George Mason University’s club paintball team in a huddle before a match.Photo By Ali Zaman.

George Mason University’s club paintball team in a huddle before a match. Photo By Ali Zaman.

“Intense paintball action. Team building to the extreme. Working on communication skills under fire.” These phrases from Matt Hardman and Alexander Wagenknecht, the captains and founders of George Mason University’s new club paintball team, give a face and an attitude to one of Mason’s newest club teams.

This time last year, Hartman wanted to form a team to compete with the thriving paintball programs at Virginia schools like Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and the dominating team at Liberty University. He looked into seeing how to create the team and, with the help of some other players he found by online forums and word-of-mouth, went to Mason’s club sports coordinator Bob Spousta.

He and his team put money up front for tournament entry fees and hotel costs, hoping to get funding for the 2010-11 season. They received partial funding at the club sports meetings and went on to make their schedule for the season.

A thousand dollars or more for a gun, $200 for a tank, $200 for hoppers, $100 for a mask, $70 for a jersey and plenty of money for other necessary recurring expenses like paint and the use of a field are just some of the regular expenses to train a single player. The cost of going to a tournament can run hundreds to thousands of dollars, due to registration fees and hotel rooms for the duration of the event.

The team received significantly less than $5,000 of funding for their season, and the players knew that if they wanted to play, they would need to come up with a great amount of the money themselves. They would need near $5,000 to run one line, comprised of six or seven players, and near $9,000 to run two lines as is common in most club paintball teams.

They currently have two lines, about 14 people this season.

In need of money to run the team, they went to Pev’s Paintball Park in Aldie, Va. and received a sponsorship that included use of Pev’s field, giving the team a much-needed place to practice, and hopefully some money in the future.

The situation may pale in comparison to Liberty University’s team, which has its own field to practice on every day of the week. Currently, the Mason team practices once a week; they go for about six hours on Sundays.

When asked if they were looking for more players, coaches, and more sponsorships, Wagenkneche said, “Always.”

“It’s almost like being in a fraternity without the challenges. When you play together, you learn so much about each other; you become brothers,” added Hartman.

Armed with experience and some up-front money from their players, they went to their tournament on the weekend of Sept. 10. Out of nine teams playing, they played surprisingly well in their first-ever tournament, gelling as a team in their first opportunity.

“The sport is pretty much all about communication and teamwork; if you don’t have communication and teamwork, your team isn’t going to do well at all. … We placed fifth out of nine teams. Four of the teams we played against were nationally ranked teams,” said Hartman.

They play in Class AA of the National Collegiate Paintball Association, and if they rank in the top five at the end of the season, they will get promoted to the Class A division. “We’re division AA — it’s like the starting level. If you rank in the top 5, you’re moved up to the A division,” said Hartman.

The tournament was a good omen for them, because of how they played relative to the VCU team, which has a pro paintballer on board, which is oddly not against rules.

They lost their match against them but tied in the record. They also beat the Class A, stacked Liberty team once in three tries.

The team is hopeful for this season and has seven more tournaments stretching from October through March with the championships in May.