Austin Beatty found his life’s calling in the organized chaos of competitive paintball.
The 18-year-old Marana High School senior, who aspires to be a nurse when his prospective career wraps, found the sport at his 11th birthday party.
Beatty’s parents, Jeremy and Janet, decided they’d throw their son’s party at a paintball park in Marana.
Little did the couple know that said celebration would be the start of a new life for Austin, with the teenager finding a passion that other sports never provided.
That passion soon guided the young man into the world of competitive paintball, a whirlwind of a sport in which five people on a team try to cross a field to hit a buzzer on the other side.
Team members must accomplish this task as another team of five bombards them with paintball fire, with a single hit knocking a competitor out for the round.
It’s an unconventional sport that features the speed and philosophy of basketball, combined with the adrenaline-fueled strategy of war.
It’s a pulse-pounding hobby that’s become a meaning of life for Austin, who has gone from amateur competitions to semipro gatherings that take place around the globe.
He’s has already competed at events in Las Vegas and Barcelona, Spain this season with his team from California, called the Camp Pendleton Raiders, who compete in the semi-pro level of the National Xball League, which hosts a series of tournaments around the globe.
His team, which consists of players from around the southwest, placed 16th out of 29 teams in their division at the Sin City event, while placing eighth out of 15 teams in Spain.
It’s a demanding schedule, with Austin flying to San Diego to practice with his teammates ahead of competitions. Perhaps the greatest highlight of his paintball career will happen this fall, when he will compete with a team of Americans at the Nations Cup, held in Amsterdam from Sept. 26-29.
He qualified for the Amsterdam event by placing second overall out of 90 competitors at a tryout in Kissimmee, Florida. It’s been a whirlwind so far, but one that’s taught the young man a lot about what it means to live out a lifelong dream.
“When I first started, I would look up to all these pro players, like anyone looks up to the top people, and now my favorite part is just getting to talk with them,” Austin said. “And not just fanboy talk with them, like actually have a competition and work things out with them and, I need to practice against them sometimes so that’s super cool. Just being around like the top level of competition, that’s my favorite part about it.”
Janet and Jeremy have seen their son’s steady rise in the sport, watching him go from competing in an occasional tournament in Phoenix to competing at the sport’s highest level.
Janet said her son’s love for paintball is unequaled by any other activity, with Austin spending much of his free time honing his skillset in some form or another.
Competing in a sport where vulcanized rubbery balls of paint are fired at 300 feet per second requires reflexes that rival a goalie in hockey. Competitors must also hone their core and upper body muscles so they can crawl through a field to avoid getting pelted during a match.
Janet said her son spends hours doing just that, ensuring that he’s in top physical form for his next challenge.
“It’s amazing, I mean, I’ve never seen him so passionate about anything,” she said. “He played several different sports growing up, but it was just, football or basketball, but nothing that he really wanted to commit to. When he had his first gun he’d be at home…and he’d be like practicing his snapshots in the mirror, and just anything he could do to improve the skills.”
For Jeremy, watching his son take to paintball with such passion is worthwhile, as it teaches Austin lessons that he will use through his life.
“What parent wouldn’t like to see their kid be successful at something that they’re putting their heart and soul into?” Jeremy said. “It’s just nice to have something that he found that he could be passionate about, and so naturally as a parent we just want to support a passion for anything he’s passionate about, and in this case, it just happens to be paintball.”
One such lesson that Austin’s already learned is to savor the trips he’s taken for competition, including his recent odyssey to Barcelona. He said the Spain trip, which happened during the final week of March, helped him grasp how high the level of competition is on a worldwide stage.
It also allowed him to experience another culture, which helps broaden his
worldview, which both his parents were proud of.
Austin said the five-person team that traveled to Barcelona made it a point to see as much of the city as they could, enjoying the sights and sounds of the coastal city.
“We had to go out and explore, so we went and saw the ocean, we went up on mountains and just saw everything that Spain had to offer, walked around the streets and all that,” Austin said. “It was different, because in the U.S. everyone speaks English obviously, for the most part, but there were so many different languages, and hardly anyone spoke English, so it was definitely challenging. But I had a lot of fun.”
The Beatty’s attention has already shifted to Austin’s next international journey, when he’ll head to the Netherlands in September.
For Jeremy, seeing his son compete as a representative of the United States in the Dutch event is an accomplishment in itself.
It’s an accomplishment that speaks to Austin’s focus and commitment to the sport, as well as the drive to finish in the number-two spot in a field of 96 players.
“I think it’s awesome,” Jeremy said. “Just the fact that he went up against 96 other people from around the country for that spot on team US,A and to be number two, it’s just in itself a huge accomplishment, and a testament to the work he’s put in to get to where he’s at.”
Right now, Austin’s main focus is on finishing his senior year of high school before competing in a series of NXL events in Fort Worth, Texas, Philadelphia and Chicago over the summer.
The senior said he’d eventually like to study to become a nurse, balancing his career aspirations with the possibility of turning pro in paintball. He’s keeping an open mind to all options ahead of him, balancing the demands of academia with the desire to compete in the sport he loves.
“Right now, I’m looking at options to go to college for nursing, so that’ll just be dependent on whether or not I go pro,” Austin said. “I’ll still go, but it just might be pushed back slightly, just depending on how fast I can get to the pro division.”
Jeremy and Janet believe in their son, with the former expressing a blend of confidence and pride in his son’s ability to do what he loves immediately.
“We’ve really stressed to our kids to find something that makes them happy, and just be able to support your family,” Jeremy said. “You don’t have to be rich to do that kind of stuff; you just need to be able to feed your family, put a roof over their head, and do what makes you happy.”