What is the purpose of LXM PRO? What are the goals? Who’s behind it? Why should we care? These were the simple questions I was hoping to get answers to when I sat down to speak with LXM PRO founders Scott Hochstadt and Xander Ritz on Sunday afternoon.
Ultimately I got those answers and much more. Chatting via Skype can be a battle in terms of getting to know the person on the other end, but they made an interviewer’s job easy. Hochstadt and Ritz were quick to get comfortable and openly share their vision for the event. Maybe that was because I told Hochstadt I attended a camp he coached at in Salt Lake City when I was in high school, but more on that later – Let’s get to the answers:
LAS: First of all, can you guys tell us more about LXM PRO and what you’re trying to do?
Hochstadt: Well, we’ve been working at this for months now. I’ve helped grow the game out West for a number of years, and I’ve also been getting involved more with mainstream sports and entertainment through TV, commercials and a couple different movies. We lost some pro teams in the California area with the MLL teams dropping, and we wanted to try to come up with a way to keep the sport alive and keep it growing. We wanted to do it at the pro level to give kids and younger players something to look up to and keep them excited.
So we created this new model, similar to the X-Games model, to re-brand the pro sport and players and do something new with it. We’re mixing the music and celebrity aspects and taking this on a national tour. Before the X-Games, the Tony Hawks and Shawn Whites really didn’t have a platform or venue to showcase themselves and the X-Games came along and took these extreme sports to the next level, and we’re looking to do that with our sport.
We’re launching in Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Austin, Texas; and Portland, Oregon just to name a few. This is strictly a spring and fall thing and we’re not trying to interfere by going into a city where there’s already an MLL or NLL team right now. We’re going into cities where this is going to be a must-see event – where they don’t normally get to see lacrosse games played. Lacrosse is growing like crazy in these cities, but they don’t necessarily have big D1 lacrosse teams to see play either.
The rundown of our day is a college game, a pro game and a concert. And throughout the day we have all kinds of local bands playing leading up to our headliner band at the end of the night. It’s an all day festival and we’re showcasing legitimate professional lacrosse with some of the best players in the world. It gives these guys an opportunity to do something fun in the off-season and something to train for; almost like a triathlete trains for one event. He works hard getting ready for it and gets a chance to showcase his skills in front of a new crowd. This is a player’s event. It’s all about giving these guys the opportunity to have fun and showcase their talent just like the X-Games guys get to at their events.
Who are the guys behind LXM PRO other than the two of you?
Hochstadt: We actually have quite a few people involved in the project. The founders of MySpace are good friends of mine and they’re helping with a lot of the online marketing. My brother is a former marketing manager for Fox and Lionsgate Films and he’s helping with the marketing side as well. We’re also working with the guys from Sports Studio, which is owned by Happy Madison, to help with some of our production and sports casting.
Are you guys working on this full-time?
Hochstadt: Yeah, pretty much. We work with the West Coast Starz, getting kids ready to go back East to recruiting venues twice a year, and we spend a lot of time on that. But right now this is something that we’ve really put all our effort into. We think this is something that needs to be done, so we’re dedicating all of our time to it.
What’s it going to take for you guys to consider Saturday’s event a success?
Hochstadt: Well, we’re obviously launching something for the first time and we have a lot of great things going on throughout the day. We’re just looking to execute every little thing properly, get some great footage for it and have a quality event. After this, we’re taking it national. As far as attendance goes, if we get 4-8K we’ll be excited and we’ll feel like our goal to grow the game is happening. We’ll turn some of these music and entertainment fans into lacrosse fans, so when it comes back next year to Southern California, people are going to know about it and they’re going to be excited about it.
Right now do you think your biggest draw for the event is the music talent, as opposed to lacrosse?
Ritz: Ideally lacrosse is the number one draw and the music is ancillary. But it’s no secret that the reason we want to have music involved is to create new fans and create national exposure for the event and the sport. You throw the word “lacrosse” in with bands like 3OH!3 and Drake and it’s showing up all over music websites and there are people who haven’t ever heard of the sport before reading about lacrosse and hearing about the press LXM is getting.
Traditionally lacrosse has never hit those media outlets, so that’s a big part of it. Our long-term goal is obviously that lacrosse is carrying the events and music. But music is still a big part of sports and it always will be. There’s a reason there’s always a halftime performance at the Super Bowl and there’s a reason DJ’s are always spinning at the X-Games. It’s a big part of what fans are all about.
Cool, so you’ve got the pro game, but there’s also going to be a college game between Chapman and UCSB. What has your experience been like with the MCLA in Southern Cal?
Hochstadt: We’re big fans of the MCLA. We actually have a number of kids in our Starz program that can play Division 1 lacrosse or big-time D3, but a lot of them are going back East and seeing that it’s a different lifestyle. So they’re going to the ASU’s now, the Chapman’s and the UCSB’s, and they’re playing great lacrosse. The game is growing out here and the players are getting better, and we’re able to see that level of play explode.
On that note, what do you guys see as the differences between East Coast and West Coast lacrosse right now?
Ritz: For us East Coast kids growing up, we had our four sports – football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse. It was one of the four. If you were playing lacrosse you weren’t one of the only kids at your school playing. Everybody did it and it was just like any other sport. Out here in the West it’s a little more of that “surf culture.” We have a lot of So Cal kids who go surfing at 6am and then go to lacrosse practice at 8 on a Saturday. It’s just a little bit of a different approach, but it’s still the same game. I think people lose sight of the fact that it’s still the stick, the ball, the goal. People back East might think the West Coast guys wear weird socks or they do something funky, but at the end of the day it’s still the same exact game. And in terms of LXM, we’re not changing anything just because there’s a little music involved.
Hochstadt: And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get across to kids and fans with the LXM PRO events – that lacrosse is cool, it’s growing, and we’re trying to take it mainstream.
As you could probably tell from their answers, Hochstadt and Ritz are both extremely passionate about what they’re doing. They believe in it and they seem to be fitting the right pieces of the puzzle together. As former Maryland Terp All-Americans, you can’t be that surprised. These guys know what hard work and dedication are all about, and they’re going at this project with that same mentality they took into games as college and pro players. They’re playing to win. Now, about that camp I went to…
While I told Hochstadt about the great experience I had at his camp as a sophomore in high school, what I didn’t share with him prior to reeling off those interview questions was that at the camp, he changed my perception of the game forever. At one point, as the camp was wrapping up, he called in all the campers and explained the importance of trying to be the best you can possibly be. To end the conversation he led a cheer consisting of those three important words, “be the best.” I’ll never forget that because, being from Idaho, it was the first time I’d ever been in the presence of such a talented lacrosse player. The Hochstadt poster on my wall at home was suddenly humanized, and my appreciation for the game grew stronger.
Those three words stuck with me, and they stuck with my best friend Rob, too. Rob played every game of his high school and collegiate lacrosse career (which led him to Utah and Mt. St. Mary’s in Maryland) with a sweat band on. Written on it with Sharpie were the words “be the best.”
I guess that’s why it doesn’t really surprise me that Hochstadt is taking the growth of the game into his own hands now. Putting together a solid team, devoting all his time and aiming to score his first goal by executing flawlessly are all things he has done as a top-level lacrosse player and things he’s doing to make his vision of LXM PRO a reality. And, by no coincidence, those are all things you’ve got to do if you want to be the best.
After my conversation with Hochstadt and Ritz, it seems to me that LXM is truly onto something. The format, the content, and the people involved all seems fluid and comfortable. There’s a cool, confident vibe around this event, and it’s refreshing to see all the marketing being done to drive fan power to the lacrosse world. These guys know what they’re doing and I’m excited to watch this thing grow.
If you’re in Southern Cal this weekend (Saturday, 11/21), you can be a part of it by purchasing tickets at LXMPRO.com. You can also follow LXM on Twitter for frequent updates and become a fan on Facebook.