billy for, as have the European players/teams and industry.
You mentioned something about a conference league with the US, can you explain what that's all about please Tommy?

Tommy: I haven’t yet decided exactly how it’s going to work but at some stage, and if things progress with the way they are going then I’d like to create a Conference league that included the top pro teams from both sides of the pond – exactly how this will pan out, I'm not certain yet but be assured, I’ll let you guys at P8ntballer.com know all about it,.. when I know.

Pete, you've been pretty sceptical concerning the state of paintball on both sides of the Atlantic but I genuinely believe there's a real change coming.
I know you’ve been on a downer with regard to how you believed our sport was doing but we really are in a better place over here in the US.

It’s not all doom and gloom anymore, we really do have those green shoots of recovery you've been going on about.

Robbo: From what you’ve achieved with this year’s Amsterdam event, it seems your success seems to be rubbing off over here.
There’s been some confusing signs emanating from our sport these past few years, Tommy - what with the apparent resurgence in woodland events on both sides of the Atlantic with your UWL series and Twizz’s Holmbush events over here, and now this, an apparent upsurge in Open Arena tournaments, once again, on both sides of the pond.

Which one is the false Dawn Tommy?

Tommy: What do you mean?

Robbo: Well, you did say that it looked like the competitive woodland scene might have tailed off a bit Stateside but it could well come back fighting fit after its integration with the ICPL.
And now, your success with the NXL in the US, and over here …. It could be that it’s not an either/or, maybe both facets of the paintball retail market are coming back, dare we hope for that, Tom?

Tommy: Let’s see what happens, Pete.

Robbo: I hate to admit it but if things continue in the way they have been lately then it looks like we [Paintball] have got two Yanks, yourself and Billy Ceranski, who are going to end up being our knights in shining armour who seem destined to rescue us on both sides of the Atlantic.
Seriously though, I don't give a flying fuhk who saves us, I'm just grateful you've been able to achieve it.
Thanks for your time Tommy, and say ‘Hi’ to Snow White for me, please mate.

Tommy: K'off Pete !
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