‘Wimps will not get far’

Bruises and painful spots: paintballing on the highest level
Paintball is only fun for business trips and birthdays? Absolutely not, says student Thyrza Kiewik. It is a tough sport which she practises on a high level. “When you get hit you bleed for a moment and it hurts. But you have to press on.”

Thyrza (20), student Psychomotor Therapy, thinks it is a shame that people mostly see paintball as a ‘game’. “When I show a video of a match people understand it right away. Then it becomes clear that it is a real sport that is mentally and physically challenging. With soccer you have to be in great shape and get into the heads of your opponents. With paintball it is just like that.”

Old army base
There are two different branches with paintball: Woods and Sub-Air. “With Woods you play in a forest or an old army base, a bit like play war. With Sub-Air, which is what I do, you play in a field made of artificial grass, with several obstacles where you can hide behind. In this branch the fields are symmetrical, so that the game is as fair as possible. When the game begins, you and your team of five ought to take out the other team within ten minutes and press the button. Then you have a short pit stop, and then you are back in the game again.”
Thyrza’s role in her team is mostly offence. “I am quite tall so I am mostly up front so I can study the opponent’s field. Then I have to quickly tell my teammates what the positions of our opponents are. I am often the first one to be taken out, but it is all part of the game. As long as I do my job well, my team can easily shoot down the opponents. This cooperation is vital and the difference between winning or losing.”

Champions League
Thyrza participated in the Paintball World Championship in Paris last Summer. “My team, Saar Fanatics, and I play the Millennium Series which kind of looks like the Champions League. From there on tournaments were organised this summer, and teams of all sorts of countries participated. We played four matches in Spain, Germany, England and last but not least France. With all our points combined we eventually ended up fifth. Not bad, for my first tournament ever!”

Fulltime job
Thyrza’s paintball career only started one year ago, after a very stressing period as volleyball player. “I used to play volleyball on a very high level, but because of the high pressure I could not find the fun in it anymore. I looked for something new that could distract me and soon I discovered paintball through an acquaintance who works at the paintball court. I started doing it more often. And because I still had a top sports mentality, it got a little out of hand.”
Now paintballing has become like a fulltime job for Thyrza, with lots of hours, many bruises, and very little spare time. “The season is over now, so it is a bit quiet now. But when it starts again, I will have to make long days again: every day class until five o’clock and then a two-hour journey to Oldenzaal to get myself changed and do fitness or do paintball training. After that I have to eat something really quickly at home and then I do homework until one o’clock in the morning. Five hours later the alarm goes off again and I start all over. In the weekends I have to travel all the way to Hahn in Germany, because that is where my club is.”
With a schedule like that it is quite an achievement to have good results at school. “Unfortunately Windesheim does not do anything to support me, so it is very tough to combine paintball with my education. Because paintball is not connected to the Dutch Olympic Committee, it is not seen as a ‘top sport’, so I do not get the support people would get with tennis or soccer.”

Big investment
When people think of a sport with guns and shooting, they often think it is a sport for men. This is a pity, Thyrza says. “I do understand it; wimps will not get far. When you get hit you bleed for a moment and it hurts. But you have got to press on. To many ladies this is an obstacle, I think. However, as soon as you prove that you are part of this and you give it all your effort, there is not a problem. You are accepted and appreciated straight away.”
Many sponsors find a girl playing at a top level very interesting. “They try to ensnare me for all sorts of deals, because it is great to have a girl on your brand. However, I am connected to a sponsor now, so I am good. I do want to develop and luckily I have a lot of possibilities for that the coming season. I hope it will help me make some more money too, because at this moment it is mostly a big investment. This is because I have to buy my gear myself. My sponsor only gets me T-shirts and small gear. The guns, which cost between 1500 and 2000 Euros, I have to pay myself.”

Joppe Varkevisser

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