North Texas Daily

Paintball grows in popularity through club

Paintball grows in popularity through club

Paintball grows in popularity through club
March 24
00:48 2015

Reece Waddell / Staff Writer

Dunking, diving and weaving under obstacles, criminal justice junior Dakota Dunks slid into a bunker to take cover from a barrage of paintballs. Immediately, he felt a strong surge of pain rush up his leg. He was safe for a mere second before he came under fire again.

After regrouping with his team and winning the match, Dunks looked down and realized his entire leg was doused in blood. He reached down to assess the damage, and what he saw stunned both him and his teammates. A railroad spike, a common item used to stake down the inflatable bunkers penetrated his leg.

Dunks is part of the UNT paintball club and said this was by far his wildest paintball experience, but that it holds a lot of truth. Some players get so involved in the match that they don’t notice injuries such as Dunks’.

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UNT paintball team photo

“Honestly, when it happened I didn’t think too much about it,” Dunks said. “I thought, ‘Wow, my knee hurts,’ and kind of just kept playing. It was definitely the adrenaline because after the match I definitely felt it.”

The sport of paintball has grown in popularity over the past 10 years, with many of the major universities in Texas boasting paintball programs like the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University. North Texas’ paintball club, while smaller than the aforementioned schools’, has two national titles to its name from 2009 and 2010.

“Paintball is more of on a comeback than it has been, in terms of overall popularity,” said club president and kinesiology junior Michael Calender. “The bigger, they’re pretty much our top rivals and we love to compete against them and win.”

The UNT paintball club was founded in September 2003 by Jason Niehuas, who has since graduated. Calender said he has seen the club grow year after year and the team currently has 23 active players on the roster.

“We have enough people for four active lines, which is nice because we can pick who we take to tournament or just take multiple lines,” Calender said. “We haven’t done as much as we’d like to in terms of getting our image out there, but I’ve painted signs that are hung along the walking track at the rec, so that helps.”

Paintball is governed by the National Collegiate Paintball Association and provides the fundamental rules and by-laws of the sport. Teams compete against one another in a five-on-five, capture the flag format. The first team to capture the flag or eliminate the five other players wins. However, more points are awarded for getting the opposing team’s flag.

Scoring is similar to NASCAR, with schools accumulating points over different events throughout the course of the season, and the university with the highest point total at the end of year gets crowned champion.

Unlike other sports at North Texas, the paintball club is open to join with no official tryout required. Calender said he has seen people with no experience to people who play paintball every weekend.

“We get all kinds of people come out for paintball,” Calender said. “There’s really no set-in-stone way you make the team. If you come out and show a love for paintball and a passion we can turn you into a tournament player.”

One issue that has plagued the paintball club at times has been funding, or the lack thereof. While some universities, such as Texas A&M, were cleared to play paintball on campus regularly and even given a practice area, UNT has not given the paintball team a charter, which forces the team to practice off-campus at different venues every weekend. Criminal justice junior and vice president Ricky Samano said at times money can force a student to not participate, but for the most part the team does its best to ensure it does not prohibit someone from playing.

“We buy our paint in bulk, and at the end of the day everyone pays the same price,” Samano said. “Everyone has to get their own equipment though: marker, knee pads, helmet. Even if we have funding from the rec center, we couldn’t use it to buy the marker, because it can be considered a ‘gun.’ Sometimes we do give guys hand-me-down equipment, which is a win-win for everyone.”

Despite some issues with funding and practicing, the paintball team has experienced great success. Dunks, who is the only member of the current team that was a part of the 2009 and 2010 national championship teams, said a reason the team is competitive and wins on a regular basis is due to the chemistry its members share.

“We hang out a lot off the field,” Dunks said. “That’s a huge part of paintball. Having a connection with everyone out there. If you know what the person in front of you is going to do, it makes your life easier and it makes you play with a lot more confidence. I think we’re one of the few organizations that spends time with each other regularly and I think that’s why we’ve won national championships.”

Calender said he has seen some people join the paintball team hoping to live out certain video game fantasies. However, for the most part, he said paintball is nothing like the video games “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield,” but there are a few similarities which people may like.

“We’re very organized, so there’s that,” Calender said. “But we play in closed off, netted arenas. We aren’t decked out in camo playing in the woods. There are a lot of stereotypes about paintball and most of them aren’t true. But even the people that come out hoping it’s similar to a video tend to have fun.”

Despite their laid back and casual appearance, members of the paintball club become serious when the matches start. When the match starts, they are focused on winning just like any sport.

“The second [the match] starts, the adrenaline starts pumping and your heart starts racing. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, playing paintball,” Dunks said.

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