Jon Reidy first started playing paintball with his soccer teammates when he was about 12 years old.
“It was a team trip, and we all went to play,” Reidy said. “Over the years, the numbers of kids playing dwindled and I started working at the field in my town, then stuck with it from there.”
Years later, the junior athletic training major is the captain of Springfield College’s paintball team, which is one of 11 club sports offered by the college. Reidy, who said the club has been around for at least 10 years, has a small core of players who look forward to competing in tournaments every year. The team plays two different styles of paintball, according to Reidy, which require different numbers of players.
“We probably have 15 people we can usually ask to come play, and eight to 10 that we can count on to play,” Reidy said. “Woods ball is more recreational. They build bunkers and hide behind trees, where as speedball is more fast-paced and a little more competitive. There are different shapes and field layouts. Speedball is more tournaments, and we have about five solid people who can play speedball with us.”
Reidy explained that the team used to play in the series of tournaments sponsored by the National Collegiate Paintball Association, which requires all of the players to have a certain number of credits before being registered on a roster. While Springfield paintball continues to build its roster, members compete through the New England Paintball League, which is not specific to just collegiate paintball players.
“The NEPL is open to everybody,” Reidy said. “You still have to have an NEPL I.D. number and be registered through their system, but that could be any six people. There are some college teams that play out there–typically we practice with UHart and UConn, and UMass has been down a few times. Not every school has a team, and it’s not an easy spectator sport. The sport as a whole is kind of underground in general.”
Players try to practice as much as they can, which can be difficult due to limited use of practice fields. They often practice at Matt’s Outback Paintball in Coventry, Connecticut, which is the closest speedball field to campus. Other times, the team practices at one of the three Boston Paintball locations in Ashland, the indoor field in Chelsea, or the tournament field in Maynard.
“The paintball fields are generally open on Saturdays and Sundays, and we try to practice on Sundays,” Reidy said. “The NEPL 2014 season just ended, so there’s a little bit of a lull now. We’ll try to do some indoor practices out near Boston over the winter and then we’re trying to plan a trip to New York in the spring. My goal would be to play one NCPA even this year.”
The team typically plays a Race-2 format. Reidy describes this as a series of best two-out-of-three games, which are all a part of “center flag” tournaments.
“There’s a flag in the center of the field, and you have to hang it on your opponent’s starting box,” Reidy said. “Generally, you can’t do that without getting everybody on the other team out.”
Reidy said that a team will try to bring the opposing team down to three remaining players before clearing the field and trying to get the flag. Points are given for hanging the flag and for how many players are left alive at the end of the game as well as how many players on the other team have been “killed.” According to Reidy, there are different positions in paintball that become important depending on the tournament format and the number of players a team has.
“I kind of play a little bit of everything,” Reidy said. “There’s a snake player, back players, middle, and front players. There can be different positions, but right now we’re only playing three-man tournaments, which are a little less specific on the positions. When you get into five-man, that gets a little more important.”
According to the New England Paintball League’s 2014 season rankings, the Pride paintball team finished eighth out of 25 teams in the Division 5 3-man RaceTo-2 category with 184.38 points.