The Bridge Builders

I first met Samir Chaudry and Colin Rosenblum under the lights on a southern California lacrosse field several years ago.  We were doing a shoot around the day before an LXM Pro game and I saw these two young maniacs running around wearing cameras on their necks and giant smiles on their faces. They would film a little bit and then stop to talk with some players and then film some more.  I watched them buzz around our practice for an hour seemingly capturing every moment.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.27.22 AMEventually they made their way to me while I was waiting in the shooting line of a drill we were running and they both extended their hands and introduced themselves.  “Hey Mike, I’m Samir and this is Colin.  It’s really cool to meet you.” They are just those guys that you like right off the bat because of the way they carry themselves. We talked for a little bit about cameras and filming because I was just getting into that creative outlet at the time. So I hit them with a bunch of questions about stabilizers and editing software which they were glad to answer. I asked them what kind of equipment they used and they both erupted in laughter.  Colin reached into his bag and showed me the stabilizer they were currently using which they had clearly handmade out of whatever materials they could find.  I’m not sure how it worked but lets just say there were a couple rolls of electrical tape, some screws, and some four inch washers for weights involved.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.17.20 AMWe finished up our conversation and all of us got back to work.  After the shoot around wrapped up I jumped in the car with Peter Dante and Scott Hochstadt to head back to the hotel for the night and I asked, “hey, who are those guys Samir and Colin?” And Dante turned and said, “they are The Lacrosse Network. They’re the future.”

Over the course of the following year I started to pay attention to what these guys were up to and what kind of content they were putting out.  It was different.  It seemed more personal and way more interesting to me than what anyone else was doing at the time.  It was professional but certainly not forced. It was creative but accessible. It felt like lacrosse to me.  It was thoughtful, informative and stylistically unique.  And I noticed that I wasn’t the only one checking into The Lacrosse Network YouTube channel, I watched their follower list grow by the thousands.

That same year while I was working for Easton-Bell Sports I was asked to attend the US Lacrosse Coaches Convention in Philadelphia to help my brother Casey demonstrate some of his progressive training concepts.  The first day of the convention Casey and I were making our way to the presentation hall when we saw Colin and Samir above us on the escalator.  They were carrying a sofa.  Thats right, a full size micro-fiber sofa.  I stopped them and said, “hey guys, I’m Mike we met out in California.  I’ve gotta ask — what in the heck are you doing?” They laughed again, just like when I asked them about their camera equipment and said, “we’re renting a condo across the street so we figured we might as well bring our furniture from the condo over here to use as part of our booth so people can relax with us at the convention.”

unnamed

This is a small but perfect example of why The Lacrosse Network has turned into the definitive source of lacrosse related videos and digital storytelling.  They are driven doers with a strong sense for others. Samir and Colin, along with co-founder Julien Berndt have captured the lacrosse world’s attention and completely changed the way content is created and distributed within our sport because of their passion for telling good stories in a cool way.

I think what strikes me most about TLN is their ability to unite the lacrosse community and build bridges that connect all of us.   They’re just good dudes, bottomline.  They care deeply about lacrosse and protecting the culture.  They’re extremely supportive of other entrepreneurs and encourage more people to break into the industry because they understand the importance of collective growth.  They have managed to be creative leaders and developed a style that fits lacrosse.

Powell LacrosseI’ve been lucky to work with TLN over the years on different projects and to develop a creative relationship with guys that I admire very much (including this clip which is said to be one of the only lacrosse related silent films in the history of cinema)

I still watch their videos quite often and I have to say it’s so cool to see their viewership stand behind their brand and them as individuals.  Samir and Colin are fast becoming lacrosse household names, and deservedly so.  Last week I reached out to the two of them because I, like many others, wanted to learn more about them as individuals, their backgrounds and their plans for the future. Here is what they had to say:

Where were you born and raised?

Samir: Born & Raised in Los Angeles California – in a little beach town called Pacific Palisades.

Colin:  I was born and raised in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.

Do you remember your very first interaction with lacrosse?

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.15.57 AMSamir:  Lacrosse was brand new at my school when I was in 9th grade. To give some important context here, I was in a rock band and had super long hair. The bassist in my band (to the right of me in this picture) had played lacrosse and was recruiting our friends to play on the club team.

He told me my hair would look awesome coming out of the back of the helmet – and at that time, that was all the convincing I needed.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.16.41 AMColin: My first interaction with lacrosse was being given a lacrosse stick by my grandparents when I was born.

My first memory of lacrosse is attending a lacrosse camp at a local high school. I was too young but they made an exception since my older brother played on the team there. I remember getting a loaner helmet and it being huge on me.

(green shirt and bowl cut at the local high school during one of my brother’s games)

How did you guys meet?

Samir: We met on the internet. Colin was making a show called “Club Ball” and Julien (co-founder of TLN) and I were sitting in my bedroom making our own lacrosse videos. Part of our morning routine was to comb through the internet for lacrosse videos to see what other people were making. When we came across Club Ball we both immediately knew that it was different and that It was the type of content we wanted on TLN. I reached out to Colin with some serious business speak and he was pretty turned off by it. After a few weeks of convincing, we finally got Colin to agree to put Club Ball on TLN. We started our working relationship off with that show, which is still one of my favorite programs on TLN.

In terms of personality; what do you guys have in common and what is totally different?

photoSamir:  Colin is much more uniquely creative than I am, he really pushed the TLN brand to where it is today. He has a hard time settling for the norm and has always ensured that what we are doing as a brand is different not only in lacrosse but also across the media landscape. In terms of what we have in common – we both are infatuated with storytelling and connecting with people through content. I tend to drive on the operational aspect of that and he pushes on the creative side.

Colin: We have a shared perspective on the things that are important in life. We both have a passion for storytelling and a desire to make things that people enjoy.  Samir is a leader and an initiator. I’m confident he could captivate the attention of any room he were to walk into. I’m a little bit quieter than he is, but I’d say no less confident in the ability of our team to accomplish whatever we set our minds to.

Are your playing styles similar?

Samir: No. First off, Colin plays attack and is a very fluid player – I tend to be a bit more aggressive as a middie, I like initiating a lot and he tends to finish. I guess it really mirrors our personality.

Colin: Not really. I have a smoother style…I’m a crease attackman and a finisher. Samir is more of a muscle guy looking to dodge and dump or rip low to high from outside.

Can you explain how TLN was born?

Colin:I’ll let Samir take this one.

Samir:  That’s a long story, and I love storytelling – so I’ll tell it. The year was 2007 and I was a Freshman at UC Santa Cruz – I was playing lacrosse on the club team and studying Film. One day two kids from a local high school came to our practice and said they wanted to start a lacrosse team at their school and they needed a coach. I thought it sounded like fun, so at 18 years old I became the head Varsity lacrosse coach at Pacific Collegiate School.

The first day of practice there were 6 kids on this mud patch behind the school dressed in a mix of jeans, Vans, board shorts and lacrosse pads. I quickly realized that not only had none of these kids played lacrosse, they had never played a competitive team sport. Fast forward to the end of that season and we were sitting on an 0-14 record. Going into the next year I decided I had to do things differently, so I gathered up as much film as I could and started doing weekly film sessions with the team. The goal was not to increase their lacrosse IQ, the goal was to have them connect to the sport. I felt that if I could get them to love the sport and love the characters, they would want to keep the stick in their hand more and become better players. The issue was, it was really hard to find a way to watch lacrosse content. I’ll keep this short – 3 years later – this happened – http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/ZZ/20110514/NEWS/110517479

After the Championship, one of the parents from the team reached out to me. I had never met him, but over dinner he told me he was one of the executives at YouTube and was focused on sports – and they were looking for sports content. He had this idea that I could be a lacrosse coach on YouTube.

Once I got back to LA, I told my friend Julien Berndt about the YouTube conversations and we put our heads together to think of something larger than just a coaching channel. Based on my experience in Santa Cruz, I saw a void of accessibility to lacrosse content. Our community is hyper-engaged and ready to consume content, but there wasn’t a destination for that – I felt that If we could provide our community with content, they would then in turn share the content and recruit more people to play the sport. After a few more conversations with YouTube, we flipped a 6 foot folding table down in my bedroom, opened up our Macbook Pro and started filming – and in January of 2012 – The Lacrosse Network was born.

I know that you guys have tons of other interests like surfing, music and skateboarding, so why did you choose to focus on lacrosse?

Samir: My experience coaching lacrosse changed my life, and led me into being able to pursue my passion for film and media. We bring a lot of our other influences into what we do, but the community of lacrosse is an audience that we are all passionate about.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.17.42 AMColin: I graduated from college as an Italian and Economics double major, but wanted to do something more creative. I bought a camera off craigslist and wanted to learn about making films. I was inspired by skate crews that took their media into their own hands. They filmed themselves, edited themselves, and distributed the content themselves. I didn’t belong to a skate crew (nor could I even really skate). At that time, the lacrosse team was my crew and the place that I had the most access to.

There were storylines and personalities on that team that I could experiment with as I learned about filmmaking. I never thought it would be my focus for as long as it has, but am definitely thankful for it.

It’s been the community that has given me the most opportunity to learn. It’s been my film school.

Has the TLN culture changed as you’ve grown?

Samir: We’ve really always had this culture of creativity. One thing we’ve always tried to live by is “Fail Fast & Reiterate”. We’ve never been afraid of failure and have instead embraced it as a part of the process towards refining the final product. That culture allows us to learn from our audience’s reaction to our ideas, and to use the community as our primary feedback source. We are creating content not just for the community, but with the community.

Naturally, once we were acquired by Whistle Sports – there was a bit more of a focus towards planning and ensuring our content had purpose, but all still within the confines of our creative process. Over the years we have continued to take risks and push the boundaries of content in the lacrosse space.

Colin: In the early days when we were more uncertain, Samir always provided an environment that required hard work but catered to mistakes. We were able to fail freely and quickly, right the ship and keep moving. We always listened to our audience for feedback and continue to operate the same way today. As for a “TLN mission statement”, the culture in my mind has always been about keeping it fun and about growing the sport through access to quality stories and characters.

You guys have done a deep dive into lacrosse culture and community – what are your findings?

Samir: You’ll notice a lot of creativity and entrepreneurship within our community. This is a product of our situation – Lacrosse is not a mainstream sport, which means we don’t usually get the same facilities, opportunities and sometimes respect as other sports. That leads to lacrosse players being proactive about getting or creating the things we don’t have. You have so many young kids starting their own companies, their own channels and their own teams – we create what we want – and at TLN we look to encourage that type of creation.

Colin: I’ve seen that the lacrosse community is an incredibly passionate and forward-thinking community. It’s a sport whose growth can be attributed to the people who’ve played it in the past and are currently playing it today. The members are proud and want to help spread it. They are ambassadors for it and consider it “theirs”.

What are your individual roles?  I know that you guys are both swiss army knives of talent but does one of you specialize in certain areas?

Samir: Colin is the creative director and is focused on the TLN brand and ensuring we are innovating and putting out content that is aligned with what we stand for.

I am the President of the network and tend to focus on how we are operating and bringing in revenue. I ensure we have value for not only the community but for the brands we work with.

What are you guys looking forward to?

unnamed-1Samir: It’s really exciting to see how much content is being created in our sport. I love that our community has embraced the internet to create content and tell stories and I look forward to seeing a lot more of that. As a sport sometimes we feel like we need to be where the other mainstream sports are – but the reality is that the internet is the best place for us. Our community is not one to sit back and consume content, we are far more creative than that – the internet allows everyone in the community to do both – create & consume.

Colin: We’re looking forward to continuing to build a platform that the community can be a part of and be proud of.

Where do you see lacrosse in 5 years?

Samir: I see it being one of the most robust & engaged digital sports communities. Sometimes I hear a lot about how much the sport needs to grow – when I feel like our sport is really “here”. With an increase of content, you’ll start to see that our sport has arrived to the mainstream.

Colin: The lacrosse community is an early adopter of new media, and similar to skateboarding, is taking its growth into its own hands. I see us being recognized as THE millennial sport, leading the conversation in terms of how sports can succeed and thrive from the youth level to the pros. Just because we aren’t on ESPN as much as basketball does not mean that lacrosse is a sub-tier sport. It’s growing quickly via passionate members and via the internet, a platform whose limits to growth are non-existent.


Once again, I am so proud to be a part of the lacrosse community.  I would like to say thank you to Samir and Colin for taking the time to answer my questions. As a lifelong lacrosse player and fan I sleep well at night knowing that we finally have an outlet that represents us. I encourage all fans of lacrosse to climb aboard the TLN bus. And if you’ve already got a seat, like me, lets kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the digital journey and see where Samir, Julien and Colin take us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *