Running around shooting pellets are each other, ducking and diving behind cover, adrenaline and heart rate pumping.
But is paintball a sport?
For years the debate has raged – some considering it simply a pastime or hobby, others firmly believing it belongs in the extreme section with the likes of rock climbing and skydiving.
And why isn’t it in the Olympics?
I think it’s time to settle this once and for all.
Read on to find out what happens!
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Is Paintball a Sport? Too Long, Didn’t Read
To keep things snappy for those of you in a rush, here’s the universally acknowledged answer to whether paintball is a sport or not:
Yes – it is.
This is probably the easiest article I’ve ever had to write here at Riflepal! But for some interesting information, and to explore the topic in a little more detail, I highly recommend you keep reading.
Perhaps we can find out if it’s going to be included in the Olympics any time soon?
What is a Sport?
In order to establish whether a hobby or pastime is considered a sport (or whether a sport is more suited to being called a hobby or pastime) we must break down what these terms mean.
Using the explanation found in the online Dictionary.com, a sport is defined as an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.
I think the term “athletic activity” is key here, and perhaps why darts has struggled for decades to be included as a sport. But how is that different from, say, archery…?
A hobby is defined as an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.
I’m not sure if I play paintball as a means of relaxation. Do you? I play it to get a huge adrenaline buzz. I think woodworking and knitting are better examples here.
A pastime is regarded as something that serves to make time pass agreeably; a pleasant means of amusement, recreation, or sport.
By this definition, paintball could be included as a pastime, as this is an umbrella term for just about anything we humans do to “pass the time” in an enjoyable manner – including playing and watching sport.
So, do you think paintball can be called a sport? It most certainly can. Let’s explore why in more detail, below.
What is Paintball?
While Wikipedia isn’t always to be trusted as a reliable source, for me, the first line on paintball is pretty accurate:
There are hundreds of different game modes when it comes to paintball, but in its most basic form, it involves physical activity, tactics, strategy, stamina, and skill – all while playing competitively.
That most certainly sounds like a sport to me.
(You can take a look at this article on airsoft game modes – because most, if not all, are shared with paintball.)
Aside from these different modes, there are two, overarching styles of gameplay in paintball – speedball and woodsball. Follow that link to find out more about each.
The fact that I feel like I’ve run a marathon after every paintball game (both mentally and physically) is enough to tell me that it’s a sport, and you certainly need to have a modicum of fitness to play it well and enjoy it.
Is Paintball an Extreme Sport?
In the interest of keeping things on an even playing field, let’s turn to the dictionary once again.
An “extreme sport” is regarded as a sport that is physically hazardous, such as bungee jumping or snowboarding.
I believe I’m correct in saying speed and/or height is often involved – commonly at dangerous levels of each.
Any sport where you’re potentially putting yourself in harm’s way can be considered “extreme,” and – most importantly – where this thrill is part of the enjoyment of that sport.
This is why American football isn’t considered extreme, for example, as players don’t take part because of the risks involved, the risks are just a side-product of it.
So, with that in mind, for me, paintball is something of a fence-sitter, and it could go either way. Some consider it extreme, others do not.
Sure, the dangers are obvious, and people play for the thrill, but the fact that it’s communal, (many extreme sports are solo) well-marshalled and regulated, and doesn’t involve height or high speeds, means that if it is considered an extreme sport – then it’s on the tamer side.
But the fact that you need to wear proper protective gear while having paintballs fired at you at around 300 fps (which can seriously hurt and leave a mark) means it’s certainly more extreme than the likes of tennis, for example.
What do you think? Join the discussion, and drop your thoughts in the comments.
Reasons to Play Paintball
It’s a sport. It’s (mostly) considered extreme. What else has it got going for it, and why would you decide to take it up?
There are several advantages to playing paintball:
- It’s loads of fun – this is reason enough to play.
- It’s excellent for keeping fit, losing weight, increasing stamina and endurance.
- You can make new friends and expand your social circle.
- It’s great for cognitive development – strategy, tactics, and leadership.
- It’s brilliant for stress relief.
- A great team-building activity, and for promoting teamwork. Ideal corporate entertainment.
- Fun for all the family and friends – everyone can get involved. (But please see this article on paintball age restrictions).
As with any sport, there are risks involved – and it’s not for everyone. But with the proper gear, some common sense, and a reputable paintball field – there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it safely time and time again.
Sports Gear and Equipment
Speaking of “the proper gear,” what do you need to play the sport of paintball?
Any loose old clothing will do – something you don’t mind getting filthy and covered in paint. You could also invest in a pair of quality paintball pants if you’re really keen.
But the most important item is a dedicated paintball mask. While every field can supply you with a communal one, it’s much, much better to have your own – so follow that link for some great examples.
Good shoes are important, something that is going to support the ankle, with decent grip on the soles. A rolled ankle is the most common injury while playing paintball – so strapping up is a good idea.
And let’s not forget about the fun part – choosing a quality paintball gun. Again, most fields will supply this equipment for a fee, but there’s nothing like having your own.
If money is tight, take a look at this article on the best cheap paintball guns, and for even more options, you should explore the different types of paintball guns, to get a feel for what’s available, before making your final choice.
Either way, the “hobby” part of paintball – customizing and maintaining your gear and loadout – is a hugely enjoyable aspect of the sport, and I highly recommend you get involved ASAP.
Professionals, Leagues, and Tournaments
There’s no doubt that paintball is a competitive sport – even when it’s just for fun at your local field.
But what about those players who want to take it to the next level? Those players who not only make paintball a sport, but they make it their profession, too.
Going pro is a dream of many paintball players (I once flirted with the idea myself) but you really do have to be on another level to join the big boys and girls.
Who wouldn’t want to earn $65,000 a year playing paintball?!*
Schedules usually run from March to November, and when it comes to league and tournament play, the most common game mode is speedball.
You’re going to need a weapon that can keep up with the pace of this sport, so check out this article on the best speedball guns on the market.
For more information on competitive league and tournament play, watch the video below – and maybe you can live the dream of playing paintball professionally.
Tip – getting sponsorship from one of these top paintball brands is a step in the right direction!
* This a rough estimate from a Californian pro player wage. In other countries and states, it is likely to be considerably different.
Next Stop – The Olympics?
Ahhhh, the big question. Will paintball become an Olympic sport?
For projectiles, we currently have the disciplines of archery and target shooting (including pistol, rifle, and shotgun), as Olympic sports, as well as the biathlon in winter.
Team sports such as soccer, basketball, and ice hockey also enjoy Olympic status.
More recently, the likes of skateboarding, sport climbing, and even breakdancing have been added – expanding the “unusual” or “unique” sport base.
And there’s literally a walking event where you can win a gold medal by walking faster than everyone else.
Surely there’s a place for paintball here?!
Alas, there are several hoops to jump through, and a whole host of caveats.
In order for a sport to be included in the Olympics, it first needs to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
As of 2021-22, paintball currently is not.
Then, the sport’s International Federation must apply to the IOC highlighting the reasons why the sport should be included in an Olympic program.
Once this process is complete, the IOC needs to determine if the sport meets its eligibility criteria, as well as coming in line with its shared values.
One of the prime considerations is that the sport needs to be practiced on a set number of continents, by a predetermined number of countries, by both men and women.
Rules and regulations need to be uniform, with everyone singing from the same song sheet. This is one of the main stumbling blocks for paintball, as at the time of writing – universal, worldwide rules don’t exist.
Aside from these issues, there is one (minor) problem when it comes to including paintball at the Olympics – by tradition a sporting event that is designed to encourage harmony between countries through health competition.
The fact that people will be shooting at each other.
With that in mind, don’t expect to see paintball included as part of the Olympic schedule anytime soon – but I would happily stand corrected.
Is paintball a sport? I think we’ve decided once and for all that it is – but it might be sometime before it’s ever included in the Olympics.
Still, that certainly isn’t going to stop my enjoyment of it, and I hope it’s the same for you.
Let me know your thoughts on this interesting topic in the comments, if I’ve missed anything out, or if you just have something you’d like to share with the community.
Stay safe out there, and happy paintballing!