Gear Interviews

Fireside Chat With Rob Littell Of Tribe 7 Lacrosse

fireside_chat

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!
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What was the inspiration/reasoning for starting Tribe 7 Lacrosse?

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?

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?

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!

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.

Is that not awesome?

Not only are the heads unique, but so are some of the stringing jobs. How did you come up with those?

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?

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?

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!

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11 Comments

  • Love the philosophy, but MAN that head is just so weird. . . might try one out and put some mesh on it myself. Not sure if I’d want to go all the way with the head AND string job.

  • That’s a really cool story behind the naming of the company. Rob’s passion for the game is infectious. I would be interested to try a head out. My question would be since they are able to keep costs down by staying out of retail, where can the consumer (me and my friends) look at some of these heads in person to see what they are really like. Rob – will you have a tent at the final 4 or anything like that?
    Thanks for the great interview Muamer and Rob. Can’t wait to see the ghost gloves, they sound cool. The zebra design is awesome and would look really cool on gloves

  • The gear is legit. I’ve ordered a bunch of heads and shafts to Poland, and they’re serving us rather well. Some people need adjusting to the new scoop design, but it checks out. But Rob, why won’t you return my emails anymore? It’s been half a year, I miss you :) I can’t wait to get my hands on another gold scandium pole, come on :)

  • the guy is really cool, and to answer Empower The Athlete, i saw him at the day of rivals in baltimore about a year ago, he had a tent set up with a lot of shafts and heads, he sold me one of the heads and a peice of mesh for either $15 or $20, doesnt get much better than that. the guy is a class act and i love the mission of the company.
    I havent had much time to play with the head i bought, and received a lot of flak from teammates about how wierd it looks etc. I will say that with normal, 10d mesh it is very hard to string, but it works just fine after a lot of trial and error. the head itself seemed to be of the exact same quality and durability as any other head i have used (basically every warrior, brine and stx head)
    cool guy, always looking to help out people, and i will vouch for that any day

  • Rob’s a cool guy and the products are legit.
    You will get razed a lot about the way the head looks, but they work. They’re tough as nails too. Hurts like a bitch when somebody slashes you with one on your calf.

  • Beware-Tribe 7 is the WORST internet company I have ever dealt with. In April 2011 after  6 weeks  I had not received the four heads and tee shirt I had ordered.  Upon calling Rob, he assured me he would take care of me. He said the heads were on their way, and he would make up for the trouble.  He sent two heads, not the ones I ordered, and a hoodie.  All Summer Rob made excuses, blaming everyone from his “shipping guy” to Dow Chemical.  Rob went as far to write “Your son will be able to open his own Tribe 7 store with all I am going to send him”…..In October, Rob again assured me my items were on the way.  In November, he promised shipping in two weeks.  I made the mistake of telling my son.  He thought he would be getting them for Christmas.  They never arrived.  On Christmas I sent Rob an email asking about them.  He made some comment about the “12 Day of Christmas” theory.  When I responded in a negative way, he accused me on making a sacrilege of a holy day, and said he would pray for me.  It is now NINE MONTHS  after my order, and yes Rob did send two heads and a shaft, but I NEVER received my order.  He has never taken ownership of the mistakes he made.  I asked time and time again for the items I ordered, or my money back and Rob refused to do either.  
    Buyer beware! I hate I spent a dime at Tribe 7 Lacrosse!  I had heard great things about this little company, and my experience was a nightmare.

  • So sorry to read 4luckygs comments below.  I realize not every company is perfect, but am sorry they had such a bad experience.  We also had a problem with receiving our first order from Tribe7 a year ago, but Rob was very gracious when I contacted them about the error, and I feel the correction was made within a reasonable amount of time.   My son was disappointed as he had Travel Team tryouts approaching and had wanted to get used to the feel of the new stick.  Rob seemed more interested in making sure he had the equipment rather than the “sale”…he advised he would let us keep the wrong one (PS-It was only the color of the head that was incorrect)  so within a half hour, he was in the basement hitting the wall.  Within a few weeks, he sent my son the correct one.   The first game with his new stick he scored a hat-trick.  (And at Travel Team tryouts, his stick created quite a buzz)  He is hooked on Tribe7 and I love the philosophy behind the company.  We are ordering the Ghost 7 this week.   

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