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Paintballs ricocheted across the field, pelting the barricades and sailing quickly toward the Liberty University players sliding across the splattered ground, easily dodging the assailants.
The Liberty Paintball Team began as a club in 2005, and then became an official club sport in 2008.
Now, the team has grown to 18 members preparing yet again for the National Collegiate Paintball Association national championships. According to Head Coach Todd Hoglund, the team has gone to the national competition each year since 2007 and has placed in the top four the last three years they have attended.
“I’ve got a good group of guys,” Hoglund said. “They’ve come a long way this year.”
According to team captain Aaron Thompson, the team is prepared and ready to compete.
“Pregame jitters are common, but I feel pretty confident in our abilities to be a force to be reckoned with,” Thompson said. “Of course, you don’t want to be too confident, but we’ve been preparing for a long time.”
Throughout the year, the team has been involved in two Class A events and three Class AA events. To be invited to a Class A event, the team must first compete in two regional events, while any team can be invited to Class AA events. The Liberty University team is composed of 10 Class A players and eight AA players.
“We’ve been preparing since day one,” junior Noah Burns said. “This is pretty much what we prepare for all year.”
This year, nationals will be held in Lakeland, Fla., April 19. The team will leave early Thursday, April 18, and will compete Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday, depending on their rankings.
“We have a lot to live up to, but we’re one of the top programs in the nation,” Hoglund said.
According to Thompson, one of the team’s most practiced skills is learning to effectively communicate on the field. The team uses a different code for each bunker and has learned to speak to each other in a way that quickly conveys their strategies.
“Communication makes or breaks the team,” Burns said. “It’s essential.”
Although competitions are a time for the team to show off their skills, according to Thompson, it is also a time for the Liberty students to show their love for God to a world of broken people.
“We want to be a pedestal,” Thompson said. “That way, when we go down to big events like Florida, we want to make sure all that we do and all that we say is glorifying to God so that we can show Jesus to people in the paintball community.”
According to Hoglund, much of the paintball community is involved in drugs, drinking and cursing. The Liberty team is able to show the light of God in the sport’s community by being different.
“One of the biggest things that we do is live the Christian life on and off the field, and teams see that,” Hoglund said.
Hoglund added that he was grateful to have Liberty’s support of the team as well as the support of Liberty’s sponsorship by Planet Eclipse. Through Planet Eclipse, the team received high quality, specialty equipment and guns that they may not have obtained otherwise.
According to Hoglund, a live webcast will show the team’s efforts at nationals, which is also another witnessing tool for the team. Individuals who are not able to attend the competition can watch the Liberty Paintball Team pray with the winning or losing teams on a national webcast.
“That’s why we play paintball, to be able to achieve that status and that platform so we can proclaim Jesus,” Hoglund said.
According to Hoglund, the team is excited to head to nationals and excited to see what God will do through them on such a broad scale, putting their hard work into