For four years, Christopher Cohen led the way as UW-Milwaukee’s Club Paintball president. But with four years in college comes graduation, and that is what occurred with Cohen. His leaving of the program paved the way for sophomore Austen Vail, who now sits at the head of the program in his first full year of leadership with the team.
While taking on responsibilities as grand as these may be difficult for some, Vail looked at it as an opportunity to take ahold of. When asked if there were any major hurdles as he embarked on his journey, Vail shook his head.
“It was somewhat easy,” said Vail. “The advisors were pretty helpful in the whole transition process and lead me in. I also like leadership roles and as long as I got the right paperwork from Chris [Cohen], it was a pretty smooth transition.”
But like any similar situation, it is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. That bump in the road came when Milwaukee recently went off to Nationals in Orlando and did not finish where they had desired. The team went 1-3 in the preliminary round and failed to make the cut. In their four matches, they played Maryland, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and Georgia State. The team’s win came against North Carolina State.
The poor play came at the shock of many, as the team had won its first three tournaments, all of which that were held in the Midwest. But come Nationals, it was just a different game.
“We didn’t really know the competition,” said Vail. “In the other tournaments, we play with those guys every year and sometimes we practice with them. We’re not worried about them when we step out onto the field. But then we realize a person is from Georgia and it gets a little bit different and weirder.”
Practice was another drawback. In recent weeks, it had been difficult for the team to make the trek to Chicago — the closest practice facility. And when the team did in fact have time to practice, it was always indoors and air-conditioned. Compare that to Nationals at Orlando where it’s outside and 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity, fatigue can set in pretty easily.
But Vail is not letting Nationals hold back his vision of where this team can go. He has plans to bounce back and come back stronger next season. The Panthers are set to have some players come back as well, along with recruiting new members to the team. Recruitment always takes place at the annual UREC Fair put on at the Klotsche Center during welcome week.
In fact, Vail is working with the National College Paintball Association to move Milwaukee up from its Class AA standing to the highest division, Class A. By doing so, they will go up against stronger opponents and be able to learn new skills, resulting in higher team chemistry and performance.
Sure-minded describes Vail’s mentality as the team heads into the offseason and looks forward to things picking back up in the fall.
“I’m really confident. Once we get more practices down, we will work together. Our team chemistry will go up and from there, things will get easier.”
They say teamwork makes the dream work, and that is what Vail is hoping for.
If you are interested in joining the UW-Milwaukee Club Paintball team, please contact Austen Vail at firstname.lastname@example.org.