John Thomason admitted he was a little nervous Sunday morning, moments before the University Paintball Club’s first tournament.
“There’s a lot of good teams here,” he said looking out at the field.
Thomason, a junior and club president, founded the Paintball Club in late September after transferring from Normandale Community College this fall.
Thomason said he thought the club would be a positive addition to the University because it would allow student paintball players an opportunity to play together competitively, while at the same time exposing the sport to those who don’t know much about it.
“It’s an unknown sport to a lot of people,” he said. “But it’s bigger than people think.”
Thomason’s team got the chance to prove itself Sunday at the Minnesota North No. 2 paintball tournament in Jordan, Minn., hosted by Action Packed Paintball Games.
Fifteen teams from eight different schools around the Midwest, including Iowa State and Michigan Tech, attended the event.
The club had two teams in the tournament – the Golden Gophers and the Golden Gophers Maroon.
Bioproducts engineering junior and team member Stephanie Aich said the maroon team is comprised of new and less-experienced players.
The tournament began with a cold, light drizzle that quickly progressed into a hard rain, creating an unwelcomed new challenge for the paintball team.
Other than the obvious terrain and visibility issues, club officer Ben Balling said rain causes paintballs to expand in the gun before they are fired.
“It just turns your gun into a blender,” Balling said. “And you just spray.”
In addition to the tournament, the club has also established a sponsorship committee designed to negotiate sponsorships, Adam Larson, a committee member, said.
The group is currently sponsored by Meadows Cafe and Action Packed Paintball Games, but Larson said getting sponsors for a new team is difficult.
“A lot of sponsors look for things like game and tournament experience in a team,” Larson said, “which, obviously this being our first event, we don’t have.”
Larson said the group will also be seeking funding from the University, a goal that Student Activities adviser Heather Mead said was very realistic.
Mead said the group can submit an application for grants, which would be reviewed by a committee that determines how much money the group would receive.
“It definitely has to do with how thorough they are in their application,” she said. “But it also has to do with how organized they are in the event planning process.”
Mead said the Coca-Cola community grant and Coca-Cola campus life grant, both worth up to $1,000 per event, would most likely be matches for the paintball club.
Thomason said the paintball club plans on continuing to play in tournaments, including another Midwest event in Kewaskum, Wis., in November.
Thomason also said he aspires for the team to compete in the National Collegiate Paintball Championship – a televised event that has taken place in Dallas for the past two years.
The Golden Gophers placed 5 out of 15 in the tournament and the maroon team placed last.
Thomason said he was very pleased with the results and optimistic about the club’s future.
“I think it’s only going to get better from here as we learn to play together,” he said.