A Paintball Life

I have continued to look for student-athletes across the Southwestern campus and after hearing of this week’s story it was so compelling it quickly moved to the top of the list.

Thinking about the way I occupied my free time during college or how some of our current student-athletes occupy free time it’s hard to image getting asked for autographs during that time.

Obviously the typical mental image of a young person glued to a couch playing video games quickly pops into most of our minds, but for Omeed Azmoudeh of the Pirate men’s tennis team there’s a little more excitement attached.

However, for this story thinking of Tony Hawk of ESPN’s X-Games fame or a PGA Tour golfer such as Jordan Spieth might be a better analogy. Actually the comparison to Spieth is pretty close on a smaller scale as Azmoudeh played on the same high school golf team with Spieth at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and draws similarities the friends travel.

But what is it that has Azmoudeh’s adrenaline racing? It is his first season as a member of the Texas Storm, a professional paintball team based out of Dallas.

“The adrenaline rush you get playing is awesome,” said Azmoudeh who is currently the second youngest playing professional. “Paintball is something I grew up watching and always dreamed about being a part of.”

A sophomore on the Southwestern tennis team, Azmoudeh thrives on the competition which is why most weekends he is catching a flight to one of the many professional paintball tournaments across the country.

Needing an invitation to jump to the pro division, Azmoudeh received his in the spring and hasn’t looked back.

“It is something I grew up watching on ESPN and told myself that I want to do that someday,” Azmoudeh said. “Now I’m here and I wouldn’t change anything. The travel is a little crazy and you miss out on some things, but it’s totally worth it.”

The balance of college and being a professional paint baller isn’t without its struggles for Azmoudeh, who sometimes has to fly alone to tournaments meeting his teammates in the next city.

“I do a lot of homework in airports and on the plane,” Azmoudeh said. “It’s tough but as soon as you see everyone and that adrenaline comes back there’s not another feeling like it. And when you get asked for autographs at an event it’s pretty cool, I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon.”

Working towards a degree in political science, Azmoudeh understands that the life of a professional paintball athlete is not his future vocation. However, he sees the possibility of studying criminal law in law school in his future.

“It’s a totally different world,” Azmoudeh said. “Almost like having two different worlds when I’m on campus as to when I’m in a tournament. Having something in life that’s able to completely take your mind off of Monday through Friday is helpful and I think that’s something that has helped me be successful in both worlds.”

There’s no doubt Azmoudeh has the drive. Balancing studies, tennis and a professional life of paintball is tough, but his joy and approach to life has Azmoudeh already at the top of his of game.

A passion to learn

Finding student-athletes on the Southwestern campus in my brief return to Texas that have a unique experience, take on life, or even life changing story has been met with eagerness to tell many untold stories.

However, what if I was to tell you there was one student-athlete that quickly came to mind. And she captures all of the unique experiences and outlooks on life that rivals adults closer to the age of 50.

Senior women’s soccer player, Paige Duggins, has a passion for education that filled my office and is very contagious. It’s also no wonder she has started all 10 games this year and is one of the reasons the Pirates have won three of their last four games.

When talking to student-athletes it almost comes as no surprise where they gain their motivation from and what drives them. To put it simply in one word, family.

Duggins is no exception as she draws from conversations with her mother, a middle school science teacher and coach in the Cedar Hill school district.

“I’ve always viewed myself as the daughter of a teacher,” Duggins said. “A lot of the way I view the world is through her. Growing up I’d always hear the good and bad from her day, but I was interested in my mom and that’s where it started.”

Now nearing graduation, Duggins has her own experiences to draw from. She also still has a passion for education.

During the summer of 2012 she worked as an intern in the Texas State Senate office for Senator Judith Zaffirini. With all the commotion that arises in politics it would be easy to say that’s enough and move on but not for Duggins.

Last summer she applied for the Gregory Luna Legislative Scholar and Fellows Program named for the late Gregory Luna who served in both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate and was considered a champion of education.

Applying for a program such as the Luna Scholar and Fellows program could be a daunting task, however after spending just a few minutes with Duggins you can easily see why she was not over looked.

“I was by far the youngest person in my class. Most of the others were either in masters programs or had already completed their masters,” Duggins said humbly. “It is a pretty rigorous interview and selection process, so to be chosen was awesome.”

Although this story could end with such an amazing opportunity, for the energetic Duggins it continues.

Just like any intern position your duties are relegated sometimes to a back office or coffee runs, but that wasn’t even where she began.

“I was in the back-back office,” she said. “I was where the real dirty work happens. We hardly had any interaction with the senator.”

However, the Chief of Staff for Senator Judith Zaffirini, Sean Griffin, noticed Duggins and she became the administrative assistant intern.

“It was really neat,” Duggins said. “All of a sudden I was helping in her office and escorting her to meetings and helping make notes, so it was really cool.”

Everything does tie back to Duggins’ family who wants to do her part to make our country a better place. While looking at pages and pages of education policy could be boring, to Duggins it is her way of giving back.

“I didn’t know this when I was doing my internship because I thought I still wanted to be a teacher like my mom and work in the system,” Duggins said. “I want to learn more. Now I’m planning on going to law school.”

Duggins plans to study more about education law and civil rights litigation. Her curiosity drives her desire to continue her own education as she completes her degree with a double major in English and Education.

“What guarantees does the constitution give us about education and how do we interpret that,” Duggins questioned. “Being a teacher is one way to do it, working on policy is another and also through administration. I’m not sure which direction I’ll go, but just exploring all those options and continuing to learn.”

For the time being though Duggins continues her senior season of soccer and the juggling of her many duties.

Oh, we forgot to mention that she is also on the Diversity Enrichment Council at Southwestern, is Editor of the Megaphone – the school's student run newspaper – and volunteers with Special Olympics among other activities.

Understanding there may be more than one solution to a problem will help Duggins in the long run. As she continues to study for upcoming tests for law school, the hours in her day are continually filled with her many activities but she wants to learn more.

She was again presented with an opportunity to learn with a second internship in the Texas Senate with Senator Wendy Davis.

Yes, the same Wendy Davis that made national headlines this summer with her 11 hour filibuster. It wasn’t the same interaction Duggins had with Chief of Staff Sean Griffin, but impact was just the same.

“It was a different opportunity for sure after spending so much time with people whose main passion is education,” Duggins said. “But that is what makes it so interesting. Learning about different ideas from our peers it’s what makes us unique.”

Duggins was in the Senate during the filibuster and helped with Davis’ mail. She explained there was – as expected – a wide range of responses but it helps you appreciate the variety of people we may or may not encounter every day.

School is something that Duggins enjoys. She will be the first to tell you that she has a genuine love for learning if you don’t see it in the first few seconds of talking to her.

“I love school because it taught me who I am,” Duggins explained. “I learned to read, write and develop who I am today in school. But I don’t want to stop because I have more growing and learning to do.

“I want to help make public education something everyone can be proud of. It is the starting ground for changing the negative things that surround us. You have to work from the ground up and that’s what I want to do.”

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Greetings and what in the world is a blog?

Greetings from the east side of the beautiful Southwestern campus. Before we get started in our weekly blogs I wanted to take up a few minutes of your time to introduce myself and what you’ll get each week.

From the hills of the Ozark Mountains in southwest Missouri, I grew up around sports all my life. With a brother who was also interested in sports we drove our parents crazy chasing us around baseball diamonds and basketball courts all across the Midwest.

Once I finally realized my talent level wasn’t that of many of the student-athletes I would soon encounter on a daily basis, I was able to grasp my ability to tell the stories that make sports so great and took those talents to the Missouri-Oklahoma border where I attended Missouri Southern State University.

Growing up in Missouri it would be a crime if I had never listened to the great Jack Buck and Cardinals baseball. Majoring in communications at MSSU, I quickly found my way into the press box and worked as a student assistant and intern helping the athletics staff on football, basketball and baseball game days.

After constantly being around the press box I finally got my hands on the microphone and helped with the public address and play-by-play. From there I have since worked at three universities, officiated high school basketball in Missouri and Texas, worked several NCAA basketball tournaments including the 2009 Women’s Final Four and the 2010 FCS National Championship game.

Having the best seat in the house has definitely been a perk over the last decade, however there are numerous stories I hear on a weekly basis I wish could tell everyone. And that is where our blog comes in.

While there are a great number of individual and team athletic accomplishments, my goal through this blog is to share the other stories. ESPN may have coined the best phrase with their show “Outside the Lines” which is where the majority of action takes place for the 500 Pirate student-athletes.

While at Northwest Missouri State, former women’s basketball head coach, Gene Steinmeyer wrote blogs for our media relations office. It was the highlight of my week posting some of his blogs that might make you laugh or cry, you never really knew what to expect. From hating computer passwords to arguing with his assistant coaches on the bench, the blog always kept me guessing.

Hopefully I can help relay those same sentiments to those that read our blog. As one of the new play-by-play voices for Pirate athletics I hope to share those with you throughout the school year.

So, which coach comes from a coaching family? Who is an assistant coach with an impressive skill in painting? What player joined a professional paint ball team?

Bookmark our site, get comfortable and enjoy the ride as we reveal these secrets and more during the semester.

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About the author:

Phillip Dowden enters his first year as the assistant sports information director at Southwestern University. Phillip has spent the better part of the last decade in a press box with stops at Abilene Christian University, Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Southern State University. Helping in a variety of ways from play-by-play to working the 2010 FCS National Championship game in Frisco. With a long list of stories and experiences in college athletics, join Phillip each week as he shares the latest with an inside look at the Southwestern University Athletic Department.