Two young men had a vision that led to a mission—not the kind that will take them to Indonesia or Japan, although they’ll go on that kind of mission too. No, this was a vision that led them to form a force to be reckoned with and then to accomplish a feat that not even they themselves believed was possible. Tyler and Ryan Smith, 17, of the Lake Forest ward are . . . (Drumroll, please) . . .
The El Toro Dodgeball Tournament champions!!!
WE KNOW: It’s stunning, an upset of epic proportions as they faced down and defeated the biggest, scariest team in the finals.
It took brains, guts, ingenuity, giant name tags, a secret weapon, and possibly pixie dust and eye of newt, but they did the impossible. This video is the origin story of the school famous Stormin Mormons:
But it’s best if you hear it in their own words in this interview that these WORLD FAMOUS (okay, school famous) boys granted exclusively (okay, it’s not actually an exclusive) to the Santa Margarita Stake Website. (Everything sounds more official in italics).
Q: How long has this tournament been going on?
Ryan: There are 97 teams in the tournament and a huge bracket in the ASB office. The tournament lasts usually a month-and-a-half. This year was the most teams we've ever had sign up, and dodgeball at our school is one of, if not, the biggest event on campus because of how many kids are involved, and how many watch and love it.
Q: How long have you been participating in the dodge ball tournament?
Ryan: I’ve been participating in the tournament for 3 years. Sophomore year, our team was the first team to get out of the tournament (and by the way, it’s a one game elimination, if you lose once you’re out). Junior year, we started the Stormin' Mormons and have kept the name since.
Q: How have you placed in the past?
Tyler: Last year we went into the 4th round out of 7 so we made it farther than the previous year, but lost to the defending champs (and the team to win the entire tournament that year again, the Texas Bagel Bites).
Q: What made you pick the name Stormin' Mormons?
Tyler: What’s fun about dodgeball is the names that the teams pick. Most of them are really random or clever, and each team has an identity that they dress up or act like to make the dodgeball tournament competitive and fun. We picked the name the Stormin' Mormons because my friends and I thought it would be really funny and cool to dress up like Mormons and take on the persona of Mormons and Daniel thought of the name The Stormin' Mormons.
Q: What did the other students think of your team name?
Ryan: Other students thought it was really funny and cool that we took on the persona of Mormon missionaries because everyone knew Tyler and I were Mormon, but the other 4 players weren't but still dressed up like missionaries. Our team is known for having trick plays and being the "Harlem Globetrotters" of dodgeball, doing complex plays and honestly just having fun on the court, and that’s why when we actually started winning the games, everyone took it by surprise because most teams either have fun and get out, or take it extremely seriously and win, and we did both.
Q: How many of your teammates were Mormon and how many weren't?
Ryan: Tyler and I were the only Mormons on the team both years, and what’s awesome is Tyler and I are in our ASB at our school, and the other 4 that were on our team have been really cool and funny people, so when we all dressed up like missionaries, we were a team that people looked up to not only because out team was filled with friendly nice individuals, but we looked happy to be there representing the missionaries.
Q: What did your uniforms look like?
Ryan: Each team member had a black slacks or pants, a white button down shirt, tie, helmet, and an Elder name tag. Some games later in the competition we even rode bikes into the court to pump the crowd up.
Q: Why do you think your team won this year?
Tyler: "With God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) That quote pretty much sums up our season. In all seriousness though, the players we had on our team were all really good at dodgeball and even though we had fun, the plays and moves we did were all strategic. Our best player no one saw coming because last year he didn't play dodgeball, but this year, he became a superstar, the MVP of our team, Red-Hart Ramos who ended up winning the Championship game for us.
Q: Why do you think so much of the school was cheering for you guys?
Ryan: So much of the school was cheering for us because every time we got on the court, we looked like we were having fun and really happy and that’s contagious and people love that about us. Tyler and I hammed it up a lot handing out copies of The Book of Mormon, backflipping on the court to dodge balls. Once our Stormin' Mormons dodgeball video was broadcasted to the entire school over the weekly school show, "The Bull's-Eye" (which I am the host and one of the film leaders at our school) The Stormin' Mormons got a reputation around El Toro for being really funny and the team everyone rooted for. We were seen as the underdogs in this competition that were having fun, giving the crowd quite a show, and being respectful and honest every game to the other team and the refs. It’s been an ongoing trial for the refs because there are close calls where someone gets out but they say they didn't, so the refs have to make the tough call and everyone argues with them, but that is why a lot of people like us: because we were honest. During the semi-finals game between us and students from the varsity baseball and water polo team, Staten Island, it came down to Red-Hart Ramos (Stormin Mormon), myself, and Mason Waters (Staten Island). Mason threw the ball and I dove to the ground. The ball hit my leg, and it flew into the air, and it looked like my teammate Red-Hart caught the ball which would've made me still in, but Red told the refs he didn't catch the ball, so I was out. The entire crowd was stunned because the refs thought that Red had caught the call, but he admitted it hit the ground first, and then he caught it. I was called out, then the next play Red-Hart got the other player out and were won advancing to the Finals. Another case of why the school admires us is because usually the girls on the team are used as shields to guard the boys on the team, because the guys can throw harder, but our team never used the girls as shields and in the Championship, Kristen took our first throw.
Q: How did you feel when you won?
Tyler: Honestly it seemed so surreal because we had no intentions of winning from the start. Every game we would think of football plays to carry out in during the game and would be completely ridiculous, but somehow pulled away with a win. Once we started getting to the quarterfinals and semis, not only did we stick to our origins of being the Harlem Globetrotters of dodgeball, but we were also really good at dodging and throwing.
Q: Did any missionary opportunities come out of this?
Tyler: Yeah, a lot of people would ask about my actual mission call which I received during the time of our dodgeball was playing, and I would tell them my purpose as a missionary and a lot of students were really intrigued to what we were really about. In one instance, I had a friend, Luis, come up to me one day and tell me that he was really proud to call me his friend because he went home the day before and looked up what actual missionaries did and their purpose to serve and preach of Christ and how we gave up two years of our life, and he was really taken back that we would do that for our God. I’ve given out lots of copies of the Book of Mormon, and a lot of different people would come up to me and tell me they talked with the actual missionaries and would brag to their friends that they met actual missionaries. It was pretty funny, but in the back of my mind I knew this was really awesome missionary work.
Q: Whose idea was the video and who made it?
Ryan: I made the idea and the video. The video was basically part of a series I created on the weekly broadcast to the school that was a funny video about how a dodgeball team came about and the story behind it. The video was a huge hit and the school thought the video was really funny and creative, but at the same time interesting to learn about what the missionaries did. What was really cool is the missionaries texted me and told me of a couple of experiences where kids from our school talked to them about being interested in our church and I think it was because of the video showing them about the missionaries and reminding them of the happiness and joy the missionaries had.
Q: What was the best part of the Stormin Mormon Dodgeball experience?
Ryan: The best part was doing missionary work without actually proselyting, just being an example to others.
These young men are preparing to serve missions in August. Ryan will be in the Japan Tokyo South mission, and Tyler will be in the Jakarta, Indonesia mission, but both of them have a huge head start on sharing the gospel with joy. Congratulations to the Smith twins for their missionary work and they championship title!