PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES MADISON ATHLETICS

The Entrepreneurial Mind of Daria Lucchesi


Daria Lucchesi has poured herself into creating her first sports technology startup company Pro Theory, and when the 2021 James Madison graduate puts her energy into something, she gets results.

“Daria is a spark in whatever she does, whether it’s off the field or on the field,” JMU coach Shelley Klaes said. “She really just has incredible energy about her, and she has a great way in delivering a message to a team. And she has the talent to back it up. I’m really excited for her. She’s doing an incredible job being creative and innovative.”

Lucchesi is using her entrepreneurial experience to combine her two loves of sports and technology. The idea was fostered out of personal experiences when she traveled around the country running camps and clinics, and she noticed a particular need for instruction in non-traditional lacrosse areas like Montana.

“Great sports instruction in mind, body or sport is valuable, but the problem is it’s not accessible to players living anywhere,” Lucchesi said. “It creates this whole cause and effect of where a player lives literally determines where their game goes. So Pro Theory’s mission is to expand that coaching economy to expand great coaching instruction. We do that through our software, which makes it super simple to set up, manage and grow a live or virtual training brand.”

The tool could help coaches and athletes. The software helps coaches develop their own businesses and gives players more accessibility to their instruction, which helps develop them faster and further.

“It’s built for both,” Lucchesi said. “It’s a marketplace. With marketplaces, there’s a supply and a demand. The supply would be more coaches because they’re providing services. It’s totally changing the ways that players and coaches interact.”


“Daria is a spark in whatever she does.”

— Shelley Klaes


Lucchesi has been spinning new business ventures since she was in elementary school. At 7, she would staple brown bags with chips and peanuts inside to sell to neighbors.

“Early on,” Lucchesi said, “I was always a little hustler.”

She would align on fine china trays Girl Scout cookies that her mother bought for the family and sell the individual cookies for $1 apiece to those same patient neighbors. They laugh to this day at her outrageous prices. Her lemonade stands were a cut above the average one with more than basic lemonade offered.

“And then I found sports and that kind of became my hustle until high school,” Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi committed in high school to play lacrosse at JMU, but she was also a highly regarded ice hockey player who excelled for Lawrenceville (N.J.) School. At 5-foot-2, she stood out for her style of play on the lacrosse field, not her stature, as well as the sheer joy she seemed to express with every flip of her stick after a big goal.

“She plays a physical game,” Klaes said. “That’s what you see with playing time throughout her career. She got bumped up a lot and had a lot of setbacks because of that, but she stayed focused and she stayed committed and she found a way to make an impact on our team almost every year.”

Lucchesi started as a key member of the scout team that helped JMU win its first national championship. She jumped into a bigger role the next year with 18 goals and four assists in 20 games. She had six goals and two assists in five games before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 season. She had a career-high 20 goals and six assists in 16 games last year, with her final goal being the last one of JMU’s season in a loss to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament. She was a part of the first CAA team to win four straight conference crowns.

“Daria was a huge part of us coming back and staying focused and doing whatever it took for the team to win,” Klaes said. “When you have your seniors on board, it becomes really influential to the rest of the team. Daria was a huge part of all of that. Her resilience and competitiveness, and determination to stick with it despite the ups and downs of it, shows her commitment.”

Her strong individual numbers overshadow the challenges of a series of concussions in her athletic career that eventually forced her to wear protective headgear in her final two seasons, and overcoming the pressure of playing at a high level that took away some of her love for the game midway through her career.

“By the UNC game of my senior year, I was loving the game again and not putting any pressure on,” Lucchesi said. “That’s when I played my best. That’s a message I give to a lot of kids in camps. They put too much pressure on and don’t love the game.”








Lucchesi takes a similar outlook to business. She has had setbacks – “probably five failures for every success,” she said – but they have been learning experiences. And she has made sacrifices to get better in business. She asked for her senior week money in high school to go toward earning her real estate license at 18. After a year, she knew real estate wasn’t for her.

“I can recount more failures than I can successes,” Lucchesi said. “A lot. Probably quadruple. I tried everything. That’s what college is about. Early in your life, it’s test and iterate, test and iterate. I take all of that, and I’ve learned from each one skills, even in failing, and I roll with it. I just keep going.”

Her entrepreneurial interest blossomed into college. Other college freshmen crammed clothes, shoes or books under their beds, but Lucchesi kept an inventory of horse related jewelry and knickknacks for her electronic commerce store, an idea spawned out of her sister’s love of those items at horse shows. When she sold it before her first college season began, it was taking in $10,000 per month. She quietly ran camps and clinics in her travels during the next couple of summers, carefully treading around the then-existing NCAA rules against using her name, image and likeness.

“It was the biggest thorn in my side,” Lucchesi said. “I was dodging compliance throughout my college career. Every time I ran into a problem, I thought, ‘As soon as I graduate, I’m being the biggest advocate for NIL and these kids need to make money off their names.’ I can’t tell you how many times I failed on an idea because I couldn’t use my name or my image.”

NIL rules were modified July 1 by the NCAA, not quite two months after she graduated. Lucchesi was offered the chance to use her extra COVID year of eligibility to return to JMU but passed on the chance, and then considered the transfer portal briefly before diving into Pro Theory’s launch.

“I wouldn’t say I regret it,” Lucchesi said. “I’m already 23. I’m old for my grade. I’m going to try to use this year as I’m young, I have my 20s, I’m still athletic, I haven’t totally destroyed my body. I want to try different sports. I want to flow with my body. My body was slowly starting to break down by that year four.”




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


Her mind, though, was going a thousand miles per hour. She taught herself to code and web design so she could work at developing technology. Pro Theory morphed out of another idea, Lax Ops, which she started in June 2019. She enlisted Trevor Baptiste, who secured the help of other pro players to build a training resource designed to help young players develop. The business model was tweaked into Pro Theory.

“Everything I do, it’s for the next generation,” Lucchesi said. “I really want to help them and accelerate their growth. Whether that’s coaching, or sports technology, helping coaches get out there because I know I can’t coach everyone, I have to build other coaches up so they can bring their skills.”

Among those that she is reaching out to is another generation, between the established coaches and the rising young players. College athletes now can use their NIL and possibly benefit on the Pro Theory platform.

“A lot of people are coming at the NIL in a lot of different ways,” Lucchesi said. “If you want to be sustainable, you want to teach yourself some lessons, you want to get into entrepreneurship, this is a great way to start in doing something you know in a sport that you love. It’s not just about being sponsored by someone. How about you own your story and you own your narrative and you build your own brand?”

Lucchesi has spun her love of sports and technology into developing Pro Theory for lacrosse coaches and players to benefit. It has taken the same determination and drive with which she played the game as she shifts her focus into her new venture.

“She’s really passionate and she’s really creative,” Klaes said. “Her personality allows it to be a really genuine experience when you meet her. You find yourself wanting to be with her, wanting to be around her, wanting to know her opinion. She was really infectious that way. If she can do that within our program, and our organization, I’m excited to see what she can do for herself and for others.”