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Paintball practice can be serious business
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By EMILY BATTLE
Empty wire spools turned on their sides, old furniture and piles of tires strewn across a roughly mowed field might look like a mess to a lot of folks.
If you're a paintball enthusiast it looks like a fun place to spend a weekend afternoon.
The popularity of homemade paintball courses, often hidden in neighbors' backyards, got youth leaders at Salem Baptist Church in Sparta, a rural community in Caroline County, thinking about ways to engage some of their younger members.
So for a few hours yesterday, a small group of teenage boys got a lesson in how paintball could take them a lot farther than their own backyards.
Four members of Liberty University's nationally ranked paintball team drove up from Lynchburg to run them through drills, give them a few pointers and talk to them about how you can love playing organized paintball without adopting the trash-talking, hard-living ways for which the sport has become known to some.
"Our main goal is not only to win at paintball, but it's also to shine a light in this lost sport," said Brian Davidson, a senior on Liberty's paintball team.
In a sport where many players crack a beer the minute they step off the field, "we throw them water bottles," Davidson said.
And in place of the swear words that often get thrown around, "We're just like, 'Hey, dude, don't worry about it,'" team member Ben Konechne told the group at Salem Baptist.
Liberty's team finished fourth at the National Collegiate Paintball Association's national championships in Lakeland, Fla., in April.
Yesterday they ran the young men from Salem Baptist through drills and stretches before playing on a private paintball course a few miles from the church.
As they suited up with masks, pads and other gear, 13-year-olds David Chewning, Joseph Parker and Cody Dunn said they liked seeing that there were opportunities to play paintball in a more organized way.
Randy Thomas, a youth leader at the church, said the visit from the Liberty players was a good way to show that your attitude can exemplify your beliefs, no matter where you are.
"It's something we can do with the kids in the community and be a positive influence," he said.