A Passion For Paintball
Writer(s): Valerie Carnevale
When the brothers of Sigma Chi Fraternity decided to take their new pledges to play paintball, they had no idea what they were getting into. Taylor Bussick, a sophomore and pledge at the time, had been playing paintball almost every weekend for years. Bussick was excited about the event; none of his fraternity brothers knew paintball was his biggest hobby. They headed to White River Paintball, a paintball facility in Anderson, Ind., and the afternoon is one Bussick will never forget.
The paintball competition pitted pledges against brothers. Although the pledges were originally winning, their lead didn’t last for long. Bussick noticed that his competitors were cheating in order to beat them. Not wanting his future fraternity brothers to think he was “that weird kid in camo,” he decided to not dress in his complete gear and downplay his level of skill. Losing, however, is not something Bussick does well. So he disappeared for five minutes, changed into the gear he had stashed in the car, and came back onto the field. “I just went all out and we came back to win. Since then, every person in the fraternity knows me as Rambo,” he says
Paintball has gained popularity in the last decade and consists of people playing individually or on teams, in outdoor and indoor facilities. Players eliminate each other from the game by tagging them with gelatin shells filled with water-soluble dye, shot from markers (commonly referred to as “paintball guns.”) Games range anywhere from casual recreation to intense competition.
Bussick’s passion for the sport began when he was in fifth grade. After Googling “military-type scenario games” and begging his parents for a BB gun for two years, they compromised and he bought his first paintball gun, a Tippman 98 Custom. He was 12 years old.
Bussick’s interest in paintball grew out of his love of the military, which he realized at a very young age. “I try and separate the two, military and paintball, but back when I started playing that was the whole reason I got into the sport,” he says. “I thought paintball was cool because I figured it was what the Army would be like.”
After graduation, Bussick hopes to enter the United States Marine Corps and eventually become a Navy SEALS. He is inspired by a motto of the Marines: “Train when you’re playing and play when you’re training,” meaning one’s time should always be spent on bettering themselves. “To go into the ranks of elite military, you have to have an upper hand, you have to have an edge,” Bussick says. For him, paintball is that edge. “I don’t like to compare the two because when I get hit with a paintball, I’m laughing about it. If I get hit with a bullet, a life is gone. But at the same time, I hope that one makes me better at the other. I hope paintball makes me a better soldier.”
Bussick took his love of the sport beyond just a hobby when he began playing competitively. “I started out playing with the neighborhood kids in middle school, but they just wanted to shoot targets,” he says. “I wanted to use tactics.” His attempts to start an official paintball club at his high school were unsuccessful, but he kept playing for fun despite the setback. Bussick and some high school friends would get together on weekends and play each other in the woods at Bussick’s parents’ home.
Then, in summer 2008, things began to fall into place.
Bussick’s close friend David Nichols was playing paintball at a field in Sheridan, Ind., where he met another guy named Jimmy who had a paintball field at his house. Jimmy and Nichols hit it off, and Nichols invited Bussick to play at Jimmy’s field the next weekend. “That first time I got to Jimmy’s, I was greeted by the biggest group of misfits, odds and ends people from all walks of life,” Bussick remembers. “I thought it was going to be a complete joke.” But the guys worked seamlessly together, on and off the field. They began practicing together and were soon winning tournaments. Before long, Team F.R.A.G. was born. F.R.A.G. stands for Force Recon Assault Group, a reference to the team’s military inspiration and tactics.
Team F.R.A.G. is led by Bussick, who has worked to secure major sponsors, including Proving Grounds Paintball Park, a paintball field in Sheridan, Backyard Boyz, a paintball equipment store in Indianapolis and Kee Action Sports and Empire Battle Tested, both paintball outfitters. The guys have traveled all over Indiana and surrounding states to play tournaments, winning awards such as “Most Valuable Team” and “Most Formidable Opponent.”
In addition to competing with Team F.R.A.G., Bussick has the chance to leave a legacy at Ball State after he graduates in May. The Ball State Paintball Club is on its way to becoming official, and Bussick will be the president. If it becomes a club, they will be able to compete in tournaments through the National Professional Paintball League College Division against other schools such as Purdue and Notre Dame.
“Not only does Taylor lead the guys on our team, but other players on the field when he can. I definitely think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful in our tournaments,” Nichols says.
“I’ve had a vision of starting a team since I was so young, and it just kept falling apart,” Bussick said. “But then I met David in high school, and the other guys through him, and I just decided to pull out all the stops and make it happen. It’s cool to see it finally coming together, to finally have a team and now hopefully an official Ball State club. It’s awesome to be able to look back and say I started that.”
As for what keeps him playing the sport, Bussick mentions the people he’s met and his love of the game.
“My passion is in paintball and going fast,” he says with a laugh. “There’s a camaraderie in striving for a common goal. Some of my closest friends I’ve met through paintball. And it’s just the best sport. Football, baseball, yeah they’re fun and you look back on great moments from the game, but nothing compares to the rush of being out on the paintball field. Nothing compares.”