How to Join a Pro Paintball Team
How to Join a Pro Paintball Team
It won't be easy - but you have a shot if you work hard!
Okay, so the title is probably admittedly a little misleading. It’s not like anyone can just “join” a professional paintball team, much like not just anyone can “join” the National Football league (NFL). There’s a process. Unlike the NFL, the process for many paintball players is not a lifelong commitment.
Playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB usually starts with little league/kid’s leagues, professional coaching, summer camps, middle school teams, high school teams, college recruitment, training five days a week from the age of ten, travel teams and a ton of money spent over a twenty-year period before you even have a shot at being drafted to the big leagues, if you’re one of the very few that have that privilege. On the other hand, there have been dozens of pro paintball players that made the jump from walk-on paintball to professional paintball in just a few short years. This is probably the exception, not the rule.
Dynasty, the greatest paintball team of all time in most peoples’ opinion, joined the pro circuit when most of the team was in their late teens and early 20s. Tyler Harmon (now with Dynasty) turned pro at the age of 16 with Bob Long’s Ironmen. And the list goes on and on. But don’t be fooled, joining the ranks of the professional paintball circuit takes total dedication, talent, time, money and patience. But the path is clear.THE TOURNAMENT PAINTBALL CULTURE
No one gets to the professional paintball level without being part of the tournament paintball culture. While you may play walk-on paintball games for a few years to learn the basics of the game, making the jump to play on a team and in local events is the very first step. The aforementioned greatest team of all time, Dynasty, and most of its roster began playing local tournaments by the age of 14-16 years old. When Alex Fraige (17 years old), Oliver Lang (16), Ryan Greenspan (17), Yosh Rau (17), Angel Fragoza, Brian Cole (15) began winning major tournaments in the Pan/Am Series in 1998, they were barely old enough to drive. The point is they were immersed in the tournament paintball culture at a very young age, which enabled them to turn pro before most of them were 20 years old.
But you don’t need to be 15 years old and playing tournaments already—you just need to commit to the culture and lifestyle. This means showing up at your local paintball field week after week until you find a local team that needs a player. But not just any local team—one that actually competes against other teams in practices and in events. And when you are the best player on that team, you should be looking for a higher-level team that needs another player. Eventually you’ll need to be competing on the regional or national circuit to get noticed. And it’s even better if your next level team practices at a field where a pro team practices. Having talent and commitment are important—being seen is just as important. Being “in” the culture and having your ear to the ground will help you hear about pro team tryouts, scrimmages and practices. Show up, play, watch and learn.
Nicky Cuba, one of the greatest pro players of all time, got his start in the game playing at his local field and living next to a paintball store owned by members of Ground Zero, a professional paintball team from New York. Nicky played every weekend, worked in a paintball store that was a hub of pro paintball activity, honed his talents and eventually got his shot to play pro ball. He went on to play for Ground Zero, the Ironmen and XSV—three iconic professional paintball teams of the 90s and 2000s.
And all of this only comes after you’ve acquired professional level paintball equipment, learned how to keep it functioning, learned to shoot equally with both hands, gotten the ability to run and shoot and learned the game inside and out. No tournament team with any level of success needs or wants a player that can’t keep their gun up and running or doesn’t know the difference between a snake bunker and a Dorito. This is all part of being immersed in the culture.
Know the pro game and its history. If you can’t hold a conversation about the Ironmen, the World Cup, the NPPL, the Autococker or Automag…. And you’ve never heard of Warpig, Chicago’s Badlandz or the Luxe, you’re not close to ready. If you don’t eat, drink and sleep paintball you’re not ready. If you can’t get to the field every week, don’t have quality equipment, or you have other hobbies, you’re not ready yet. On the other hand, if all you think about is paintball; if every penny you have goes towards your paintball gear; if you spend your weekends watching Gosports videos; and if you can name the entire roster of Edmonton Impact, Houston Heat and Dynasty, you’re on the right track.
Getting to the top of the field at anything takes a 100-percent total commitment. You don’t become a professional photographer, touring musician, top trader on Wall Street or prolific artist doing these things in your spare time. Professional paintball is for the few and far between. It takes everything you’ve got—and knowing that still might not be enough. But for the few hungry enough, talented enough and dedicated enough, it’s an amazing ride. Traveling the world to play the game you love is a dream. How badly do you want it?