Rebooted after a five-year hiatus, the club faces a challenge to attract more funding, members
AMHERST — Despite having only seven members and having played only one season since its revival in 2013, the University of Massachusetts Paintball Team has been under high scrutiny, at least in the eyes of the SGA and the newly formed Club Sports Council.
“People were asking questions when it was formed, such as where they would practice,” said Brian Arnold, the Paintball Team advisor and Assistant Director for Leadership training at the Center for Student Development. “There were not only concerns over safety, but also the guidelines set by the university in order to receive funding,” said Arnold.
Aside from entrance fees, every member of the paintball team pays out-of-pocket for his own equipment and personal expenses – totaling around $250-$300 according to team organizer David Patlut. Expenses include a mask, gun, and paintballs – not to mention lodging and food during trips. According to Arnold, SGA guidelines prohibit funding for any equipment or expenses labeled for “individual” rather than “team” use.
“The Sports Council won’t even pay for jerseys with our names on the back, only numbers,” said Patlut, a junior. “We represent UMass Amherst. We aren’t only numbers.”
The SGA has labeled the Paintball Team a “high risk” club, one where a significant amount funding and travel are required to keep it going, although Patlut has observed that it has not been given as much priority as other clubs.
The team’s first competitive season during the 2013-14 year was also the first year that the Paintball Team received approximately $5000 in funding – not nearly enough to start the club in the eyes of Patlut.
Patlut initially applied for “around $10,000” in funding to cover entrance fees and transportation to events along the east coast, including a national championship. Event fees are costly; the Paintball Team plays in three National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) events per season.
Patlut was forced to apply for emergency funding from the SGA in spring 2014 in order to be able to afford the cost of competing in the 2014 NCPA National Championship in Lakeland, FL, an event in which the team finished 12th out of 50 teams in a “Race to 2” points game format.
(Teams play two matches at one point per match victory, a third match being played in the event of a tiebreaker.)
Although the team competed in the AA class – one below the NCPA’s top “A” class – Patlut claims that the team has the experience and skill to compete at a higher level with the proper funding.
A student who has known the sting of paintballing since the 7th grade, senior Daniel Murray of Amesbury, MA came to UMass Amherst in 2011 with the deciding factor being that there was paintball club listed on-campus.
“UMass had a paintball team, but it was pretty much dead since 2007. It didn’t have enough members,” said Murray, “After awhile I got into contact with David and a senior who was previously on the team to help get it started again.”
At the time, Patlut was a newcomer to the sport. After applying to restart the club in early fall of 2012, the club wasn’t officially registered until the late spring of 2013 – nearly a full year after.
“We lost a year of trying to get funding and organize events, it was kind of annoying,” said Patlut, who was still a relative newcomer to the sport at the time he registered the club. “We were basically a joke.”
An impressive first season has drawn attention to the Paintball Team from an advising perspective; recent changes to the SGA’s Registered Student Organization registration process have led Arnold to believe that the Paintball Team has a bright future.
“Real” changes have been made in the past “two to three years” in the RSO structure between new RSOs, the SGA, and Student Activities, according to Arnold, who cites stricter RSO categorization and advising structure shifts as headway to clear up points of confusion.
Among 600 Facebook friends and soft goods fundraising, both Murray and Patlut are still struggling to attract new members or sources of revenue to the club. For them, selling t-shirts is not enough of an effort compared to other more well-known clubs.
Patlut believes that the team has a great chance of demonstrating it’s worth by making it to make it into the NCPA’s “A” division, where matches are broadcast online and the two finalists are shown live on CBS.
Assistant Director Arnold was clear to state that the CSD does not help clubs promote themselves, aside from holding semester-by-semester Student Activities Expos. As a native of Colorado, he is aware that paintball is popular rurally among “select populations,” although it is not as mainstream in Massachusetts.
“I like them. They’re a little different and not your traditional sport,” said Arnold. They’re a very good addition to have here at UMass
Photos used with the permission of Patlut, courtesy of Alicia Nicole of Alicia Nicole Photography
Note: This story was rejected by editors Daily Collegian, because I kind of wrote off-topic – the story was supposed to be a profile.
Here’s the link to that story: