Professional paintballers typically draw their salaries from team sponsors.
Although it may never make you as rich as a professional star in other sports, competing in professional paintball competitions can actually bring a modest income to the most experienced players. The most accomplished players can earn paintball salaries that approach $100,000 per year. Earning a living as a professional paintballer requires the ability to find team sponsorship, as well as successful placement in various professional tournaments.
How Paintball Players are Paid
Paintball players who are signed by a professional paintball squad are typically paid by the team’s corporate sponsors, primarily paintball equipment suppliers and related businesses. Sponsors also typically pay for travel expenses and other costs related to playing in professional matches. Paintball teams competing in the top professional leagues will often have five or more main corporate sponsors. Cash prizes for top performing teams in both professional leagues and tournaments are distributed among team members, adding to a paintball player’s salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), American athletes and sports competitors, including professional paintball players, earned a median salary of $43,740 per year as of May 2010. This is more typical of professional paintball earnings than the average salary for athletes – $87,340 per year in 2010 – as professional salaries for football, baseball and other more popular sports are much higher than salaries for paintball and other lesser known sports. Oliver Lang received the highest recorded salary for a professional paintball player in 2005, $100,000 per year from the Los Angeles Ironmen.
In the United States, the main professional paintball league is the National Professional Paintball League, or NPPL. Within this league, there are four different divisional levels of seven-player teams and two five-player team divisions, one of which uses pump paintball equipment instead of automatic carbon dioxide-powered guns. The NPPL’s top seven-player division contains 16 teams. The other main professional paintball organization in North America is Paintball Sports Promotions, also known as PSP Events, which coordinates most of the nation’s top paintball tournaments, including the annual World Cup event.
Many paintball teams are self-directed, with minor oversight from sponsors, so professional players need to work hard to find income opportunities to supplement their base salary. Professional paintball tournaments often offer thousands of dollars worth of prizes to tournament champions, but cash prizes are split up among all team members. Sometimes tournaments award equipment prizes instead of cash awards. Typically, a professional player will play six times a month and compete in 15 or more tournaments per year. Many professional players eventually use their paintball knowledge to open a related business, such as a retail paintball equipment store, to improve their income prospects.