It only takes $40 and two friends to start an organization on campus. But to keep an organization running, it takes continuous funding and committed members. There are over 530 registered clubs at the University of California, Irvine. These clubs vary from multicultural to philanthropic organizations; some have even been here since the university was founded in 1965. Within the past forty-five years, top notch clubs such as Dumbledore’s Anteaters, Mock Trial club, and even the Future Grandmothers of America club have gained recognition amongst the Eater community. These organizations on campus are aimed to enhance student leadership and involvement and the Paintball Club at UCI does exactly that. Tragically, our economy’s financial status is making its way towards our education system. Even as a club sport on campus the Paintball team has also been affected by ongoing budget cuts. This year $624 million from general state funding were granted to the University of California system; which goes untouched by student organizations because these funds are classified for the use of “other resources.” Regardless, the paintball team has tried to remain a functional club on campus—even if they do have to pay out of their own pockets for practice.
As if the physical exertion of the sport wasn’t enough, team members continue to put in 110% with some blood, sweat, and tears. “Well, there’s not really any bleeding involved.” Damn. I was ready to hear the war-like stories of the Paintball Club at UCI. Ranking in as one of the top collegiate competitive teams in the nation (taking in third at the National College Paintball Association, West Coast Event) I had expected to interact with a person like Master Chief from Halo, one of the most iconic gunplay figures. Instead, I sat in the corner of the on-campus Starbucks with an unlikely character surrounded by piles of paper and binders. Standing tall at 5’ 10”, weighing in at 145 pounds, and the UCI Paintball Club president (cue applause)…Colin Campbell. Colin casually picked uppaintballing in middle school and dragged the love of the sport with him from his hometown of Saratogoa to Irvine. The University of California, Irvine had offered him the opportunity to work for a degree in biological sciences, but no playtime with a paintball team. Unfortunately, by the time Colin had been admitted into UCI all the members of the university’s professional team had graduated. With determination, love for the game, and a little bit of help from the team’s alumni Colin had reinstated the club.
According to Colin, the most blood you’re probably going to experience is during the game when your ears pump blood and hearing becomes difficult. Actually, there are few injuries in paintball because the game is entirely ruled by safety. The paintball gun was originally used as a way to keep count of trees and cattle; now paintballing is considered one of the world’s most popular extreme sports. Paintball can be played through role-playings scenes, hyperballing, or speedballing. The most common (and what’s used for that Nation College Paintball Association) is recreational. There are two ways to victory: capture the opposing team’s flag or terminate the enemies. Airsoft guns, another name for paintball
guns, are anything but soft. Now I have to admit, witnessing a person getting hit with gelatin paint-filled capsules is actually quite entertaining, as horrendous as that sounds. Even if there really isn’t any bloodshed it’s still cool. Using red paint would possibly have made the battle even more realistic, but the official Paintball Legislation (the big guys who control the league) had made the decision to band red paint with the best intension to not add to the negative stigma the game already has. But what lacks in gore is made up through the team’s professionalism within skill and strategy. Playing aggressively requires the use of pads, helmets, and facemask. For the UCI paintball club protective gear is a must. Colin had stressed to me that the facemask is “everything in paintball” and to ensure the safety of the players and the seriousness of paintballing, team members dedicate roughly 80% of game play to protecting the players. “The most a player could get hurt would have to be from hitting the ground hard...accidents do happen--it’s still less than any other sport,” Colin explained.
Those who’ve witnessed the team play can vouch that they live up to their title as being one of the best in nation. With the five minute rounds it’s almost impossible to catch everything at once, but to a paintballer every second matters. “The few seconds before the game starts are some of the slowest seconds I can imagine and every tendon in my legs gets ready for the sprint to cover,” Colin mentioned.
Players have to get to the opposite side before the paint flies across the field, and that takes about one second. This is real, guns are loaded; CO2 tanks are still cold and ready for the few minutes ahead. Both bystanders and players anticipate for the referee to start the countdown. Your muscles tighten as you look around to where each players going to bum rush to for cover. “Do the players ever panic?” I continued to ask Colin. I was afraid I had lost him, the deeper we got into the conversation about the game, the more into the moment he was.
3! Players look up at where their opponents are, hoping not to lose track of any of them. 2! Everyone clicks the safety off and makes sure your hopper (case that holds the paint) is fastened and ready to go. 1! “The rest of the game is a blur of heightened sense. You could fall to tunnel vision where the space between you and your target gets sharper and the rest of the world ceases to be. Ideally, you strain to hear the yells of your teammates above the pounding of blood in your ears and the heaviness of your breathing. You then yell back louder to confirm orders and relay information on where your opponents are….It’s raw power, lots of communication. The goal is to act like a team. You should be able to CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS! In the heat moment think analytically--fight or flight.”
GO COLIN, GO!!! He sprints toward one of the inflatable covers as he tries and fires off a few rounds hoping one might stray and hit an opponent. All anyone hears are the clicks of dozens of paintball rounds being fired off into the air all around the field. Players look out into the field gun raised at the ready. Paintballs curve left, others curve right but a few hit the mark dead and true. A referee waves to an opponent that he’s out and he has no choice but to leave the field. Colin had assured me, “The hurt is minor, but the loss really affects the team. With five on five match ups, everyone in the league counts.”
The only things that should stand in their way of triumph are the blown up cushions (used to act as shields and obstacles) and the challengers. Although winning does grant bragging rights, the UCI paintball team embodies the idea of growth as an individual and as a teammate. “Competition brings paintballers closer - we need a strong community to keep the players alive.” But what’s also keeping the paintball team afloat isn’t just their drive, but their wallets. The lightheartedness of Colin’s expression soon dropped as I began questioning what really puts a toll on the team. Time and money.
There’s a big spectrum of members on the team. Colin states that freshman are vital assets because not only are they skilled, but they will be able to help with the growth of the team just as Colin did in his early college career. There are currently twenty members on the team and individually they pay ninety percent of the cost towards running the paintball team. On average each practice (which normally runs for about seven hours) costs about sixty dollars per team member. This excludes transportation or additional gear maintenance, when entering competitions, a team is around two-hundred dollars each registration. Even as a registered club the team isn’t funded by the university. They used to be but there aren’t any available resources anymore. Their title as one of the top in the nation can’t even pursue the arc (Anteater Recreation Center) for a little bit of funding. The paintball team actually travels all the way to Riverside to Action Star Games Paintball Park to practice. This field is owned by locals and the owner takes care of their customers this includes clinics and reasonable prices. Everyone on their team is self-equipped with their own gear and that’s “more than enough if you have your own stuff.” Of course they aren’t entirely left in the dust. Colin had mentioned that Monster energy drink supports the team by providing free drinks. A well-known alumni in the paintball industry simply known as Steve provides the team with some scholarships. It’s still a little unfair though that other university teams get funded.
So why doesn’t the paintball team set up a booth on Ring Road and sell boba milk tea for two dollars? Thy Hoang, one of this year’s CORE consultants provided me with some solutions. CORE (Campus Organizations Resources and Education), a department under the Dean of Students Office at UCI, aims to enhance student leadership and involvement by providing necessary resources and information to all clubs and its members through workshops, funding, event marketing/publicity, and liability insurance. Thy had given me a simplified break down of how funding works on campus for different organization and had said that clubs can apply for funding through various boards (with a various acronyms such as SPFB, TGIF, MPC, Dean’s Fund, and CSFB). It was explained that each board has specific guidelines that must be followed to be considered for funding. “For Dean’s Fund which is overseen by all the CORE Consultants, the consultants work together as a group and decide on an allocation amount. The maximum we are allowed to fund for each event is $400.” Thy had left me with some closing notes that would be beneficial to any organization: Follow the guidelines. Read the rules carefully and be clear on the application and that will guarantee funding. “Two most important guidelines that I always emphasize is 1) Event must be open to all students—not just club members and affiliates and 2) Event must be on campus to receive funding.”
The struggle the paintball faces is only a representation of the entire problem at hand. The downward spiral of the budget has affected the team, but their determination and will to push the organization should be recognized. Some organizations haven’t been as fortunate. Patrick Le, a student advocate, mentions, “Although I’ve never been involved with club sports, I know they’ve been affected like everyone else. One of my friends was a swimmer; really good and really fast in the pool. She came in as a freshman, handpicked by the University to be its top swimmer. Then ironically, the year she comes, the swim team gets cut. So you had students on a full-ride swim scholarship at Irvine but didn’t have a swim team to swim on. She ended up dropping out of school because she wasn’t able to do what she loved.” Patrick has many affiliations on campus, but is extremely familiar with the budget cuts. He had shared, “I think the recurring budget cuts, fee increases, and overall deterioration of our schools show that education is no longer a priority in the State of California... When you deal with 1 billion of cuts, things will be sacrificed. The first thing that comes to mind is usually funding for clubs. All activities, programming, is threatened by the cuts. I believe that it is during those exact harsh economic times that you need to invest in schools and universities.”
Well, “there simply isn’t enough man power or advertisement,” Colin says. Everyone on the team is extremely busy and any free time left is dedicated to practicing paintball. For instance, you can catch Colin either volunteering at the UCI Medical Center, working it out as a Rock Wall Instructor, studying to remain a full fledge Campuswide Honors Program student, continuing his research in biological sciences, writing up the bad guys as a community assistant in VDC, or walking backwards as a Campus Representative. “The campus social scene has its reputations to strangers, but I believe that it's true worth lies. In the fact, students have to go out and seize the experiences that they want. We earn our stories here, and oh what fun they've been.”
And with that, Colin had taken one last sip of his coffee and continued on his paper. Knowing that if he didn’t finish this paper soon he wouldn’t have enough energy to gear up and have some paintball fun at 8am on a Saturday morning..
Official Footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtfIw6xxZwk
Colin Campbell—President of Paintball Club