UB paintball is paintballin’ on a budget

UB paintball team finishes second in national tournament despite scarce funds

paintball2

Joe Barrett wants to the world to know UB has a paintball team.

The UB paintball club has been ranked in the top eight of the National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) Class-AA National Tournament the last five years and has won the tournament twice in that stretch. This past weekend, the team traveled to Lakeland, Florida to compete in the national championship and finished second out of 51 teams.

The team took a 19-hour bus ride to Lakeland and crammed the entire team into two cheap motel rooms.

The paintball team is one of the lowest funded sports clubs in the Student Association with a budget of $750 this season, but has found success despite its lack of resources. Other SA club sports like the men’s rugby and men’s lacrosse teams have budgets of more than $16,000 – but both have more than double the amount of players on the team.

Barrett, the team’s head coach and a former player, commends the club for its continuous rate of success despite struggling with financial woes. He said he loves to work with the team because they are all “good-hearted, hard-working players who have the will to win.”

Barrett said the team was getting higher funding until 2012 when “a lot of the core guys graduated.” The club once had as many as 25 members, but now has just six or seven.

“The current version of the club isn’t doing enough to earn those $5,000 checks,” Barrett said. “We can definitely afford to get some more backing, though.”

SA President James Ingram said the finance committee determines the club budgets based on a number of factors, including how long the club has been around and how long it has met its requirements. Clubs lose funding or gain funding year-to-year based on meeting requirements and how active they are.

Ingram said the amount of money that clubs lose was subjective in the past, but former SA President Sam McMahon and former Treasurer Siddhant Chhabria set more strict guidelines last year on how much clubs lose if they miss requirements.

The team said most of its funding comes from fundraisers and out of pocket. According to Barrett, the money granted to the team barely covers total yearly expenses and is used mainly for traveling funds because paintball is an expensive sport. He said the team constantly has to buy paintballs and practice space.

“We’ve complained about [our budget] for years,” Barrett said. “We’ve been trying to get our budget increased even since I was a player. It’s substantially more expensive than other sports.”

All of the players play on individual paintball teams and come together for tournaments like the NCPA. The team begins practicing together three weeks before the tournament.

The UB paintball team plays in Class-AA of the NCPA, second to Class-A, which is reserved for the top paintball teams in the country. The difference between the levels is funds and the number of players on the team, according to Dylan Buchholtz, a senior business major and player. Barrett said Class-A teams such as Florida Gulf Coast have budgets of more than $40,000 per semester and its own practice facilities on campus.

But Nate Beerman, a senior political science major and player on the team, said he still believes the team can compete with the best of the best in Class-A.

“No questions asked,” Beerman said. “We have players that play in the national circuit and our coach has played professionally in international leagues. He has the coaching ability and we have the talent.”

Barrett, who played for the team from 2008-12, said the team’s “rate of success has accelerated at an exponential rate” since he has been in the program. In his first season in 2008, he was playing with kids who were new to the game. Two years later, the team finished as undefeated national champions.

“I’ve made beginners into champions,” Barrett said.

Two weeks ago, the team launched a GoFundMe campaign and hosted a charity paintball tournament, where it made $2,200 – roughly triple of the allotted budget given to them. But even with the fundraisers, players can spend more than $150 alone for one day of practice.

“I’ve explained to people that I’ve driven from Batavia, New York to Erie, Pennsylvania at least two times a month for practice,” Buchholtz said. “It’s a three-hour drive. I’d wake up at 5 a.m. and drop $100 in a day on paint just to play for seven or eight hours. I’d be at the field for eight or nine hours in a day and then make the drive home.”

The closest indoor field is in Angelica, New York, which is about one hour away from North Campus. A Google search bring up no paintball arenas in Buffalo.

The team is not planning to jump divisions until the numbers begin to rise again. But Buchholtz and Beerman said they don’t care about the amount of money spent or which division they play in. Beerman said he never stopped enjoying the game and will continue to play in any division.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Buchholtz said. “You see the same guys week after week. I started to play 12 years ago and playing week after week, you develop a mutual trust with the people in front of you and behind you on the field. That builds off the field as well. I’ll lift with and eat with the team. It started as a nice escape, but it built into a brotherhood.”

Tom Dinki contributed reporting on this story.

Jordan Grossman is the senior sports editor and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com