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Paintball team takes aim during competition

Paintball-Tom Andreski

Paintball team member Tom Andreski hits the mark

Paintball-Dave Pando

Senior captain Dave Pando takes aim

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Paintball team sets aim at national title

Team ranks among best in the nation

Every April, the collegiate paintball season ends with the National Collegiate Paintball Association National Championships where the best teams meet to compete for the title.

The Ohio University team has had its eyes on a national title since 2006, when they finished sixth in the nation. The team feels that this could be the year.

The following years they placed sixth, third and second the following three years. With these accomplishments came great national exposure in major paintball magazines and sponsorships from one of the biggest paintball companies, Planet Eclipse. Thanks to the team's success and media attention, Planet Eclipse approached the Bobcats and offered them a sponsorship for the 2010-2011 season.

Building a Legacy with Paint

For about a decade, college athletes have been competing in paintball in the National Collegiate Paintball Association, but the sport and paintball itself have been around since the 1980s.

Many students probably have heard of paintball, whether it's in the neighbor's back yard with friends or seeing the NCPA championship on TV. Players have a paintball gun, paintballs and some carbon dioxide along with some protective equipment. The goal is to strategically knock out the other team with your paint and be the last ones standing. The activity that started out as backyard fun has grown into a nationally competitive collegiate sport attracting men and women of all ages. 

A handful of students started OHIO Paintball in 2004, but they did not start the team with the intention of national competition. That all changed when current senior and team captain Dave Pando arrived in 2006 – who led the club's transformation in the competitive arena.

Pando started his paintball career in the woods at age 12. His passion for the sport helped land him on teams competing nationally. When he decided to attend Ohio University, he knew that paintball was in his future.

"When I got here I decided I had to build up the club. I'm kind of the entrepreneur-type person. Being able to use paintball, which was my passion, to help grow and create the kind of paintball program we have today has been amazing," Pando said.

The program has grown from five members to 50 in a short time, while also attracting students from all over the country. The team now holds tryouts and hopes that its numbers keep growing. Whether or not someone wants to compete or play for fun, the team welcomes them to come out.

Facing a Tough Reality

Though the Bobcats have received national recognition, big name sponsorships and are considered one of the top programs in the nation, they still face major financial hurdles. Each year the team struggles to pay thousands of dollars for their national dues, and members pay out of pocket for equipment and supplies.

The team raises money throughout the year to help offset its operating costs. Despite being national contenders, the team receives only a minimal amount of funding from the University each year.

Pando fears that without more university assistance, the paintball legacy they have built may face extinction.

“We struggle every year and get by by the skin of our teeth. If the school ever cuts funding or doesn’t give us enough money, it could end up with us getting kicked out of the league.”

A Brotherhood Formed with Paint

Pando said that despite the financial hardships, team members will always have a bond.

"We're kind of like a fraternity, but not," Pando said.

The success they have celebrated has been a direct result of the hard work and time the team has put in to their season day in and day out. As the team continues to grow, Pando looks to take his team to a national title this April and looks to the future of the club.

"This is our year to get a national championship. We've built a legacy over the years and I hope that it continues to grow and showcase Ohio University as one of the premier paintball colleges in the country."

For more information, visit www.oupaintball.com or visit the team's Facebook page.