Road Trip Dad –
Gift Ideas for Your Lax Guy
Dan Witmer | December 2, 2019
Don’t know what to buy for your son, brother, boyfriend, husband, friend, or father this Holiday Season? No problem; with a little help from my friends, I’ve got your back.

Maybe some of these ideas are gender-neutral, and can also help fill the stockings of your favorite female lacrosse players/fans, too, but I’m not going to go so far as to say that I know anything about girls or women’s lacrosse. I‘ll let you make those decisions.

In the past I’ve written a piece or two about what not to buy, making fun of manufacturers’ claims, and the wording used to hype the latest head, shaft, helmet, and/or gloves, but I’m not going to do that this time.

I don’t know about you, but all week I saw ads on Facebook for lacrosse-related Christmas gifts. I already had this theme in mind for today’s RTD article, so I couldn’t wait to get home from the Thanksgiving visit to the in-laws’ and write my own piece.

The most-repeated Facebook post kept billing their product as “The Best Lacrosse Christmas Gift.” Maybe you saw it, too, but after opening the link and seeing what they were pushing, I’m surprised they spelled the word Lacrosse correctly. It was called a “Lacrosse Scoop Rebounder,” and it looked a lot like the cheap baseball “pitchback” I bought for Brian when he was in kindergarten or first grade – before there were better options to choose from.

The idea of a “pitchback” isn’t a bad one, but I’m not sure I trust this particular product. The ad read, “Work on grounders, line drives, and pop-ups,” and the cartoon logo featured a character in a football helmet. Little red flags everywhere I looked…

Truth be told, I already had a “rebounder” on my what-to-buy list before I saw this ad. In my mind, a rebounder is much more beneficial than, say, a goal or a back-up net. The rebounder offers a reasonably-sized target, ranging from 3’-6’. If a developing player can hit that target, he’ll not only become a better passer, he’ll also get a good opportunity to catch the ball as well.

On the other hand, give a kid a 6’x6’ net, and he’s much more likely to stand about 6-8 yards out and crank away, and probably develop bad habits – underhand, sidearm, etc, and he’ll be losing balls and asking for a back-up net. Give him that net, and he’s only going to keep shooting with bad form. (“Dad, I need a bigger netting system!”).

Convince Junior that he needs to “play catch” (Upstate?) or “have a catch” (Downstate?) with that rebounder and he’ll become a better passer; give him a net instead, and that aspect of the game will be an afterthought at best.

So, with that said, here’s my list:

Item 1 – a lacrosse rebounder. Prices appear to range from $100-$200.

Item 2 – a year’s membership to US Lacrosse. I think the cost is approximately $30 for a “youth player,” and with it comes a subscription to Lacrosse Magazine, which is always worth reading. Additionally, more and more youth tournaments and leagues are requiring membership to US Lacrosse so as to provide insurance, so if you become a member on your own, you won’t have to pay for it separately later on next summer. Also, your lacrosse player will be covered whenever and wherever he plays lacrosse – for club teams, at tournaments, showcases, or prospect days, at the college, scholastic or youth levels. Even if your favorite lacrosse person is a coach or adult league player, the ($55) membership includes insurance.

Item 3 – a subscription to Inside Lacrosse magazine. I’m old school, so I want to get a magazine in the mail every month. You can get that for $35 a year, or you can save a few dollars and pay about $65 for a two-year subscription. Another option is to get a digital subscription for $30 for one year, or $57 for two.

Item 4 – books. As I’ve written recently, there aren’t a lot of lacrosse books out there, but there are some very good ones. Every little laxer under age 10 should have a copy of The Great Ball Game by Joseph Bruchac, while every Baby Boomer should have a copy of Ten Bears, by Miles Harrison, Jr. and Chip Silverman. As far as I’m concerned, Coach Starsia’s I Hope You Will Be Very Happy is now required reading – for every coach and player. Prices probably range from $15-$25…

Item 5 – stringing kits. Every player – from age 8 through, well, probably 65 – will find himself in need at some point or another. Whether it’s time to replace an old or poorly-strung mesh, or just to string up a back-up stick, your player will thank you. Too few players know how to string their own stick, but if more of them had an extra kit or two to mess around with, that wouldn’t be the case. Minimal research shows that costs range from $10-$30 – and they’ll fit conveniently in Junior’s stocking!

Item 6 – tools. As a coach, I love the kid who always has a roll of tape, a screwdriver, or a pair of pliers in his bag or locker. Those all-in-one Leatherman tools range from $25-$50, but you can get cheaper knock-offs that would probably get the job done just as well, and wouldn’t cause as much stress when they come up missing. Same goes for the $1 screwdrivers you can find anywhere.

Item 7 – a 3x goal. If you’ve got more than one little laxer, or if your yard is where the whole neighborhood plays, please buy your little laxer a 3x (pronounced “three-by”) goal. For about $30 (you only need one!), your kids will create offense, defend, and learn to finish – all while free-styling their game. There are published and patented rules available on-line, but Junior and his BFFs can make up their own rules, too. Oh yeah – you’ll need a can or two of cheap tennis balls, too!

Item 8 – tickets to May’s NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia. If you’ve never experienced championship weekend in person, this is the year to give it a shot. 2020 might be the last year the three men’s championships are all played in an NFL venue; in ’21 and ’22, the games are going to a smaller stadium in Connecticut, and who knows what will happen after that? Take it from a guy who has been to 35 of the past 37 Memorial Day Weekend championships – it’s something every lacrosse fan should experience at least once (or twice!) in a lifetime. Prices range from $45 to $120 for three-day packages…

That’s my list, but I also asked for some ideas from sons Brian and Eric, Oswego HS varsity coach Doc Nelson, former Oswego State Laker and varsity lacrosse coach at Westwood HS (MA) Todd Zahurak, and former All-American, NLL and MLL star, US Men’s National Team captain, and Summit Lacrosse Ventures Event and Brand Director Kevin Leveille for their suggestions.

Here are their respective responses…

Brian Witmer:
1. Extra compression shorts. 2-3 extra pairs go a long way. They can make or break your day.
2. Cliff Bar 12 pack. One in the backpack, one in the bag at all times. 
3. Referee certification course. Timmy might get tired of listening to some guy telling ref jokes for 3 hours on two Saturdays, but it’s pocket cash for a lifetime. 

Eric Witmer:
1. A link to  laxsteals.com  (daily specials!)
2. Bleacher Report Live Subscription (NLL coverage started last week, ends in May)
3. Fresh lacrosse balls are always welcome

Doc Nelson:
1. A woodie. A good one – from the likes of Jacques, Johnson, Powless, or Thompson – not a tourist’s stick.
2. American Indian Lacrosse, by Thomas Vennum.
3. Tickets to next year’s Ontario Sr. A (MSL) finals. Best lacrosse in the world.

Todd Zahurak:
1. Exercise bands
2. Foam rollers
3. Agility ladders
4. Hand warmers 

Kevin Leveille:
1. Subscription to NBC Gold (or whatever it takes) to stream the 2020 PLL season
2. Lacrosse art –  www.theartoflax.com (and I’ll toss in www.laxartist.com as another great option)

So there you have it – one of the most comprehensive, reasonable, honest-to-goodness, no-dog-in-the-hunt, Christmas shopping guides ever assembled – from the perspectives of some various, veteran, lacrosse fanatics. Simply Google the item and you’ll be ready to order on-line – or feel free to visit your local lacrosse shop if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby! My guess is that they’ll be willing and able to help you find whatever it is you’re looking for.

Happy shopping, and please drive carefully!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.