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Femme Fatales let paint fly

Plenty of pain, gain for female paintball players

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The Femme Fatales are one of the only all-female amateur paintball teams in the United States.

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(CNN) -- When you meet Tami Adamson, a mother of two and former professional ballet dancer, it's hard to imagine her crawling on the ground, covered in dirt, staring down the barrel of a gun.

But she is right at home on the paintball battleground, and would rather be nowhere else.

Adamson is the founder and captain of Femme Fatales, one of the United States' only all-female amateur paintball teams.

The squad's members hail from far and wide -- from Oregon to Florida, where the squad is based -- and they tour the country playing in tournaments.

Adamson describes paintball as an offshoot of the "capture the flag" games she played as a kid, in its risk-reward strategy, athletic requirements and all-or-nothing format.

"You need to eliminate all your players that are coming at you, the opposing team," Adamson said. "When you're hit, it is one shot, one kill. You don't get another chance."

A family affair

Adamson was already involved in the paintball world before founding the Femme Fatales.

Her husband, Todd Adamson, plays paintball professionally, and together they own Extreme Rage Alternative Sporting Store, which sells paintball, skateboarding, wakeboarding and other sporting goods.

In 2000, tired of being a "paintball widow," having watched Todd play game after game for 12 years, Tami Adamson decided to get in the mix.

"I just got tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching him play, and decided I needed to be in there getting the limelight that he gets," she said.

Adamson introduced the sport to some of her high school buddies, most of them former athletes. Soon thereafter, the Femme Fatales were born. Although the going was rough early on, today she has no trouble finding recruits.

"They were like, 'Oh, that hurts, but let's go again.' And that's what I wanted to hear," Adamson said. "And then out of the woodworks a couple of years later, you have all these women coming out saying, 'Hey, we want to join your team.'"

Paintball and pain

Team member Jennifer Buehler calls herself a paintball addict, given how much time she spends training, traveling and playing in tournaments.

"I have maybe two friends left outside of paintball because they just, they're frustrated, because I never see them. You never get to talk unless they're calling saying, 'Hey, where are you playing this week?'"

For all the bumps and bruises, Buehler said the rush she gets from playing helps ease the pain -- at least during the game.

"When you're out on the field, the adrenaline is going so much that you don't even realize that you've gotten hit a lot of the times," she said. "Once you come off the field, that's when they start throbbing."

Because there are not many all-female teams, the Femme Fatales compete against all-male or co-ed teams. Team member Kim Nelson, a 45-year-old mother of two, said they get mixed reactions from male opponents.

"None of the guys really like to get shot out by girls," she said, adding "for the most part, we get treated well."

Paying off

The Femme Fatales have gotten recognition both for playing well and for looking good. Several have been featured in Maxim magazine and other media outlets.

That helped the squad win corporate sponsorships -- a definite plus, given the considerable expense of equipment, travel and the like. Gear for a single player can run from $2000 to $5000.

"It doesn't hurt to get sponsors when you're a bunch of good-looking women," Adamson said. "Sponsors started going, 'Hey, do you need this? Do you need that?' ... So it was pretty easy to get sponsors at first."

Adamson said she hopes the Femme Fatales' success -- commercially and, more importantly, on the field -- will encourage other women to play paintball.

"Women are very scared to play this sport," she said, "because it does hurt and the men come at you so aggressively. ... Women can see, hey, these chicks are doing it."

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