Starting A College Paintball Club
By Former Michigan Tech President Russ Stebner
The Paintball Club at Michigan Technological University is one of the most successful college paintball clubs. As the current president of this club, I receive frequent e-mails asking for advice on starting a paintball club at a college or university. As a result, I have written this information on starting a club. This information comes from the history of the Paintball Club at MTU, my experience with the club, and feedback from members of other clubs.
Is it possible?
Ask yourself seriously, “Are there enough paintball players at this school to form a club?” If you do not think there are enough people, then your best bet is just to find some friends and go to open play. If you think there are enough people, then continue reading.
Talk to members of other types of clubs at your school. Find out what they did to start. All schools are different and each has their own set of rules or regulations. By communicating with clubs, you can get an idea of the system in place at your school.
More than likely, you will first have to find a faculty member willing to be your advisor. Ideally, this advisor will be a fellow paintball player. However, anyone will do as an advisor if they are willing to come to a few meetings and help you negotiate with school administrators. Your advisor will help you raise money, advertise membership, and spread positive word-of-mouth, not to mention counsel you with any problems within the team.
Write a proposal that includes your goals and reasons for wanting to form a paintball club and schedule a meeting with a faculty member in charge of student activities or student affairs. Go into this meeting well prepared and with an open mind. In order to get your proposal accepted, you will more than likely have to push safety issues. It will also be helpful to mention the growth of paintball as a sport. According to a recent study done by American Sports Data, Inc., paintball has surpassed snowboarding to become America’s fourth most popular extreme sport. Do not be discouraged if your proposal is not accepted. Take some time to do a little more work on the idea and then see if you can get another meeting. If your proposal is accepted, you really have to get to work.
Talk to your school’s grounds’ administrators and find out if they own any suitable land for you to use. If the school is unwilling or unable to provide you adequate land for playing, then try talking to commercial fields in your area. Sometimes, field owners will give student groups discounts and other advantages if they are willing to help promote the field. The benefits of having your own field are freedom, increased future spending power, and cheaper rates for members which in turn increases participation. The down side to having your own field is initial setup cost. With your own field, you may have to buy markers, masks, hoppers, tanks, a CO2 fill station, parts kits, barrel plugs, an air horn or whistle, ref vests, first aid kits, cleaning supplies, etc. It will also help to have a safe place to store equipment or a trailer for transporting the equipment back and forth from the field.
Use the information that you received from the other clubs at your school. Some schools fund student groups and others do not. Frequently, you will either have to go through your student activities office or your student government to start the funding process. Next, try getting companies to sponsor you. Once you have a few members, you can run fundraisers. You may also need to charge your members a fee. Keep membership dues very small (like $50 per semester) so that you do not discourage people from trying the club. As soon as you have some money, you need to start carefully planning what you spend it on and open a bank account. If you will be playing on your own field, the first piece of equipment you should buy is a chronograph. Then gradually buy rental equipment. The more rental equipment you have, the more people can play, and therefore more people will join.
You have to advertise; there’s just no way around it. Some student activities offices help with advertising and other schools have publicity offices that can help. Otherwise, you are on your own. You will need to do a lot of advertising. Post flyers around campus, put up table tents in cafeterias, get an announcement on the school’s radio station and cable channel, and write information for your school paper. Advertise an initial meeting for people interested in playing. At the meeting, you will need to organize your objective. Again, this is where talking to other clubs will really help. Elect officers, write a constitution, make some rules, and set a date to play.
The hardest way to communicate between members of the group is using a phone chain because people are rarely home, voice mail disappears, or messages are never checked. The best way is to create an e-mail list. Add the e-mail addresses of all interested people to the mailing list. Alternative methods include Web pages or message boards.
Pick times to play that are convenient for the members. When you go to play, play whatever everyone feels like. You do not always have to play elimination or center flag. Try playing scenario games, supply train, attack and defend, president, predator and prey, etc. You can find information on many different types of games all over the Internet, or you can try creating your own games.
You have to stress SAFETY if you want to portray a positive image, which you will have to do unless you don’t want to have a team for too long. Also, be careful in how you talk about paintball. Try to use terms like marker instead of gun, elimination instead of kill. Do not say things like, “I love how fun it is to go around shooting people.” Do not commit acts of vandalism with your paintball marker. Participate in fundraisers that benefit your club and a non-profit organization (Habitat for Humanity, food shelter, humane society, etc.) at the same time.
Making a dollar or two on every case of paint you sell at open play will not get you very far. If school funding, sponsorship, and membership dues do not cover your expenses, you will have to run a fundraiser. Rather than selling cookies or raffle tickets, the best fundraiser our club has found was holding a tournament. We currently have a five-man center flag tournament every spring and fall. We charge a small entry fee per team, rent out equipment, and make a profit on paint.
At open play, sell the paint at cost or near cost. Why? This will make it cheaper for people to play and thereby increase interest in playing. Accommodate players of all levels. Hold special events. Have seminars on paintball equipment, tactics and strategies, or host special days of play. Run scenario games, different variations of play, faculty versus student games, all female day, target shooting, dueling, and top gun competitions. Try hosting a local tournament, or entering an intercollegiate tournament. Always remember that not everyone will come to paintball, so you need to bring paintball to everyone. Whenever your school has a student activities day, fair, homecoming, or spring fling, setup a table to answer questions and let people know about your organization. Display magazines, videos (such as JT’s Game On), and paintball equipment. However, your school’s safety policy may prevent you from displaying markers.
There are countless advantages to having a club. One advantage is always having friends to play against. A big advantage is that many clubs are able to work out deals with distributors and paintball companies to get discounts on equipment and supplies. Our club receives equipment and paint at wholesale prices. We also worked out a deal with our school’s SCUBA club to get unlimited compressed air fills for $5 a term for those of us with high pressure tanks. We pride ourselves as being one of the cheapest, safest, and most fun places to play paintball anywhere.