Brandon Robinson is close to becoming a professional in a sport he didn't even originally like.
When the Pasco County native starting playing paintball at 13, Robinson was the target of his brother Levi, who is five years older, and his friends making his first few experiences unpleasant.
"Honestly, I hated it when I started playing because when I got shot it really hurt," Robinson recalls. "I always told myself that I would get better and get some revenge on him. It took me about three years to do that."
Once he was the one getting shot all the time, Levi gave up playing paintball and watched his brother become one of the top players in the state.
Now at 17, Robinson has become one of the key contributors of the RNT AllStarz, a semiprofessional paintball team based in Florida.
The RNT AllStarz compete in Division 1 play of X-Ball, which means they are a level below a professional team and play in five-on-five tournaments.
As the youngest member of the team, and the only one still in high school, Robinson has provided input into team strategies.
"Brandon is a tremendous asset to the team, especially this year more than ever. He's been getting a lot of playing time," RNT AllStarz coach Tim Altman said. "I remember a tournament where we were down to four guys and we used Brandon's plan and it worked."
Along with providing ideas, Robinson has been able to execute them as well. In one tournament, Robinson took out each member of the opposition.
Paintball has evolved from a sport where sharpshooters dominated into a highly strategic game like chess.
"A few weeks before the tournaments, we receive the field layout and have to plan what we're going to do," Robinson said. "So most of the time we're trying to figure out different angles and positions that will give us the upper hand."
With no two fields the same, the main goal for each team is to establish field position and find the best vantage point for taking out the opposition. Robinson has excelled in that aspect and even spends time on the weekend at Gator Paintball in Port Richey teaching two younger players different parts of the game.
The RNT AllStarz competes in five national tournaments a year and after capturing first place at the Phoenix Open, they are the top ranked team in Division 1 X-Ball out of 11 teams.
Robinson hopes to turn his prowess on the paintball field into a college degree, playing for club teams on scholarship at either Florida or Central Florida.
"It's just amazing to see where he's going to be in four or five years," teammate Joey Diaz said. "He's going to be one of the premier pro players in no time."
For now, Robinson wants to keep improving and help the RNT AllStarz join the Tampa Bay Damage as one of the professional teams from Florida.
"We've beaten them before and if we get the right sponsorships, I think we can get them a few more times," Robinson said. "Our team has the talent; with a little more time, I think we can be one of the best."
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