Paintball Referee - The Toughest Job in Paintball!

Paintball referee

Respect Your Paintball Referee!

Valken appreciates the hardest working people in paintball - the paintball refs!

There was a time in paintball that to become anything in the tournament game, you got there not just through playing well on the field, but through hard work in the game without a paintball gun in your hands. From building bunkers and doing general field maintenance to working as a referee for everything from birthday parties to professional tournaments, if you wanted your paintball sponsorship, your spot on the team and a future in competitive paintball, you put your time in wearing stripes. It wasn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do and it was hard work, but along the way you learned some respect for the toughest job in the game – the paintball referee.

Somewhere along the way, the concept of hard work without a paintball gun as a key component of success as a paintball player has slipped away at many local paintball fields. Instead, young and newer competitive paintball players show up and can’t be bothered to pull net, inflate or stake down bunkers, pick up trash, clean rental gear and pull on some stripes to help their local paintball field succeed. That’s not to say that some players don’t do this, but more should. If modern paintball players understood just how demanding the paintball referee job description actually was, they might have a little more respect for the ref, the job, and the game and sport of paintball!

Valken paintball referee

The life of a paintball referee is a tough one. There are the obvious reasons everyone thinks about – standing on a paintball field wearing Zebra stripes getting hit by every stray paintball and catching zingers off the inflated bunkers. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A paintball referee doesn’t just yell “go, go, go!” and wave their arms around whenever someone happens get marked with a paintball. They’re the first line of defense for paintball safety for every single paintball player in the game. They ensure the paintball goggles stay on, players maintain proper distances from one-another especially if games have new players in the mix, they keep players hydrated and they lend a hand with rental paintball gear - they also start and stop each game of paintball, keep time, keep track of who’s alive and eliminated, and keep teams moving on and off the field too.

Then there’s the customer service aspect. Whether at the local paintball field handling birthday parties or at a big paintball tournament with dozens or even hundreds of teams, no matter how good the marketing is, who owns the paintball field or who’s running the event, most of the players attending will never meet the big bosses – but they’ll almost all meet a paintball referee. That referee then becomes a main-line customer service representative for the entire game of paintball. At the local field, referees even act as teachers, helping new players and first-timers figure out the basics of paintball, from keeping goggles on at all times to helping load a hopper and snapping that lid shut, helping with air fills and even acting as a paintball gun tech when a paintgun goes down in the middle of a game! Without good paintball referees who really care about people and the game, first-time players won’t come back and fall in love with our game, and serious players won’t be nearly as safe as they could be when the paint’s flying.

Anatomy of a paintball referee
Paintball referee

Long Hours in Every Weather Condition!

Finally, there’s the hours. Paintball referees arrive early to help get a paintball field set up and ready to play, from the local field to tournaments where bunkers need to be inflated before the first ball can be fired. Then, once the games start, they’re on the field for every – single – game. While paintball players, especially the tournament players, do grind and it’s not easy, they come on and off, get in the shade and are expected as athletes to hydrate and take care of their bodies, referees stand in the hot sun, in goggles, pads, pants and jerseys, all day. If it’s cold they’re out there with numb fingers. If it’s hot they’re out there sweaty. If it’s raining they’re soaked. If it’s muddy they’re ankle-deep.

Oops! We said finally up there. And have you noticed that nowhere yet have we talked about actually officiating a game of paintball? They have to do that too! You know, the part where they have to see as many players as possible and be ready to call them out if they’re shot and don’t come out on their own, make sure players start each game when and where they’re supposed to, and that they don’t run out of bounds, wipe hits, do anything illegal with their paintball guns, and decipher who’s eliminated and who’s alive after some split-second game-breaking move. None of that is easy. But it may be the easiest part of their job compared to all that other stuff!

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Valken Thanks the Paintball Refs!

Being a paintball referee is one of the toughest things a paintball player can do and it’s more important for the game right now and for the future than most players will ever know. All that said, why the heck would anyone put themselves through it all? Sounds like the love of the game to us. So show the people in stripes, the hardest-working men and women in the world of paintball, some respect because they do more for the game than even THEY probably know!

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