By Christina Harper For The Herald Business Journal
Clad in SWAT team-like headgear and carrying a long black gun, my intrepid 9-year-old daughter recently entered the world of low-impact paintball.
I’ll admit it. I was worried.
Lucy is small and a love bug. But she can also be a whiner and a mini-drama queen.
So I knew a trip to Doodlebug Sportz in Everett for children’s paintball would be a test for her.
The family-owned Doodlebug Sportz started in 1999. The company has an Indoor Paintball Arena at 3303 McDougall Ave. in Everett, and an Outdoor Paintball Park at 9600 115th Ave SE, Snohomish.
Most of the sessions use regular paintball guns. Eighteen months ago, Doodlebug Sportz started offering low-impact paintball for kids ages 6 to 12 or for women who want to play the sport without bruising.
Staff at Doodlebug Sportz greeted us with smiles when we arrived for the monthly low-impact paintball session.
There were approximately 40 children in attendance — mainly boys — all revved up and ready to go.
Children and parents listened intently to demonstrations on how to keep safe. Participants are encouraged to ask questions. The eager children, Lucy included, made their way to the paintball area, which features two indoor fields. One area has a castle rampart and large, cushioned triangles, squares and blocks for hiding and cover.
The second area has obstacles where fierce little warriors can run to and fro in an attempt avoid getting splattered.
Lucy was studying the scene and ready to see what all the fuss was about. She said she might be a teeny bit scared.
That didn’t last long.
In she went to the castle area and soon went from peeking behind a large beanbag, taller than her, to jumping out and firing at anyone she could see.
I could swear she aimed at me as I was trying to take photographs.
She said it wasn’t her.
Of course not.
With so many kids firing at once it was hard to tell if my little novice hit anyone.
It was clear when she was hit. With paint in her hair, on her sleeve and hip, she held up her hands in the arena and came out looking very triumphant.
“I’ve been hit mom!” she shouted with glee. “I’ve been hit!”
A now-sweating Lucy was delighted.
“It’s really fun and doesn’t hurt,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “A small sting then it goes away.”
JJ Foote was celebrating his 11th birthday with a paintball party. His mother, Billie Foote, of Everett, brought seven boys and one girl to celebrate with him.
The family had been to the venue for laser tag. When they found out about low-impact paintball, they wanted to give it a try.
“He’s so happy,” Billie Foote said.
Doodlebug Sportz General Manager Danny Cort said the low-impact version allows parents to bring younger kids.
“It is just geared toward the kids to make it a non-aggressive environment,” Cort said.
It’s worth noting that guns for adults are bigger than those for children. The paintball size for kids is two-thirds the size of those for grown-ups. Kids will feel the hit but there is a much lighter impact than the standard-size paintball.
Tonia Dresher from Lynnwood brought along daughters Alexis, 10, and Rachel, 11.
It was the first visit for the girls. When Dresher’s son was 12 years old, the family enjoyed their first paintball experience. He is now 16 and paintball is a part of family life throughout the year.
“If you have the chance I would do it,” Rachel Dresher said. “It hurts, but it’s fun.”
When the final rounds were announced, a resounding “NO!” was heard at the suggestion of boys versus girls at the castle area.
Lucy took her a spot behind a huge bag cushion. She darted out, surveying the scene with precision, aimed her weapon and … got splattered three times.
It was hands up again and out she came.
“Oh, man!” she exclaimed, her head hanging. “That was fun.”
In her own words
“My favorite part was running around trying to ‘get’ people. I like the lower part in the castle because smaller kids can go in and see better to ‘get’ people.
“The part with no castle (the second arena) is much harder because there are more blank spaces to hit in. It is super huge.
“The headgear was comfortable but I recommend for people with glasses to try taking them off. It might be better for you.”
— Lucy Fu Wallace, 9
Time to paint
Doodlebug Sportz has two locations:
Outdoor Paintball Park, 9600 115th Ave SE, Snohomish 425-257-9771
Indoor Paintball Arena, 3303 McDougall Ave., Everett. 425-257-9800
The monthly low-impact session for children ages 6 to 12 and takes place at the Indoor Paintball Arena. Cost is $35, which includes equipment rental, 500 paintballs, pizza and pop.