Massachusetts Daily Collegian

After a hiatus, the UMass Paintball Team looks to make a comeback on campus

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While some may think of paintball as a fun hobby played among friends, for many at the University of Massachusetts, it is an intense, competitive sport.

With little exposure at the local level, let alone on national television, there are very few students on campus who play paintball, according to David Patlut, the team’s unofficial organizer. Patlut, a junior from Brooklyn, New York, came to UMass with no paintball experience and hopes to attract others who are unaware of the club.

Patlut got into the sport during his freshman year after playing with Daniel Murray, a sophomore at the time. The adrenaline of getting shot at by gelatin capsules is a rush that attracts many players to the sport, according to Murray.

“(Patlut) caught the paintball bug,” he said. “He’s been getting better and better ever since. It really reflects on how fun paintball is once you try it.”

According to Murray, most team members had no experience with paintball before coming to the University. But he is different. Unlike Patlut, Murray came to UMass from Amesbury with years of experience. Like many kids in suburban and rural areas across the commonwealth, Murray started playing paintball in middle school.

And despite safety concerns, Murray took his hobby to a competitive level, playing in statewide competitions. In fact, he made the decision to attend UMass because he saw online that the school had a paintball team.

“I came to this school because I thought that they had a paintball club,” Murray said. “UMass had a paintball team, but it was pretty much dead since 2007. It didn’t have enough members.”

“We were basically a joke,” Patlut added.

Patlut was able to arrange for the paintball team to compete in the AA class of the National Collegiate Paintball Association, which covers almost every university on the East Coast. The AA class is below the A class, of which season matches are broadcast online.

In most events, UMass paintball plays “race to two” style, where teams play two matches, each worth one point. In most cases, two points is all the better team needs to beat the other, although a third match is needed in the event of a tie.

During the 2013-14 season, UMass competed in four events, including the National Championship in Lakeland, Florida where they finished 12th out of 50 teams.

The last match between the final two A class finalists is broadcast live on CBS every year. Patlut and Murray hope to take advantage of this opportunity – both want to see the team play in class A in the near future.

“We hope to play in the higher class and represent UMass on live broadcast and even possibly on live TV,” Patlut said.

Although Murray and Patlut were originally co-creators of the club, Patlut currently handles most of the administrative duties. He is advised by Brian Arnold, the assistant director in leadership training at the Center for Student Development. Arnold is also in charge of advising all of the “high risk” Registered Student Organizations, such as the soccer and the ice hockey teams.

“I’m from Colorado and (paintball) is huge there. In Massachusetts, it’s popular among select populations,” Arnold said. “I like (the team). They’re a little different and not your traditional sport.”

Arnold said paintball is different from other club sports on campus because it brings up the safety concern that athletes are shooting at each other.

“People were asking questions when it was formed, such as where they would practice,” Arnold said. “There were not only concerns over safety, but also the guidelines set by the University in order to receive funding.”

Having received their fair share of criticism for playing, Murray and Patlut both hope to dispel any false ideas about the sport, such as the idea that paintball is directly associated with hunting or other sports involving firearms. Although Murray plays paintball year round, he also hunts and goes to shooting ranges – two completely different hobbies, he said.

“I don’t want people to think about firearms when someone mentions paintball,” Murray said. “It’s a huge problem for our sport because parents don’t want their kids playing a game associated with real guns. Instead of guns, they are actually called paintball markers.”

While the stigma attached to the sport certainly deters some, the paintball team has had other problems getting members to join. In the past, the team has tried to self-advertise with posters and Facebook. They have also had some success with fundraising – such as selling T-shirts and jerseys.

These efforts, however, have not proven enough for Patlut, who believes the team needs more time to make itself known to students and the administration. He added that securing the right funding is one of the team’s biggest issues.

The four or more events that the UMass Paintball Team attends are costly, with the championship alone costing $500 or more per team to compete. Aside from entrance fees, every member of the paintball team pays out-of-pocket for personal expenses, which Patlut estimates to be between $250 and $300 per event, per person. In addition to lodging and food, players must also pay for their own equipment.

Despite the troubles associated with starting the club up again after a five-year hiatus, Patlut has plans for the team’s future and hopes to emulate other club teams such as club soccer. These include making a separate recreational division in which athletes who are not able to have a full commitment to the sport can play for fun.

Patlut, as well as the other team members, recognizes that the only way to reach such a level is to make progress in the present. The upcoming national championship is certainly on the minds of everyone on the team. This could be a chance to finally get some recognition.

“We want to be able to play in leagues outside of the NCPA,” Patlut said. “Our goals in the end is to expose as many people as possible to our sport.”

Jordan Deschenes can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “After a hiatus, the UMass Paintball Team looks to make a comeback on campus”

  1. Reynoso on January 16th, 2016 11:57 am

    The paintball sport journey of Patlut and Murray through the years is very inspiring for paintball players. The sport should be promoted at university level but it is important to take measures for protection of students.

  2. Mark on January 22nd, 2016 10:50 am

    I’m from England and there are no paintballing clubs that you can join in university from what I know…which is a shame. Great post! Just shows that it’s always good to try something you never thought you would do before…you might end up loving it!

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