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Thursday May 25, 2023

Nic Rippel has been one of the best and most successful German paintball players for years. After becoming German champion in the DPL several times with Frankfurt Syndicate and Breakout Spa, he was the first German player to make the leap across the pond to the US professional league NXL, where he will play for the New Orleans team this year Hurricanes line up. We had the opportunity to interview Nic and talk to him first hand about his new team, the training conditions in the USA and his plans for the current season. The result is an interesting insight behind the scenes of a real American paintball pro team.

Anyone who plays tournament paintball in Germany should actually be familiar with the name Nic Rippel. In the lower leagues he is famous as one of the most famous German paintballers, in the upper leagues like the Bundeliga he is notorious as one of the best players and toughest opponents to face on the field.

Nic has been playing at the absolute top German and European level for years. The stations of his quite impressive career so far read like the who's who of the current tournament paintball. Comin@Ya, Frankfurt Syndicate, Breakout Spa and the German national team are just a few of his milestones to date. But now Nic has achieved something that only one German player has managed to do in the last ten years. With his playful performance, he earned a place in a genuine US pro team in the highest American league, the NXL.

This year he will strengthen the team of the New Orleans Hurricanes and go hunting for points together with the experienced US pros. Nic regularly jets back and forth between Germany and the USA to reconcile training, NXL, NXL Europe and the Belgian league. At the same time, he still works as a player-coach for the DPL Bundesliga team FightClub Frankfurt. This is made possible by numerous sponsors from industry, such as Paintfarm Lerchenhof, 2DIE4 Sports and TeBeHa Textildruck Handewitt, as well as one or two private individuals.

We met Nic for an interview and wanted to know what it's like to play with a US pro team. The result is an interesting insight into everyday training and the processes in the US tournament circus, which you would otherwise get as an outsidernot so easy to get.


PBS Magazine: Nic, first of all, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview today. Let's start with the first question. How did you end up playing on an NXL pro team like the New Orleans Hurricanes this year?

Nic Rippel: First of all, thank you for the invitation, I'm happy to have the opportunity to tell my story here. In fact, it's always been my dream, but I've never really dared to make the step to America. The 2022 season with Breakout Spa was very successful. This success is also due to our coach Kevin "SK" Bredthauer, who not only coaches Breakout Spa, but also coaches no other team than the San Diego Dynasty. He even became Coach of the Year 2022. Kevin said I had what it takes to play in America. Still, it's a huge step. My chance to get a glimpse of the whole thing was at the 2022 World Cup. There I was able to take my first steps with the Lucky 15s from England on the biggest stage in paintball, the NXL Pro Tour in the USA.

I tasted blood, not only because it was a lot of fun, but also because I realized that I could keep up. That finally convinced me to try it. The 2022 season was over and the first teams announced tryouts. So did the New Orleans Hurricanes. My mentor Oli Bernhardt drew my attention to this and the idea was in my head. When a friend from FightClub said "did you see that?" and I said "let's fly there together" just for fun, it was decided. This fun turned serious and so Tobi and I flew to New Orleans in January.

PBS Magazine: Nic, you're talking about the tryout. There's something like that here with one or the other team, but we assume that it's completely different in the USA with the professionals. Tell me…

Nic Rippel: The tryout, by the way only the second ever in my career and then something like that.

First we registered online and waited for feedback. But it didn't come. Tobi and I thought maybe they don't feel like Europeans, or that it was too much effort for them. But no, on the contrary, the Hurricanes were very happy that two players wanted to come from Germany and since it was an open tryout, everyone could take part. Shortly thereafter we also received an e-mail from Stuart Ridgel, the team captain of the Hurricanes, which not only contained the daily routine for both tryout days, but also eight whole pages of calls that we had to learn up to then. So said and done, flight booked and off to America. Tired, broken, nervous and our heads full of cover designations and calls that we had never heard before, we arrived at the field. First we said hello to everyone, changed our clothes and got ready, because it was supposed to start right away.

60 people were registered, 40 turned up in the end and they were looking for exactly ONE. At least that's what we were told during the round of introductions.

After warming up together, it started straight away with 1vs1, followed by 3vs3. A short break to fill up the pots and the drills continued. Perfect! Exactly the kind of drills that Tobi and I have been training on the paint farm all winter: running and gunning, zig zag running with change of hands and running in the arena with change of hands. Good for us, we were able to score points. But it went straight on with snapping in different covers against each other, "winner stays in", because they wanted to see who was left at the end. Snake, Can and Dorito. I started in the snake and it went perfectly, finishing first straight away. Unfortunately, things didn't go so well in the Can, because there was a young player from New York who was simply super strong and so I finished second. So show what I can do again at the third station in the Dorito. Not my usual coverage, but it went well and in the end I was first again. Then it was time for a lunch break. After the break, teams were put together and finally 5on5 paintball really got going. Everything went great and after ten points the first tryout day was over.

Day 2: Arriving at the field in the morning, we immediately noticed that there were suddenly far fewer players. What we didn't realize was that a cut was made after the first day and there were only 15 participants left. Good for us, we were still there. Following the same principle as the day before, we warmed up and then played 1on1s again. The remaining 15 were divided into three teams of five players and so we rotated through with four teams and played some points. Among other things, against the current Pro Squad of the Hurricanes. A last cut was made during the lunch break, so that six players remained. Five others and yours truly. We then played more games together against the New Orleans Hurricanes A-squad. The moment I had been waiting for and working so hard towards was here. It couldn't have gone better. I worked my way into the snake, crawled through, shot my direct opponent on line and then shot two others in the side, point over. The coach Mike Bianca and Stuart then called me over and just said, “You can change. "You are on the top of the list. You got the spot.” were the final words. I did it!!!

PBS Magazine: Congratulations. Can you tell us a little about everyday training? Does it work differently in the USA than here in Europe? If so, what are the differences and special features?

Nic Rippel: The everyday training routine looks pretty similar: changing clothes, field reading, warm-up, breakout drills and games. But the first thing that struck me was the preparation. Not only a precise training plan with times where everything was planned to the second was known weeks in advance. No! On the evening when the layout was released, someone specially set up the new layout on the field and made videos of shots. Also in the evening (at night for me) a zoom meeting was held where we discussed the layout, defined designations and did a virtual tour of GunsUp. I haven't experienced that here before.

PBS Magazin: How's the training and game days and events going? How often do you fly over to the US and how long do you stay over there?

Nic Rippel: This year there is something new in the USA. The layout will only be published a week before the event. That plays into my hands, of course, so it's enough if I fly over the weekend before the tournament for layout training. As always, I do fitness and skill training three times a week here in Germany, if possible at the paint farm, and then fly over for layout training on the weekend before the event. I'll stay there for the week, because Thursday is the first training session at the event. This process will be similar for me at all five NXL events. As I said, the training process is actually the same as I know it from here, but there are many more people behind it. So we have a head coach and at least one, usually two assistants, also at the tournament.

PBS Magazin: How do you finance all this travel and your stay in the USA? As a player with the New Orleans Hurricanes, do you get paid or do you receive other benefits?

Nic Rippel: The Hurricanes are still a fairly new team in the pro division and therefore have a smaller budget than other pro teams such as Heat or Impact. In addition, there is no wealthy owner behind it. That's why the whole thing would not be possible for me to this extent without the sponsors mentioned above. Thanks again to all sponsors here!

PBS Magazin: Will we also see you on the field in Germany and Europe this year? If yes, when and where?

Nic Rippel: Of course. Unfortunately not that often in Germany, since many of the tournaments overlap with the training before the event or with the events themselves. Nevertheless, I play the complete NXL Europe series with Breakout Spa, the Belgian League (ubpl), the Polish League and DPL is also planned. I would also like to represent Germany again this year in France with the national team. So a lot of paintball is on my plan.

That was our big interview with Nic Rippel. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you again on making the leap into the professional league and thank you for the many exciting insights and information. Nic's story shows that hard work in paintball is always worth it in the end and that you can make it from Germany to the top league in the world in the USA. You just have to want it and train hard every day. We wish Nic every success for the coming season with the New Orleans Hurricanes and will of course be watching his further path very closely and with great interest for you and in due coursereport further.

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