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Say Yes to Paintball

I never thought I would say this, but playing paintball is fun! Aside from the padded pants that make it hard to run, the face mask that makes you look like Darth Vader’s unattractive offspring, and the fact that pellets filled with paint are flying at your head, the sport provides a lot of fun for an afternoon. I was offered an opportunity to play last weekend at Davis Paintball, and having no other exercise planned, I said Yes.

I was contacted by Yvonne Emmons, the mother of 13 year-old paintball player Adam Emmons. In order to stay involved in her childrens’ lives, Yvonne became secretary/marketer/paintball player extraordinaire for Davis Paintball when Adam joined the CapCity Kidz paintball team and her younger son, Garrett, took an interest in paintball as well. What a dedicated mom! In fact, when I first met Yvonne, she was suited up in the official padded paintball paints and wearing a mask that covered her entire face and neck. Talk about intimidating.

Yvonne was dressed in order to take me and my boyfriend Kevin (whom I made come with me, with the false idea that playing with at least one person that I knew would protect me) out onto the field. We pulled on our protective jumpsuits (for the record, the paint is water-based and washes out easily), put on our face masks, filled our guns with olive green paint pellets, and stomped out onto one of the many fields that compose Davis Paintball. Davis Paintball contains 40 acres of land, divided into nine different fields, for players to run, hide, and shoot on. I had always pictured paintball to be like that classic scene in 10 Things I Hate About You in which Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger pelt each other with paintballs and roll around in hay stacks, but man, was I wrong.

To start with, there are different types of fields. The air-ball field looks like any other sports field except that it’s filled with large blow-up columns to hide behind, and this is where the professional paintballers hold their games. The hyper-ball field is filled with corrugated metal tunnels standing on end and lying on their sides, and the rec fields are filled with giant wooden cable spools and small wooden shacks, spaced apart on a huge field. Finally, instead of two people flirtatiously flinging paint into each others’ hair, real paintball involves teams squaring off yards apart, developing attack strategies, and picking opponents off one by one with telltale splotches of paint.

We started on a rec field that was scattered with cable spools that were large enough to effectively hide three or four players behind each one. Yvonne, Kevin and I teamed up against three high school-age boys, and when the referee blew his whistle, we ran from opposite ends of the field, shooting our guns and making beelines for the nearest shelters. Instead of being paralyzed by either terror or boredom, as I had suspected I would be, I had a blast. Running from spool to spool, figuring out where the “enemy” was hiding, and devising attack techniques with my teammates proved to be so fun that when the round was over in seven minutes, I was disappointed. We played a few more games, moving to new fields and playing different opponents, including a birthday party of ten year-olds, who proved themselves to be worthy adversaries.

The man who made my enlightening experience possible is Micah McGlocklin, the owner of Davis Paintball. Micah began playing paintball when he was a kid, meeting up with his friends to play on the Davis Greenbelt, in local orchards, and on the hill behind the go cart track on Pole Line Road. When he got older, Micah played on two U.S. professional paintball teams, the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) and Paintball Sports Promotions (PSP), as well as on the European Paintball Series, Millennium, and during his career he won five world championships. Now retired from professional paintballing and recuperating from a chondral defect in his knee, Micah runs the largest and most diverse paintball park in northern California and dedicates himself to sharing his passion for the sport. When I talked to him, it was clear how much he loves paintball and believes that it is a safe way for kids to have fun, get exercise, meet other kids and build self-confidence.

These are the reasons why Micah is starting a summer camp at Davis Paintball. Davis Paintball has been open since 2004, and holds many events throughout the year such as the monthly Big Game, in which 200 players line the field at once, playing in an enormous, enormously fun game. The one thing it has been lacking, however, is a program to introduce children to paintball. This is what Micah wants his summer camp to be: a safe introduction to playing paintball that takes the intimidation out of it. Micah says that when a beginner plays on a regular day, he or she may end up on the field with experienced players and can have a negative experience. Micah wants to eliminate this by walking the campers through the rules of paintball, the safety points, the strategies, and then having them square off against other beginners. In this way, kids will be able to feel comfortable on the field and see what a fun sport paintball is.

Some parents worry that paintball isn’t safe, but both Yvonne and Micah assured me that it is incredibly safe. Yvonne says she used to follow her sons onto the field during their games to make sure that they were OK, but she quickly realized that the only accident that could befall them was tripping while running on the grass, and Micah assured me that statistically, golf causes more injuries than paintball. In fact, the only injuries that have ever occurred at Davis Paintball have been tripping-while-running injuries. With all of the safety precautions I witnessed while there, this doesn’t surprise me. Masks are required beyond a certain point, we were shown how to put the safety catch on our guns and told to always keep a bullet guard–which looks like a cloth muzzle for the gun–on our guns unless were were actually playing a game, and the staff was very knowledgeable and helpful. Basically, only a klutz gets hurt on the paintball field.

I actually wish that I were young enough to participate in the camp this summer, but I’ll just have to go back to play on my own. Girls who bring their own equipment play free, after all!

There are two camp sessions, June 13-17 and July 11-15, and the camp runs from 9 am-12 pm each day. For more information, visit www.davispaintball.com, e-mail info@davispaintball.com, or call Micah at (530) 757-7700.

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