Hot Pot: Explaining The Lax Bro Phenomenon


IL Gear, a site primarily dedicated to promoting lacrosse gear, posted an article yesterday titled “The Lax Bro Culture is Holding Back Lacrosse.” The article’s gist is that a small percentage of the lacrosse population, aka the Lax Bro, is giving the sport a bad name, and keeping potential players from getting involved. It is argued that this bad name, in turn, is holding back the sport’s overall growth.

The Lax Bro is described in the article linked to above thusly:

We didn’t know the [lacrosse] players specifically, or if they were good, but things stood out. “Bro check out my sweet spoon; let’s go rip some twine” is the gist of every conversation I heard from lacrosse players.

I might have heard more if I hadn’t been so distracted by their flamboyant hair topped with flat-brim hats and stupid, obnoxious shorts. These observations had other athletes doubting the sport took any sort of skill or discipline because the kids who played acted like these clowns.

The author goes on to say that he did end up picking up the sport of lacrosse (because of a friend), and that he realized that not all lacrosse players are the same. He is now going on to play in college. It turned out that many players actually took it seriously, and some treated it as seriously as the author and his other friends had treated football. Lesson learned, right? If lacrosse would only ditch the silly lingo, bright shorts, and long hair, people would flock to play it!

Honestly, I don’t think it is as simple as that.

First off, in many new growth areas the Lax Bro is a non-issue. It might be rampant in Florida, where the author is from, but if you go out to Montana you don’t see kids talking about spoons and swag. You do see kids working their tails off and playing hard-nosed lacrosse. And yet, there is still resistance to the sport’s growth from the established sporting community in Montana, including football. But where is the supposed Lax Bro villain in this case?

How can people resist lacrosse when the LB is nowhere to be seen? The same exact thing can be said in Eastern Oregon, the suburbs of Prague, Uganda, Jamaica, Boise, or where I coach in East Brooklyn. There is some resistance to lacrosse growth in ALL of these places, but none are plagued by the dreaded “Lax Bro.”

What is really going on here?

Sports in the US, and often times abroad, require time to take root. As a sport grows, outside groups resist being pulled in for one reason or another, and they find things to hate about the new sport. I remember skiers complaining that snowboards were “too loud” and that they “scraped all the snow off the mountain” when snowboarding first took off. I remember soccer being described as a sport for wimps by football coaches when I was in middle and high school. When we first brought up lacrosse at my high school, the AD’s reaction was “but what will happen to the track and baseball teams?”

Did snowboarding start to require mufflers? No. Did soccer change to be a more physical game? No. Did lacrosse shrink its roster down to 5 total players so other sports wouldn’t be impacted? No. So why do we need to cut the Lax Bro aspect out of the game completely? I’m not a fan of the addiction to swag or silly lingo (ok, sometimes I say spoon. It’s funny), but is it really all that harmful? Or is it possible that we are engaging in some serious scapegoating here?

In general, people fear change. Just watch Wayne’s World, and you’ll see this is true. And lacrosse is changing and growing. This means people outside of the sport are scared of it, because they don’t understand it, or think they can love it. Football players will identify lacrosse players as “Lax Bros” until they open up their minds and try it for themselves. If they weren’t being derided as “lax bros,” it would be something else I’m sure. I’m not going to tell you what the football players at my high school called the soccer players. But it was worse… much worse.

There will be problems with lacrosse moving forward. Mainstream sports outlets will continue to show the sport using fringe stories, and many of those will be negative. It happened to soccer, snowboarding, X-Games, MMA… and any other “new” sport trying to crash its way into the mainstream. But the answer to this was never to identify segments of the existing community and shame them into thinking it was somehow their fault.

The only way you can take your sport to the next level is to keep pushing boundaries, and to keep improving. As the quality of play and playing public both improve and increase, the sport will continue to grow. The Lax Bro described above will fade to fandom, and the kid you’re hating on now will be the guy watching Major League Lacrosse, and going to your college games… as a spectator, cheering you on.

All we can do is focus on ourselves. We really can’t try to tell other people how to cut their hair, what shorts to wear, or how to talk about their sticks. We can engage in community service, coach the next generation of kids, and get involved in a positive way. Lacrosse’s success does not depend on cutting off the less attractive elements of the game. It depends on good people actively spreading the game the right way and making the sport better. As it grows, the Lax Bro phenomenon will fade to background noise, so to focus on it now as the driving hindrance to the sport’s growth is unfair.

If you want to take a stand with what is wrong with lacrosse, I will applaud you. I tip my hat to the author of the IL Gear post for coming out and saying his piece. But I honestly think he’s shooting too low, looking at this using a short-term approach, and dividing a small community. Instead of blaming the Lax Bro, be a Lacrosse Man and #GrowTheGame yourself in a positive way!


  1. These were pretty much my exact thoughts when I read the article on IL Gear… I’m no fan of the bro culture, but the author also ignores that fact that all the chatter about bros actually does grow the sport. It might not be growing it among “traditional athletes” but it does create more players out there and all humans are athletes. Since lacrosse doesn’t require you to be the biggest, or the strongest, or the fastest to be effective, what is the harm really? It seems like this guy wants a team full of bears, when you need some squirrels, beavers, and foxes out there too. The game is for everyone, not just guys who want to play at the D1 (or D3) level. If you play your best and with a full heart when you are on the field, you are honoring the game, period.

  2. Well written article. I think you were right on when you said people fear new things. This is no different from that grumpy old guy’s story that begin “Back in my day didn’t (insert new scary thing here). That’s why we were better than you young whipper snappers”. This type of mindset is dangerous because it stunts societies growth and prohibits progress. It is also prejudice, short sighted, and ignorant.

    Additionally, lacrosse should be fun. Many of us are serious too often (whether in school, at work, etc) and use lacrosse as an outlet. If you have more fun by referring to your stick as a twig/spoon, calling shooting practice ‘ripping twine’ all while wearing goofy shorts, than so be it. As long as all of that doesn’t come at the expense of responsibility and philanthropy.

  3. This article and the one posted on ILGear fail to address the true Lax Bro issue. While this article does a better job addressing the issue, it fails to completely highlight why the Lax Bro culture is bad for the sport. The reason the Lax Bro culture is bad for the sport and poor for growing the game is because while yes, it does bring attention to our sport, it brings negative attention which detracts from our sport becoming a mainstream sport. Negative attention spreads further than positive attention, no matter the venue. We see this daily in the news, on the television, in the papers or on the internet. In the retail marketplace, one bad example of customer service travels ten fold compared to a positive experience. It is this reason that retail stores will bend over backwards for their customers, such that they do not receive this negative attention and word of mouth.

    Look at some of the major lacrosse news stories in the past ten years. You’ll see things like the Duke Lacrosse scandal, the George Huguely murder, and more recently the Cornell hazing incident, all of which bring negative attention to our sport. Is this really the attention we want to draw to our sport? While ultimately the gentlemen in the Duke case were exonerated, it still brought nationwide negative attention to our sport which was definitely not needed nor will it help grow our sport. How does this all tie in with the Lax Bro phenomenon? Simply put, those Lax Bros represent a small fraction of our sport but their image and their exploits travel further, much like the retail example I posted above. The stereotypical image of the Lax Bro is that of long hair, “goofy” attire and a carefree but self-centered attitude. I’m not saying that everyone that has these traits is a Lax Bro, but these traits are what is most associated with the sport of lacrosse. Look at the Charley Gargano of Marquette arrest or the Zach Burgess arrest of Auburn, both of which were covered by national media news outlets such as Fox, CNN, Deadspin, ABC, etc and see how the media portrayed these gentlemen. These incidents reached more people than those that involve the hard-working, blue collar, student athlete which our sport should embody. More people read these detrimental articles to our sport than articles which show lacrosse in a positive light, such as the Headstrong Foundation. I didn’t see anything on any of the major news outlets about the charitable efforts of the Headstrong Foundation but I did see articles about Charley Gargano and Zach Burgess.

    Do you want these people really associated with our sport? Do you really want the negative attention that the Lax Bro garners associated with our sport?

    I most certainly don’t and our game has no place for the Lax Bro phenomenon.

  4. I understood the point of the IL article to be that the lax bro was simply holding the sport back in the sense of growth and image, not so much that if we lost it people would flock to play.

    I think the problem with bros isn’t so much the attire as it is the attitude. The bro culture is known for two things in my mind, a lackadaisical approach to everything and the gaudy apparel that comes with it. While I think the Flow Society gear should be collected and burned, that’s not for me to decide and in the end is just one aspect of it. I don’t think it’s so much about change as it is just a bad image. This is just one man’s opinion, but uniformity is a beautiful thing when it comes to trying to build a team mindset as a coach. You coach to have players stand out by their great play, not their bright colors.

    At the end of the day, both articles are solid reads on the whole lax bro phenomena (at least I hope that’s all it remains). In today’s age, the majority of people still unfortunately judge things on how they are perceived, even if that isn’t actually the case. If kids are aware of how douchey they look when they are acting like a lax bro, then the problem should fix itself pretty quickly.

  5. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with lax bros. In eight grade my team was the one with every starter wearing Flow Society shorts and playing Con Bro Chill before the game, and we won every single game and everyone on that team took the sport seriously and still does (I am from Florida so I guess we have the whole lax bro stereotype going, and proud). We considered ourselves lax bros, and it brought us together as a team, and we stood out for our good play AND our bright colors. So what if we called the referee our ‘bro’ or if we referred to equipment as ‘twine’ and ‘spoons’? Because at the end of the day a lax bro is just a regular bro if he can’t lax, so if he has a lazy attitude than he most likely shouldn’t be considered a lax bro because you have to lax everyday to keep your skills sharp, and that is not easy for someone who is lazy. If you look bad on the field, no one is going to take you seriously, not even the most obnoxious of lax bros. On top of that, you can’t play lacrosse from jail, so the Auburn Grand Theft Auto guy or the UVA girlfriend murderer aren’t lax bros. They’re sociopaths that just happened to play lacrosse, and it is people like this that give Lacrosse a ‘bad’ name (which I don’t get, here in Gainesville the football team is populated by thugs and criminals, while lacrosse players are mostly on honor roll). So next time you see someone balling with a pair of Flow Society shorts on, don’t judge him until you get to know him personally.

  6. When I first came to lacrosse I saw the Flow Society and Lax Bro stuff, but I wasn’t too interested, I wanted more to make myself stand out on the field because of ability, not appearance. But I don’t dislike the Flow Society gear, it’s a style, people have different styles for different opinions and preferences.
    It’s the fact that people who have the bad attitude and misbehave happen to wear the strange shorts and have long hair. It’s not the styles fault that it can attract “bros” who want to distinguish themselves without putting the work into it. Not ragging on the long hair and shorts, wear what you want, I won’t judge you for it. I’ll judge you on your behavior, level of dedication, and morality.
    Both articles are great, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the “bro stigma” outsiders (non-lacrosse players) have placed on the sport, I don’t think many care about it. It is the media attention that happens to get people’s attention, like the Cornell hazing, or the Duke scandal, or UVA murder. They made bad choices and have a certain level of morality because thats the people they are, not because lacrosse made them that way.

  7. Both were great articles and the previous posts on either side of the issue are articulate and valid. I would like to peel back the onion another layer and share the perspective from a 50+ year old Coach and Lax fan for 35+ years. If you look at the Keeper of the Lacrosse initiative USL instituted a few years ago, their Code is Play in the Spirit of the Game, Honor Traditions, Promote the Virtues of Honor, Integrity and Respect, Encourage Acts of Good Sportsmanship, Value the Importance of Teamwork and Own the Responsibility and Connection to the Greater Community. This is the reason I encouraged my son and countless other young athletes to pick up a stick, not Hip, Slick and Cool uniforms. I could see the road the NBA, MLB and the NFL were on and it is not what youth athletics is about. Rodman, The Boz (showing my age on that one) and A-Rod are hardly role models. To me the Flo/Bro stuff takes us on the road to that self aggrandizement that those players promote. Does the Flo/Bro help grow the game? Yes. Does it hurt the quality of the game? Yes. Here is as real as it gets scenario that I saw first hand where the flo can slo the QUALITY of the game. A local youth league grows from 400 to a 1000 players in 3 seasons. As an Athlete, Coach and Businessman on the board- I say, good problem to have, we need grass, goalie gear, goals and more Dad’s with whistles and Guys in stripes to keep up with demand. The 9 other non-athlete, non-coach, non-businesswomen on the board say “nah, we need to work on hip, slick and cool matching sublimated uniform shorts and jerseys. We also need to fine tune this years slogan for the web site and bumper stickers” Guess who lost 9-1 that day? 50% of that years 6 figure gross income went to uniforms. $2,000 of it went to Coach Development. They bought the coaches Jimmy John’s subs for lunch as a thank you for the 8 hours they spent at the Level 1 clinic to be better Coaches and Dads. Is it the Flo/Bro lovers fault? Of course not. Does it help? Not at all. That’s why I do not support, promote or encourage the Flo/Bro stuff.