Redwoods LC faceoff specialist Jerry Ragonese models the new Guardian Mask produced by Pro Athletics, the Los Angeles-based uniform and apparel company he co-founded in 2010.

Lacrosse Companies, Athletes Mobilize in the Fight Against COVID-19

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers

The lacrosse community does not need to look far to find people who are helping. From individual families and small business owners to large manufacturers, people associated with the sport are marshaling their resources to produce protective equipment for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

In two of the hardest hit states, California and New York, lacrosse industry representatives are retrofitting their businesses both to remain operational and to answer the federal and state governments’ call to mobilize the private sector.

“It feels a lot like the World War II effort, all of these companies switching over to do what they can to help,” said Jerry Ragonese, co-founder of Pro Athletics, the Los Angeles-based sports uniform and apparel manufacturer. “I don’t look at it as being noble. It’s what the country needs to do in a time of need.”

Ragonese plays professionally as a faceoff specialist for the Premier Lacrosse League’s Redwoods LC and also co-founded The Faceoff Academy. When he noticed Fortune 500 companies like General Motors and Tesla move toward manufacturing ventilators, he wondered why a small business like his could not similarly adapt.

On March 20, the day after California became the first state to issue a stay-at-home policy and shutter all non-essential businesses, Ragonese announced on Twitter that Pro Athletics would enlist the Defense Production Act to make supplies — including face masks, sheets and scrubs — for hospitals in need.

Since then, the company has retrofitted its Agoura Hills factory while awaiting specifications from FEMA and the arrival of FDA-approved materials. To be clear, Ragonese said, Pro Athletics is not manufacturing the regulation N95 masks, the materials for which have skyrocketed in cost during the COVID-19 crisis. But the dire tone of the thousands of emails flooding his inbox daily — from hospital workers and first responders to susceptible families — suggests that something is better than nothing.

The same breathable, moisture-resistant materials Pro Athletics uses to make a hundred football uniforms per day could be used to produce 2,000 masks in the same timeframe. The Guardian Mask, which is washable and reusable, can be purchased in 12-packs ($144 each) on the Pro Athletics website, with discounts available for hospitals that contact the company directly.

“My eyes have been opened to the unseen war. It’s like every hospital’s D-Day,” Ragonese said. “I had no idea how abysmal things were for these people on the front lines just looking for anything. They’re wrapping shirts around their face.”

“My eyes have been opened to the unseen war. It’s like every hospital’s D-Day.” — Jerry Ragonese, co-founder of Pro Athletics

On the other side of the country, Cascade Maverik Lacrosse has similarly mobilized its headquarters in Liverpool, N.Y., to produce the Cascade Face Shield.

The leading producer of men’s lacrosse helmets and women’s lacrosse headgear and eyewear, Cascade had sent its workforce home last Saturday after New York became the second state to close non-essential businesses. It took five days to develop a prototype, but the company was back up and running Thursday.

The Cascade Face Shield consists of a plastic shield, foam brow and the strap normally used for eyewear, fastened together by the rivets normally used for helmets. Cascade is selling the product at cost ($35 for a 10-pack). Within 48 hours, there were orders for more than 300,000 units, said Patrick O’Toole, director of marketing for Cascade Maverik.

“There’s a passion to protect. It’s our tagline, but for a good purpose,” O’Toole said. “It goes beyond the technology that’s in a helmet. It goes to an inner meaning. We kind of tapped into that.”

Available for order over the phone (1-800-573-1702) or via email (, the shield is designed for a single use as splatter protection in aerosolized environments.

“We’re prioritizing hospitals over all else,” O’Toole said, adding that everyone who submits an inquiry gets categorized. “We are just so overwhelmed by the need and proud of the effect that people are letting us know we’re having.”

Much of the positive feedback came from social media. Cascade is promoting the product using the hashtag #GiveMePPE that has become ubiquitous in light of the alarming shortage of personal protective equipment for health and safety workers at risk of contracting the coronavirus themselves and infecting their families.

A video posted on Cascade’s Instagram and Twitter channels had more than 45,000 views in two days. A tweet by Inside Lacrosse with pictures of the product and a link to the press release had more than 3,000 likes and dozens of supportive replies.

“Whatever we can do to keep people safe and help bring the country back to a state of normality is what we plan to do today and through the immediate future,” Cascade Maverik general manager Tim Ellsworth said in the press release. “Thankfully, we have the resources, vendors and facilities to contribute on a national scale, but most importantly, we have the right people.”


The Cascade Face Shield, produced at Cascade Maverik headquarters in Liverpool, N.Y., provides splatter protection in aerosolized environments.

Another lacrosse industry stalwart, StringKing, announced Wednesday that it was working with California state officials to produce a line of personal protective equipment. Mouth guard manufacturer Sisu, meanwhile, is doing its part to help also by producing protective face shields.

But the demand goes beyond clothes, masks and shields. Hand sanitizer also has become scarce, prompting distilleries around the country to shift alcohol production toward the effort to protect against and remove germs from skin.

Guardian Sports, which produces lacrosse balls and soft-shell helmets, recently launched the PEARL PolyArmor net coating. Now the company is using the PolyArmor technology to make an antibacterial solution that can be used on hands and surfaces.

Guardian’s PolyArmor Hand Sanitizer refills come in half-gallon ($35) and one-gallon ($65) shipments. The product is currently sold out.

And while lacrosse players have been idled by the cancellation of the spring college and high school seasons, several have discovered a renewed purpose in the fight against the coronavirus disease.

When Sarah Heringer, an emergency medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, Calif., came home one night looking for supplies, her lacrosse-playing daughters, Grace and Ella, were eager to help. They turned the dining room of their Davis, Calif., home into a family assembly line, using a laminator, scissors, foam weather strips, cohesive bandage wrap and double-sided mounting tape to create homemade face shields.

What started with the Heringer sisters and their three younger siblings — Faith, Hope and Jacob — has since spawned a non-profit organization with more than 120 volunteers. Team SHIELD (Students Helping in Emergencies and Life Disasters) includes a core of Davis High School and NorCal RIZE club lacrosse players.

Team SHIELD has raised more than $6,000 and produced more than 1,000 face shields in the last week, delivering them to hospitals throughout the region.

“They’re running out as fast as we’re making them,” said Grace Heringer, a junior midfielder.

Ella Heringer, a freshman midfielder, said she knew they were onto something when she went with her mother to Kaiser Permanente to replenish the stock of face shields there.

“The director there was so happy, because they were running out,” she said.

Similar stories circulated in college athletics in the last week. Megan Power, a senior midfielder for the Siena women’s lacrosse team, was featured in the Albany Times Union for sewing hundreds of masks out of fabrics she found at her house in Cranbury, N.J. Former Saint Michael’s women’s lacrosse captain Emily Loebs has received nearly 400 orders since she started crafting masks after hours from her home in Boston.

“You wonder what athletes do when they don’t have sports to play,” said Jennifer Morris, the Heringers’ coach at Davis High School and with NorCal RIZE. “This is just a good outlet.”

You can take lacrosse out of the community, but you can’t take the community out of lacrosse.