When someone first thinks about the sport of paintball, the typical thoughts encompass violent behaviour and guys with anger issues that just want to hurt people. The truth is that most of the people I have met going to practices, and tournaments, are some of the best, most caring people I have ever met and not at all like paintball has a reputation for. There are rules in place to ensure everyone's safety and enjoyment that are taken extremely seriously and everyone looks out for one another, regardless of team. That being said, you will find people that use paintball as an excuse to be unsportsmanlike or mean spirited, and I hope that they will never taint the good nature of the sport for anyone.
My first time ever participating in the sport, I was going to a middle school birthday party. A couple of years later, I would find myself spending a lot of my spare time at the local field with friends who played a version of the sport called Speedball. Eventually, I would receive my own marker for Christmas, however, I wouldn't use it for more than the occasional target practice until a friend of mine invited me to come meet his Woodsball team. After one practice with the guys, I decided that I would like to play with them on a more regular basis, and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself.
Since moving to Calgary four years ago, I have found it both interesting and difficult to try and make friends here. When I go to a paintball event, it doesn't matter if you've known the person for 15 years or 15 seconds, everyone is friendly and ready to help with anything you might need. When you're at the field, you are a part of the paintball family, and can make friends for life. I have had complete strangers offer to lend me their spare gear when I have forgotten my own at home. I have even had strangers offer to let me try out their brand new, top of the line, and totally out of my price range marker with paint supplied so that I didn't have to worry about using up all of my own. Regular players are also very excited to play with new players, known as “Renters”. Most regulars see this as a way to take someone under their wing and introduce them to how wonderful the game can be, but also walk away with a new friend that they might not have made otherwise.
When I look back at myself, before I started to play paintball seriously, I was a much different person. I have had to learn that my body can go far beyond where my head says I have to stop. This has allowed me to go from a person who knew my limits, to one who knows that the only limits I have are the ones I set for myself. I have gone from a person who is not the most fit, to someone who can easily carry myself, 50+ lbs of gear, and extra paint up and down the hills of the field with ease. Even in my soccer playing years when I was at my peak of physical fitness, I didn't have the same endurance I have created for myself now.
One thing that I would like to see in the future of the sport is more female players. Females are typically more agile and able to think on their feet better than their male counterpart. I think this has actually given me an advantage in paintball. Since the sport is mainly male dominated, it always empowers me when we are walking back to the staging area and I get to see how my number of tagged out players compares to the others. Even if I didn't have a good round that time, I am never met with negativity from the other players. Instead, I am offered motivation and ideas on how I could improve my game for the next round.
I am often asked where a particular bruise came from, and I am always proud to say that I hold my own in paintball. I see every bruise as a badge of honour because I wasn't afraid to do something many others would be frightened of.
Overall, I love this sport and I think that anyone, regardless of experience, would have a great time. I have seen participants in all age groups and fitness levels come out to the field and have a blast. Paintball teaches young children, and adults alike, how to have courage and how to work as a team to achieve a single goal. Whether you're looking to add more exercise into your life, or you're just looking for a fun time for an event (Batchelor/ette party, birthday party, work team-building, etc.), I highly recommend going out to your local field. Rampage City if you are within Calgary city limits, Capture the Flag Outdoor Paintball in Cochrane and Weekend Warriors near Olds are my fields of choice.