We sat down with Ryan Small, the president of Discover Your Game (DYG), the revolutionary lacrosse training equipment company endorsed by the best players in the game.
Small played lacrosse at Loyola College in Baltimore and at the University of Maryland under the legendary Coach Dave Cottle, who was known for his ability to shape players into champions using intense biomechanics training. By the time he was drafted into the major leagues, Small had begun to formulate the key elements for DYG’s cutting-edge training tools. His ideas combined a shrewd understanding of proper biomechanics, his own winning experience on the lacrosse field, and careful study of the best players in the game. DYG’s innovative equipment increases player speed and efficiency while sharpening technique and teaching players how to move like pros.
What’s the story behind Discover Your Game?
DYG actually started out as a lacrosse camp and personal training company in early 2012. My initial goal was to provide the best individual instruction and training camps in the world. It was just my good friend Brian Karalunas and me. For a couple years we ran these camps with decent success, but we were still very small compared to a lot of the camp companies.
During this time, I began to formulate some training product ideas that I thought would help players. I had no real ambitions of creating a product company, I just wanted something that would help me train my athletes.
So I took baby steps. The Throttle was the first product I came up with. I found a local metal-smith and he helped me design the first Throttle. It wasn’t great, but it did the trick. I started using it in my camps and clinics and it was so effective that I realized I needed more – I wanted numerous athletes working with it at once. The only problem was they cost me about $1,200 just to make one, but I needed at least four. I decided to delay paying rent for two months (I was almost evicted from my apartment) and I went ahead with it. I ran a camp with all four Throttles and it was a huge success. The kids loved it and they saw an immediate improvement in their game. I actually sold one to a parent who wanted it for their son.
It was about a year later when everything changed. I had formed a strong relationship with a parent of two of my players, Roy Prosise. Roy was the best person possible to partner with. He owns a company called Be Known (beknownnow.com), a manufacturing facility in Shippai, China. Furthermore, he had engineers, designers, the whole nine yards, all working under one roof in Austin, TX. This meant that DYG could conceptualize, design, prototype, and manufacturer all of its products from top to bottom. And having our own manufacturing facility meant that we could aggressively price our products because there was no middleman.
We quickly partnered with another friend Roland Benson who owns a marketing and design firm that designs and builds websites, packaging for products, among other services. Once we got started, we were able to create, test, and bring to market nine products within 4-5 months. In the product world, it is difficult to bring one product to market within a year, never mind multiple products in months!
How did you come up with the Discover Your Game name?
I came up with it over some cocktails with a group of friends. I was trying to think of a name that expressed what the company would be about. It sounds idealistic, but I believe every kid that picks up a lacrosse stick, athletic or not, can turn into a good lacrosse player. That’s the thing that’s so cool about lacrosse – you don’t have to be a super athlete to excel. I have friends that were horrible athletes but for some reason were good lacrosse players. They didn’t try and out run or “out-athletic” their opponents, but rather figured out their strengths and leveraged those strengths to their advantage – they had ‘discovered their game’. I figured that would be a cool name for the company. We’re not telling the client to play a certain way, but rather find the way that works best for them.
Is there a point in your playing career when you think you could have benefited from DYG products, if they were around?
Absolutely. My youth years, up through high school, I would have benefited immensely. I used to put cement in my stick to weigh it down, now a player can use the Locke. I could have used the LZR-Shot to make sure I was throwing the ball correctly every time. I thought I was a good shooter in high school, but once I started playing at the D1 college level, I quickly realized I wasn’t. If I had been training with the Throttle Pro my transition from high school to college would have been much easier, as far as shooting is concerned. That’s the thing I love so much about our products. No matter the age or level at which you’re playing, you must maintain a constant focus on the small things that are often overlooked. Our products give you immediate feedback to ensure you are dong the right thing.
What does the design process look like for a DYG product?
It always begins with a problem we are trying to solve (often not in office), quickly followed by a sketch on a napkin. Then, we bring the idea to one of our engineers to draw it out on a 3D CAD program, which is then prototyped on a CNC machine. We take the prototype and test it until the birds come home. We make sure the product works as perfectly as possible. After this, we take it to people like Dave Cottle or Casey Powell and ask them what they think. If they all like the product, we move forward with it. Once we believe we have the perfect product, we mass-produce it in our factory to make ready for retail. Because we’re vertically integrated (we own the entire process), we can create a product from concept to market in a matter of two to three months.
Out of the 9 products, which was the first to be created?
The Throttle Pro. While playing for Coach Cottle in college, we did a drill where we would shoot over one cage and into another. The purpose of this drill was to force the shooter to extend their hands away from their body to promote an overhand shooting motion. We performed this drill virtually every day at practice. For me, it was a real eye-opener. I had struggled my entire career with shooting, and this drill was the perfect remedy for me. As time went on, I went from being one of the worst to one of the best shooters on our team. So my main focus from the beginning was to create a device that would enhance that drill we did in college.
What is the ultimate mission behind DYG?
We care about one thing; making lacrosse players better. We wanted to create products that players and coaches could take with them and train on their own as well as in a team setting. I get bombarded with emails asking me to make a new lacrosse head or a new shaft. But we’re not interested in that. Does a lacrosse stick really make you better? Probably not. When we begin to formulate an idea about a new product we ask one simple question – how, and will this product enhance a player’s game?
You have partnerships with impressive players such as Casey Powell and Brian Karalunas. How have your products continued to aid professional players playing at the top level of the game?
Players like Casey Powell, Brian Karalunas, and others playing at the highest level tend to simplify their game as they get better. They understand that there are only a few important things they need to work on to keep progressing. That’s why they really like training with our gear. DYG training gear is not complex and it helps any player focus on the things that matter most. It helps them train more efficiently and get the most out of their training in a shorter period of time.”
You also have notable coaches like Dave Cottle, Bill Tierney and Greg Cannella backing your products. How have your products impacted top collegiate teams like the University of Denver and UMass?
A lot of these top coaches recognize that there are only a few things that really need to be worked on to improve their teams. For example, I would be willing to bet that 90% of college coaches perform the drill that the Throttle is designed for. They all understand that having their players develop an effective overhand shot helps their team in multiple ways (passing, catching, shooting, etc) – not just shooting. Anytime they can perform one drill that cures a whole host of problems, they do it. They’re obsessed with efficiency. A product like the Throttle helps them get a ton done in a short amount of time without having to run a million other drills.”
If there is one thing a player can always work on, whether they are just beginning or playing in the pros, what would that be? What DYG product would they use?
Passing and shooting. If you master these two skills you are 80% of the way there. Without question I would recommend the Throttle. It helps you master these skills more efficiently and quickly.
You can shop Discover Your Game’s collection at LACROSSE.COM.