Finding a way for adults to connect with young people is not always easy -- not even for a youth pastor.
That is one reason Patrick Thomson, a youth pastor at Prairie Harvest in the city decided to try something a bit different.
"I was tired of doing basketball and floor hockey," he said.
So Thomson drew on an interest of his own, deciding to start paintball with youth ages 12-to-18.
Thomson said he wrote up a plan and dove into the idea with both feet, as he wanted something different to help build bridges to youth.
"As adults we don't have enough of that fundamental relationship happening," he said, noting if they interact through something like paintball the youth come to realize they can turn to adults for support at other times too.
Just a few weeks more than a year later, the paintball program is not just up and running, but looking to expand and grow.
Thomson said when he creates programming he looks for ways to "teach them (youth) life skills," and paintball really creates an environment where they learn valuable skills.
"It's all about relationships," he said, noting that as part of a team you must learn to work together, to trust your teammates, to take on leadership roles.
The game also focuses on things such as fair play and honesty.
Thomson said those are all important things for youth to learn, to understand and to accept.
Thomson pointed to the small team size - only four members.
"You lose a guy that's a quarter of the team, so leadership and teamwork and communication are very big," he said.
Thomson used the word guy, but noted that usually they end up with about one-third of participants being female.
While trying to fashion the game off the pros, Thomson said he has made adaptations. One important one is that once hit, a player is not out of the entire game.
"I didn't feel that was very cool," he said, adding newcomers often get hit quick and could lose interest if always on the sidelines. So instead of being lost for an entire round players are sent to a 'penalty box-area' and can re-enter the game at certain junctures.
The group actually plays in the former school's gymnasium, on a field 45 by 90 feet, where a series of inflatable bunkers are installed on paintball night. Thomson said the inflatable bunkers are ideal as it allows organizers to vary the course design to keep the game fresh.
Players who turn up Tuesday nights, and pay $5 to help ensure they want to be there, during the school year are assigned to four-player teams, and the action gets underway, after being "read the riot act" in terms of safety and course rules.
To keep it fair, organizers supply the air-powered markers, so that everyone has the same unit. They are a pump style rather than full automatic "so no one can just get lit up" with paintballs, said Thomson. It's a single shot, then pumping for another. The game thus requires greater shooting skill and accuracy, to the point players are limited to 45-balls for a round as well.
They do wear protective gear, but not camouflage, as they look to reduce the element of war in the game, playing a capture the flag game, said Thomson.
Thomson said there are several factors in the success of the program, one being to opt to use re-use balls instead of the standard paintball.
The re-use balls are the same size, and have the same flight characteristics of a standard paintball, but they do not explode on contact. Instead the slightly soft ball, it still has a sting on contact, bounces off and can be collected to use again, as much as 1,000-times, said Thomson.
While the re-use balls are vastly more expensive $400-plus a case compared to $60 for traditional paintballs, over the long term they keep they cost of play down for both organizers and participants.
The re-use balls are actually collected by a machine fashioned after a shotgun shell collector for a trap club, said Thomson.
Having machines such as the collector, the inflatable course, and the gear for kids, is only possible through community support.
"We've had amazing support," said Thomson, pointing to both Century Glass in Melville, and Miller Plumbing and Heating in Yorkton as major supporters.
The support has even allowed for weekly Most Valuable and Most Sportsmanlike awards thanks to Booster Juice and Subway, he said.
As it stands the program is often drawing a full roster of 16 players for the weekly competition, and Thomson is already dreaming of a building devoted to the sport in the city, one where he envisions adult leagues being involved too.
"My ultimate goal is to have our own building and a youth league," he said.
As it stands Thomson said they will arrange 'corporate grudge matches' as a way to get their message out about the program.
By using the inflatable obstacles, Thomson said he's also like to take his program on the road introducing it to other communities and youth.
The group has a website at www.reloadministries.com