TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A professional paintball player in Lakeland is looking to help other women get started in the sport on National Women’s Paintball Day.

Alex Del Mar started playing paintball in 2011.

“I had my roommate invite me out, he always kind of talked about it. And so I went out. It was just a lot of rec, a lot of behind the trees, behind random wooden pallets,” she explained. “I didn’t really like it the first time I was out, but the second and third time, I just fell in love with it and just went down this rabbit hole and just kind of kept sticking with it.”

Del Mar now plays for the Heroines, one of six teams in the Women’s National X-Ball League (WNXL).

The women’s league has only been around for about a year, Anthony Vitale, co-owner of the Heroines explained. He said he was approached by the president of the National X-Ball League, who asked him if a women’s pro division in the states could exist under the league.

They collaborated and the WNXL was born from an exhibition match held last November.

Games in the league are different than the average recreational game of paintball.

“For the WNXL, it is a lot more playing time than we’re used to. We all came from the divisional ranks,” Heroines captain Rozy McCurley said. “It’s a 15-minute time limit and it’s a five-on-five. So you start on one side of the starting gate and you have another team on the other side. You play as many points to hit the other team’s buzzer.” 

McCurley explained players can be eliminated as the game is played. An entire team doesn’t have to be eliminated to lead the other to victory, but she said that’s often how it happens. There is also a “mercy rule” of six points.

The team’s home field is in Port St. Lucie, but Del Mar practices and plays with other teams in Lakeland to keep her skills sharp for the Heroines’ major events.

“The community is very large out here in Lakeland. So I moved here from California and I thought California paintball was a little intense, but they go hard out here in Florida,” Del Mar said. “We have practices out in Lakeland and Rozy just came around last weekend and practiced with us and she was saying, ‘wow, it gets very intense out here!’”

Del Mar plays with local team “Shenanigans” and practices with other semi-pro teams to hone her skills.

“I also do coach. We have an all-ladies divisional line, the beginners, called the Shenanies, so I hang out with them, practice with them, coach them a little bit,” she said. “And it’s a good opportunity for me to reflect back. ‘I’m telling you to do this, but I don’t do this,’ so it keeps it in my mind like, ‘hey I should do better.’”

To get more women into the sport of paintball, the athletes of the Heroines and the WNXL are participating in National Women’s Paintball Day on April 23. Vitale explained events are being held at seven or eight different facilities in the country, with two overseas in England and Colombia.

“It’s just a good way for women to be coached by women in a welcoming atmosphere that some women may feel more comfortable coming out and trying a sport and I’m really excited to see how our players interact with new players and how they become a student to a teacher,” Vitale said.

While most of the Heroines team will be participating in the Boston event, where Vitale is located, Del Mar will be helping other women in Tampa, at Tiki’s Paintball Park.

The day will begin with drills and the basics of paintball.

“It’s open to any experience level. Like if you’re never even picked up a paintball gun before, they want you out there just to get started,” Del Mar said. “They’re gonna work with the women over the course of the day and toward the end of the day, to what I understand, is they’re going to start running points and get actual games going.”

Vitale said it’s not a male or female thing. If someone is more comfortable doing something, he said they will enjoy it more.

“We’re just trying to create and shorten that learning curve as quickly as possible. So that way if any woman wants to get back out and play by themselves or play with a group, they just feel more comfortable knowing, ‘I’ve done this before, I know what I’m talking about, I’m not going to look stupid,’ and all of those things just create a better experience their second time around,” he said.

The Heroines next event, the Mid-Atlantic Major, is in June in Philadelphia. The National X-Ball League World Cup Championships of Paintball will be held in Orlando in November.

To find out more about Tampa’s National Women’s Paintball Day event, and other events around the country, you can check out PBleagues.com.