Ryan Gray is at the helm of a resurgent Division 1 Texas Storm, a team with one of the longest histories of any squad still currently competing in the sport. The Owner of Avid Paintball and former Coach of San Antonio X-Factor and Omaha Vicious, Gray is now trying to rebuild Texas Storm and march up the ranks, to one day soon take the field as a pro team. They just took 2nd at the Mid Atlantic Open, losing to Sacramento Damage. Here are his thoughts on their current run, the team’s long history, their win in Phoenix, and his time with X-Factor when they were at the top of the game.
So you just played an Ultimate Woodsball League event, and got Poison Ivy all over your face?
Yeah, look at this (points to his face).
My god, did you just look around mid game, see the Poison Ivy and think, yeah, I’m doomed?
Yeah, it’s all over my face, in my lungs, terrible. I just got back from the doc and they gave me a giant steroid injection. Good thing this isn’t a video interview. (laughs)
(laughs) So, you guys took 9th in Galveston, 1st in PHX, 4th at the last event in Chicago, and 2nd at the MAO.
You looked damn good in PHX, pretty good in Chicago, and great until final game against Sacramento Damage.
Yeah, except for the last day in Chicago and the last game at the MAO, we played pretty well.
So heading into 2012 what was your motivation to get things on track for Texas Storm?
The idea heading into 2012 was to understand we had a lot of work to do. We’re not a great D1 team yet; we’re not even a good D1 team. We finished last year 8th or 10th place, whatever. Which is honestly where I thought we would finish. We really talked about restarting Texas Storm, doing it the right way and we looked at it as a three-year plan. It will take three years to develop these D3, D4 players to be a top team. Three years before we consider if we can go pro. That’s what we were thinking heading into the year. Now, we’ll see.
Most people don’t know the legacy of Texas storm, how long the team has been around. How it came out of pro team, and then having to go back down ranks, this is before there was Divisional paintball, it was just amateur back then. We never got back to the pro level, which for me has always been one of those humps we want to get over. Heading into this year we felt we need to be getting to Sunday every time to be dominant. It’s about micro goals. First goal is to win the first point of every match.
Then we want to win at least enough matches to move on, to go to Sunday, but never look past the next point. And Greg Pauley has helped a lot with that. We’ve done a good job at that so far. But anytime I hear someone start out by saying, “Oh we’re going to make Sunday”, it makes me want to punch someone in face. Nah, it’s got to be looked at from the micro level, one small goal at a time. We’re going to do this one point at a time. Same thing with practice.
In Chicago where we were lacking was we weren’t able to shoot guys off the break. We were like, “Did that other team change things so much, or did we not practice correctly?” For MAO, we went back to really shooting at every single bunker for hours, literally hours. We reffed a tournament this weekend, and then we made the guys… well I didn’t so much make them, as ask them very sternly (laughs).
So they reffed for 7 1/2 hours then we went to Chili’s. And then we came back at 5 in the evening, and it was 106 degress, but we had lights and we stayed until 10 and ran breakout drills, running and shooting to every bunker on the field. And switching guys out, so they could get a look at every bunker. It’s not like “Oh, you’re a back guy so you’re only going to be shooting from here”, no they went to the small front bunkers too, so they understood, and could an idea of, what the front players were looking at. That way no one could throw curve balls at us. In Chicago we just didn’t adjust quickly enough. Sorry, kind of going into a lot of details here.
No, it’s good. People need to know what goes into making a winning team, also people need to know about Texas Storm, the team has been around forever and you guys have big plans for the future.
We are starting to build a fan base, but my guys are so nerdy they don’t even know (laughs) seriously it’s awesome. We win phoenix and they didn’t even go out partying, they didn’t even have a beer. They literally went back to the hotel and just crashed out. They were like, ”We got planes to catch in the morning, we did what we came here to do.” I said, “Wow”.
Sounds like you got a Spartan crew (laughs)
Yeah (laughs) we kinda do. It’s cool. But I guess that’s kind of my fault. When we won, they were all cheering in the pits, and they were all looking at me, and I wasn’t smiling. They asked me, “Are you excited?”, and I said, “Yeah, I’m excited, but you did what I expect you to do every time. But I’m not excited like I didn’t think you weren’t going to get here, I knew you were. I just thought it was going to take some time.”
Then I didn’t tell them this part, but it took them less time than I thought it was going to take. I didn’t think we would be in the situation we’re in now, 17 points out of 1st place heading into the MAO event, until next year. I thought it was going to take another full year. But to see these guys have, not just that killer mentality, but that Sunday swagger, it’s awesome. You know what I mean.
Oh yeah, that’s huge.
Yeah, it just takes one time. So to win Huntington Beach and take that fire and that swagger into Phoenix, that was gigantic, that was huge.
Yeah, if you just put one W up, it really opens up the possibilities in your mind. It’s a validation; you’ve proven to yourself you can do it.
I’ve seen it from both sides. Because when I coached X-Factor and they won Chicago years ago, it felt like some of the guys on the team were satisfied. You know what I mean, it’s like, “Ok, we won a pro event. We’re good”. So you have to be careful. My Storm team now, they had a taste of that and they aren’t satisfied.
Like taking 4th at the last event, they were miserable. And they all said the right things like, “This feels like last place, this sucks! We need to get back on the grind, and do our jobs better every single time”. Where I feel like X-Factor kind of went in the other direction, like, “Well, we won in both leagues.” And then they started practicing less, working out less, and that shit drives me f*cking bananas, bananas. Because I felt like that was the best team I’ve ever coached. By far. Talent wise, hands down the best team I’ve ever coached.
Well it looks like X-Factor’s getting it back together, practicing more, getting focused, and they look good again. They took 4th at MAO. They’ve had some bad stuff happen to them, Colt got that penalty in Chicago, and they got knocked out of the first event by throwing that game away to Thunder towards the end of the prelims. But Colt made the right move (in Chicago), they could contend, their heads seem where they need to be.
Do you have little bit of a chip on your shoulder knowing that even though Texas Storm has been around longer, X-Factor is know as the best team from Texas and they’ve been more accomplished?
Not all a chip on my shoulder, more like I believe Texas Storm has a right of passage that they have yet to fulfill. Three of the guys who I think are, or were, key to X-Factor winning played on Texas Storm—Dusty Odell, Devin Odell and Colt Roberts all played for Texas Storm. They all came up playing with me.
We were just playing the NPPL and X-Factor was just playing the PSP and that was when those guys went over to play for them, during the PSPs. But when X-Factor decided to play both leagues, that’s when they went over full time. It threw a wrench into things. Would they want play with me, and bunch of 28-32 year old dudes, or where they going to play with their buddies, who were 17-18 years old, who are going through the same shit they were, and X-Factor is going to pay for everything? So those guys left and I never once blamed them for leaving. But I do think the Texas Storm brand deserves something that it has yet to achieve. But you earn that. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Well, just so people know exactly who Texas storm is and how long the team has been around. Break that down for everyone.
Texas Storm has been around since 1989…
Stay tuned to find out the origins of Texas Storm, how he felt about their MAO performance, and hear the rest of Ryan Gray’s interview coming soon on Paintball Access.