Women discover painting builds extended ‘family’ connections
By RENNIE COOK
The morning sun glares down on a group of odd looking people in strange masks, poised and ready, waiting for the horn to blow and the game to begin. Think about it. Men and women running around shooting each other with paint-filled gelatin projectiles traveling 280 feet-per-second. Intimidated? Don’t be.
Paintball gives people of all ages, sex, race or physique the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company while firing and dodging incoming paintballs. But isn’t paintball a male-dominated extreme sport?
BattlegroundZ, a paintball field located in Attleboro, Mass., has a website stating that as of 2011 the number of women players has reached 19.9 percent totaling over 1.99 million female participants in the U.S.
Mike “Payroll” Schoner of La Porte, Ind., a producer (paintball game coordinator) for the last 7 years, said, “I have definitely seen a lot more young girls playing in recent years as paintball has become a bit more mainstream and popular.”
Lani “Sky” Fox of Milwaukee, a player for 5 years, disagrees with Schoner. “I don’t believe the number of women playing has grown a lot…maybe we’re a little bit more visual these days with the Internet,” she said.
Visibility has definitely increased with the birth of numerous online publications, such as Actionpursuitgames.com and Splatmagazine.com.
Photography websites like Paintballphotography.com are also giving women the opportunity to watch games through photo and video technology, while social network sites, like Facebook, allow women to learn about the sport and connect with players.
So as women become more visible in this sport, many fields and facilities have become more female-friendly. Some, like Sherwood Forest Adventure Games in La Porte, Ind., have added indoor bathroom facilities, while others offer discounted or free protective gear rentals for female players.
Many women are finding second homes and an extended family of players. Melissa “Bunny” Riggs, Houston, Texas, has played for 11 years.
“Every male player I play with protects me and my 13-year-old daughter as if we are family,” Riggs said. “They know we can both hold our ground. But having that respect has made me love paintball even more. I’m no longer afraid for my daughter to run off alone and to bring her female friends.”
Like Riggs, Fox had similar feelings. “I have made some great friends playing paintball. The majority of them men for obvious reasons,” Fox said. “Paintball is a family no matter what side you’re on. Almost everyone I’ve encountered treats you that way.”
However, spending a fun-filled day with “family” can be pricey. Smaller fields are easier on the debit card and a treasure trove of knowledge.
Boneyard Paintball, located in Plymouth, Wis., offers full rental packages containing everything needed to get on the field for $35 per person, which is less than most larger fields.
An added bonus is that several Wisconsin teams using this field to practice and have fun tare usually available to help out, give pointers and tell some amazing stories.
“Paintball is a great sport,” Schoner said. “The intimidation factor is quickly forgotten after playing your first paintball game. The stories and experiences you have on the field will last a lifetime and the friends you meet along the way are priceless!”