Women in Paintball
Women in Paintball!
Since the earliest days of the game of paintball, literally the second game ever played, women have enjoyed paintball and helped our game, sport and industry grow! Whether looking for a new and exciting adrenaline rush, a fun time with family or an outdoor activity, paintball is a game and a competitive sport where women can compete on a level playing field with men and win!
Broken down to its basic elements, paintball is a game of long-range tag mixed with capture the flag. Unlike some other games or sports where massive physical size can be an advantage or height can be a critical factor, a man or a woman can pick up a paintball gun and, with a little practice, hit what they’re aiming at. Whether creeping around the woods looking for opponents or sliding into an inflatable bunker on a tournament paintball field, there’s practically nothing once the paint starts flying that a man can do that a woman isn’t capable of! Young, old, tall, short, big, small, black, white, male or female – it doesn’t matter: paintball is the great equalizer where anyone can have an amazing time and, if they work hard, win.
Historically speaking, since the second game of paintball, which was then called “The Survival Game” women have enjoyed paintball and played it well. That’s nowhere near the extent of their involvement in the game and industry of paintball, however, as women have involved themselves in the business of paintball since the early days. Debra Dion Krischke, for example, was critical in helping paintball grow from its infancy in the early eighties into a full-fledged and respected game and industry with her work at the National Survival Game alongside Bob Gurnsey and company, even appearing on daytime talk shows to defend our game against those who refused to accept it. Later, Debra would promote one of the most successful paintball tournaments and trade shows in the history of paintball, the International Amateur Open! Paintball wouldn’t be what it is today, or where it is today, without her hard work and investment in the game.
Debra is far from alone as a woman in the business world of paintball, as many others have invested their time, talents and determination in the paintball world. Throughout paintball’s growing years, women like Tracy Hatcher at Pro-Team Products/Armson, Rose at Unique, and writer/editors like Jessica Sparks and Dawn Mills worked diligently in their particular fields making paintball guns and parts, paintball packs and harnesses, or writing and editing paintball magazines and creating paintball websites as the game grew! Still active in the game today, Cleo Fogal helped grow one of the most remarkable paintball playing parks in the world, Skirmish, while taking photographs of the game that saw widespread publication. Tami Adamson kept her women’s team, the Femme Fatales, competitive at the divisional level for years while also helping run Extreme Rage Paintball.
Through the late nineties and into the early years of the new millennium, as paintball became a worldwide phenomenon, women were around to both play the game and help it continue its growth. Camille Lemanski helped promote the NPPL tournament series of professional seven-man paintball events, a role she continues to work tirelessly in today at the newest incarnation of pro paintball, the National XBall League, while Keely Watson played, and later worked at the PSP pro tournament series. Bea Youngs, an extremely successful tournament paintball player, competed at a high level in national tournament paintball, winning tournaments with her female and co-ed team, Destiny, along with working in promotions for various companies like JT and magazines like Paintball 2Xtremes. When she wasn’t busy shooting other players with her paintball gun competing in nationally-ranked divisional tournaments, Liz Dunk became an extremely successful paintball photographer, while fellow female paintball photographer Meg Foster was a fixture in the pages of Paintball 2Xtremes magazine for several years.
In more recent years, there are more women playing paintball than ever, both locally and on the national level! Women like Michelle McGonigle do battle in major scenario games, Karla Andrade, Andrea Martinez, Monica Lopez, Alicia Valdivia, Rozy McCurley, Allie Balmores, Krista Titus and Jessi Maiolo compete regularly in national, and even international tournaments along with ladies from across the pond like Shelley Farmer. Women are extremely active in the world of modern paintball business as well, like Gina Brown, who operates Extreme Paintball in California, Laura Parcells of Levena Paintball, LLC and many members of the operations staff at Valken, including Heather Bonaventura, Ali Pozielli, Jess Gray, and Yesenia Coccagna!
Yesenia’s story of how she became involved in paintball is a unique one. Introduced to paintball as a teenager in Miami, she later picked up the game as a stress relief outlet after starting a business in New Jersey with her husband, already an avid paintball player. Finding the game of paintball a great opportunity for stress relief and an athletic activity she could enjoy with her husband side-by-side, she quickly fell in love with the game in all its many forms, from recreational paintball at their local field to scenario paintball events and tournament paintball!
When asked what advice she has for women new to the game of paintball, Yesenia Coccagna had this to say:
“Paintball changed my life and it can bring so many great new opportunities for you. Try to do some research and come ready to have fun and learn; every game is a learning experience. Make sure you're dressed for comfort and protection. Become familiar with your paintball gun, make sure you're aware of all the safety features and how to operate it. It might be best to go with a friend that has played before or bring a group out for your first time so you can try paintball without feeling intimidated by experienced players. When you're on the field keep your mask on and when the game is going, keep your gun up. Think before you shoot. And just have fun!”
Finally, Yesenia advises women to prepare well for their first game of paintball and beyond: “A well-padded sports bra is a good idea, and sometimes I double up on those. Wear a scarf or bandana to protect your neck and wear a beanie or sweat/headband to protect your forehead. Make sure your paintball mask fists your head and won’t slide down while you’re playing. Knee pads are a huge help, but you can layer up sweatpants if you don't have any for your first time. If you want to keep playing paintball after your first time, paintball elbow pads and knee pads are going to be one of your best investments. Bring plenty of hair ties!”
From paintball’s history to the current day, from scenario paintball to tournament paintball, from hopper-fed paintball to mag-fed paintball and all the other kinds of paintball in the world, women play paintball, work paintball and have been an essential part of the paintball world since its earliest games!
Great blog post! Honored to know just about all these women! Bea is a big time mentor to my daughter Hailey! Playing her 3rd year with lady destiny at cup!