Gun Fu #10 – Heart

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

– Mark Twain.

Wading into something like the unknown can be daunting, scary… most are hesitant.  Some are warriors and welcome the challenge.  There is no right or wrong approach, as long as you begin.

I’m a firm believer in heart.  I love watching those players who get on the grind, get smashed, get up and do it again, get smashed… and do it again and again.  They don’t lose, they learn! That takes heart and if the player has the right amount of it, you’ll never beat them.  You may win… but you won’t beat them.  Heart is unbreakable.

I am drawn to people of that nature and this Gun Fu article is certainly one of those people.

His real name is Jerardo…

“I go by Jerry but my mom started calling me that so it stuck and was easier for people to pronounce.”

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The author and Jerry at the range

Jerry Caro is entering his 5th season of professional paintball.  He started his pro paintball career with the Los Angeles Ironmen, jumped over to PC Katana last year, and is currently rostered with Los Angeles Infamous.”  And he just turned 25 years old.

“My Birthday was a few weeks ago on March 17th, not a bad day for a birthday since it falls on St. Patrick’s Day. “

Said with an Irish grin no doubt.

“I first got into playing paintball with one of my childhood best friends Eli. We did everything together from Pokémon cards to riding bikes just to name a few. But what sparked the idea of paintball was BB guns. We got tired of just shooting cans, so we both thought it would be awesome to be able to shoot at each other with Paintball guns instead! That was just the beginning… not knowing what would happen next. We went to the nearest Walmart and each bought a Spyder Imagine, went back to his house where he had acres of land to run around on, and shoot at each other; it was perfect.”

He became instantly hooked.  Jerry and his friend Eli would then go on to look up the closest paintball field. The very next weekend they ended up at USPN (United States Paintball Nation) in Hollister, CA (About 50 miles south of San Jose).

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“There was a team called Inflict that was there getting ready for a tournament they called the World Cup we knew nothing about…” he says with a laugh.  That’s where he met future Royalty/Ironmen teammates Al Fernandez (currently on the Ironmen), Danny Ibarra, Toke Hamil, and Jason Vitalich.

“They were all guys I looked up to and wanted to play like.  They all were kind enough to teach me how to play the game.”

Jerry is a lot like many of us.  His love of the game is obvious and he happily explains it.

“I love so many things about paintball; one being that it’s constantly challenging. It drives me to become a better person/player/friend/teammate.  Paintball gives me life; it’s an escape for me. Nothing beats the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the lessons I’ve learned from this sport I’m so passionate about.”

Hey but it isn’t all fun and games.

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Fun and games – Left to right: Sean, Zen, Timmy (Katana), Jerry, and Jason

“Sometimes politics get in the way and can cause it to lose some of the fun at times but I try to ignore that whenever that kind of stuff happens.”

But it wasn’t always about paintball.  No, our hero was quite the football player for a time, even playing in college!

“I’ve played Football from the age of 7 all the way up until college. I was able to somewhat balance the two and make it work between Football and Paintball most of the time. I took a few years off from Paintball to focus on school and football. Being in shape for football and then transitioning back into paintball wasn’t what I remembered. I felt stronger/faster but I just had to get used to the agility movements again.

Okay, so we know how it started and why.  But what about becoming a professional in the sport?  How did that happen?  Was that the plan all along or did it just kind of happen?

“My paintball journey to the professional ranks was something I never had in my head and it wasn’t really a goal of mine. I just love to compete and be the best I can possibly be. Every time I went out to play, I wanted to get better and learn something new. I would work on my weaknesses from snap shooting left handed to running and shooting left handed until my left side felt just as comfortable as my right. It didn’t matter if I went to the field without paint or even a gun…”

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*Author’s note – pay close attention to this next part – remember we were talking about Heart?

“… I would literally play pretend with a paintball squeegee. I would ask the Ref if I could play (without a gun) and I didn’t care if I got shot.  The goal was to get as close to the opponents and make them surrender.  I had to figure out ways to be sneaky and communicate since I couldn’t shoot back.”

WHAAAT?!!!  Awesome…

And the motivation?  Where did it come from?

“I would work at my local paintball field and Ref all day Saturday to be able to play on Sundays. I remember playing a 7-man tournament and I only got to play a few points.  I was sat a lot and not being able to help lit a fire in my heart and since that day I played as much paintball as I possibly could so that wouldn’t happen to me again. After that, my game started to improve.  I had always heard from my teammates or friends “Dude you’re going to go pro someday.” I wouldn’t even think anything of it.  I’d just continue to play the game I love.”

So how did it eventually happen?

“That day of becoming pro was starting to pop up in my head when the Ironmen and Royalty merged into one team. The Men would practice at Santa Clara paintball, my local field in San Jose, California. I was on Royalty division 3 at the time and we got to play the Ironmen a couple times and I knew we had to bring it to them.  We weren’t just going to let them smack us around because they’re Pros. Shane Pestana was the coach of the Ironmen at the time.  I honestly didn’t really know much about him because I was so in tune with focusing on my game.  I guess he started to notice and saw something in me that he liked…”

What do you think he noticed?

“I don’t know what it was, you’d have to ask him yourself!” he says laughing.

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Jerry mentions a moment from the 2014 World Cup that he recalls vividly.  The Ironmen had just lost to Tampa Bay Damage in the semi-finals.  Jerry had been in the pits during the match.

“I remember the looks in all the guys faces after the loss. So many emotions from tears, frustration, and their heads down. I could tell how disappointed they were. I went up to Shane gave him a hug and he told me “Be ready next year kid”.  Words I wasn’t expecting!

And that started the fire.

“I’ll tell you what, I was ready that moment! Little did I really know what he meant but I felt like I was ready.”

That next year during the off season, Jerry got an invite to come out to Camp Pendleton in order to practice with the Ironmen. He was anxious the entire car ride down to San Diego (9 hour drive) and didn’t know what to expect.

“That all went away once we were on the field playing paintball. I thought I had a decent weekend of practice. They ended up losing a guy by the name of Steven Pits. I think he injured himself going into the Dallas event.  Shane calls me two nights before the event, “Hey kid, so here’s the deal.  We need a guy but I need to know now if your able to go”.

And with that, Jerry donned the shield.  Shane put it in perspective for Jerry that very night on the phone when he told Jerry, “Don’t thank me… it only gets tougher from here on out!”

“It was a blessing and something I will cherish till the day I die.”

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Jerry and his lovely sister… and some guy.

Jerry is one of the most humble guys I know and incredibly self aware.  He pushes himself all the time.  He wants to do well in ALL things, not just paintball.  Interestingly enough, he encourages everyone else too.  He genuinely wants everyone to do well, be happy, and live a good life.  He’s accountable, almost to a fault.  He’s powerful that way, at least in my mind.

I asked him, like I do all the Gun Fu professors, what is the best advice you have received for your paintball life?

“The best advice I’ve received was – have fun, enjoy it and play the way you know how to play. It wasn’t so simple for me, Paintball is a mental game and I would put too much pressure on myself and that wouldn’t help me to a certain extent. I notice when I just play the game the way I know how to play and have fun, my mind felt clearer. I clear my head of anything negative,  any doubts I have I will think as if I am back home at my local field playing and having fun.  No pressure. That mindset helps me focus on the task at hand. That doesn’t mean don’t work hard… it means work smarter. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to the point where you’re just beating yourself up. For the longest time, in my professional career, I would put too much pressure on myself. I would worry about getting shot, making a mistake, being overly aggressive or not aggressive enough. I would hesitate and start second guessing myself… That hurt me and my play time. Recently, I started to take a different approach. I now think back to why I started and everything I have done to be in the position I’m in today, realizing I’m doing what I love at the highest level.  Now I just need to apply everything I’ve worked for and learned along the way and play the game the way I know how to play.”

Honesty and humility… awesome.  This is why I love this guy.

So what drill does Jerry love to do?

“There isn’t a drill I don’t like doing if it’s going to benefit me and my game.  If it does, then it’s going to benefit my team. It’s important to have a goal going into any practice and life in general for that matter.”

See what I’m talking about?  But I digress… come on, give us one.

“My favorite drill would probably be 2v2.”

Really?  Why?

“It’s a great drill because you pick a buddy and it’s you and him against two other guys and you have to communicate. Once you shoot one, you immediately have the advantage. You let your teammate know ‘hey he’s on me’ so he can make a move and close it out. I also like the fact that, if you end up being the 1, you have to keep your head on a swivel.  It’s challenging but rewarding if you figure out a way to beat them.”

Let’s give them what they want.  Let’s talk about the Skeleton crew… You’re new team Infamous.  How is that going?

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“Joining Infamous I didn’t know what to expect honestly.  But change is usually good for the most part. I knew some of those guys have been playing for a while and I felt like I could learn something from them and them from me. I’m really confident that this team has what it takes to win and be a top level team. I love how many people doubt us.  I’m really looking forward to how the season goes and I know we will progress every time we play together.”

Let’s get the ‘infamous’ Thomas Taylor head shot moment out of the way (see what I did there?)  What was going through your head at that moment (besides a couple of .68 caliber Tylenol gel caps)?

Laughing “Man… let me tell you, my lights went out for a second or two!  I took a jump shot over the fifty snake.  I knew I was able to shoot the snake side can from that side of the field since it was higher. Everyone on the team knew we had to score big so everyone knew we needed to put points up on the board. There was one guy left.  It was Scott Coleson, my former teammate and great friend of mine at this point.  We all smelled blood in the water and wanted to get the last guy but I was the one who got the worst of it getting shot by Thomas! We have practice coming up so who knows maybe I’ll get some payback… just kidding” he chuckled.

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Jerry getting the best of his new teammate Thomas Taylor last year…

Any final comments?

“Shout out to all the people who have helped me get to where I am. I couldn’t have done it alone that’s for sure. And to my mom and family for always supporting me. Much love!”

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