The Ironmen’s Kyle Spicka is of the new breed of pro paintball players, who are talking over leadership roles from retiring veterans. Growing up in Southern California, in the shadows of the great Ironmen players of the past decade, he moved his way up the ranks to become one of the core members of his team, currently ranked 3rd in the league.
Paintball Access brings you his thoughts on his team, and the game, as he waxes philosophic about paintball and what the sport brings to your life.
The past few years for our team, the Los Angeles Ironmen, have been mentally and physically draining. Seeing new faces come in and veterans leaving… it was like we’ve been chasing the concept being a team, instead of actually being one. When I came to this team three seasons ago I was at a loss for words. It was the proverbial dream come true. I was now playing alongside guys who inspired me through my whole paintball career.
It’s crazy for me to think back how I had Oliver Lang’s, Brandon Short’s, and Mike Paxson’s posters all over my wall as a kid, and now these guys are some of my best friends. I came onto this team as a young buck with a lot of learning and knowledge to take in, and now I’m one of the more experienced players on the squad. I sat the bench the whole first year trying to earn my stripes, playing maybe a couple points a tournament. That wasn’t good enough for me; those guys don’t stick around or have very long pro paintball careers. I wanted to be a go-to-guy, and I trained my body to be one.
I’m now a bridge, between younger and older, between inexperienced and experienced. I like being here, because this is what I wanted and how I can help the Ironmen succeed. So many amazing players have come though this program and now it’s my turn to carry the torch. The team’s been around for 20 years, and I can help it exist for another 20.
Being in this position and having devoted the last few years of my life to the game, has got me thinking about the game itself, about the lifestyle of paintball player and the mentality behind the mask. The people involved in this sport know it to be a magical, sophisticated, quasi-unexplainable sport. Better yet, a life. You can only start to explain why you do it, or what it entails, before the details blur and it comes down to faith in the activity being able to transcend you from boring day-to-day reality, and in the tangible mental befits this brings.
Through your journeys, sacrifices, and hardships, your mental toughness sharpens. Life itself becomes easier to deal with. It’s almost a race for nothing, a continuous journey with obstacles always in the way to overcome. You lose more than you win, you’re constantly in a state of improvement, of frustration. What forms the “addiction” in those strong willed individuals, who stay through the complications?
Does it ruin lives, or complete the missing part that hadn’t been implicated before? Paintball can leech money from your bank account, yes, but during the time you’re playing or involved, nothing can take away the innate joy or stress free demeanor felt when in the intense moments of a match. I feel the passion for paintball is not only in the winning or friendships, but the remarkable mindset you’re put in constantly. It’s as if you’re in a trance of comfortable thoughts.
Although there’s a struggle and fight to obtain the main goal of victory, nothing you could be doing at that point in time would supersede the fulfillment received, the contentment achieved. So it’s worth it. Also, the mental toughness gained through a loss undeniable. When you’re flying home from an event, a feeling overwhelms you, like someone slapped you back into reality, bringing all your difficulties back into view, but with their volume turned down. I believe this is what keeps us striving to go from event to event. Some feel it’s a waste of your life initially, but who decides the way your life should be carried out? You choose your individual path in life. If you’re happy and content in whatever you may be doing, if you’re aging your soul and learning from the world and your trials, why stop?
You will always continue to live your life, with whatever it has in store for you, dealing with all types moments, from troublesome to complete bliss. Paintball has a lot of both. I will never look back on my choices with regret, even if I walk away from this sport, far into the future, with nothing but memories. Someone who lives this life, this vagabond paintball journey, knows that those moments, those escapes from reality, can only really be explained through the lens of first hand experience. As paintball players, we choose this path for not for the glory, but the mysterious, mind-bending gratification. This is not just about paintball, but the un-deciphered mentality lying behind an individual’s path, chosen by overwhelming emotions that will never, really, be explained. Like I said, you just have to live it. So get out there and give it a shot.
I can’t wait for the rest of this season, whatever it my may bring.
Follow Kyle Spicka’s and the Ironmen’s story here on Paintball Access.