Written by Maximilian Jany
Photographs by Gaston Roulstone at Switch Multimedia
The SARPL’s “Most Improved Team for 2011” is dominating their division. This newbie team is showing that pure willpower and determinations is fuelling their success in their 2012 season.
MJ – You guys have only been on the scene for a very short time and already you have taken 2012 by storm. How did you guys form as a team and what’s the story behind the name?
Hentie Pauley – FreeRunners is the result of a group of friends, sharing the same interest and excitement for paintball. We got the name after watching a marketing video for Guerrilla Air on YouTube of a one-man-team called “FreeRunner” taking on team Dynasty – hence the name FreeRunners.
MJ – You guys have played a few different events since you formed late 2011, but have since decided to only compete in the SARPL 3man and 5man events. With so many events on offer for 2012, what’s your guys the reason behind the decision?
Hentie Pauley – Yes, we took on every event and continued to win 34 consecutive games including the Open Division at SweetSpot. It all just got too much for the team with events almost every second weekend of the month. It was very tiring and of course it became very expensive too.
Since our sponsorship deal we had to rethink our aim and decided to focus on the SARPL 3man and 5man events for the 2012 season.
MJ – You guys have built up a bit of a team with a roster of nine players. How many of your players are from other teams and how many guys on your roster are fresh to the paintball scene?
Hentie Pauley – Only two of our players out of our nine man squad have played for other teams in the past, the rest of the guys are all rookies.
One would think that with a roster of nine players it would be fairly easy to always have two 3man teams but most of our players also compete in other sporting events, so schedules clash sometimes.
MJ – You guys managed to pick up some sponsors for the 2012 season and have referred to it as the “PEPSI” mix. What’s the meaning behind it and how have they impacted your guys team?
Hentie Pauley – You know the saying “just add water”??
So we thought we would start our own one “Just add PEPSI” which is actually an abbreviation for our sponsors; Planet Eclipse, Paintball Shop and IGNITE (Gelkaps).
We wanted something short and sweet that people would remember and funny enough other teams sponsored by the same companies have also adopted our PEPSI statement. We are very proud of our sponsors and could not have done it without them.
MJ – Like most teams, you guys didn’t start off winning events, but so far in the first half of 2012 you guys have taken first place in almost every event in your guys divisions. What changed for you guys coming into 2012?
Hentie Pauley – I still remember my son (Keanu 14) saying “All I want is a medal”, think that was my biggest motivation. Looking back now I would say that we took what we had learnt in 2011 playing in a higher division (Open) and decided to make a difference in 2012.
With the SARPL/APPA scoring system the top Div4 teams get promoted to Div3, which made it a little easier for us to breath in Div4.
We continued to play in other Open Div leagues with the idea to learn from our mistakes and it’s paid off so far.
MJ – In the last few years South African teams have realised that they can make it at the overseas events and thus we have seen teams like Reapers, Xplicit and Dynamix doing quite well for themselves in Europe and Asia. Do you guys have any plans to take to the international paintball scene and play one or more of the events?
Hentie Pauley – Yes, we would like to attend the PALS World Cup Asia at the end of 2012 and also play in some of the PSP events in the US in the future. But at this stage it’s still unclear if we will be able to secure the necessary funding to play these events. But we will keep on dreaming till we do.
MJ – Success doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes a lot of hard work and determination to make it in this sport. How often do you guys train and what does a typical practice look like for the FreeRunners?
Hentie Pauley – We train at least once a month but then only if we don’t play more than two events during that month. We like to practice against much stronger teams in order to learn new techniques and also to see how they play.
We recently started using video cameras (GO PROs) to record our games, but often offer our competitors the cameras to see what they are doing and where we are going wrong.
MJ – You guys are making a name for yourselves in the Johannesburg scene and there are more and more new teams and players joining every month. Do you guys have any words of advice for these new players and teams?
It’s an awesome sport and the SARPL is a professional league and we recommend it to any new team or existing team that is currently competing in another league. You have to work as a team, players can make or break a team, so players need to be committed, fit and determined.
So basically you reap what you sow in this sport.