Georgia State fields a competitive paintball team within the umbrella of its Intramurals clubs. That team will be competing in the National Collegiate Paintball Association [NCPA] college and high school national championships on April 17-19 in Lakeland, Florida.
The achievement of making the national tournament once again is a noteworthy one for the paintball club that was first established in 2010. That year, the team competed in the Frost Bowl in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — the team’s first tournament. The Panthers won that event for its first tournament victory in the club’s short history.
Club president Zak Russell said having strong outings when competing as well as consistently arriving for practices have been essential in the team’s success this year.
“The main things are during those competitions we were able to place well, and just being in practices in practice and having people show up in practices,” he said.
The Georgia State paintball club competes in paintball as a member of the Mid-South Collegiate Conference [MSCC].
The club also appeared in the national tournament on several other occasions. In the 2010-11, the Panthers finished eighth out of 53 teams. The following season, the team placed fourth out of 48 teams. Georgia State finished 17th in the tournament in 2012-13 and 19th place at the NCPA Nationals.
The team has eight members, according to its Facebook page and is led by Russell and treasurer Ross Terrell. The other six are Christian Stephanos, Vincent Martinez, Carter Watts, Bryan Lee, James Zorda and Darryl Robinson.
“Our treasurer Ross Terrell, I’ve seen him improve a lot,” Russell said. “This is his second year playing, and I see him do all these crazy moves. He keeps improving every time he plays.”
An outsider may expect that a paintball club on a university campus would be comprised of primarily college-aged students. The team that Russell leads is actually somewhat older, which Russell said may contribute to a potentially less aggressive team as opposed to one that may be younger and more aggressive.
“It’s interesting for this because I know most college sports have a cut-off age for how many years you can play. That’s not the case in paintball,” Russell said. “We have a grad student who is in a Ph.D. program right now, I believe. We have a pretty broad age range.”
He also said the team’s youngest player is 21 and he hopes to bring in more younger-aged students to join the club.
They achieved the goal of qualifying for the national tournament again, but they also do double duty by playing for other leagues, according to Russell.
“Some people still play both leagues,” he said. “I’ll play minor league paintball sometimes. Other people will do that. People play this during the school year, usually, and then we’ll have go people play divisionally in the summer. They’ll be like free agents.”
Russell also put emphasis on increasing the team’s presence on campus as well as getting people to understand how competitive it is.
“I’ve seen when people try to join us, it’s a hobby versus a sport kind of deal,” he said. “We’re going to define a hobby a something that you do on your own free time versus a sport which is something that you, maybe, do with a team that you have to go ahead and actually devote your time and get better, which is, kind of, what we’re at.”
Paintball, being an intramural sport, does not garner the attention those under the Georgia State Athletics umbrella receive. Russell says that the reaction has been positive when he has let people know of the team’s accomplishment.
“Usually people tell us, ‘Good luck, do your best, tell us how it goes.’ Those are the main things I’ve heard when I tell people we’re going there,” Russell said.
Georgia State’s paintball club recently had practice sessions at the Prime Paintball venue in Leeds, Alabama to get the team prepared for the championships in Florida. Looking ahead to the national championship, Russell feels that it being in Florida is an advantage, travel-wise, as opposed to other teams that have to go much longer distances than what the Panthers will do.
“I believe they always put it in Florida just because, at this time of year, it’s the best weather for it. It’s not good for west coast teams,” he said.
Russell believes the attributes that have become signature aspects of the team must be maintained if the Panthers expect to win a national title.
“We have other people working on being aggressive,” he said. “All these things that other teams may or may not be doing that will give us an advantage. Things like running and shooting at the same time. Stuff like that. And definitely communication. That’s another thing we’re working on. I think if we go out there and we don’t talk to each other, it can fall apart.”