For our latest Fireside Chat Interview Series, Mumar Razic spoke with Rob Littel of Tribe 7 Lacrosse. Rob is known throughout the lacrosse community as the producer of some of the wackiest lacrosse videos of all time, but beneath that exterior, he’s passionate lax addict who firmly believes in what he’s doing. Connor Wilson has met Rob once or twice and can certainly vouch for his passion and love of the game!
What was the inspiration/reasoning for starting Tribe 7 Lacrosse?
Rob Littell: A bunch of coaches in NYC had been donating equipment to the NYC school system for a couple of years… until we noticed that we were paying too much, and getting too little in return. We’d been telling kids that good sticks cost $30, like ours did back in the day. The sticks hadn’t changed much, but the prices sure had! Lax gear pricing looked to be spiraling out of control, and we knew this was not good for our game. Lax is not polo. And therefore should not be priced like polo.
So we started Tribe7, and dedicated it to serving the lacrosse community that we’ve benefited, tremendously, from. Instead of donating equipment, we decided that we were going to make the best stuff available, and sell it for a fair price. For the love of the game. Our job is to listen to what the community wants and needs, and then provide for those wants and needs. We think of ourselves as “stewards” of the community’s equipment needs. We like to say that ‘Tribe7 is You.’ You own it, we run it. Sure, it’s a business, but we’re using the ‘Do the Right Thing’ Model.
Tribe 7 Lacrosse heads are MUCH cheaper than the competition! But it’s not just the heads. By that I mean, you can get a Head with a 7075 Tribe 7 shaft for only $65. That’s cheaper than a lot of the lacrosse heads on the market, so how and why is that?
Rob Littell: The $65.00 price is intended to allow any player, anywhere, to purchase the best stick on planet Earth for a fair price. Sure, a fella can pay upwards of $250.00 for a stick, but it will not have the competitive advantages that ours has. We like that math, which is made possible because we’ve rationalized the supply and distribution chain. We are well-financed, utilize economies of scale, and we’re an online company, so we have lower costs than a Bricks and Mortar company (aka a retail seller). There’s a huge mark up between wholesale and retail. We decided to stick with the online model, and that keeps the prices were they are.
What is Tribe 7 doing to help Grow the Game? And of course, grow the company?
Rob Littell: One of our primary missions is to help Grow the Game by lowering the barrier to entry to the game (price wise), but not with a lower end product. Nope. Only the best. The best gear, at a fair price. There are no second class citizens at Tribe7. Everybody gets the best. This is because, when we were donating gear, we determined that we were spending a lot of money, but donating low-end gear. This made us feel poorly. So we decided that we’d only sell the best. Which makes us feel good.
Lacrosse is growing like a weed, surely, but it’s still a community, and one that we have been a part of for 38 years now. We like that Tribe7 is a lacrosse only company. We are owned by lacrosse players. We are not part of a conglomerate or private equity fund whose shareholders wouldn’t know a lacrosse stick from a broom stick. We are not engaged in global branding, and we will not be sponsoring ‘stars’ in order to intrigue kids into buying our product.
The players who carry our sticks are our Stars. We like to say that “we pay no man (or school) to carry our sticks.” Because we believe that each player is his own hero, no matter where, or at what level, they play. That’s the Tribe 7 All-Star. We’re not too big on hero worship as it is. Tribe7 is more about the rugged American individual. We believe in you. There is some merit in wanting to ‘Be like Mike,’ surely, but we’re focused on you being like you. Maximum you!
The question on everyone’s mind has to be, how did you come up with the design to make the head? Why is it the way it is? It’s definitely very different!
Rob Littell: Well, after determining that stick technology hadn’t really come that far in, say, the last 500 years, we sat down with a group of engineers from Brown University, where I played, and talked about what a head REALLY does. We essentially forgot about sports and drilled into performance issues from an engineering perspective. We broke it down using physics, and then incorporated it into lacrosse. In sum, the engineers convinced us that the ground was indeed flat, and that balls are round. So we flattened and widened the scoop, increasing the angle of attack radically, and made the scoop edge round, allowing for a gear effect (traction) that serves to spin the ball into the pocket with some pop.
Not only are the heads unique, but so are some of the stringing jobs. How did you come up with those?
Rob Littell: I like to call it brute mental force; because it involved making mistake after mistake after mistake. Failing, and then drinking a Red Bull, and forging on. Driven by a crazed competitive desire to get to the Promised Land of pockets. A High Pocket with Maximum Depth and Hold, with No Whip. The bottom line is that our pockets free a player up to do more with his or her body. You don’t have to worry about the ball. Think it, do it. No worries.
Are you guys planning on producing any more lacrosse gear other thanheads and shafts?
Rob Littell: Our gloves are being made right now. They’re called the Ghost 7s; the name’s idea being that you barely notice you’re wearing gloves. We spent a lot of time on the gloves to offer competitive advantages regarding flexibility and fingertip tactility, looking for that ‘palmless feel’ that we had in college, when we’d cut our palms out, using 3 pieces of tape to keep the glove on (thumb, index, pinkie finger tape…). With our mesh fingertips (the fingertips being where the action is), you can feel the shaft better.
We’ve also got our first arm guards in production, also part of the Ghost 7 protection line. This is a case where we listened closely to the community, and we heard a lot of complaints about arm pads “absorbing the blow” and not “deflecting it.” So we studied reflexive armor on things like, oddly, M1 Abrams battle tanks, and designed a flexible arm pad that will offer competitive advantages by way of deflecting, and therein making ineffectual, checks. (as opposed to absorbing the check with your pad and then arm bone, thus being in too much pain to go after the dropped ball.)
You guys use the number 7 a lot; care to explain?
Rob Littell: The story behind the name is that in 1719 there were 5 lacrosse playing Iroquois Tribes: The Five Nations. In 1720 they added the 6th Tribe, becoming the Six Nations. In 2010 we expanded that. “Tribe 7” is the Universal Tribe. It is all of us. The Tribe we call 7 is all of us. The Lax Community, rising!