I Won’t Quit: Rich Telford Interview

Photo by: Lucretia Ranere of FxF Photos

PBA’s Matty Marshall talks with paintball pioneer Rich Telford, who has been a prime mover and leader of many top pro teams over the years. The team he founded, XSV, has fallen on hard times this season. Read on to see what he has to say about his team, the league, and the trials of Competitive paintball.

How competitive is the Challengers League? A lot of people say “Oh, well that’s the just semi pros,” and you could make that argument about some teams in the division, the teams who just bumped up from D1, but the point of the Challengers division is to make it a the entry level Pro league, the teams are still pro, I mean, can you call Moscow Red Legion, or your team, semi pro? That’s just hater BS to me. Thoughts? I feel a lot of critics are a little short sighted on this.

Well, from my perspective it’s pretty damn competitive. I think anyone who hasn’t been through the ringer a few times doesn’t really know what they are talking about. It’s challenging on many different levels; let’s say I’m playing Dynasty, arguably one of if not the best, teams in the world, although they are a great team I have some advantages when I play them because I know them inside and out I may even know them better then they know themselves. Playing a team like Top Gun who, despite not being the same caliber as Dynasty, is a great team, would become challenging because I haven’t studied them for the last ten years.

There are basically two Pro divisions, but in those two divisions you have three groups of teams. You have the top teams; the guys who are always around those top four spots. Then, you have those teams that are in the middle and of course those teams that are on the bottom. I think for the most part everyone gets that. What some people don’t get is how hard it is to fight your way out of the Challengers Division if you’re one of the middle or bottom teams. There are only ten teams in Challengers but to get out you have to be the top two teams. When you add teams like the Russians into that mix it’s even harder.

There is also a style difference that the teams who moved up from D1 have and it’s equally challenging. Their discipline is unbelievable, they get up on you by one point and then they lock up the field and you’re stuck pushing into guns while being down on points. We are an aggressive team and always have been, so our forte hasn’t ever been to lock up the field and that is something that we are struggling with.

Who do you feel is playing best on XSV this season? And who do you feel needs to step it up?
I think that Thomas (Taylor) is definitely getting back in the groove and Jamie Lopez is on fire from the younger side of the team. In regards to who needs to step up, it’s everyone. I thought we played alright in Chicago but alright isn’t good enough; we need to win and get out of the Challengers division. To do this we need four to six guys out there playing at a level seven. Can we do this? Hell yes we can. Have we done this? Not so far this year but hopefully Riverside will be different. Winning at this level isn’t about one or two guys, it’s about an entire team of guys, all working together, and that’s what our focus will be on going into Riverside.

Are you guys going to pick up Justin Schwarz, who just got cut from the Ironmen?

We have talked about it and with Justin but I’m not sure if he is really a good fit with XSV. (Schwarz will be playing the rest of year with Texas Storm)

Are there any other players you guys are looking at?
We have had guys try out over the last year and some have looked really good but for whatever reason it hasn’t worked out. We have a very basic system on XSV, you’ll probably remember this from when you played on the team. If you’re a good dude and you can come to practice and shoot three or four guys a game we’ll make a spot for you. We haven’t found that guy yet this year but we are always looking.

Yeah, that always been the case for sure. You were a part of the combined Infamous/XSV team that just won in London, how’s the adventure going over in Europe?
It’s a lot of fun and I was super excited just to get to go back over to Europe. The first couple events the team had played well in the prelims but struggled in the quarters. In England, everything seemed to work out. Nicky (Cuba) and Thomas where on fire, seriously I had to keep throwing water on them because I was afraid they were going to burst into flames (laughs). It’s great playing over there; it’s just a great atmosphere for playing paintball.

Yeah, Europe’s fun, it’s a great place to go and learn, or remember how to win. It’s pretty crazy how close in talent level all the PSP teams are right now, yeah, there’s a difference in mentality, experience and support, but there are at least 8 teams I feel have at least a slight chance to win an event, despite the fact it has been pretty much the same teams in the finals the past few years. What are your thoughts on the state of the sport right now at the highest level?
I feel like there are a good number of teams that could or should win an event. I don’t know if I could get to eight but that probably isn’t far off. Things have changed though; in the old days it was the factory teams that had an advantage. Now, I feel like it’s the teams with the outside money that do. Teams like Damage, Russians, Impact and Heat spend more money on one event than I do for a season. Money obviously doesn’t make you win but it sure helps. I’m not taking anything way from those teams, because they all work hard and deserve to be where there are, but I do feel like the paradigm has shifted.

Another thing that I think has changed is the team concept. To some degree I feel like the players in the past were standouts on their team because of their team. Now, you have guys that are free agents; they go from team to team based mostly on who will pay them the most or what they can get out of it. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet, but I do know it’s different.

JT First Shot Ad, as seen on paintballaccess.com

Speaking of the core of the sport, you’re been on mission to spread the JT First Shot gospel recently, it sounds like a great idea to me because the it’s just so logical, because without new kids getting into the game, the game doesn’t have much of future. Break that down for me.
I have been lucky enough to be involved first with JT SplatMaster and now JT First Shot. Paintball has given me, and so many others I know, so much that I’m really happy I’ve been given the opportunity to give something back. I’m focused on getting kids into paintball and then keeping them in paintball. I’m basically just a big kid so when I played with the JT SplatMaster gun and had fun I knew kids would too. If I had had JT SplatMaster markers when I was a kid I would have played nonstop, heck I might have even gotten to be good at paintball.

Seriously though, paintball has changed, it’s not only grizzly men out there playing anymore. More and more it’s kids who are going out and playing at the local field and if we can get them to a field and they can play with JT SplatMaster markers and not get hurt, then we can get them to come back again and again. Plus can you imagine how good these kids are going to be in a few years? Scary, scary good!

That’s awesome to think about actually. You have kids, have they played?
Yes, I have two girls 11 and 5 and they both love it. Grace, my 11 year old, had her whole class from school come out and play for her birthday. Not only did they all have a blast but also she was the coolest fifth grader in the school. My 5 year old likes to shoot the guns but hasn’t played yet, probably next year or next time her Uncle Matt comes around.

I know, I need to get back up north and see how everyone is doing. What has the reception been at the events you’ve been at for the JT first shot concept?
It’s been great because this is one of the few things that everyone in the industry can truly stand behind. We make no money running the events; it’s strictly about getting new players into our sport. At the first event we had pro players from Impact, Ironmen, Dynasty, 187 and some other teams helping coach the kids.

What does the future hold for XSV and Rich Telford, you’ve been doing this for a long time now, how long do you see this ride lasting and how long are you going to keep playing?
Honestly, I was ready to hang up the cleats a couple of years ago. I don’t feel like I have anything left to prove but I do still enjoy playing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think that I’m still playing because I don’t want to let the team down, I’m obviously not a super star player but I go out and do my job on the field. We don’t have another guy on the team right now that does what I do. I can’t play forever, I’m really old.

Ahhh, come on dude, I thought you just turned 25?
(Laughs) Yep that’s it 25, (coughs).. for the tenth time… thanks, but I won’t quit on the team until we are winning.

Can XSV fight their way back to the top? Mark your calendars for the 4th event of the 2013 PSP season, the PSP West Coast Open, brought to you live from the AB Brown Sports Complex in Riverside, CA, next week, August 16th – 18th, by Paintball Access.

Can Upton 187 Crew and the Ton Tons fight out of the Challengers Division? Will Houston Heat win their second tournament of the year? Can Dynasty make it to the finals 4 events in row? Find out the answers as the best paintball players in the world fight it out at the PSP West Coast Open!

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