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Lacrosse Standout Invents Multi-Sport Grip
February 12, 2010

For many years the former Hunterdon Central High lacrosse standout carried a small hinged hand-gripper in his car, and while he drove or was stuck in traffic, he’d repeatedly squeeze it to increase the strength in his hands and wrists.


Then, two years ago on a trip down Route 31 from work to his home, he decided to alter the routine just a bit.


“At one point I held it shut and started pretending I was cradling a lacrosse stick,” said Siipola. “And suddenly I felt all these different muscles in my forearms and hands and wrists firing off.


“It was kind of an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment. This was something I wish I’d done while I was playing lacrosse in high school and college. Why couldn’t I take this device and put it on a lacrosse stick so kids can work out the muscles they use while they’re actually playing the sport? It was just an idea that came to me within a couple of seconds.”


Last year Siipola and business partner Bill Brandt, an ex-Central teammate and still a Flemington resident, formed a company called MaxXcel, a shortened term for “Maximum Acceleration to Sports Excellence,” to help promote the product.


With different sizes and designs determined by the sport, the FP 360 can be used not only by lacrosse players but also by golfers, baseball players, tennis players and hockey players as a resistance exercise tool to strengthen hand, wrist and forearm muscles, increase grip strength and reduce hand and wrist fatigue.


“The one thing no one argues about is that the forearm and hand muscles combined with fingers are among the most important factors in any stick sport,” said Brandt, “and they’re also by far one of the least-trained. There are a lot of gadgets out there, but a big difference in this is that it addresses a big need like this and it’s sport-specific training.”


Lehigh had the device ready in about four months, and then Siipola and Brandt took over the next step of just what to do with it. They introduced it to focus groups and test groups, where athletes and coaches in various sports had the opportunity to fully try out the device. One of its biggest advocates was Hunterdon Central lacrosse coach Mike Vergalito.


“We wanted to make sure the product was fully functional,” said Brandt. “The initial concept was one-dimensional for one sport (lacrosse) but then we customized it so each grip would be tailored to each sport. It probably took another year to fine-tune it and make it specific to each sport.”


Brandt, who has extensive experience in sales and entrepreneurial matters, has been invaluable in the FP 360’s market strategy and its progression to the public sector. He and Siipola had stayed in touch through the years, including playing together in a flag football league, and Brandt has coached 11 years with the Flemington Little Devils youth lacrosse program in Flemington.


Siipola and Brandt test-marketed the FP 360 in Atlantic City at a large entrepreneurial group function in April and received considerable positive feedback and input. They also had a similar experience at a Professional Golfers Association show in Orlando, Fla. early this year.


But the big breakthrough was Jan. 15, when the FP 360 officially went to market during the U.S. Lacrosse Coaches Association convention in Baltimore, Md.


“A lot of coaches, from the youth level to high school and even a couple from pro teams, purchased them,” said Siipola. “They like the idea of enhancing practice for their athletes and giving their teams a competitive edge over other teams.”


A huge feather in the FP 360’s cap is a ringing endorsement from Max Seibald, who last spring won the Tewaaraton Trophy, college lacrosse’s premier award, after a superb career at Cornell University. He was the second selection during the Major League Lacrosse draft by the Denver Outlaws.


“He gave us his stamp of approval,” said Brandt, “and that means this thing is for real.”


There could also be an expanding future for the product, as suggestions have come in for using it on mountain bikes, fishing rods and even hammers. Individuals in the medical therapy profession have also pointed out it can be used to prevent injuries and also in therapy for those who are recovering from certain injuries.

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