Janet Holdsworth hadn’t heard of Swax Lax when she first saw the brightly colored soft lacrosse balls displayed near the cash register at Universal Lacrosse in Randolph. Holdsworth picked one up and tossed it around to see what it felt like.
When Holdsworth became the lacrosse coach at Villa Walsh a couple of years ago, athletic director Jennifer Fleury gave her a bagful of hot pink Swax Lax for indoor practice. A lifelong field hockey and lacrosse player, Holdsworth wondered, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Holdsworth helped introduce lacrosse to Minnesota back in 1996, teaching the sport with whatever equipment and space was available. Swax Lax would have simplified the process, allowing realistic training indoors — without fear of damage or injury.
Swax Lax founder Laura Gump had a similar experience with her own daughter. Gump was part of the first Summit High School girls lacrosse team in 1981, and went on to play at the University of Rochester and in West London.
After moving back home and launching her own clinics, Gump realized, “if (a child) had a bad first day, that could be the end of the sport.” She had that experience with her own daughter, who “threw down her stick and quit” after getting hit in the head with a lacrosse ball.
After trying to teach with tennis balls, beanbags and Hacky Sacks, Gump dreamed up Swax Lax in late 2014. It is a softer alternative, but it still has the same weight and feel of a regulation lacrosse ball.
“The ball has to feel right in your stick when you catch or cradle or throw or shoot,” said Gump, 53, who coaches the Kent Place middle school team as well as running her own SumItUp nonprofit lacrosse program.
“It needs to be the exact dimensions. … I Googled the dimensions, and I’d just intended them for my own camps. After a week of using them, enough parents and coaches asked, ‘Where did you get these? Can I buy these?'”
Styled after juggling balls, Gump brought 2,000 to the U.S. Lacrosse convention in February 2015, and nearly every one sold.