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Max McCool Spotlight: #TheGopherProject

Here….we go….Let’s take a trip back to the early 2000’s. There was no Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter and lacrosse was thriving on the web.  How? was how.  This site was a daily bookmarked visit (who am I kidding, several times a day).  It had it all! Gear reviews? You bet. Tutorials for Dyes and Stringing? Of course.  Mailbags? Without a doubt… Wait a minute, that sounds like the #TheGopherProject! Here’s me pulling back the curtain a bit: I borrowed a lot of the ideas straight from e-lacrosse and conversations with Connor Wilson. One constant on e-lacrosse was Max McCool.  Now some of you youngsters may not know who this is.  If you are one of those folks, this is for you:

Max is responsible for some of the greatest dye tutorials back when it was truly work to transform vinyl.  You either needed to cut it out by hand or have access to an early vinyl cutter. Take a look at this:

max mccool #thegopherproject

I’d list every one of his but you’ll see a few updated in future dye tutorials.

frozen dye max mccool #thegopherproject

Needless to say, if Max dyes it, it is going to be a masterpiece.  

Now, I said Max is an expert dyer, but did I mention he’s an even better stringer?  Back in those days, you really only had soft mesh and hard mesh. Combine that with heads that had eight or so sidewall holes and there wasn’t the template for creativity that you have now.  What that did was create an explosion in traditional-based pockets. Max and Van O’Banion were at the forefront of this charge on the pages of e-lacrosse. What made Max’s pockets so great was that they were wild but actually worked great on the field.  

Back in those days, there were some pockets that looked wonderful but played like garbage. E-lacrosse gave way to the Lacrosse Forums (TLF) which ultimately died and led to his last postings on Lacrosse Playground. If you’re not following mccoolsdyeshop on Instagram, you’re missing out.  

zig pocket max mccool #thegopherproject

club max mccool #thegopherproject

grunk 2 max mccool #thegopherproject

So long story short, I’ve been reading Max’s work since the beginning.  I never posted on the forum but constantly lurked. From our mutual friend Spencer, I find out that he’s not only local but lives less than a mile from me.  Yes, we met up over dinner and yes, I fanboyed him with 1,001 questions. “What vinyl cutter do you use?” “What vinyl?” “How did you string this?” Max listened to all my questions and answered them all.  He’s one of the good guys in the community, if you get a chance, meet him.

lv goalie max mccool #thegopherproject

Let’s find out more about Max!

Kevin:  Max, how did all this start for you?

Max McCool: Well first of all, I’m honored you’d even ask me to do this. Always love to share, and I don’t get to do that much anymore. As for my medical career as a Stick Doctor, it started around the time I started playing lacrosse, the summer of 8th grade. I was always over at my friend’s house because they had a big backyard and a goal. We were constantly stringing these traditional monstrosities that didn’t even really work. But we’d do it over and over again until we actually learned how to structure a lacrosse pocket. From there, we moved on to dye experiments. My first dye job ever was supposed to be a yellow and blue fade on a DeBeer Phantom. I left it in the yellow too long and got orange, which then mixed with the blue to make a delightful shade of brown. It was the ugliest thing ever. But it was fun and it definitely made me want to try it again. From there came hot glue, electrical tape, PAM cooking spray, rubber cement, and an endless string of experimentation that took me into my e-lacrosse days.

max mccool #thegopherprojectKevin:  How did you get set up with e-lacrosse back in the day?

Max McCool: I started as an e-lacrosse addict like everyone else. Refreshing the page every 5 minutes at the beginning of a month, waiting for the new stick tech article to come out from Van or John Weaver, the site’s founder. At some point, I think I sent in an entry for something and wound up talking to Weaver about doing more for the site. I started doing them periodically, and he and I even teamed up to film a dyeing DVD called How to Dye w/ Max McCool. I think that one was in Lax World stores for a while.

Kevin: Favorite pocket you created?

Max McCool:  Man, this is a tough one. Because there are pockets that I had a blast creating that didn’t end up working as a game-day type stick, and there are the ones that I used to rely on. For funsies? Probably the AhSeh pocket with all the braids. For functionality? Probably the Turtle Shell in a Gait Torque. Favorite pocket that only lasted two throws because the head broke? The duct tape pocket!

turtle shell max mccool #thegopherprojectduct tape pocket max mccool #thegopherproject

Kevin:  Favorite dye?

Max McCool: The two that I did in college on Torques. The first was just a wild, free-form dye where I made up the patterns as I went along. It was all cut out of electrical tape with an Xacto, and it featured my then-college roommates, and a number of personal things hidden about. It was a fun one, but ultimately wasn’t that attractive. It did give me some ideas about getting multiple colors on the head together, which led me to my next personal Torque dye, which wound up being one of my most complex, a seven-color dip that featured a solar system, reverse hot-glue, and other stuff. These two might not have been as sharp as some of my other work, but they definitely mean the most to me.

torque max mccool #thegopherproject

Kevin:  Traditional has pretty much taken the back seat to stringing these days, is it gone for good or do you see a rebound?

Max McCool: I’ll have to be honest, I’m guilty of relying on mesh sometimes. I really don’t have a ton of time for stringing these days, and with the mesh that’s out there these days it’s hard not to take advantage of the easy way. Playing with the stuff from East Coast, String King, Epoch, etc., it’s clear why that’s such a mainstay. However, a well strung, dialed-in traditional pocket is unbelievable in terms of feel and consistency, and that’s hard to achieve for most people. I see it like having a deep quiver of snowboards or surfboards, it’s fun to have variety when you have the time. If you’re playing school ball and need something that’s ready to perform every time, and you go through a few sticks a season, mesh is hard to beat. At some point, you’ll be playing men’s league and want to take something else out of the bag for a change. I usually have an unnecessary number of sticks in my bag, like 6 or more, because you never know when you’ll have time for some R&D.

Kevin: Final thoughts?

Max McCool: Over the years my favorite part of sharing my work has been the feedback I’ve gotten from others, whether it was discussions on the forums or requests for help. I want to thank everyone that’s checked my stuff out over the years, or taken the time to let me know how they learned something from one of my projects. It’s a pretty cool feeling when I see one of my creations randomly at a tournament, or getting stopped by someone because they recognize a stick I’m carrying. The community is what makes this the most fun, and I love seeing how it’s morphed into the rapid-feedback thing that it is today. So much positivity on Instagram and YouTube for the creators out there, and I love it. Huge shout out to the people that keep progressing this stuff and sharing it. You never know how many kids or new lacrosse players you’re inspiring to love the game by adding the artistic flair to the mix.

More of Max’s Work

Use #TheGopherProject on your string ups to earn a future spotlight or string up of the week!