I'm Joshua Conroy, 38 years old (almost 39 now) from the Twin Cities in Minnesota (Woodbury, MN more specifically). I'm the founder/owner of UNAFFILIATED Paintball and I've always been #33.
In February of 2022 I was at a crossroads with my place in the world of paintball. Frustrations and a feeling of being "stagnant", underutilized and being taken advantage of in the current situation came to a breaking point. During a 15 hour drive home there was a long conversation with my wife about my goals in the game and my current player status which prompted the creation of my new emerging team in the Midwest… Such was the birth of UNAFFILIATED. We are currently sponsored by Anthrax for our uniforms and casual wear, Dirt Sport Butter for aftercare, our home field is now the KC Complex and we are playing the EXL (Elite Xball League) in Kansas with D4 and D5 lines. Our roster is sprawled out between Minnesota, the Chicago area and Kansas City areas.
That's the current, now my backstory… I will never forget my first paintball experience. In 1995 I was 12 years old in the 8th grade and a longtime friend of mine had just moved back to MN from Germany where his father had been stationed in the military. He said there was this really cool sport that was pretty popular over there called paintball and we should try it sometime. We went to Barnes & Noble to grab a current issue of Action Pursuit Games because in the back of each issue they always had a list of fields/shops sorted by state. That's where we found The Adventure Zone with a shop and indoor field in Eagan, MN. We went the first chance we had where our parents could drop us off to play an evening walk-on session. It was dark, it was dirty, it smelled terrible, it was slippery and louder than bejesus from the echoes of all the shooting. I was terrified but overloaded with adrenaline so we took out the rental Tippmann SL-68's and we got pummeled but I fell in love with the game instantly.
Being from Minnesota, we have historically been "dominated" by amazing wooded rec-ball fields. Since the internet was starting to blossom, I was able to search out a field called Overlander Outback on my Netscape browser in the school library. Multiple times every summer I'd get my hockey buddies, school buddies and anyone else I could to head down and we'd spend all of our allowances to go run around the woods playing every game mode our imaginations would come up with. He had PMI Piranhas we could rent, I loved the gun so I saved up money from mowing a few extra lawns and bought none other than a Brass Eagle Stingray… terrible choice! It never worked right so I mowed even more lawns and bought a Piranha of my own. We kept running around the woods like this every summer until we graduated high school in 2001 and moved on to our own individual career/educational paths spreading out all across the country to various colleges or chasing other endeavors.
Fast forward to the spring of 2003… I found a job working as a referee at an outdoors wooded field owned by Splatball Inc. I made a bunch of friends between the regulars and other employees. Scenario/big games were amazing and I decided it was time to upgrade from my Piranha. One of the regulars was selling an Automag, it had the classic valve with level 10 upgrade so it wouldn't ever break paint, a ULE body so no need for side feed elbows and the best part… The reverse 45 Y grip. To this day, that was my absolute favorite gun I've ever used and I'll always regret getting rid of it. It was at this time where I played a scenario game and a section of the map had all these bounce house looking things… airball bunkers. Shortly after I started my very first team with one of my referee buddies. We bounced around all sorts of local tournaments in Minnesota and Wisconsin then eventually found our way onto Team Magnum based out of North Side Sports Park in Ramsey, MN. This is when I bought my first "real" tourney gun, an Evil Minion (same as a DM5/PM5 but Evil branded). I wound up playing some NPPL Super 7 events with them in 2005 and then it all came to a screeching halt on Feb 5 2006. While snowboarding I took a horrendous spill which left me with a lacerated and ruptured left kidney and massive internal bleeding. I was in ICU for a week and a half, then put on strict bed rest for the following 8 months… the entire season. Painkillers and not being able to do anything else spiraled out of control, I had my darkest of times.
A few dark years had passed, I had decided to clean my act up to save my own fleeting life and I slowly came back to playing paintball. Just much more casually, playing walk-on games and no organized team behind me. Fast forward a few more years, Facebook was just starting and old friends could find you online. That's when I got a message from an OLD friend asking if I'd be interested in playing tournaments again, it was a question that need not even be asked, OF COURSE I wanted in. I played with that group for quite a few years until February of 2022, and that brings us back to the start of my writing this in paragraph 2.
Grow the sport, love the game and take your journey!