A WORD FROM OUR CHAMPIONS
We’re edging closer to the end of our premiere year in the world of dart blaster team competition, and we’ve loved every moment so far. As we prepare to crown a champion team at the Dart Zone Pro Tournament in Rochester, New York, we want to take a moment and get to know the competitors who’ve made us proud. To that end, we’ve singled out the burning questions our community wants to know. Read on for answers from the Pro Tournament finalists.
Answers from Andrew Hunsinger, Justin Dangler, Liam Mattingly, and Arvid
*Justin Dangler is the owner of Foam Dart Nation:
“Foam Dart Nation, LLC encompasses the Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse Foam Dart Leagues. The largest mobile Nerf battle, birthday, and special event organization on the east coast.”
Q: How many years have you been playing this sport?
AH: I have played this on and off my whole life since I was a small child. But the last 6 years of my life, if not 7, have been very competitive and serious, to the point where I play every week at Rochester foam dart league.
JD: 25 Years playing foam sports and competitive esports experience as well.
LM: I have been playing dart tag games since my freshman year of college in 2018.
A: This is my first proper tournament, but I have been involved with blaster things for many years now.
Q: How many years have you been with your team?
AH: I have been with my team over 3 years now. We started our team in 2019.
JD: The team was started in 2019 and hand-picked at the start of 2020.
LM: I began playing with the Rochester Foam Dart League in 2019 and have been playing with them since. In 2020, Justin Dangler announced he was forming a Foam Pro Tour team, and that was the start of Radioactive.
A: Less than 1 year.
Q: How often do you practice?
AH: We practice as a team twice a week and I constantly am practicing, tuning, and using my blaster about every day. Always trying to improve my skill.
JD: We practice 2x a week.
LM: We have been practicing as a team and with Flower City Fallout twice a week since we won the second qualifier event. Outside of practice, I spend a few minutes every day or so blasting to keep the practice of running blasters and training around the MK blasters’ adapter problems.
A: Twice a week after qualifying.
Q: What excites you about the Blaster League?
AH: This blaster league is so exciting to me because I have wanted so much more than just a regular open play every week. The fact that we can now have a competitive league where teams from all over the US can come and compete and bring more spotlight to this sport is amazing and so exciting. It is also making this become a larger sport and bringing more people into our community, which is what I and many others really want — to just grow our community of people and grow this sport.
JD: The fact that we have come this far in producing a new sport in a short period of time has really made a dream come true.
LM: Having a fun, easily accessible sport like this is really cool because it offers an in for people who do not have the budget for things like airsoft and paintball.
A: More events will grow the blaster space, and that’s a good thing. I also enjoy seeing the custom blasters on the field.
Q: Where do you see this sport going in the future?
AH: I see this sport now becoming a very largely known sport where I can simply say blaster league or DART ZONE or competitive foam darts and people will know exactly what I mean without having to compare other sports to explain what our sport is. I also see many more competitions popping up all over the place and events as well with this sport growing and becoming more popular.
JD: Would love to be on ESPN 2 or at the same level that paintball is showcased.
LM: Short term, I hope to see it become as recognizable as paintball by the general public. Long term, I would love to see an NCAA dart tag league.
A: I would love to see it hit some mainstream media, and I am also excited to see more game and field layouts.
Q: If there was one thing you could communicate to skeptics about this emerging sport, what would it be?
AH: If I could communicate anything to the skeptics about this emerging sport, it would be that as for competitive sports, this is the new best thing. Here’s why: Firstly, it is way safer than airsoft or paintball. You are launching a foam projectile that is very soft, especially compared to a small plastic bb or a very hard paintball that hurts, which limits the age group. One of the beauties of foam blasting is it is for all ages. You can purchase a low-powered blaster for a child or a high-powered blaster for an adult who wants to play competitively and you can spend as little or as much as you want to play. Unlike airsoft, paintball, or other sports, you don’t have to make a huge costly investment to play. You can go to a Walmart or similar store or toy store and spend under $20 and have a nice Dart Zone blaster to play with. Plus, the ammo is reusable and you don’t have the expensive consumables like CO2 or nonreusable ammo that makes a mess like paintball or airsoft. Plus, you can play the sport in public parks safely and almost anywhere. And I’ve seen so many fathers and mothers bond with their children playing foam blasting. This sport is definitely the next best thing compared to airsoft or paintball or sports, and there is so much to love.
JD: Play before you open your mouth.
LM: It’s just lessor airsoft.
A: Give it a try, it’s very different from airsoft & paintball while still being similar, and the engineering side of the hobby is its own fun rabbit hole.
Q: What do you hope to do with the prize money if you win?
AH: If my team wins, which I hope so much for, I will use the prize money to provide for my wife and 3 small children. Unfortunately, I lost my job due to circumstances which will be explained below.
JD: I will put my prize money right back into the team for field rentals, merch, gear etc.
LM: I might get a new transmission in my car, lol.
A: Gas money, to help travel to future events.
Q: Please highlight any personal stories (ex. Your personal/team road to get to the final) below.
AH: About 6 to 7 years ago, I came across Rochester Foam Dart League and met Justin. At first, it started with just taking my son to do something fun that we could have fun with. At the time, he was only 5 years old. I myself am 33 years old at this time. Then we started to go every chance we got to all the fundraisers as well as special events. Very quickly, I fell more and more in love with the sport, then became obsessed with it. Also very quickly it became a release for me and a big part of my life. I found I loved it even more than my son. I started buying more and more blasters and then learned how to modify them as well. I even ended up purchasing a 3-D printer for this hobby.
Eventually, I started modifying blasters for others and the community as well and tried to even have a little hobby/business out of it. I even started traveling all over the USA, including driving 17 hours to the last Endwar in Georgia and then became sold on the competitive side of things even more after watching the last Foam Pro Tour in Georgia. Besides my family, this sport has become my life and everything to me. There is nothing I love more as a hobby other than flinging foam.
At this point, I have even spent thousands on fancy blasters and even thousands on Dart Zone blasters as well. I just could not and can’t get enough of this sport and love to always have the newest toy. After seeing my first Foam Pro Tour, I knew I had to get a team started. Finally, in 2019, Rochester Radioactive was born! I was so pumped and excited.
Due to Covid, things kept getting delayed. Finally, when we were at the point where things were about to pick up again, our team started practicing more and more. But then the unfortunate happened again. This past December 1st, just a matter of about 6 months ago, I went into the hospital due to extreme back pain and becoming paralyzed from my ribs to my feet and could not walk. After testing, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer — such a rare form that there have only been 500 cases to date, and maybe 1 or 2 people a year get diagnosed with it. This makes it very hard to treat with the lack of research. It actually took over 15 doctors 3 weeks — and a biopsy that almost killed me due to internal bleeding which led to an emergency blood transfusion — just to figure out the type of cancer I had.
I cried for days and was devastated. The doctors started me on radiation treatment right away and then, later on, chemotherapy. My doctor said there was a good chance I would not walk again, but I was not going to let this stop me from doing what I love and being there for my family. After a month’s stay, I left the hospital already moving on my own with the assistance of a walker. Then, with the help of physical therapy and my persistence, I proved everyone wrong and was walking on my own in just under a month with no walker or help. I taught myself to hold a blaster again and balance at the same time while moving. First, I could only walk, and ironically my first time sprinting again was at Rochester Foam Dart League open play. Then my team made it to the New Jersey qualifier and took 1st place. I was so happy I started to cry.
This tournament means everything to me as well as this hobby/sport. Next to my family, this sport has saved my life and given me the motivation and drive I needed to get through chemotherapy and having this cancer. I truly feel if I didn’t have this sport and hobby things would be so much different and I would not have the drive I do today to keep on going. Also, I believe that my story can help so many others and just goes to show that if I can overcome all this and do what I did that anybody can overcome anything if they truly want it and truly work hard enough. I hope that my story can touch and help somebody else going through a hard time.
I believe that any one of us has what it takes inside to achieve what we truly want as long as we believe and really work hard for it. I believe that our team can make it and win this tournament. We all have the skill to do so and just need to work hard enough. I know one thing is for sure — that if I do win this tournament, it is much more than the money and cash prize to me. This tournament means, as I have explained, the world to me, and winning this would literally just give me that boost I need to keep going and pushing forward and forward and save my life — which this sport has truly done. I genuinely believe this sport has helped save my life and keep me motivated to keep going.
JD: We have players that have been in our organization starting in 4th grade and now 11th graders that have shown how dedicated and loyal they are to the business and sport aspect of play. This also includes our beloved player Andy Hunsinger — (whose story he will tell) — but he is currently battling stage 4 cancer and has been an inspiration and motivator for us all.
LM: Andy Huntsinger’s saga of struggling with stage four cancer is a core motivator for the team. He motivates us to practice hard, have fun, and to give our best shot at the game. Thanks to him, our shots have gotten pretty good.
A: I myself have been playing blaster-related games for ages and ages and started modifying blasters around 7 years ago. Late in high school, I dove into airsoft, but when I got to college, I got back into Nerf via HVZ. Then after playing at the Rochester Parkour Gym, I started getting into higher FPS games. Since then, I have played with the Rochester Foam Dart League/their Nerfology course at RIT, Milwaukee Area Nerf Outings (MANO), the Oshkosh Families Nerf club, and now on the Roc Rads team.
SEE YOU SOON!
The Dart Zone Blasters team is looking forward to seeing Pro Tournament finalists Rochester Radioactive again when they compete for the championship title at the Dart Zone Pro Tournament.