Joe Barrett of Tampa Bay Damage Crew:

Most of you may know Joe Barrett from the New York Outlaws  who also guested for team Kobra Kai at World Cup in Malaysia. Joe is hands down one of my favorite people to talk to. He has a “hippie” kind of lifestyle and every time we talk it’s just raw emotion filled with passion. He was really on fire in this interview just telling it like it is and being a light for many divisional players, surely he will make it one day to a pro spot and it’s only a matter of time.

T:  You left your team New York Outlaws to pursue professional paintball with Tampa Bay Damage in Florida and currently reside there, how do you feel so far?

Joe:  Last season I had continued with NY Outlaws in attempts to try to bring them into pro. What people may not know about me is that I want to be pro for so much more then my own personal goal. For example, I put up with countless weekends of 10+ hours of driving alone to play with a semi pro team because I saw the potential in this hungry talented squad to win and move up, and therefore help revamp the New York paintball scene.  Quick background, since the Philly Americans (our closest pro team) disbanded, many leagues have slowly folded including the massive AXBL, and New York Paintball has become the dismal, minimal dead end area that it is now.  We literally went from several fields and leagues and over 100 regional teams to the current situation, with less then a dozen regional teams per year, no national teams and fields closing every off season. Needless to say, if NYO would have went pro, the local teams would have inspiration and a reason to work their way up the ranks again, and maybe we’d see a new hungry generation of young players and teams emerge for the first time since 2009.  With more players comes more teams, comes more leagues and fields. Thus, pro NYO would in theory revive NY’s dying paintball scene to the hot bed it was when I first started.

When this didn’t go as planned and we narrowly lost our chance at a pro spot by not performing at cup, I decided I had enough of the cold winter off seasons and needed a life change. To be honest, part of me still feels a little guilty about abandoning my own region and not helping it to grow, because there are very few people and organizations that are as passionate about paintball and simply keeping more players in the game. Most of the most noted ones have retired and moved on. However, people have told me that you will get to a point where you must look out for your own best interest.  It’s not selfish to value your future, and I did not want to burn out, putting so much effort into bringing up players and teams only to have them quit or half ass it. I don’t want to lose sight of the original reason I started competing, which is to have fun playing the game, reach pro, be the very best and teach others how to play as a lifestyle. So I decided that I’d change my life and location and focus on getting myself to where I want to be. Because of this, I feel very confident in my decision to change my environment. Like I said, NY paintball is a bit too small right now with no room for upper movement and no close teams to play for.  I currently live between 4 different fields in the paintball hotbed of the south, and lots of talented players, so I’d say it was the right move to alleviate past the ceiling cap that I had reached and become complacent with in the north east.

T:  Wow…10 hour drive, where were you living to  drive that far?

Joe:  When all you want to do is play the very best, you have to move to where the best play. Anything less is an excuse I’d be able to give myself as to why I couldn’t make it.  I’m fully committed to this sport and lifestyle, and I hate excuses. I lived in Buffalo, NY. NYO mostly lived near Albany and NYC. So I had at least a 5 hour drive each way to get to them…and we rarely played there. More often I had to drive to places like Maryland, (New) Jersey and Upton to play teams like Revo, TopGun, and Upton 187 crew.  Most of these places where 7-12 hours from me…so I’d often drive 10-24 hours total every weekend, just to make the two a day (practice) required by my team.

“Try explaining to your job why you have to leave every Thursday or Friday just for the travel time for the sport that they don’t care about, and won’t be back till late Monday…”

T: Joe you’re on fire. I knew I picked the right person for this interview.

Joe:  Well thanks man. When I reread it I can’t believe some of the stuff I did every week for this silly sport, but I’m just retelling life.

T:  It’s so true but people need to understand effort and passion. They give up to easy to not live what they dream. Everyday people in general fail because they said “tomorrow”.

Joe:  That is so true. And in my eyes, I’ve always had the belief that yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not guaranteed. If you want it, you have to go for it today and do everything in your power to make it happen. Leave no room for excuses.

T: So without a doubt you moved to Florida. Now just like you I have the same intentions but got some flack for leaving to Texas. Were the people that were close you kinda pissed?

Joe:  Actually no! The good thing is I’ve done this before so it’s almost expected, and the people who are close to me, close friends, are happy about anything that’s good for me. Yeah, they are upset that they don’t get to play with me anymore but they always say they’re happy I’m going for the opportunity like so many would not, and generally proud of me.  NY has alot of people who enjoy being big fish in a small pond. Sandbagging, winning their local cash leagues over and over again and never going national, I hate that. That is being content, and limiting yourself and being ok with doing just enough work to get by at your current level, I hate that. I want to get better and climb higher every year. Just like failure, settling, coasting or complacency is not an option for me.

Beating the hell out of people you know your better then and winning the same leagues over and over just isn’t satisfying to me. I’m not in this for the easy cash, I want to be the best in the end, fulfilling your goals is more important then making money or more wins per year. Even if it takes more work, and years of struggle, I know that eventually it leads to that gratifying feeling of accomplishing the goal you set for yourself and standing out above the rest.

T:  Very well said. I’m hoping some young hopeful takes this to heart. So what is your current situation in Florida? What’s the day to day life for Joe Barrett?

Joe:  The current situation? Well I live happily in Florida now, where I wish to stay. The weather is beautiful, the people are nice and the paintball is bountiful enough to fill my craving.  The day to day life is nearly the same every day, but with different details. The past two years I’ve become hyper focused on paintball, and improving my mental and physical health to be as capable as possible for the sport. Working out, running, training, and eating right are all just as crucial as playing. Lots and lots of practice with as many different players, teams and styles as possible. And the big thing is keeping a mindset that focuses on and prioritizes this sport above most everything else.

“The secret in life is to chose one thing, and do it very well, and see how far it takes you.”

You can do many things, and be an amateur at them all. Or you can pick one at a time,  put in the amount of hours necessary to master that craft, excel to the highest exposition, and then move on to the next.  Every day, every conscious minute, I am thinking about the sport, or what I can do to improve myself for it. What does that look like in Florida? On the week days it’s quite simple. Wake up to some stretching, yoga and meditation in the sun, in front of a beautiful lake.  The peaceful quiet helps me silence my mind of distractions and any stresses on my mind in order to focus on the goal.  I’ll eat clean meals and fruit smoothies made from things at my local farmers market to keep a healthy energy level. At some point I’ll hit the gym for lifting and running and then spend the rest of my day exploring the area around me. This is the variable that let’s me mix it up and keep things new. I’ve never been one to enjoy a cycle, living the same day over and over. So I’ll try and seek out new nature walks, springs, beaches, preserves, and other scenic areas as often as possible! It’s hard to not feel happy and rejuvenated when your surrounded by some of the nicest looking nature in the states! On weekends I’ll play paintball at least 2 days. I generally always take the drive to CFP (Central Florida Paintball) and play with the Damage Camp every Sunday, and Saturdays as well during mandatory double weekends or when it’s close to an event. The camp Is so full of hungry young talent, and the fast aggressive play style is a refreshing change of pace compared to NY style of paintball or the lackadaisical, slow turning points. I play in with the pro and semi pro squads on our own field and the caliber of talent is outstanding. 25 of the best players in Florida all going as hard as they can makes for some long exhausting days. You learn something new every time and every mistake is punished. When I’m not playing, I enjoy helping the young players on d2-6 lines. This has always been my other passion, giving back and teaching players how to improve their game with friendly constructive criticism!  If there is nothing going on, I enjoy going to TNT and having a little bit more relax with big  (Mike) Paxson and my (Florida) Annihilator buddies! This gives me some different looks on layouts and maybe a few games for fun in his awesome woods scenario fields! Playing for fun is a great way to keep from burning out, and normally at the end of the day, you’re looking forward to a hard competitive grind. The balance is very nice. I’m currently with the semi pro squad, but doing everything I can to earn a spot on the pro team this season.

At this point, it’s only one more test of patience, the hard work and adapting is nothing new.”

Paintball Is vicious, and every little inch you climb is earned through consistent effort, blood, sweat and tears.

T: With all that you do does the pro team recognize your efforts or is it still one challenge each time practice comes around to show that difference from the rest?

Joe: I honestly cannot say. I hope or imagine that the difference is visible.  Skill sets are one thing. Seasons of experience are one thing. But both can be taught or made up for to mold a player with the potential. Most semi pro and pro players all have about the same skill sets by now. We’re all smart, with deadly gun skills. Most are very athletic and versatile.  What I hope matters most is that which you cannot teach, the mindset. Where I’ve generally excelled is dedication and work ethic and commitment. I do not work jobs that will make me miss practice. I call in if that’s the case. I do not miss a day of training because I’m tired or sick or not feeling it. I do not drink the night before and risk a hangover, or set less then ten alarms and sleep in. When others are eating garbage food, I don’t because I think, “Will this help me on the field?”  When others have excuses, work, parties, holidays, etc. come up, I do not…ever.  It’s about making what you want the priority and to me, paintball Is everything. It’s not just what I do on the weekends and then go back to my normal life. It’s not something I do hard during the season then take a break from. I live this sport as a lifestyle, every day. I grind every weekend, literally only missing a few for the most crucial reasons in the past 10 years.  If I’m not playing it, I’m watching it; old webcast videos online. Playing chess, thinking about it. Eating and sleeping and breathing this game because it is my passion, my purpose, my environment where I am most happy and present. It is the blood and motivation that runs through me to always Continue bettering myself as an athlete and a person and it has created a life that has taken me to more places then I can imagine and I’m so thankful for it. I owe my life to paintball, and I’ve promised to climb as high as I can, give back, help others learn to do the same, and eventually to use it as a way to spread the idea of not settling for ordinary. To live toward your true calling, that thing each or our hearts burns to do for fulfillment, rather then settle in the easy route to a safe and secure future doing what plenty of others already have.  I remember when my teachers and family used to say this sport would take me nowhere. I could only smile when I looked around in places like Bangkok at the new friends I had met and the experiences that most would never get, and this freedom to follow purpose and find happiness and adventure that I had achieved.  I may never make millions through this sport, but life is about more then money, and I could die tomorrow happy knowing that I was rich in experience and wisdom from it. I’ve lived more and seen more by 25 then every elder in my family, only just now retiring and escaping their small area of career anchored landscape to go where they wish to go. I do hope that teams see it, and value it. But I gotta say, I feel pro in every sense of the word except for the rank already. This sport has already given me so much, and it’s only just begun. I will help the right team win soon enough, and also help them change paintball. That’s a promise.

T: If Oliver Lang had to read this to his future self this would be it. I could only imagine what could be talked about in the same room. Could you say he’s one of your influences?

Joe:  Absolutely! 150%!!! I emulate with him so much from his non stop heart for the game, to the things he did to move up and reasons why.  He has had to make hard choices like leaving his own team to see what else he could be capable of doing, and proved to make another success. I’ve long thought over my own decisions and season to season moves and contemplated what he would have done and how it affected him. The man saw the game differently, with a field sense and IQ that I actively watch and try to apply to my own game. He has a style that is near impossible to replicate and is quite unorthodox compared to the typical player in a team/machine type system, but his ability to see the creativity within the jobs is unreal and worth analyzing.

I hope to some day get the chance to catch him when he has nothing but time, and discuss how to play the game more thoroughly and for a longer period of time then most would.  To pick his brain would be like picking an encyclopedia.”

Lastly, I have become very aware of a similar evolution he is going through to me. Some people have told me things like “he seems a little different now, kinda weird. Spiritual journey, etc”. I know exactly what he’s doing because I became awake to it as well. He has been to most people only the face of paintball. When they think of him that is all they picture. But he and I and you and everyone are so much more then that. Our identity is not one thing and it is a shame that people are categorized. Questions like “so what do you do” is how people think they know what type someone is.  He is so much more than this and I believe he is simply exploring and figuring out what all of that is and the best way to do this is by Traveling and culturing yourself.  Learn first hand rather then through a book or T.V. You’re only as smart as someone wants you to be if you stay stuck in your own little system and pattern. Media frames things to make you believe things are the way they are. People like him and I, and several more open minded young friends in this sport know that to be false. The difference is we don’t simply believe what we are taught. People think they know because they are taught or conditioned.  Those who travel are smart enough to know that they really don’t know anything for sure at all! And so you go out in to life and you conduct your own research and draw your own conclusions.  It’s scary to find out how different the real thing Is from what your taught!  Anyway, many don’t understand why he’d step away from “pro team dynasty, the dream!”. It’s because he’s already created and done all you can do in paintball with that. And there is so much more out there to learn and do if you don’t stay within your limitations. He is growing as a person of unlimited potential and I am proud to see another doing it. And he’s back again to teach the next young generation on his team how to do it as well, almost as a shaman, sensai, or guru of the craft of paintball and life!

T: Joe you should definitely write this on your athlete page (via Facebook) and share your thoughts more often! I know you took a lot more time out of Facebook. Go on ahead and promote your page or sponsors here!

Joe: Thanks man! I’d like to thank my friends and past teammates who’ve supported me every step of the way. The paintball community is like a family and so many of these people around the world have treated me like a brother and helped me get to where I am today. I’d also like to thank my close brothers on New York Outlaws, who put the trust into me to help me help them for two seasons before leaving. These guys have been the hungry, fierce, constant competitive young talent that drove me to continue trying to improve in every way just to not fall behind. Big thanks to them for all of the opportunity they shared with me and the best seasons of my life. I’d also like to thank my current sponsors, BK, Virtue, and Macdev for awesome performance gear. And my long time personal sponsor and supportive friends at HK Army.  Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to my own company that helps me continue this dream, L.I.F.E Expressive apparel, for keeping me comfy in any situation with the most useful pants on earth! Check us out on Facebook!

T:  I think that’s all man you went beyond and above. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with myself and others in the paintball world.

Joe: If I could send one last message…you only live this life once. Don’t end it with a “what if”. Live toward your truth and happiness, do with good intentions,  improve yourself every day, and believe in you with unwavering confidence.  With hard work and perseverance , we can become exactly who we want to be!  Play paintball, be grateful, live happy!

T: Any shout outs before we close this thoughtful interview?

Joe: I wanted to add a big thanks to Damage guys for the chance to play in the camp and learn from the best! I’ve been waiting to play with this team since they moved up from D1 and became my favorite pro team! And one last shout out to my homie Te’Shawn and paintball life!