Who Plays Paintball?
Paintball is a game. It’s a sport. To many people, it’s a lifestyle and a passion. Anybody over the age of 10 can play. There are no weight limits, few age limits (based only on common sense and insurance regulations) and no strict athletic requirements.
Invented in the woods of New Hampshire in 1989, where it was dubbed “the National Survival Game,” paintball now has nearly 11 million participants nationwide, according to recent statistics from the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association.
The SGMA Superstudy of Sports Participation tells us quite a bit about who plays paintball. According to recent figures, paintball is the third largest (and fastest growing) extreme sport, right behind inline skating and skateboarding.
Paintball is the only extreme sport, however, that is also a team sport. Players find the adrenaline rush and action-packed challenge of extreme sports combined with the camaraderie and teamwork prevalent in traditional sports. More people in the U.S. currently play paintball than play baseball!
Why is it so popular? Some experts say it’s because kids like technology. Many of today’s paintball guns (or “markers”, as they are often called), use high-tech circuit boards to achieve firing speeds of up to 30 balls per second. These markers are sleek, shiny and sexy, manufactured from lightweight milled aluminum or even composite plastics, and anodized or molded in bright colors.
For those who like to personalize, upgrade and modify their gear, paintball offers plenty of opportunities. Hard parts manufacturers offer everything from body kits that allow you to change the color or overall look of your marker, to barrels, triggers and other performance-enhancing parts. Companies like APE, Virtue, and Tadao manufacture upgrade boards to expand the capabilities of popular markers, making it easier to achieve high rates of fire.
Some players relate paintball’s appeal to the popularity of first-person shooter video games like Halo, Quake and Doom. At its heart, paintball is capture-the-flag, cops and robbers, and a live-action video game rolled in to one. It requires strategy, quick-thinking, teamwork, and, in some cases, athleticism, although many people who play are far from “in shape.”
According to the SGMA, 79 percent of all frequent paintball participants are under 25 years old. Most successful professional players, who compete in the PSP national tournament league, are under 30, but Paintball is not just a sport for the young. William Shatner organized several charity games—and played in them—at the age of 73. You will sometimes find grandparents sharing the field with their grandchildren. Teams like the Tippinators out of Nova Scotia, Canada, have members ranging in age from 14 to 53.
“Paintball is a rare and special sport,” says Tippinators Captain Bruce “Charon” Johnston. “Name any other sport where a 40-year-old man can compete head-to-head against a 12-year-old girl, and on any given day, either can win.” Men and women, too, are evenly matched on the field. Bea Youngs of the co-ed team Destiny notes that women bring certain strengths to the field. “It’s been proven in studies that women can multi-task a lot better than men can,” she says. Women, as a rule, have more developed communication skills and better flexibility, too. These attributes come in handy when you are crouched behind a small bunker as balls whiz past at 300 fps and you’re trying to tell your teammates where the paint is coming from. Twenty percent of all participants are women, but that number is growing as fields try to target the demographic with “Ladies Play Free” specials and other marketing strategies. Who plays paintball? Anyone can. All you need is a safe place to play, (a commercial field will rent you the equipment you need), a few buddies (or come alone, you’re sure to make friends at the field), and a desire to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush!