May 26 • 11:49 PM

A 'kinder, gentler'form of paintball?

Almont club proposes change of ammoin hopes of playing on school property

May 16, 2007
ALMONT — School board members could decide on Monday the fate of alternative ammunition and on-site games for the junior high school's paintball club.

Bob Farkas, owner of Paintball Stop on Fourth Street in Imlay City, displays some of the protective gear and weaponry used by paintball players. photo by Photo by Tom Wearing.
If approved, the decision would allow the club to use foam balls in lieu of traditional paintballs. It would also allow games to be played on school property.

The school's paintball club, which includes male and female students and faculty members, was formed about four years ago.

In the past, traditional paintballs were used and games were played at local venues such as the Lone Wolf paintball field in Metamora.

Michael Savage, a 7th- and 8th-grade science teacher, has sponsored the club since its inception. He supports the use of the lower velocity, dense foam balls as ammunition.

While the alternative might be viewed by some as safer for players, Savage says the real motive is to save students money and driving time to regular paintball venues.

"The sport can be expensive once you purchase all of the equipment needed," says Savage. "Even with discounts it costs the kids about $40-$50 for four hours of play."

Savage says the foam "re-balls" (re-usable paintballs) travel at a rate of 250 feet per second, compared to the 300 feet per second of traditional paintballs.

He insists the game is much safer than the uninitiated might imagine, adding that there is no link between playing paintball and violent behavior.

"That's a misconception," says Savage. "It's something that is brought up a lot and it bothers me. It's unfair.

"Paintball is like a fast-paced game of dodgeball," he says. "You've got two teams and a flag in the middle that each team tries to capture.

"The game teaches teamwork, strategy and good communication among the players. It's good for players' reactions and for physical fitness."

Savage says the school's paintball club has generally enjoyed the support of parents and the school board.

However, when the school district's insurance carrier got wind of the club's desire to play on school property, it raised some eyebrows.

"We've not had any problems in the past," says Savage. "This is about giving kids who might not be able to participate in athletics, the opportunity to compete and have fun. We are trying to make the game more affordable and with less travel for the kids."

Schools Supt. Steve Zott said the school board may or may not address the issue at its next meeting, pointing out that many pressing issues are on the table.

"It's a policy issue that needs to be dealt with," said Zott. "Safety is not even an issue. It's the appropriateness of whether it should be played on site. The game is played with devices that are usually not allowed on school property."

Staff Writer
Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
05 - 26 - 19
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