With an extensive 25 year history in paintball from growing up at her parent’s paintball field, competing in the NPPL and PSP to playing a major role in the Ironmen organization as Assistant Coach, Nikki has forged her own path and making strides in our sport like never before. Nikki gets in the hot seat to talk about her new position in 2021 as paintball’s first female professional Head Coach for Team Ironmen.
Can you give us a rundown of your journey and history in paintball?
Nikki: Seems like so long ago because it kind of was. The first time I played, it was on a camping trip. It was my brother, mom, dad and myself. We played 2 on 2. It really only took playing one time before we were playing at our local field, Paintball Sam's, every Sunday. Up until I moved to San Diego, I played in mostly CA amateur tournaments. Then I moved up to playing in the NPPL and PSP tournaments. Also during that time, my parents opened up a field in Woodland, CA called WAP. I worked and played there too. I definitely had a life filled with paintball. In 2006 I started playing at Camp Pendleton. In 2011 Francisco (editor’s note - Nikki’s life partner) and I had a divisional team, the Golden State Knights. Some of those players are still playing today, which is really cool. Being at CP so much, Francisco and I built so many great relationships with the players and that carried into supporting the Ironmen, which is where we are today.
Favorite part of the game?
Nikki: My favorite part of the game is that the gun is a great equalizer and it allows everyone to be able to play.
How does it feel to be paintball’s first female professional coach?
Nikki: Here I am, with an opportunity of a lifetime and somehow I don't feel any different than I did before. I've been in paintball for over 25 years and there's always been the mentality of next man up. In all those years, it just so happened that I was female. Thank you Dave Youngblood for having the confidence in me to coach this iconic team.
What was your role with the Ironmen organization before stepping in as official head coach?
Nikki: I was the Assistant Coach contributing to the team by watching, processing and providing feedback to the coach and players.
Can you give us the scoop on Victory Paintball Park?
Nikki: Victory is Francisco's labor of love. From 2016 until we took over the operations in October 2018, he spent almost every weekday at the Tournament Park on Camp Pendleton, now called Victory Paintball Park, bringing it back to life. He repaired and replaced turf and netting, we bartered for bunker sets all in an effort so the players could have a place they could be proud to play at. It's still an ongoing project. Without people in the industry, players and staff, Victory wouldn't be what it is today. We are truly grateful for all the support.
If you had to describe your coaching style in one sentence, what would that be?
Nikki: My coaching style is one of mutual respect and trust.
What’s a typical practice look like for the Ironmen in 2021?
Nikki: In a facet, we're going to strive to never be in the same situation twice. The more situations we are in, the more we will learn, which will help us be better prepared come tournament time.
Any big changes you are implementing with the Ironmen for the new year?
Nikki: There won't be any extreme changes and that's because we have a great foundation. That great foundation comes before my time with the team, but one I've been lucky to contribute to over the last 7 years.
Goals for the 2021 season?
Nikki: My biggest goals for 2021 is that the team stays healthy, strong and we are playing on Sunday afternoon.
Photos by Stephanie Buschang - @stephanie_b_photo