Imitation in the Lacrosse Industry
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Hot Pot: Imitation in the Lacrosse Industry

Imitation in the lacrosse industry doesn’t bother me all that much, but one thing that has been bothering me for a while is the amount of smack talk between direct competitors in the lacrosse space. I had always thought that these tactics were just over-exploited in marketing, especially through social media, but after attending LaxCon, I realized that same finger pointing is pretty much happening everywhere and anywhere a person could hear it.

Imitation in the Lacrosse Industry

If someone steals your ideas, I don’t see anything wrong with politely asking for credit for your work. If they don’t acknowledge that you were #first, it’s okay! We’re all familiar with the famous saying, “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery,” right? So what can you do if someone bites your ideas? Because at the end of the day, flattery doesn’t pay the bills.

I’ll tell you what you can’t do: You can not stand still if you want to be successful with your business (unless you’re a guard at Buckingham Palace). If you aren’t looking 1, 5, or even 10 years down the road in regards to business planning, you are going to get passed, then lapped, and eventually eliminated from the race completely. (The same goes for developing yourself as a lacrosse player! Have a plan and make long term goals for yourself.)

Joe Williams Throne of String Greg Kinnealy East Coast Dyes LaxCon
Friends or Enemies? You can’t tell here!

If the two guys above are cool with each other and all smiles, shouldn’t everyone be like that?

If you are producing a mesh product, any sort of shaft, or other tangible lacrosse good, that’s awesome, but you can’t make it work based solely on being first or having a unique idea. Other people will come up with the same idea or a similar one, or others will copy your practice exactly. Calling them out negatively won’t work. So what can you do?

Praise each and every brand that you feel stole your technique, your designs, your processes, all of it! Why? Because that person thought your work was solid enough to be mimicked and they saw value in your product. If it was really a product that is so game-changing and unique, you should have a patent on the hard goods and technology used. For ideas that aren’t truly new, the patenting process is loophole city and it’s just going to slow you down from looking at the future.

Every brand, big or small, that copies something you did first, is usually just exercising in capitalism and free enterprise. Everyday in America, we make groundbreaking technological advances that are quickly replicated overseas for a fraction of the cost. What happens because of this? People go back to work; creating innovations that will changes the world again, and not working to make it the same place as it was yesterday. No one gets upset about this for long because it is how the entire world works. People may put up a fight, but in the end, the world keeps advancing and tech keeps spreading. It’s inevitable, and lies at the heart of true capitalism.

So your video concept, your pocket pattern, your shaft, your mesh, your haircut, or whatever, got duplicated and someone is getting all of the credit for their very similar concept, what do you do?

Get back in the workshop, back to the drawing board, back to the wall and go big. Credit comes where credit is due and those receiving glory now may be nowhere to be seen down the road. If you ran out of ideas and you’re sticking with what is working now, great! Just don’t expect to be anywhere near the front of the pack in the race and please stop talking smack about everyone else.

LaxCon lacrosse's largest selfie with Paul Rabil
One big family!

I had my own opinions from an outsider’s view, but after meeting with Epoch Lacrosse CEO James Miceli, my observations were confirmed and my “stay positive approach” was validated. Epoch doesn’t waste time looking at the competition behind or beside them; they are completely focused on the open road ahead. I’m not going to dive into details but most of us know that similar versions of Epoch’s shafts are now being sold by other companies… Otter Mesh and The Hawk are being mimicked in various ways as well… and do you know how James responds to this?

He plays it off, essentially saying, “who cares?!”

The team at Epoch is putting in the real hours behind closed doors, engineering the technologies that will help to shape the future. They appreciate when their products are mimicked because it forces them to work harder and to try new things that will change the sport. The Hawk is one of a kind product and a completely different approach than every head on the market, for now. Expect to see heads on their way to the shelves that look eerily familiar to The Hawk’s unique shape and details in the near future.

When that happens, do you know what Epoch will do about it? Go back to work on creating the next big thing, because you aren’t going to catch a brand like this looking at the companies behind them. James Miceli is leading his team into the future and that is something I can get behind. I’m not saying the guys at Epoch are the only ones operating like this, but they are a prime example of a young brand that I can trust to keep growing the game. They will keep improving this sport that we all love because they don’t point fingers at other brands, they just point at the open horizon and strategically decide where they are going to go next.

I know I’m not alone in thinking that all of the trash talk is getting old. Marketing tactics that bash competitors make your brand look weaker, and it’s so easy to see right through it. If you truly have the better product, tell us why it’s so great and what it can do to help me become a better athlete, teammate, or all around better person. If I hear one word about who stole what, what is better than the other, or anything along those lines from any brand, I’m going to pull what’s left of my hair out.

LaxCon was a beautiful meeting of some of the greatest minds in the industry, but in my opinion, I met just as many small minds spewing negativity about their competitors. Those small minds will not be at many more LaxCons in the future, I can almost guarantee it.

Team USA Cascade R and Maverik Optik
Come together for the greater good!

I use the example of James and his team at Epoch because they were the breath of fresh air I needed after getting an earful of smack talk throughout the weekend. Do you know who’s job it is to help you compare and contrast lacrosse goods? The retailers, the media (including us), and the kids using it on YouTube, but what’s most important is to use what is comfortable for your style of play and what gear helps you to achieve your goals. If you hear that one product is better than another, go get a second opinion and then a third. Weigh out what each brands say about themselves and how others portray them and make the most informed decision you can. TRY as much gear as you can too, so you can make your own decisions!

I encourage you to stop brand reps in their tracks by telling them that you don’t want to hear about their competition, instead you want to hear about what they are doing to make the lacrosse community and the world a better place. You are smart enough to take what you’ve heard from two different brands and weigh them out for yourself, don’t let others do it for you.

Start by collecting as much information as possible, make your educated opinions for yourself then speak up. Let’s change lacrosse marketing for the better, together.