What Is Speedball And What Are The Typical Positions?

by Josh Koop | Last Updated:   3 months ago
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This question comes up whenever I watch paintball tournaments on television or online via sites like YouTube. My wife and daughter are just starting to learn all of this game and ask a lot about the way speedball is played. Unlike professional sports like Football, Baseball and Basketball there is a lot less public knowledge around paintball.

Speedball is a fast-paced, typically 5 on 5 game of paintball played in recreation, leagues and on television in a small arena better suited for putting on a show. The primary typical positions for speedball paintball players are fronts or frontman, mid or mid-players, floaters, backs or back-players and inserts. These five rolls complete a team and each fulfills specific needs on the team in a given match.

Let’s dig in and examine what speedball is and also what each role in more detail and then explain how they assist on the speedball field, this way when you watch a match or play you will know the lingo used and the players and field positions being mentioned.

What Is Speedball?

Speedball is a specific game type of paintball. It is played in an open area that similar to a football or soccer field, wide and flat with no natural obstacles. In speedball, the fields typically are placed on artificial turf, especially when they run games at an in the indoor field.

Around 1997 Brass Eagle hosted a tournament which ran the typical expected inflatable fabric “bunkers”. They were designed and developed from obstacles and items which were used in previous fields. These new bunkers would be more beneficial as their locations and setup could be constantly shifted to make for unique matches more often.

The ability to use inflatable obstacles also helps increase player safety by limiting the potential for injury from collisions with harder obstacles. The inflatable bunkers have gained in popularity since their introduction to tournaments like the PSP. These tournaments hold multiple events throughout the warm months.

Speedball was originally developed as a better way to ensure a more safe game for players. This was due in large part to players who would get hurt from tripping on uneven woodland terrain.

Speedball tournament play and even recreational field based speedball is a very fast-paced game. The ability to shoot more balls then your opponent is very important to play strategy. Unlike in woodsball style games where you attempt to limit sounds and firing along with using fewer paintballs.

Speedball markers used by players who are focused on this play type are more often expensive and higher tech. They are electronically driven in most cases which means they are controlled by an electronic board in the handle which can typically achieve a very high rate of fire which can be greater than 20+ balls per second.

Now that we have explained speedball and the layout of the fields lets explore the actual player positions on the field. These players fulfill roles in supporting the team and aiming to win tournaments and their associated prize money and prizes like an expensive or limited availability gear.

The NXL layout for Speedball tournament
Nice example of the layout used at the 2018 NXL Tournament

The Five Primary Positions

Fronts (AKA Frontsman)

The fronts are the players assigned to cover and assault from the bunkers furthest up the field off the break. This position may also include the Snake player, this is the player who is assigned to the “snake” bunker specifically.

A person assigned the front role typically doesn’t shoot off the break, simply running and diving for the furthermost downfield position. The area of the “snake” is typically the most influential obstacle or element on league fields like NPPL & PSP tournaments, with it flanking the field.

The front role relies heavily on speed and agility. They are two traits that work in favor for the front player as they try to cover ground fast. Fronts will, in most cases, eliminate the most players and also use the least amount of paint. This is due to the fact that they will have the best and most advantageous angles. Most professional teams will only have two fronts on the team and the other supportive players fill other roles.

Mids (AKA Mid Players)

players assigned to the bunkers between the front and back players. They can also be “Insert”, players, assigned the role of filling in the spot of key teammates that are eliminated. The mid is considered one of the most difficult positions to play in tournament paintball because he has to be a jack of all trades. A mid can fire while moving, he can jump into the snake, and he can make lanes. There are typically no more than 2 mid-players on a team.

Backs (AKA Back Players)

players usually assigned to the row of bunkers closest to the starting point (such as the back right or left can, dorito, etc.). The Back players fires ‘lanes’ that suppress and take opposing players off the break while the mid and front players move. Back players sometimes carry as much as a 2,000 balls in their pod packs so they can consistently suppress opposing players. There are typically no more than 2 back-players on a team.

Floaters

The floaters are the roamers. Floaters are very quick and able roam around in the paintball field providing support to his teammates. They are also the ones who will take over in case one of them is hit. Thus, you must be experienced in playing various positions.

Inserts

these are the type of players who can fill in anywhere needed. They can start out as a back player, and as a snake player is eliminated, can rush forward to where the eliminated player was and take control from there.

In Summary

Speedball is an amazingly fun and pulse pounding way to play paintball but isn’t for the faint of heart or of wallet. The marker, gear, and paint costs to play speedball often will put a dent in all players wallets.

This being said there is nothing like the adrenaline rush experienced when you know that the enemy team could be around the next bunker waiting to unload 20_ balls on you in rapid succession. That is also what continues to bring me back to play it over and over again.

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