Staying active, meeting new people and being outdoors are some of the reasons people try paintball. Here’s why members of the Western Michigan University paintball team say they play paintball.
“The adrenaline rush. Nothing else is like it," says Tim Drahokoupil. " I snowboard, I’ve rock climbed. Nothing else is like the adrenaline rush of paintball.”
“I chose to play paintball because I really wasn’t good at basketball or football and I liked adrenaline sports a lot," says Brian Goniwicha. "I used to ride my bike and jump off jumps. Until I started getting hurt doing that, and I took up the sport of paintball, and I can’t get over the adrenaline rush.” That was Tim
Drahokoupil and Goniwicha are captains of the WMU Paintball team. They got together with Nate Haney to form the WMU club sport in the summer of 2010. There are actually two paintball teams, Drahokoupil says one is more competitive than the other.
“The two teams, the starter team, those are the heavily into tournament paintball guys, those are the guys that have been grinding for 5-6 years out on the inflatable air ball course," Drahokoupil says. "The secondary team is pretty much those that like paintball, they’ve seen tournaments, they kind of just want to work their way into it, they start at the lower level leagues then just sort of brace themselves into it.”
There are 10 players on the competitive team, while the recreational teams can have upwards of 15 players. The team participates in four tournaments per year against other Midwest schools.
“After that there’s this national tournament in Lakeland, Florida," Goniwicha says. "We get sent there to go compete against the whole nation not just the other Midwest leagues. We play some good teams out there. Last year we didn’t end up going, but ended up finishing sixth overall in the nation out of 88 college teams. The year before that we ended up placing second in nationals and we lost to the University of Buffalo.”
The team has traveled as far as Washington D.C. and California for tournaments. Drahokoupil says the only difficult things about managing the team is paying for these tournaments. He says, fortunately, the WMU team is one of the few that’s sponsored.
“We have a sponsorship with this company called Ninja Paintball," Drahokoupil says. "They pay for forty cases of our paint, which are 2000 rounds each. At an event those can cost up to 60 dollars a case. So long as we continue to make the Sunday finals, Ninja will continue to pay for our paint. So long as we continuously do well, do better, and eventually get that win.”
Drahokoupil says though membership is free, paintball equipment can be pretty pricey.
“A basic gun would cost you anywhere from, you pay maybe one to three hundred dollars, and you could be ready to go play paintball," he says. "You could even get a basic setup for even three hundred dollars. If you want to talk more expensive, there’s some guns that range up to fifteen hundred dollars just because of internally what they do.”
Proper equipment is an essential part of paintball, particularly the mask, to keep paintballs away from your eyes. Though being pelted by small balls of paint at three hundred feet per second may not sound fun to you, Drahokoupil says it’s worth it.
“Like I said before, the adrenaline rush. People think paintball is scary, they think it hurts. But believe me; once you’re playing, you don’t feel it, you just want to go back for more.”
You can find out more about WMU’s paintball team by searching their Facebook page, “Western Michigan Broncos Paintball.”