Adrenaline Junkie: Alex Cade's Grassroots Movement in Southern California

Alex Cade moved to Southern California in 1999 and started Adrenaline Lacrosse in 2001, building it into a lacrosse empire.

Adrenaline Lacrosse co-founder Alex Cade, a 42-year-old father of three with gray hair and a full salt-and-pepper beard, laughs when asked if he could still pull off wearing the funky socks that have become synonymous with his company’s brand.

Cade’s cool factor has faded some, he admits. Still, you’re more likely to find the self-effacing CEO pacing barefoot or in flip-flops on a field than suited up in some boardroom. He’s most comfortable with his toes in the grass.

That’s why he believes in grassroots growth and the movement toward collaboration in club lacrosse.

Adrenaline isn’t just an apparel company, you see. In fact, Cade and former Notre Dame teammate Steve Sepeta went into business together with a more quixotic purpose — to spread lacrosse in Southern California.

It started when they were “accosted,” Cade said, in a supermarket by a mom who noticed their Notre Dame lacrosse shirts. Cade and Sepeta had just moved to Solana Beach just north of San Diego. The mom had middle-school boys who wanted to play lacrosse, but no coach. It was 1999, and beyond a dozen or so high school teams in the area, the sport had not yet arrived.

They started the South Swell summer league, inviting all sorts of lacrosse luminaries — with last names like Curtis, Hess, Powell, Watson and Zulberti — to stay in their four-bedroom house on Nardo Avenue six blocks from the ocean. All they had to do was coach the kids.

Cade and Sepeta, meanwhile, did lacrosse demos at schools and formally founded Adrenaline Lacrosse in 2001 as a one-stop shop for locals to buy equipment and apparel. The victory shield, with the silhouette of a lacrosse player raising both arms and stick to celebrate a goal, became iconic. Retailers wanted the socks. Big-box stores followed.

The tipping point came when their college coach, Kevin Corrigan, suggested they host a recruiting event for western prospects. In 2003, the Adrenaline Shootout was born — and everyone wanted to let loose at Nardo. Cade would wake up the morning after a bonfire to find he had less furniture in the house than the night before.

Today, Adrenaline operates more than 50 events in 15 states, shifting its focus in recent years from recruiting to player development. The company sold its retail division to Lacrosse Unlimited in 2014, but has maintained its apparel and custom team gear business. Its West Coast Starz club is nationally recognized for featuring the top talent west of the Mississippi.

In August, Adrenaline partnered with US Lacrosse as part of its tournament sanctioning program. Eight Adrenaline events are qualifiers for US Lacrosse Nationals at the 14U, 13U and 12U levels. Cade is a member of the fairness advisory group that also includes reps from would-be competitors like STEPS Lacrosse, 3d Lacrosse, Ultimate Events and Sports, NXTsports and Trilogy Lacrosse.

“We believe in the US Lacrosse mission. We want to shout it from the rooftops,” said Cade, also the coach at Coronado High School. “We are a partnership company. We look to partner with as many people doing the right thing as possible.”

“Before, the story was, ‘Club lacrosse is killing the sport.’ We’ve changed that story,” he added. “Let’s all work together to grow this thing. When you do that, the cream rises to the top. It’s no longer us vs. them. Fragmentation has been the biggest thing that hurt our sport.”

Come one, come all. That’s the Adrenaline way. USL


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