Author Archives: Mike Zapantis

Tampa Bay Times Features Alex Spence

Tampa Bay Times Features Alex Spence

The paintball world has proudly stood behind Alex is his fight against Leukemia. The Tampa Bay Times recently featured Spence in this human interest piece and with good reason. Alex has been fighting Leukemia while staying true to the competitive spirit we’ve seen him showcase on the field. Follow his story as the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith highlights and recalls the personal fight Spence had been going through.

This is an article you don’t want to miss- We wish Alex the best this year and look forward to his unshakable spirit and presence on the field as he returns to professional paintball.

http://www.tampabay.com/sports/humaninterest/article1218586.ece

BELLEAIR — The moment Alex Spence got a paintball gun for his 12th birthday, he was hooked.

An “adrenaline junkie,” the Clearwater native has wakeboarded and raced dirt bikes, but paintball became his passion. He played every weekend he could, and, with some buddies, helped start the Tampa Bay Damage, a professional team coming off a world cup victory last season.

Spence, 24, has traveled around the country, as well as overseas, to compete in tournaments. His picture is in trade magazines, and a showcase in his Belleair home is filled with medals and trophies.

Paintball is his life.

“It’s his driving force,” his father, Bob Spence, said. “It’s what keeps him going.”

And paintball is partly what drove Spence to stay alive last year during a recovery from acute myeloid leukemia, a very aggressive form of cancer with a bleak mortality rate. Even with a successful bone marrow transplant in May, Spence had two infections that forced him to learn to walk again.

“Three different times, they gave me less than 10 percent chance of survival,” Spence said. “It was a wild ride. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.”

But thanks to the support of doctors, family and girlfriend Alexandra Fuller, Spence is back doing what he loves.

This weekend, in Galveston, Texas, he will participate in his first paintball tournament since being declared cancer-free.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bob Spence said. “He had two close brushes with death, and to see him get out, and reach the level he’s reached and dedication he’s shown, it’s inspirational.”

• • •

The warning signs showed up in November 2010. Spence always seemed fatigued and sore but thought it was because of paintball season and his classes at St. Petersburg College.

But when an infection led Spence to get his wisdom teeth taken out in December, and he continued to feel worse, he got checked out at Mease Dunedin Hospital. Lab results revealed he had 96 percent cancer cells.

“We didn’t know anything about (acute myeloid leukemia) at the time, I didn’t know a single person who had cancer or anything,” Spence said. “I had no idea what it was. I was like, ‘Okay, well I’ll stay in the hospital for a few days, get rid of this and get back to life.’ We were in for a shock.”

Dr. Ernesto Ayala, from Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, said Spence’s leukemia was more aggressive because of a chromosome abnormality. “It’s a very poor prognosis,” he said. “The chance of long-term survival is very low, probably 15-20 percent.”

Spence went through two rounds of chemotherapy in the hospital, and his cancer cells decreased to 7 percent. His body took care of the rest, as he was cancer free by February 2011. Fuller, Spence’s girlfriend of four years, never left his side, compiling a book of medical records and pill schedules, communicating with doctors, and often sleeping in his hospital bed.

“Out of the entire ordeal, she probably wasn’t there maybe four nights,” Spence said. “She definitely saved my life.”

• • •

In early March 2011, Spence woke up with a 103-degree fever due to an infection, which temporarily paralyzed him from the waist down. Fuller called Moffitt, which had no beds available, so she drove him to Mease Dunedin Hospital. By the time he got there, Spence’s temperature was 106.1.

Doctors told Fuller that if she had driven the extra 30 miles to Moffitt, he would have died.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said.

Spence wasn’t out of the woods. Nurses and doctors told Fuller to prepare for the worst, start making arrangements.

All around after Spence moved back to Moffitt, there were reminders of tragedy. Several other patients on his floor — his new friends — had died.

“It was very scary,” Spence said.

Doctors told Fuller one of five things would happen. He could be paralyzed from the neck down. He would have organ failure. He’d suffer brain damage. He could die. Or, as it was put, a miracle could happen.

“Thankfully, it was the miracle,” Fuller said.

Spence was hospitalized for a month, slowly learning how to walk. When he was released, he cleared his mind by taking strolls with his dog, a playful 90-pound Doberman called Dozer, his “pride and joy.”

“He wouldn’t let me die,” Spence said. “Because who else would pet him?”

With no family members a bone marrow match, an out-of-state donor was found for a transplant May 17 at Moffitt. It succeeded — but 20 days later, Spence suffered veno-occlusive disease, a blockage in some small veins in the liver. His liver was failing.

But through weeks of treatment, Spence got better, with Ayala sensing a fighting spirit.

“He has a will,” Ayala said. “He really is a persistent type of person. He would do everything I told him to do. And he has something else, a wonderful person by his side, his girlfriend, she would always be by his side. She is a very special person, and was critical for his recovery.”

• • •

Spence had to spend 100 days in an adjacent hotel after the transplant before going home. The day doctors said Dozer could visit, Fuller rushed home to bathe the brown, boyish Doberman, and brought him back.

When they were five minutes away, Dozer began to bark, and bounced in the backseat. Spence, wearing a surgical mask and hat, was immediately recognized by Dozer, who jumped on him.

“It was the most amazing thing ever,” Fuller said.

In August, Spence was allowed to come home. The leukemia could return, but after being in remission for 14 months there’s a good chance it’s gone, Ayala said.

When Spence was cleared to practice paintball again a couple months ago, he was so happy, he couldn’t sleep the night before. “He had the biggest smile on his face,” Fuller said.

“I felt like I was a kid going to Disney World,” Spence said. “Getting back to paintball is a huge milestone for me. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Spence is thinking about going back to school, possibly studying accounting, like his dad. He’s looking forward to May, when he can find out the identity of the marrow donor. All they know is it’s a woman, and she sent a letter to Spence at the hospital.

“It says, not only did she save his life, he also saved hers in a way,” Fuller said.

But first comes paintball, with Spence joining the Damage’s semipro team for a while until he gets his strength and skills back. Sponsors pay for his team’s equipment and travel, and Spence supplemented his income by running a T-shirt printing business out of his house. Winning teams split cash prizes at tournaments like October’s Paintball Sports Promotion world cup. Back then, Spence could only coach. Now he can play.

“I have to earn my spot back,” he said. “But I think I’ll be okay.”

After what Spence has been through, it’s hard to doubt him.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Paintball Team Spotlight: T1 Topgun Union

This weeks ProPB Team Spotlight is on T1 Topgun Union. Mike Zapantis sat down with Matt Renschler and Nick “Chicken” Hunt to learn more about the D1 team from New Jersey’s rise to success in the PSP circuit.

Zap @ ProPb: What is your current roster?

  1. Matt Renschler
  2. Nicholas “Chicken” Hunt
  3. Alvin Johnson
  4. Jamie Ezell
  5. Lance Hardwick
  6. Steve Lasher
  7. Bryson Smith
  8. Hamen Chapman

Zap @ ProPb: Ryan Martin played very well with the team in 2011. Lots of rumors are floating about Ryan during the off season. What can you tell us about Meezy? Will he be back?

division 1 paintball teams Top Gun and the Hurricanes battling it out

Ryan Martin getting elusive.

Matt: Ryan has had talks with pro teams, but he hasn’t figured it out.  He is weighing his options.  He feels bad, but obviously he has to take a pro spot if he’s offered it.  There are rumors going around that the teams are California based pro squads.  (Ed note: We now know that the team is the Los Angeles Ironmen).

Zap @ ProPb: Who are your current sponsors?

Zap @ ProPB: HK? Cool. What HK paintball gear will you be using in 2012?

Matt: They are giving us a special package with their cleats and packs for next season.

Top Gun Paintball team breaks out at PSP World Cup 2011

Top Gun Paintball team breaks out at PSP World Cup 2011

Zap @ ProPb: Could you give us a brief history of Top Gun?

Matt: Alvin and me are the only original people left.  GPL 7 man 2006 was our first tournament series as a team.  2007 GPL we played 187 crew and they ended up beating us in finals.  2008 we finally made the move to the national circuit in D3 NPPL.  We took 2nd in the series that year.  The following year bumped up to D2 PSP for 2009.  We picked up Chicken at that point, but we got our asses handed to us the rest of the season, only winning two matches at Phoenix that year.  A couple of us also played with Black Cell for USPL, and that’s actually how we met Lance.

Chicken:  For 2010, we decided to go with one of our old NPPL ex-rival teams, CS Union, and join up with them to play D3 PSP.  We got 4th at Phoenix.  MAO and Chicago we got knocked out in quarters, but we took 3rd at World Cup.  It was one of the best events we ever played as a team.  In 2011 we decided to bump up to D1.

Zap @ ProPb: Summarize your 2011 season for us.

Matt:  Besides not taking first at any event, we couldn’t have been happier with the season. We got 3rd place at Texas (getting knocked out of finals by 187 Krew), we got 5th at Chicago, and we got 2nd at New Jersey, losing to 187 Krew.  At World Cup we got 2nd, losing again to Upton 187 cRew.  We lost to them by one point every event, and we always placed one place behind them this season.  They were our rival this season, but we get along well with them.

T1 Topgun Union

Zap @ ProPb: If you could pick one reason for your teams success in 2011, what would it be?

Matt:  From a success standpoint, we play as a team, and we became really close as friends, even though only half of the team is from New Jersey.  We really don’t practice as a team, but when we are at the events we get very close, and there’s no arguing over whom is playing or getting more playing time or not. In Chicago for example, I didn’t play one point.  So people will step off when needed, and everybody knows their job on the team, and everybody gets along.

What made it difficult for our team this year is that we are not all from the same area, and we don’t have the funds to fly to practice every weekend.  So we have to work our butts off the day before each event to learn the layout.  It was really helpful for our team that the PSP only released the layout the week before the event, so we weren’t at a disadvantage.

Matt Renschler and Lance Hardwick

Zap @ ProPB:  So a lot of people would argue that the main formula for success of a team is that they are a close group of friends that not only play together every weekend, but also hang out together off the field.  On the flipside, a lot of people would argue that good paintball players are going to come together and do well, no matter where they are from.  How do these ideas relate to your team?

Chicken: Well I would go along with the combination of those two concepts.  Myself, Matt, Alvin, Jamie and Bryson play all the time, whether it is drilling or recball or scrims, which really helps us get the communication together, so that when the out of state players come in the day before the event, the transition is a lot smoother.  The experience that Ryan, Hamen, and Slasher brought to the team definitely helped us this year.  And combined with how close everyone has become over the years, it was a formula for success.  Right before Chicago we had all of the out of state guys fly out to New Jersey and stay in Big Jim’s little 3 bedroom ranch the week before the event, and then we drove out.  We did the same for NJO.  We just got so close, and I think that is what helped us click for NJO and World Cup afterwards.

Zap @ ProPB: A lot has been said in regards to your roster, what is your reasoning behind the team’s structure and how is it made possible?

Matt:  It’s not like it’s all random people that are on the team.  We are all friends of friends and that’s how we know each other.  Nobody is being paid for.  We used all of our frequent flier miles built up over the years to help people with flights.  It you want to call that paying for players, then sure, that can be their pay.

Chicken:  We picked up 2 pros for D1, since that it is allowed by the PSP.  Lance knew Ryan Martin from growing up playing So Cal paintball, and Jaime actually played Call of Duty with Slasher all the time, so that’s how that got hooked up.  Slasher grew up playing with Hamen down in the Carolinas.

Zap @ ProPb: Your team has played both the NPPL and the PSP this past season and prior.  What are your thoughts on the merger falling through, and how will what is looking like a 10 event season affect your team?

Matt: I would say that the way the schedule is now, that we won’t be playing HB NPPL, which we have played just for the sake of playing HB for the past 4 seasons.  With three events in 6 weeks, and us committing to the PSP for the season, and with school and work schedules, it is just going to be impossible to play HB, which really sucks.

I would like to see one league, and the sponsors definitely would like that.  It makes it really hard on our team to even think of playing the two leagues.  I would like to see 4 events again; it would be a lot easier with school and money.  It’s really going to stink for the NPPL in regards to HB since a lot of the PSP teams that have played the event aren’t going to be able to.

Zap @ ProPB:  So do you think with the added stress of more events to attend, it will affect any of your team’s sponsorships (i.e. Empire Paintball)?

Matt: Nope, Empire is behind us, especially with the team and the field having such long time connections with them.

Zap @ ProPB: Speaking of NJO, from an unbiased standpoint, it was a great event that was hugely successful.  You guys busted your butts to make sure that the facilities were top notch, and I know personally what that cornfield looked like before it was leveled and grass was planted on it for the PSP fields.  There are a lot of teams in the Northeast, and it was time for that area to get some credit for that with an event.  What is going on for NJO 2012 at Top Gun?

Matt: We hope to see it happen again!  The PSP could not have been happier with the outcome.  The attendance went up from MAO last season, and there were more X-Ball teams at NJO, and we would love to host it again!

Zap @ ProPb: Now that no merger has happened between the NPPL and the PSP, what are your teams plan for the upcoming 2012 season?

Matt: Whatever the division is below pro is the division that our team will be playing.  We hope that the PSP would include penalty boxes in that division so that teams playing it can have a smoother transition to the pro division.

Zap @ ProPb: Any shout out’s you would like to make?

Matt:  Thanks again to all of our sponsors that helped us out this year, and for future sponsors.  Thanks to my dad (Big Jim) and mom for all of the support!  Thanks to Mickey, Tom Lee, and all of our pit help, and Mr. Ruza for standing by us!

Chicken:  Johnny from KEE.  Thanks for believing in us.  Two weeks before the beginning of the season he put the Axes in our hands.  We used the same guns all season without problem.

Matt Renschler, Topgun Union's captain

Zap @ ProPb: Any closing thoughts/opinions you would like to share?

Matt: If anybody ever needs help at the events with their Axes or Prophecies, come see Jamie or myself at the KEE booth.  Not only do we play the events, but also we work every event as techs.

 

Also if the PSP could put penalty boxes in the division below Pro, that would be awesome!  It changes the whole aspect of the game, and would be a real big help to teams looking to make the jump to pro.

 

And everyone should go to the Top Gun Union Facebook page for a chance to win a custom laser engraved Empire AXE!

 

2012 NPPL Pro Paintball Schedule

 

In light of the failed pro paintball league merger negotiations, the NPPL is preparing to move forward with the 2012 paintball season. Here is the official 2012 NPPL Pro Paintball Schedule:

Huntington Beach Surf City USA Open beginning March 29th- April 1st, 2012

Chicago Open held at CPX Sports Park Joliet, IL May 18th- 20th

Vancouver Open Vancouver, Canada July 13th-15th

DC Challenge held at Pev’s Paintball Park Aldie, VA August 24th- 26th

Las Vegas World Paintball Championship Las Vegas, NV October 5th- 7th

 

Looks like we are back to 5 events and one of them is located in Vancouver Canada…Get your passports ready!

 

What do you guys think about the first Major North American Pro Paintball National level event since Skyball?

 

Paintball Player of the Week: Dan Zaleski

On this weeks POTW, Michael Zapantis sits down with Dan Zaleski, a key member of the Upton 187 Krew.  The team has stormed their way to the top of the divisional ranks, winning 2 out of 4 D1 PSP events this season.  Read on to find out how Dan and 187 will prepare for their move to the pro division in 2012, and gain an insight into New England paintball.

 

Name: Daniel Zaleski

Hometown: Somers, CT

Occupation: Educational Assistant, specializing in Special Education.

Previous Teams: UConn, Hartford Hardcore, Armageddon, Team No Name,

Current Team: Upton 187 Krew

Sponsors: Fox4, Planet Eclipse, KEE

Position/#: Snake Side, #16

Favorite Players/Teams: Michael Jordan, he’s just the ultimate competitor and ultimate athlete.  I am a big Patriots fan, and I love Wes Welker.  He’s smaller than the average receiver and a ton of heart.  Obviously I also am a big UConn Sports fan as well.

Zap @ ProPB: When you aren’t playing paintball, how are you spending your free time?

Dan: I am pretty active, I love any sport. I used to play High School Lacrosse, Basketball, and Soccer, which is where I would say I got my sense of competitiveness.  Hiking is a lot of fun too.  I love playing poker, the mind games that go along with it, reading people’s hands makes it appealing to me.

Zap @ ProPB: So you like going to casinos and gambling as well?

Dan: Well, let’s get one thing straight, poker is not gambling.  When I think of gambling, I think of playing against a house or casino.  When you are playing poker, you are playing against other people.  There is no disadvantage of playing against a house.

Zap @ ProPB: So you are pretty competitive, huh?

Dan: Yes, very.  Maybe too competitive sometimes.

Zap @ ProPB: Tell me about your first paintball experience?

Dan: Well in high school I went out one day with a bunch of my buddies and played in the woods.  I had no idea what tournament paintball was like.

Zap @ ProPB: When did you first start playing tournament paintball?

Dan: When I went to UConn, and my buddy John Stofka (my boy Blue) how much I liked sports, and asked me to come check out the paintball club.  Well, I didn’t even know that paintball was even considered a sport.  But I tried it out, jumped on with him, got shot a lot, and just kept going back.  It was great playing against all of the college teams, and all of the shenanigans kept me coming back.

Zap @ ProPB: Whom do you look up to in the sport?

Dan: Oliver, the dude just makes a living playing paintball.  He’s competitive and got the heart.  I really look up to that.

Zap @ ProPB: What is your most memorable paintball experience?

Dan: I thought that winning college nationals in 2007 was going to be the height of my career, but I would have to say this past season.  This whole ride of playing national events with the team and bumping up to D1 this season has been crazy.  We didn’t know what to expect, and then we got to World Cup and winning it this year has truly been the most memorable.  It was something we all strove for in the beginning of the season and we worked as brothers to achieve our goals.

Zap @ ProPB: What are your goals for next season?  How do will you prepare personally and as a team to achieve them?

Dan: We want to be competitive in the pro division for sure; we definitely don’t want to get walked over.  But we want to have fun and win.  Everybody is pretty much on the same page with that, we all hate losing.  So our goals are definitely to make podium.  I know there is a big gap from the D1 to the Pro division, but the work ethic on the team is right where it needs to be and everyone is ready to jump up to the challenge.

Dan: You know how paintball is in New England.  It’s going to be pretty tough to play for the next few months, and it definitely makes it harder for our teams to practice before the first event.  But everybody is going to have some kind of personal workout program to stay in shape, which is one of the other major differences between the majority of divisional players and pro players.  Everybody in the pro division is quicker, everybody is faster.  And then when it comes time, probably in January or February we are going to start drilling hard again, even if it’s in the snow.  Last year it was pretty crazy the kind of preparation the team took.  Digging with the shovels and clearing the field just to play while it’s freezing out…drills, drills, and drills.

Zap @ ProPB: Tips for Beginners?

Dan: Do what you love and what makes you smile.  What’s the point of living if you’re not having fun?

Zap @ ProPB: Tips for Pros?

Dan: Watch out, 187’s coming.

Zap @ ProPB: Biggest rival team?  Why?

Dan: Top Gun Union, every match we play is close and it’s a grind.  Also Hurricanes are from the same area from us, and we know most of them.  So there is some rivalry there.

Zap @ ProPB: Favorite food?

Dan: It’d have to be Tacos, yup.  All Mexican food, I love the spices.

Zap @ ProPB: What are your goals for the future?

Dan: For paintball, to eventually win a pro event and put New England back on the map.  I’d love to turn it into a career and be involved in the sport more intensively.  I also want to help make more people aware of paintball on the competitive level.  Oh, and to own a 55-foot yacht.

Zap @ ProPB: What was the last song playing on your iPod?

Dan: [laughs] It’s actually Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue by Toby Keith.  And if you don’t know that song, you’re not an American…it should be on every Fourth of July playlist!

Zap @ ProPB: Sing it for me.

Dan: [laughs] I’ve given up singing this song, because the only time I ever tried to sing it was at a dive bar during karaoke.  There is no singing voice in here, it was pretty terrible.

Zap @ ProPB: What is your favorite video game?

Dan: Call of Duty…but dude, my Xbox just got the rings of death at the most crucial time…the off-season.

Zap @ ProPB: Any shout-out’s you want to make?

Dan: The whole Fox4 crew, Curt and Dave, can’t thank them enough. Mar Lancia at Eclipse, the guys at KEE, Rob Darcy, Mike Gudejko, and the entire Lizotte Family.  Also, my family for all of the support.  Love you guys!

 

 

Angel Paintball has closed

Angel Paintball gun in play

Paul Katic shoots an ANGEL Paintball gun during a professional match.

Angel Paintball Sports, makers of the Angel line of paintball guns, Fatboy pods, Angel Air Systems, and most recently, the Angel Eye goggle system, are closing up shop. A note was sent out by Jay from APS this morning that confirmed the news. Angel Paintball Sports, or APS, was responsible for bringing electronic paintball guns to the center stage,  and the name is still synonymous for the top-of-the-line equipment.

Angel Paintball representatives have yet to give an official statement regarding the release of their Angel Eye paintball goggle system and the pre-orders that might still be in limbo.

Update: Tippmann has purchased ANGEL Paintball Sports (APS). Read below for some final words and insight from ANGEL Paintball employee Jay.

A Sad Day

I learned that Angel Sports is ceasing operations.  I don’t know all the details, not sure it really matters.  I have been assured by the UK office that parts will be available to service your markers.  The details of this arrangement should become clear in the near future, and should be announced by the UK office.  For the near future, both myself and Bob at Fix My Angel (www.fixmyangel.com) have parts in stock in the US for your markers.

Many of you have become friends, and I feel an obligation to you.  I’ll do what I can to help you and your team going forward.  I have some items in stock personally, and will be willing to honor your team discounts (or give you an even better deal) where I can on those items.  Anyone looking for accessories, or especially clothing, please contact me asap and we’ll see what we can work out.  I will be offering these items to my dealers as well, and once it is gone, I am not sure I can get more.  I also have some casual clothing and banners, and I would like to see those items end up with teams if possible.  Call or email me for details.

Many of you may know, I have an interest in a retail paintball store, PB Sports.  I am going to pass this email along to the guys there, and ask them that they look after you when possible.  If you have a good relationship with your local store or field, continue to shop there and nurture that relationship.  If you would like to start a relationship with PB Sports, you can reach them at www.pbsports.com, via telephone at 260-471-4334, or email sales@pbsports.com.  I can assure you that they will give you good service, and should be able to help you on pricing and/or work out a sponsorship deal with you and your team.  I know some of you have already done business with PB Sports, and hope that continues.

Because I feel an obligation to the teams and dealers I have worked with, I will continue to monitor and use the jay@angelsports.com email.   I have been assured that it will work for some time.  If that turns out not to be the case, I have set up a personal email account, pballjay@gmail.com that I will begin to monitor if the angelsports.com email fails or ceases to exist.  I will continue to maintain and monitor my mobile number, 260-438-9760 so that any of you that wish to reach me will be able to do so.

Jay

Angel FLY Paintball Gun

Angel FLY Paintball Gun

What do you think think this means for the overall paintball industry?

 

RIP Ron Butler Memorial Charity Event

On Sunday, October 30th 2011, at Paintball Authority in Old Bridge, NJ, there will be a Charity Event held in Ron Butler’s name.  The event is open, casual rec speedball play.  For those that did not know, Ron passed away last year after a hard fight against cancer.  Ron was an extremely influential part of the New Jersey/Northeast/National paintball scene, and cared for each of his players like they were his own children.  Come out and show your support for one of the greatest people ever involved in paintball.

Taken from a past article on ProPaintball:

Ron was instrumental in the New Jersey paintball scene and developed several paintball programs to move kids up the ranks. Over the last couple of years Ron lead pro paintball team Jersey Authority, semi pro team Method of Destruction, and owned and operated Paintball Authority, a tournament paintball park. We’ve been told that his service will be held this weekend and they will be closing the park on Friday and Sunday in his honor. According to inside sources, Paintball Authority will be continuing its operations.

Address: 1891 Englishtown Road, Old Bridge NJ 08857

Phone: 732-656-3320

Cost: $65.  $25 of each entry will be donated to Ron’s favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  There will also be patches for sale at $5 to commemorate Ron, with all proceeds going to the same charity.

Also available at the event will be Dan Donlon patches.  Dan Donlon was a valuable member of the NJ and PBNation scene, and passed away in the beginning of this year after a long fight against cancer.  Patches are $5 each, with all proceeds going to the Cancer Research Institute.  See Michael Zapantis for these patches.

Hope to see everyone there!

Green Paintball: A Call to Action

The following is a guest post by Mike Zapantis. Mike talks about how we can reduce the environmental impact of paintball and clean up our local parks.

Face it.  Paintball is by far the dirtiest sport in existence, next to, of course, professional dumpster diving.  A player’s dedication to the sport is most often determined by how much mold is growing on his arm pads, and how many flies he attracts at the start box.  Some of the most glorious tournament wins are those in the worst weather conditions possible, where we are rolling around in the mud like sows after lunchtime.  On top of that, the footprint paintball leaves on the immediate earth surrounding it is unmistakable, so much so that tournament venues that allow such destruction to their property are hard to come by, and when they are, they are the most fickle landlords.  One cannot deny the amount of trash that is the aftermath of paintball.  Between batteries, paintball packaging, water bottles, and the like, paintball is epitomized by littering.  After all, the sport we love so dearly revolves around spraying 12.5 balls per second’s worth of biodegradable filth into the air and onto the ground.  So why can’t we clean up after ourselves?  It has been common knowledge for quite some time now that the current global economic and waste management condition is destroying the planet.  Other industries have caught on to the concept of “going green,” for more than just environmental reasons.  Why hasn’t the paintball industry caught up to this concept?  Somebody needs to be held accountable for reducing the carbon footprint paintball has on the planet.  And that somebody is everyone.  Here are some suggestions I have for the paintball world that we all should take into consideration.

 

Paintball Park/Venue Littering: Would you throw batteries on the ground in your backyard?  Would you chuck a banana peel on your bed?  Then why would you do so at your local paintball field, or even worse, an out-of-industry venue (Assuming that you hopefully answered “no” to the above questions.)?  This is holding players directly responsible for their actions, but also offering up some solutions for teams, players, and field owners alike.  Field owners should provide plenty of garbage containers near the parking and pitting areas, and players should be mindful to place any rubbish into those containers.  Field Staff should clear out garbage bins regularly to prevent overflow.  Paint boxes should be broken down by players and placed NEXT to these garbage bins, NOT INSIDE.  One should be mindful of silica gel packets.  Not only are they not compostable, but they are toxic to anything that might ingest them.  Make sure you toss them in the trash when you are loading up your pods.

Batteries are not biodegradable, and are, in fact, extremely toxic.  While it is much better to throw your old loader and marker batteries in the garbage as opposed to on the ground, there is an even greener solution.  There are battery recycling centers all over America, where you can drop off all your old batteries so that they can be disposed of properly.  Examples of such places are Whole Foods, Staples, and Radioshack.  Have your team designate a responsible teammate to collect all used batteries from the end of practice and dispose of them properly.  Field owners should provide battery-specific collection bins, and dispose of them properly as well (4).

 

Rechargeable Batteries: Why have rechargeable batteries not yet become standard features on all high and mid-range equipment?  I know that attempts have been made in the past to incorporate this idea to paintball, with limited success.  I know that not including rechargeable batteries shifts the some of the unit cost of each item over to the consumer, but I feel that it is the paintball equipment manufacturer’s ethical responsibility to provide a green approach to their products.  At the very least offer a rechargeable battery option for your high end equipment.

Paintball Packaging: This is where the responsibility shifts to the paintball manufacturers, and this call should be taken quite seriously.  It has been the norm in tournament paintball for some time now that teams and players shoot a lot of paintballs.  It is typical for one X-Ball or 7-man team to shoot over 10 cases of paint per one day of practice, and for these same teams to shoot 20-40 cases of paint during the prelims of a national tournament.  Paintball packaging provides protection of its precious cargo similar to that of a tank, with plenty of cardboard, plastic, and silica gel packets to ensure that each and every paintball makes it to your loader scuff-free.  With that said, there are plenty of ways to make paintball packaging less harmful to the environment.

The first and most obvious solution is to use packaging that is more mindful to the environment.  Using cardboard that is from certified, sustainable sources is a great option that trumps recycled cardboard (recycling often uses more energy, thus resulting in more pollutants than what would occur if you just threw it away)(2).  Also, in an approach outlined by the Cradle to Cradle concept (1), paintball manufacturers can offer a program to recycle used paintball packaging.  Paintball fields and tournament series alike would, under this program, be able to send back broken down and intact boxes so that they can be refilled with fresh paint.  Another key element to paintball packaging is the plastic bags that the paintballs are kept airtight in.  Industry leaders should switch over to biodegradable versions of the same bagging, so that even when that renegade empty bag gets blown away in the wind, one can be assured that it is not going to sit around in the woods for the next 10 years (3).

The second solution, which might seem a bit more revolutionary, is to package tournament paint in greater quantities.  Can somebody please explain to me why are we still packaging paint in 2000 round increments?  At the very least, tournament grade batches should be packaged in 4000-5000 round increments, since most players carry on the average 5 man line carry 700 rounds.  This would not only reduce the environmental footprint paintball has, but it can also financially benefit the companies producing paintballs through reduced packaging costs.

 

These modest proposals are only the tip of the iceberg.  There are plenty of other ideas and solutions that can be implemented towards “green” paintball.  With all of the talented and bright minds we have in this sport, I am sure that we can work together to figure out what is the best course of action.  The future of our planet, and our sport, rely on people coming together and changing for the better.  Post your ideas below!

Resources:

  1. Cradle to Cradle: http://www.mbdc.com/http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm
  2. Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fsc.org/
  3. Friendly Bags:  http://www.friendlybags.com/
  4. Environment, Health and Safety Online: http://www.ehso.com

-Michael Zapantis

 

Editor: What are your thoughts on making paintball more environmentally friendly? What steps do you take to help clean or reduce the clutter at your local paintball park?