Welcome back again everyone! It has been so nice to share with all of you my obstacles in my paintball journey and career. Like most new adventures, it had a rough start. As my previous blogs stated, I really did not have any fundamentals down and was clueless to the sport except “get to a prop and shoot.” I knew I was going to need help and help was graciously given. I practiced hard and played hard to get into the more competitive area of paintball. Which leads me to how I felt when I started playing speedball tournaments.
All of the events I have been to and all of the amazing people I have met, have further let me know how unique and incredible this sport really is. Do you remember your first event? Do you remember exactly how you felt before your first point? Walking out onto the field with your teammates with 1:30 on the clock. You’re all anxiously standing there making sure you have enough air and paint, pre-shooting your gun on the ground to make sure you do not have any malfunctions, quickly going over the breakout plan, checking your teammates for paint hits, maybe even yelling a short team chant, all leading up to the last ten seconds of the countdown. Then five seconds is called and you put your gun to the board, and a series of feelings overcome you like: butterflies, nervousness, fear, excitement, anxiety, eagerness, and hope that you are going to make it alive off the break and win the point together as a team. Playing in a paintball event is something that can not be described. Although you are on the field with teammates playing together, it is hard to describe what you are seeing through your eyes because it is such a personal understanding of what is happening. Almost like a “you had to be there” moment. Some may even say it’s spiritual.
Once a team plays a full series of events together, whether it be regional or national, we all eventually get to the “Big Show” also known as: PSP World Cup. Being at World Cup is one of the most exhilarating things a paintballer player can do. This past year was extremely special for me because I got to share this experience with my new team, Destiny. When you arrive at Fantasy of Flight, in Polk City, Florida, you can smell paintball in the air and feel the spirit of paintball. When you walk on the pit side or alongside the spectator side, you know you have officially escaped reality of work and your home-life and entered into the paintball world for almost a solid five days. As you walk past all the vendors you feel a sinking pit in your stomach because you know how much money you’re going to spend on new gear or you get angry because you wish you had more money to buy new gear! Am I right? Ha Ha.
Destiny did not have to play our first match until Saturday morning, so we had plenty of time to figure things out and scope out other teams, their breakouts, and walk the field. Now, we all know that paintball seems to be the only thing that will get us up at 6am on a weekend and that’s exactly what I did every single day at World Cup.
The pit-side of World Cup is insanity! There are teams everywhere! As security checks your PSP i.d and you walk in, all you see is a slew of jerseys and different colors. Some people are running to get paint, some people are carrying boxes of paint, some teams are jogging up and down the walkway to stretch. It is just pure chaos. There are two teams in each field pit, then there are teams along both sides of the middle walkway trying to gear up and get ready. Some people have a routine when they walk over into the pit side with their team like having a quiet moment to yourself while you fill your first set of pods or doing some extra stretching. What do I do? I do what most of you probably do, which is listen to music. My teammate, Traci Hayes, does the same thing. I call it “going into my own world.” I just put in my ear buds, fill my pack with pods and walk over to the closest area of net on the Dorito side and just watch whatever game is going on at the moment. I don’t need to listen to anyone or anything except my music. When I am ready, I shut off my music, put my pack on, put my mask on my head, and grab hold of my paintball gun and walk into the pit until my coach tells me to get on the field (or until the scorekeeper screams the two teams up). Ha ha.
Everyday of the event, I was accompanied by my boyfriend Nick. He also ended up playing D2 as a guest for the Palm Beach Vipers, ten-man with the Annihilators AND coached us! Destiny also had other support systems: Lamar Rosen, Lihn Truong, Kat Secor and Rachel Mathews. Although Nick and Lamar played ten-man together, they managed to run back and forth between the fields to make sure they did not miss us. On a side note, Nick and Lamar ended taking home FIRST PLACE in the ten man event with the Florida Annihilators! Woohoo!
No matter how long I play for, I think I will always feel the nervous butterflies before my gun touches the board. I try not to hesitate or doubt myself. Bea Paxson is such an amazing leader and makes sure we never underestimate ourselves or our abilities in this sport as women. She always says to make sure to just believe in yourself. Her constant wise words and experience in this sport has helped many of us girls become the players we are today.
At World Cup 2013, Destiny ended up being the only all-female team to make it to “Sunday Funday.” We played our hearts out. Even though we eventually got knocked out, this experience only makes us want to push harder and become better. Watch out for Destiny 2014! My current goal is to be the female that other girls or even guys will look up to and say, “I want to play paintball like Nicole Episcopo.” I am actively working very hard to make sure that I become a positive role model and a helpful resource for any beginner players and a more personal touch-stone for female players. I will not stop until I am the best out there because I won’t settle for anything less.
Perseverance will be my strongest companion when participating in this challenging, yet inspiring sport.