Competitive paintball has always been a popular but lesser known sport active in the tri-state area. Although many may see it as just a hobby or something to play in a backyard or sanctioned field, many form teams and play the sport at the professional level. One team, the NJ Jesters has made its mark on both the sport itself and the Garden State.
“We are the longest running team in the northeast; this is our 19th year, and one of the longest in the sport as a whole which is only 30 years old. We play in a national circuit called the PSP (Paintball Sports Promotions) which hosts 5 events: Dallas, Maryland, Chicago, one that roams and the grand finale in Florida called World Cup. We compete regionally as well in numerous local events,” said Tim Trentacoste, co-founder of the NJ Jesters.
“We consist of over 30 members including a husband and wife, and men and women ranging from 13 years old all the way up to 41.”
The sport is organized into team play where players navigate a course and try to tag each other with paintball markers, devices powered by CO2 which shoot small plastic spheres filled with bright-colored paint. Teams participate in a number of events including elimination and capture the flag. Paintball is a very involved sport with competitors taking time to customize their gear and run drills.
We have different divisions for our players, basically a farm system. We realized years ago that due to attrition it was going to be really hard to keep it going if we didn’t have a bunch of players we could promote essentially. It also gave us the ability to let everyone learn at their own pace,” said Trentacoste.
“As far as training, we practice almost every Sunday and when it gets closer to the event we like to do both days on the weekend. Practice is either a group of drills to focus on particular skills or scrimmages.”
Paintball is popular in both the US and worldwide, there are regular events held in NJ, NY and PA for those looking to stay local. At the professional level, teams compete for awards, trophies and sponsorships in different divisions which are arranged according to how competitive they are.
“Over the last 20 years we have gotten onto the podium, which is a top four placing, over 200 times in over 16 states,” said Trentacoste.
“I don’t even mean it to sound cocky I just stopped counting at a certain point. We have over 80 first places in the PSP, which is the hardest circuit in the world, and we have 14 podium finishes. Then there is the World Cup as it’s the biggest of the year with over 500 teams and it’s held last so it’s an excellent opportunity to finish the year strong and either fix a bad year or cap off a great year. However, we did just play internationally for the first time this past weekend down in Mexico and I can honestly say that event was huge for us.”
Trentacoste is not just an athlete but an individual who manages and promotes his team. Trentacoste is a team captain along with another member, Dylan Lester, who has aided Trentacoste in organizing the team both on and off the field.
“Without a two-captain system we would never have made it this far. Then we have two lifetime Jesters Taesch and Al who help with overall management. Each of our lower teams has its own captain and assistant to focus on each particular squad. Last but not least we have delegated all of the various responsibilities that go along with running a team of this size, including but not limited to our social media accounts, various fundraising and gear sales and booking hotels and flights. It really is a labor of love and a tremendous amount of work,” said Trentacoste.
“I appreciate the type of group that we have since it would be impossible to do alone. We have taken steps to improve a lot of aspects of the team this year, we have weekly meetings to discuss what needs to be done and try to stay one step ahead. We could improve by always keeping our eye on the prize and the gas pedal down; we need to avoid those drops in productivity which plagues any type of organization.”
Currently Trentacoste and the Jesters have set their sights on international paintball events, and to expand their team and recruit players who are interested in getting into the hobby and sport of paintball.
“The sport is in a period of growth and transition. Paintball is a relatively young sport and is still searching for a true identity, which I guarantee all the big-time leagues like the NFL, MLB and NHL had to go through. So every year there are changes to the rate of fire, format, etc. We always try to be trend setters in the sport,” said Trentacoste.
“We need to place a larger emphasis on reaching and developing new fans through various social media outlets and to shine a light on paintball in general trying to get as many people educated to this amazing sport we all love. We want to really just help grow the sport in general. Right now we are going to train hard so we can get back to dominating in all divisions again. Next year is our 20th year as an organization and we want to hit it with some momentum.”