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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Shoot to score: Paintball club begins at UA

    Patrick Hood, left, president of the Arizona club paintball team, and another member hide behind bunkers at their practice site, Sudden Impact on Tangerine Road off Interstate 10. The paintball team is in its first year as a club sport at Arizona.
    Patrick Hood, left, president of the Arizona club paintball team, and another member hide behind bunkers at their practice site, Sudden Impact on Tangerine Road off Interstate 10. The paintball team is in its first year as a club sport at Arizona.

    There is no grassy turf to be found on this practice field. Set in the middle of the Sonoran Desert north of Tucson, the Arizona club paintball team’s chosen training grounds have a slightly post-apocalyptic feel to them.

    Weekend practices find players darting from behind battered obstacles, giant wheels and malformed wooden barriers splotched every color. They kick up dust as they sprint toward enemy positions, rattling out rounds of paint at 14 shots a minute that echo off a neighboring landfill. The field itself resembles a junkyard.

    It’s just another weekend at the office for the Arizona paintball team, gearing up for its first season as a club sport.

    Taking a break between training simulations, club vice president and co-founder Colin Hood laid out his team’s strategy.

    “”Fast, aggressive, overwhelm,”” said Hood, a sophomore.

    That sums up the sport of paintball as well as anything. One of the newest additions to the National Collegiate Paintball Association, Arizona will send its squad to do battle with other college clubs in fast and furious five-on-five matches.

    “”Speed ball,”” as the team calls it, is exactly that. Each team starts from a central location at the back of the playing field, which is about as long as the average basketball court but wider.

    At the signal, the teams rapidly advance toward enemy territory, attempting to eliminate the opposition. One shot anywhere on the body or the gun, and you’re out. In a matter of minutes, the match is over, and the best out of three wins.

    Moving forward is the key, said team president Patrick Hood, a sophomore who helped found the team with his twin brother Colin.

    “”If you play defensive, you’ll just get rolled. They’ll bunker you,”” Patrick said about the obstacles players take shelter behind. “”Bunkering is a terrible thing. It’s when you’re not paying attention that someone comes up right behind you (while you’re behind the bunker) and shoots you from …well, there’s no penalty on how close you are when you shoot someone.””

    As avid players during their high school years in California, the Hood brothers were determined to continue their paintball hobby into college. Using Facebook.com as an organizing tool, the Hoods identified fellow paintball enthusiasts and formed a solid group of regulars with paintball experience.

    “”You can almost entirely thank Facebook (for the team),”” Colin said.

    Freshman Michael Colson is one of the team’s Facebook recruits.

    “”I was worried that when I came down here that I was just going to have to quit playing paintball, which was going to make me go through withdrawal,”” Colson said. “”I just looked on Facebook and found Patrick and Colin, who happened to be starting a team.””

    The team has brought together a far-flung collection of paintball players. Because of the expense, it’s difficult to find friends to play with. A day of practice can cost more than $80 in paint, not to mention startup costs for equipment.

    Sophomore Michael Gordon is one of the lucky ones; he has a special arrangement with his roommate to help feed his paintball addiction.

    “”He pays for groceries.”” Gordon said. “”I pay for the paintball.””

    Sophomore Brenden Lawless, who recently began practicing with the team, said he is glad to have the opportunity to rediscover a hobby he had all but given up on, as well as to connect with his fellow students.

    “”The reason I quit was because I didn’t have friends to play with, but now I do,”” Lawless said.

    Lawless was a little rusty after a few years of inaction, recently taking a nasty hit to the hand that broke the skin, and, worse, knocking him out of the game. But for Lawless, it’s so far, so good.

    “”For not playing for a few years, I think I’m doing all right,”” he said. “”I’m getting hit, but I’m also getting kills.””

    Said Colson: “”He’s doing pretty good. So far he’s on the roster.””

    “”By default,”” Lawless replied.

    The small team has roughly seven core players but is looking to expand to 14.

    However small it is, the club has bonded.

    “”None of us knew each other before,”” Colson said. “”But these guys are cool guys.””

    The atmosphere at practice is upbeat. Instead of a rigid hierarchy, teammates give each other feedback between scrimmages, and criticism is taken without complaint.

    Although the Hood brothers occupy leadership roles on paper, the team operates as paintball by committee. Often a team member will step out of a game to personally observe and coach a teammate, shouting out instructions during a scrimmage.

    “”It’s really, really laid back,”” Colin said.

    With egos in check, the team’s main focus is making a name for Arizona in the world of collegiate paintball. Patrick said that his first-year team will have much to prove this year, but he’s banking on a combination of experienced young players and weekly practices to help get them over the hump.

    “”With time comes skill, so we may be an underdog this year,”” he said, “”but in years to come, we’ll hopefully be one of the best out there in the college series, especially since we’re playing so often.””

    Colson has a more specific goal in mind.

    “”Our goal is to beat ASU,”” he said. “”If we beat ASU, I’m happy.””

    As a Nebraska native and a veteran of numerous national paintball tournaments, Colson has played in tournaments from Chicago to Orlando, Fla., to Las Vegas, but playing for his home school is an experience outside of any he’s had in paintball.

    “”You immediately get more respect, which I like a lot,”” he said. “”Instead of just being some random team, you’re the U of A paintball team, which is just awesome.””

    Patrick said he is equally proud of the chance to combine his love of Arizona with his love of paintball.

    “”I love it. Arizona’s a really fun state,”” he said. “”I love U of A, and it’s going to be awesome to take the red, white and blue up to the tournament series.””

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