AUBURN, MI -- Paintball is perfect for team bonding.
Until somebody bull’s-eyes the coach.
Bay City Western coach Chris Willertz sent his football team out onto the paintball arena as a final summer wind-down before the first week of practice. He didn't expect to be target No. 1.
"Coach Willertz told us he didn't want to be shot," Western senior Carter Bacigalupo said. "But one of the guys drilled him in the leg right at the beginning."
Year 2 of the Willertz era is underway, as the former T.L. Handy and Michigan State University standout leads the massive restoration project in Warrior Country. And the new season started with a bang.
Willertz is big on team building and bonding exercises -- and also loves paintball. He said he constructed a paintball course in his backyard and invited his teams to take part when he was a wrestling coach in Ohio.
So when football parents Gary and Amy Witzgall offered up their own backyard layout -- complete with woods and a cornfield -- Willertz sent his Warriors out to play.
"We wanted to do more team bonding in the offseason that involved more than just sitting around playing cards," Willertz said.
"Obviously, there is a correlation between (football and paintball) because they are both physical, and physical activities are very important to teenage boys -- and middle-aged men. They are fun and you learn lessons from them."
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Most of the Western seniors participated, splitting up into teams and playing a series of capture-the-flag games. They strategized, took on responsibilities and executed game plans.
"It helps us build up our camaraderie," Western senior Ethan Meylan said. "Our group has been together for so long and we're already really close, but something like that brings us even more together.
"We know we have each other's backs, whether we're playing paintball or playing football."
After going 1-8 a year ago -- but snapping an 18-game losing streak and improving on a winless 2017 -- the Warriors are eager to continue the process of progress this fall. And while playing paintball may not make them better football players, it just might make them a better football team.
"It's a physical game, like football," Bacigalupo said. "It definitely hurts to get shot, but sometimes you've got to take a hit for your team."
And, sometimes, even the off-limits referee -- who doubles as the coach -- has to feel a bit of the pain as well.
“Yes, I did get hit once -- by accident,” Willertz said. “That reminds me, I still have to run that guy.”
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Source : https://www.mlive.com/highschoolsports/2019/08/paintball-or-football-bay-city-western-appreciates-the-power-of-team.html605