For the first time since 2007, the K-State Paintball Club has qualified for the National Collegiate Paintball Association’s qualifying tournament after years of being unable to meet some requirements to participate in the National Collegiate Paintball Association’s qualifying tournaments. However, their path to the mid-April tournament was cut short by funding roadblocks.
The club last competed nationally in 2007, according to Rob Nixon, faculty adviser of the club and associate director of university printing services. In the years between 2007 and 2013, though the group started to build itself back up, membership remained an issue. The reason for decline, Nixon said, was likely the club’s intense focus on competing in tournaments.
“For a short period, the club focused only on tournament play, which led to a membership decline,” Nixon said. “The current leadership has rebuilt a program that encompasses the diversity of the sport.”
Nixon said the new club leadership introduces players to the sport by playing a more recreational style during the first half of the year before allowing a more competitive style later on.
In paintball, there are two traditional types of play: “Woodsball” and “Speedball,” Jake Dickson, owner of Elite Sports in Salina said. Elite Sports began sponsoring the team this semester.
“Woodsball is more of your recreational type of play,” Dickson said. “It allows people to get a little more sneaky and put on their camo stuff, and it’s more like a tactical type thing.”
Dickson said Woodsball typically takes places in environments filled with natural obstacles, such as the woods. According to Dickson, games in this style are typically longer, in part because the arena can be big, sometimes as big as 45 or 50 acres. Speedball, by contrast, is often done with inflatable “bunkers” in a more confined playing field.
“It’s more of a fast-paced game,” Dickson said. “When you go out onto the field, you usually know where everyone is just because it’s so much smaller of a space.”
The club competed in the third of a series of four events teams use to qualify for the national tournament in February, the club’s president Clinton Meyer said. The club took two teams to participate.
“Usually a school will send just one team to an event like that,” Meyer, senior in chemistry, said. “I wanted to make sure that every player on my team that wanted to go would make it, and I wanted to make sure every player on my team that wanted to go would play.”
Meyer said the team took 14th place in the tournament out of more than 23 teams.
“We were able to qualify for nationals,” Meyer said. “However going to and participating in nationals was not in the budget this year.”
A major struggle the club currently faces is funding. Meyer said the club receives funding from the Office of Student Activities and Services like other sport clubs, but that funding alone is not enough to allow them to attend other events, such as nationals. This year, the club received $1,300 from OSAS.
Meyer said that though the club is grateful for the funds they receive, the costs – such as tournaments – still fall largely on the players. If the club had attended nationals, the cost would have been $600-$700 per team, depending on when they registered, according to the association’s website.
“A lot of our money that we spend on travel comes from the dues that we pay at the beginning of the year,” Sarah Hagerty, freshman in criminology, said. “As far as the paint and equipment, a lot of that comes directly from our pocket.”
Nixon said the group faces challenges with equipment storage as well, but funding remains one of the biggest challenges they face.
“Some of our biggest challenges have been funding, which is always an issue,” Nixon said. “It is expensive for the guys that want to play.”
Hagerty said one of the ways the club has begun to overcome those challenges has been signing up for different service activities around campus that pay, such as helping clean Bramlage Coliseum after basketball games.
They practice on a makeshift field in an Ahearn Fieldhouse volleyball court every Thursday night. They train with rubber reballs, reusable rubber balls that are not filled with paint and do not damage the surface of the arena.
“It’s a lot different to practice with reballs and paint,” Meyer said. “But, we do what we can with what we have and we make it work.”
Hagerty said they use their standard paintball guns to also shoot the reballs. The club sets up inflatable bunkers and creates a training field within the gym. During practice, Hagerty said the club cumulatively uses 8,000-9,000 reballs.
“Eight thousand to 9,000 paintballs are what a person would normally use in a day on the field,” Hagerty said.
The reballs weigh nearly the same as a paintball round, Hagerty said. Because of the similarities, players don’t have to modify their safety equipment.
“We don’t have to do anything different about our masks or safety precautions,” Hagerty said.
Increases in the club’s membership has come as a result of the club’s recent leadership efforts, Nixon said.
“We’ve really focused in the last two years on our image and what we can do to improve our image,” Nixon said. “There’s a lot of negative perception about the sport.”
Meyer said the group has begun reaching out to campus and spreading the word about their sport. They’ve partnered with the K-State track and field team to help recruit new athletes, and are co-hosting a UPC event in which will allow people play on a paintball field at the Chester E. Peters Recreations Complex. Meyer said last year’s event attracted more than 250 people.
“We intend to make it an annual event,” Meyer said. “We try and give back to our school in multiple ways, those are just two.”
The club volunteers as an organization, but also encourages its members to participate in campus events.
“The biggest thing we decided last year was we want build a program,” Meyer said. “We don’t want to build a one year team and then that’s it.”
Dickson said Elite Sports plans to sponsor the club as long as they want the sponsorship.
“They’re great guys and they’re easy to work with,” Dickson said. “They grow the sport of paintball, so we love helping them out.”
According to Nixon, he’s noticed the club’s members take care and look out for each other. Meyer agreed, and said the club has taken the “Bill Snyder approach,” cultivating the team into a “family.”
“We help each other out both on the paintball field with skills and techniques of tournament play (and) in the classroom,” Meyer said.