If you’re considering giving paintball a try to see what all the hype is about, this article is for you! We’ll look at how to prepare for the day and what to expect when you get there. There’s no reason to be unprepared or scared for your first match. It WILL be fun, but be forewarned – addiction to this sport happens quickly!
What to Wear
Of course, you should first consider the weather when determining what to wear, but here are some basics. Whether you're playing on an indoor field or outside, you must be covered. This means you should wear a long sleeve shirt (even if it is 90 degrees), long pants and shoes. Head coverage isn’t really a major issue, because you will be expected to wear a paintball mask. Make sure that whatever clothing you choose allows you to move freely but provides full coverage. You will want to choose loose clothing over tight clothing (better protection, more comfort). If you are going to be playing woodsball (scenario-based game, usually in a wooded area), it will be helpful to wear clothing that matches the surroundings. This would include camouflage, dark colors (usually) and no bright colors.
What to Bring With You
First and foremost, bring plenty of drinking water. You will sweat and heat exhaustion and/or dehydration are real possibilities. You will probably want to bring a change of clothes for after the event, some money for snacks or other incidentals at the field and any medications you may need for the day. You should expect to be on the field all day and many of the fields are in somewhat secluded areas. Sometimes drinks and snacks at commercial parks are expensive, so you might even consider packing a lunch and bringing bottled water and/or Gatorade to drink.
There are too many types of paintball guns out there to try to describe them all, so let’s discuss some basics. First, paintball guns are also called “markers”. You can almost always rent them at a local field or borrow one from a friend for your first time playing. No matter how you get the marker, learn the basics of how to use it before the game begins. Learn how to hold, aim and load the gun. Shoot a few paintballs to get a feel for the trigger. Find out how it comes apart in case you need to fix a broken paintball in the barrel or other simple issue on the field. Spend a few minutes before the match and it will make you feel a lot more confident once the game begins.
First, always use cover. Stand, crouch, lie down or otherwise position yourself behind things to protect you. Don’t move just to move, but don’t stay in the same position just to avoid being hit. This is something you’ll get better with in time, but is the biggest mistake new players make – they either try to charge out and are immediately taken out of the game or they stay behind cover the entire match and never even fire a paintball. Cover should be used, but it is to be used, not lived in! As you consider leaving a position of cover, make quick glances to the left or right of the bunker and consider firing two or three shots as you emerge to help keep your opponents at bay. The basic order of things on the field is: look, fire, move to cover, repeat. Communicate with your teammates, especially if you spot an “enemy”.
A Note About Being Hit with a Paintball
New players want do know, “will it hurt?”. The answer is, “yes, but only a little if you’re protected.” The anticipation of being hit is much worse than actually being hit. However a direct hit at close range with no protection will definitely leave a bruise and may sting pretty bad for about 15 minutes. Since players must wear protective gear, there is very little risk of injury beyond a slight bruise. If you want to experience the sting before a match, have someone shoot you from a distance of 30-40 feet. This will help you get over your fear and know what it really feels like.
First and foremost – never remove your paintball mask during a game. Second and only slightly behind the first rule is: never remove your mask during a game. Third and almost equally as important: never remove your mask during a game. Do you get the point? At all points during the game, wear your mask. You may be hot and tired of the mask before it is all over with, but this is a non-negotiable at most fields and is absolutely critical for safety. Getting hit directly in the eye with a paintball can cause blindness - this is why protective eye wear is mandatory in paintball.
What to Expect in Your First Match
Chances are, you won’t even hit anyone on your first day of paintballing unless you get lucky. You should really try to get a feel for the game. Learn what to do and not to do. Don’t worry if you get hit – admit it and go again next round. Tell the folks there it's your first day and they will usually be very helpful by giving advice, telling you about the rules and coaching you before, during and after the game.
What if I Get Hit?
If you feel the hit from a paintball, get behind cover. Check for paint; this is called a 'paint check' and is often done with the help of a referee if you're still unsure. Most fields require a paint splatter the size of a quarter before the person is considerered “out” of the match. If you can’t see the spot where you were hit, touch it. If your fingers come back clean, keep shooting! With time, you will be able to tell if your hit was a paintball bouncing or breaking.
Get to Know the People There
One of the best parts of playing paintball is meeting new friends and having a great time with them. Meet the people there, introduce yourself as a new player, and you will usually be treated with kindness, respect and a little ribbing. As the “rookie”, you should expect more experienced players to help you and make a little fun of you too. It is okay. We were all new players at one point.