#htmlcaption1 Woodsball Big Games Tournament Paintball Where Do You Fit In? More Paintball Tipps

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tipp-ing the Rift Woodsball? Speedball? To the Tippinators, it's all just paintball!

"Shake hands, play hard, have fun, make new friends and remember that it is just a game." It's a good credo, and a team from Canada has swept down to spread the message to paintballers everywhere. If you see the Tippinators at a tournament, they'll be the guys wearing Digicam and tactical vests, toting tricked-outA-5s--the same set-ups they use in the woods. Like a growing number of paintballers, the Tippinators don't care what style of the game they play, just that they get to play--and make new friends in the process.
With this goal in mind, six of the Tippinators recently drove down from their hometown in Nova Scotia to Jim Thorpe, PA, to compete in a tournament at Skirmish. When the tournament was over (the Tippinators placed third), they had the opportunity to play at the field's famous Tippmann Castle. "This is better than Disneyworld to me," said team captain Bruce Johnston, looking very much like an overgrown kid, a huge, awestruck smile spreading across his face. The Tippinators bring this sense of wonder to everything they do, from the woods to the air'ball fields. "Paintball is supposed to be fun," Johnston says. "The minute you are not having fun anymore, your team is in trouble."

Paintball Sports Magazine: How did the Tippinators get started?

Bruce Johnston: In early July 2005, Austin Flaherty, Scott Knowles and myself were at Mersey Road Paintball in East River, Nova Scotia, playing woodsball. We were in the neutral zone between rounds and overheard a few speedballers talking about a rookie tournament that was to be held at the end of the month. They were joking about how there was no way woodsballers would have a chance in the tournament since they believed Tippmann markers were too big and slow. We decided that we would enter the tournament, not to show that we are better then the speedballers, but to show that anyone can have fun playing speedball regardless of the marker. The team was formed that day.

PSM: What was that first tournament like?

Johnston: We showed up with our milsim Tippmann A-5s, not having a clue what was going on. I was so inexperienced that the first time I was hit I started to go toward the woodsball neutral zone and not the speedball field dead box, until a ref pointed me in the right direction! We only managed one win in that first tournament, but we put up a good fight every time we played and scored points in every game. We earned some respect from the diehard speedballers and, most importantly, we all had a fantastic time. We shook hands and wished luck to the other team before every game. During games we called ourselves out if we were hit and called for numerous paint checks--the refs didn't know what to think of us. We shook hands again and thanked the other team after every game, win or lose. This is how the Tippinators' reputation for sportsmanship and fair play started. We planned to play in only one tournament and then head back to the woods, but two days after our first outing I received a call from the owner of Overkill Sportz in Mount Uniacke, Nova Scotia, inviting us to a second tournament. We played better, got more wins and won a Sportsmanship Award. Things have just progressed from there.

PSM: What are your goals as a tournament team? More regional events? World Cup? SPPL?

Johnston: We plan to enter every local and regional tournament possible. We definitely want to attend an SPPL qualifier, probably in Michigan. The World Cup is our long range goal for speedball. We still have a great deal to learn about speedball. When we can win a few games against top regional teams like East Coast Outlaws (ECO), Strict Union and Apocalypse, then we can seriously look at heading to Florida for the big game. It won't be tomorrow, but we will get there eventually.

PSM: You guys are starting to get recognized more as "the speedball players who use Tippmanns" than as the talented scenario players you started out as. Do you think it's easier, as a rule, to find fame and sponsorship on tournament fields than in the woods?

Johnston: In the past, it was easier to attain sponsorships as a speedball team simply due to the high volume of exposure speedball receives through various media and the numerous speedball leagues. With the advent of the nationwide SPPL and the upcoming woodsball television productions, it should become easier for top-level woodsball teams to gain sponsors.
PSM: Speaking of sponsorships, you are sponsored by both Tippmann and Smart Parts. How did a team called the Tippinators manage to earn a Smart Parts sponsorship?

Johnston: I started communicating with Sean Scott at Smart Parts through the forum at Special Ops Paintball. Sean thought our attitude, style of play and past success would fit in well with Smart Parts' revived focus on woodsball. We were very fortunate to have been selected as an official Smart Parts Tactical Squad team.

PSM: Both companies are okay with this?

Johnston: It has been a delicate balancing act for us representing competitors, but both companies are professional and understand that the Tippinators only want to promote paintball. We are very proud and fortunate to be associated with first class companies like Tippmann, Special Ops and Smart Parts.

PSM: You guys are all immensely talented--

Johnston: Thank you!

PSM: What skills from woodsball directly translate onto air'ball fields? And vice versa?

Johnston: Both are paintball, but they are very different games to play. Woodsball is a slower game. It has more sneaking, peeking, crawling and waiting, with the potential of having paint come at you from any direction. Tourneyball is much faster, with a need for quick reflexes, good communication and exceptional marker handling skills. The ability to fire and move effectively is vital for both styles of play. For me, snapshooting is the one woodsball skill that has helped me the most in tourneyball. Knowing when and how to move between bunkers during tournaments has most helped my woodsball play. I feel that each style of play has helped the other and both games are more enjoyable now.

PSM: As a rule, you guys are not the smallest, youngest or the fastest players on the field. What skills help compensate for that?

Johnston: Big, old and slow, that just about sums it up! Sometimes we can't physically keep up with the team at the other end of the field, so we have to hang back, wait for the other side to come to us and rely on our shooting ability to hopefully score an elimination. Once we have a numerical advantage, then we can start to move a little more freely. Typically, we must be patient and wait for the opportunity to move and hope for the best.

PSM: Some of you use stocks on your markers even in tournaments. Do they help your aim or stance?

Johnston: I don't know if the stocks are an advantage for everyone, but I am much more comfortable shooting with a stock. I run a remote line with the tank on my harness so I find the stock helps to balance the marker. I have played with my tank on the marker in a few tournaments and found it much more difficult to keep my elbows tucked in behind bunkers.

PSM: For your first major road trip, you decided to drive 16 hours to Pennsylvania for a three-man tournament--six guys, one van, tons of gear. Any funny stories?

Johnston: Other than being trapped in a van for a 32-hour round trip drive with five other guys and somehow being able to endure the interesting--and sometimes frightening--smells being produced, the guys were able to pull a fast one on me. The phone rang while I was alone in my hotel room. The voice at the other end said, "This is Bill at the front desk. We have received complaints about members of your party having guns in the hotel." I started to explain that they were paintball markers, perfectly safe and not a threat to anyone. The person at the other end cut me off, saying, "Sir, I am going to have to let you speak to my supervisor." I was reeling with a hundred different scenarios playing out in my mind. At this point I thought the police would be on the way and I was trying to think of what I would tell my wife when I called from the local lock-up. After a short pause another very stern voice came to the phone: "Mr. Johnston. This behavior is totally unacceptable." Here it comes, I thought. "You better get your butt next door and have a drink with the rest of the team." When my heart started beating again, three or four minutes later, I headed next door and was greeted by a chorus of laugher. After the prank, I did briefly entertain the idea of letting the rest of them walk home.

PSM: Aside from being a classy team with a great sense of humor, what are the Tippinators like? Wives, jobs, hobbies? What do you do when you're not playing paintball?

Johnston: Scott 'Hired Gun' Knowles and I are the only married members of the team. Thankfully, Tracy [Scott's wife] and Christine [my wife] are understanding and supportive of us playing paintball. I am the only team member with kids; Josh [my son] went through the tryout process this summer and joined the team in July. The guys on the team range in age from a 13-year-old student to a 52-year-old retiree. Our interests away from the game are as varied as the team members themselves.

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