Paintball is not just a hobby

By Korey Peterson

“It feels like getting pinched,” said junior Connor Hannan, president of the NIU paintball club, when asked if being shot with a paintball hurts. “When your adrenaline is pumping, you don’t really feel it.”

The game of paintball isn’t just reserved for bachelor parties or other group outings where the main goal is splattering your friends with water-based paint.

At NIU, paintballers compete with other colleges as a part of the National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA). Universities can send more than one team to tournaments with just five players opposing each other.

The most common tournament game is a modification of “Capture the Flag,” where teams earn points for grabbing the opposition’s flag and successfully returning it to their own base.

The conference has just two divisions, AA and A, with members of the A division having to qualify for that division in previous seasons, while AA is open to all university teams. About 50 teams qualify for the national tournament in the AA division, while about 15 teams compete in the class A tournament. The more experienced class A teams play faster paced games referred to as “best ball”.

NIU has qualified as recently as 2008 for the tournament that is held in mid to late April. They came away fifth in that tournament, Hannan’s first year at NIU.

“We did not go [to nationals] last year because of lack of commitment,” he said. “As president, my main goal is to go back there because that was the most fun I’ve ever had.”

The NIU club, which joined the NCPA in 2001, currently has about 70 members, with 25 to 30 competing in tournaments and the rest just playing for fun at the several paintball facilities that NIU uses for practice.

At the first tournament of the year held recently, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Huskies had problems with the guns functioning properly. The three five-man teams settled for disappointing 14th, 16th and 17th places.

The cold weather led to the gun problems as NIU took the field at about 6:30 a.m.

Those problems should come to an end as the team recently partnered with Planet Eclipse, a manufacturer of paintball guns and other accessories.

Planet Eclipse, referred to by Hannan as an “industry leading manufacturer,” will provide the team with state of the art equipment for the 2010-2011 season. NIU will be using Eclipse’s newest model, a custom Ego 11, complete with an NIU logo to match the team’s jerseys.

The team will continue to add tournaments to its schedule as it tries to qualify for the national tournament at the end of April.

“After the first tournament, we just need more practice,” Hannan said. “We just haven’t had enough time with each other yet. We have a really good team.”