The Clinic: How To Get On A Pro Team with Osvaldo Lopes

If you want to get yourself on a good team in the offseason, then you need to read this interview and take lessons from the life of Osvaldo Lopez. He’s 39 years old, he’s from Brazil, yet somehow, he earned a spot on the Los Angels Ironmen for the past few seasons. Lopes transitioned over to help another Dye factory team midseason, Chattanooga CEP, and instantly was their best snake player. He will soon turn 40, yet on Day One at the World Cup, he was running to the 50 off the break, stealing the show as the best snake player that day, on any team.

That is what’s possible.

Read on, and dream big.

Something that every divisional player wants to know is “how do I get on a better team, how do I help my current team out” that sort of thing. What’s the way to walk, the attitude required. You came from Brazil, and you ended up on one of the best teams in the world, the Ironmen. What attitude did you start out with? Was that something that you always wanted to achieve? How did you go about getting on that road?
I made it because of Shahlo and Mikko Huttunen from the Ironmen, back in 2007…

Who were you running with at that time?
“Rivals”. The team wasn’t good, unfortunately. But it was nice, we played semi pro, but the team wasn’t good. But either way it was a great experience. Back in Brazil, you play a lot of 5 man, with no coaching at all. At that time I started to come out because I was staying in Long Beach. All the weekends I wasn’t out practicing with them, I would come down here to San Diego and stay at Mikko and Shahlo’s house. Every time I’d show up at the Ironmen practices, helping the guys—

So you would come out and kick it during the Ironman practices?
I’d come out, show up, sometimes I’d play a few points, sometimes I’d play a lot of points, sometimes I’d play none. It would depend on the day, on the time—

Who was there, who wasn’t there?
Yes, at the time the coach was Shane Pestana. If they had enough people, I wouldn’t play. Sometimes people would get tired, or weren’t ready, I was ready all the time by the fields, so he would say “come on, jump in”. After that I started to play with Velocity Wrecking Crew, and we would practice all the time against the Ironmen, so I was a little bit more “together”.

So you would play all the time against the Ironmen, that was another way to get noticed, is to try to get on the feeder team for whatever team you eventually want to get on, because if you’re shooting those guys, they’re like, “Who the hell is this dude”?
You need to make a difference on the field if you want to make it, because if you play normal, everyone plays that way.

Take risks, be aggressive.

Be Hungry, that’s the type of mentality that helped you elevate to play with one of the best teams.

Heart, hungry, desire to play, love to play, not just “Eh, I’ll play”. I don’t like to go out and party the day before, and then go out the next day and play paintball. I don’t feel good. Some guys like to go out and get some drinks, and come back. I can’t do that.

It’s about dedication to your goal.
Yes, especially for me because I was coming from Brazil, and it’s hard to fit into a team when you’re from outside of the country. So you’re not here for all of the practices. I try to come here as much as I can; especially when the layouts are released. That’s important because you have to practice the field layout. If I don’t practice well, I don’t play. If I have a good practice, I play.

And that’s the deal with everyone.

At the time I was working with Dye already, and Mikko told me “Hey, would you like to try out for the Ironmen? You don’t have anything to lose”. And I thought “Sure, why not”.

Right, so take risks, it’s the same thing you know?
I bought my ticket, came here, and made it.

What did that feel like to have to struggle for those years, coming from Brazil, and then you end up on the Ironmen, kinda cool right?
Yes, it was my dream, I realized my dream. Anyone who is serious about sports, your goal is the top, to get to the top. If I was playing soccer, I would be in the World Cup. If you play American Football, you want to play on Sunday and Monday nights, you know? And you’ll play with better players. So it’s pretty cool.

Was it intimidating for you at all, because you came from a country that doesn’t have the same level of play that Europe and America has. I mean, there are some good paintball players that have come out of Brazil, but there is not that structure that has been there for 10, 20 years, where you can easily tier up from the ranks. So was it intimidating at first? How did you mentally look at that when you were about to go practice against the Ironmen at first, and then to go try out for the Ironmen? How did you mentally approach those situations?
I came here with nothing to lose, so I tried my best, pushing forward. I play the snake side, sometimes Doritos, I played front, I tried to get forward, get 2-3 kills, I’m done; that’s my job. I do it at tryouts, I do it at practices, I get in there, make those kills, do my job.

You have to do that.

If you just stay in the back just shooting, everyone can do that. You need to find a way to get into the snake when you have a lot of guys shooting you, you have to move to the snake when a lot of guys look at you. You need to make a difference. If you don’t make a difference, you’re out.

You have to ask the question “Why would they pick me up”? Because whoever is in charge of things has to look at you and think, “Okay, this guy’s a game changer”. If you don’t make a difference, he’s going to make a difference. If you had any advice for kids that would read this, or not even kids because—how old are you now?

Yeah so 39, you don’t necessarily have to be young to do this.
No, you don’t, I’m living proof.

You just have to be determined
You have to be hungry, have heart, good physical condition, if not, you won’t make it.

So what would you say to those guys, like “Hey, this is possible”? If I was a person who wanted to do this and I was sitting where I am sitting now, what would you say to me?
Don’t be scared, believe in yourself, attack, be hungry, that’s everything you need to do to achieve being on a pro team.

And it also seems that dreams are possible, but the fulfillment of those dreams are found through effort, the ability to put yourself out there, and to work hard to achieve that dream. Would you say that?
Yeah, it needs to be this way, if not—especially for me. I’m 39, it’s hard to find a player my age playing the snake side, run like crazy, it’s not normal (laughs).

It’s very rare, but that’s kinda cool though.
It is (laughs).

And it’s kinda inspiring for other guys out there who maybe play on the weekends, maybe they play on a really good team too, like a Division 1 team, or they stomp everyone in their local area, maybe even at regional events. If they play a PSP regional event, or maybe even in another country, but if I heard this story I’d be like “Wow, it is possible, this guy did it, why can’t I do it? I’m still fit for paintball, I’m hungry, I’m willing to put the effort in”, so it is possible. You’re kinda the living embodiment of that possibility, which is really sweet.
You spend a lot of money to do that, you know? I pay for all my tickets, I spend money. Why do I spend money? Because I love to do that, so, it’s a pleasure for me. Sometimes you cannot think about money. If you have the conditions to do that, do it. It’s better to try to do it, because 10 years from now you’ll think, “What if I could have made it”?

But then it would be too late at that time.
Oh yeah, way too late.

It’s that old cliché “better to try and fail, than to never try at all”, because who knows what you’re capable of. Most people don’t try things because they’re scared of failure. But when you’re 80, if you make it that far, you’re not going to look back and say, “Oh man I’m so glad I didn’t try, because I didn’t fail”, no you’re gonna be like, “Man, I should have done that”. You don’t want to feel that regret, because regret is one of the worst things in life.
Even for me right now, it’s kind of hard because I’m outside of the US. I’m not here for all the practices. So sometimes it’s hard because you need to earn the trust from the coach. If you don’t have that, you don’t play at all. So it’s pretty hard because in winter, I’m not here all the time, that was kinda hard for me. Even though you play good or better than other players in practice, sometimes it’s hard to play.

Yeah, because that guy’s around all the time, in the mix, yeah, that’s true. So that’s another lesson too, try to be in the mix as much as you can.
It depends on each coach. Sometimes a coach can see you and say “I trust that guy, that guy can make the difference, let him play”. Or “he’s good but, he’s not here all the time so, I don’t know”…you don’t play.

Yeah, that’s true, because if you have someone that’s there all the time and somebody that is just as good as him but isn’t really there all the time, then the benefit of the doubt might go to the guy that’s there all the time.
“That guy is 39, I think he’s not fast enough”…they are WRONG (laughs)

(Laughs) Well, you got a great story, so regardless of what happens in the future you can still hang that on your chest with pride.
I’m trying to play as much as I can, I don’t have problems in my knees, shoulders, my body’s good to go, I can run.

Knock on wood, (laughs).
I’m like the Wolverine; I don’t break bones. I did break one rib in a tournament, and I kept playing. I didn’t know it was a rib, I thought it was a muscle. I found out 20 days later, because I still felt the pain, so they took an x-ray and told me, “Oh you broke a rib”. I played at PSP, I went to Brazil, played a tournament in Brazil, I won the event, and the pain was still there so I thought “Oh my God, I need to see what’s happening”. So I went to the doctors and they said, “You have a broken rib, you need to rest.” And then I stopped everything. But it’s kind of hard because I think everybody has a shot. When you get in the Pro field, everyone is watching good players on the other side, who are they going to play against.

It’s a special thing not many people get to experience. But I think if more people actually gave it a shot, then who knows? You just never know until you start trying to do something with it. It’s a good story.

And you need to be a nice guy, because if you have a big head, for sure you won’t fit in the team.

You gotta put your ego aside a little bit.

And you’re a soldier, you cannot be a general, you are a soldier, you need to do what is asked of you. So if you try to command the team, it conflicts with the other people.

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  • Roger Fernandes

    Osvaldo is the man (: