Local inventor creates Head Rock training weight for lacrosse
By SHOURJYA MOOKERJEE — It was an overcast April night at Heurich Park. The boys of Prince George’s Pride Lacrosse had just finished their practice, and one by one, they threw off their gear and quickly reunited with their families before the drizzle matured into rain. But a few didn’t seem to care.
A handful had decided to stay behind, for various reasons. Some practiced their shot on the nets before their coaches hurriedly put all the goalposts away, whereas others snuck in a quick round of wall ball drills.
One figure stood out among the boys, however. While other parents and coaches mingled, lacrosse coach Craig Tillmann called out instructions. He continuously delegated drills to the players that remained — his own son, Nate, being one of them. Tillman emphasized form and demonstrated ground ball techniques to ensure they made the best use of their time.
Additionally, the Hyattsville resident used this free-play period to introduce the players to something that was not only designed to help them improve on a range of skills, but that he himself created in his own shop — the Head Rock training weight.
Tillmann’s father, Craig Tillmann Sr., coached both club and high school lacrosse in the 1960s, getting his start at the Red Shield Boys Club in Baltimore and moving to Tillmann Jr.’s alma mater, Archbishop Curley High School, shortly afterwards. With three titles to his name, Tillmann Sr. went on to serve as an official for 25 years, officiating numerous NCAA tournament and international games.
“My dad, actually, has been a big part of the lacrosse community in Baltimore for a long time,” Tillmann said. “The Head Rock was originally his idea. When he first shared the concept with me, he came to me knowing that I had been a shop teacher. Years later, I finally built one in my basement, and it worked.”
“It seemed to help build wrist strength, as well as speed,” Tillmann said. “So we went forward and launched the first Head Rock about a year and a half ago, and we were really excited with the initial feedback.”
The molded 8-ounce attachment, which conforms to any regulation lacrosse head, is designed for dry reps, a term for any motion without the ball. The training weight, which is 3 ounces heavier than a lacrosse ball, is meant to mimic the feeling of a ball in the pocket.
The idea is similar to something baseball fans have grown accustomed to seeing batters warm up with: a weighted ring, or doughnut, that fits over the end of a bat. Both the Head Rock and the baseball doughnut are rooted in the theory of complex training, which alternates heavier and lighter weights to improve explosive power.
“One of the most common things players and their parents would ask us, as coaches, was ‘How can my kid get a faster shot?’ or ‘How can they build velocity on their movements?’” Tillmann said. “You know, before he gets up to bat, a Major League Baseball player adds a little weight to help increase power and speed — so that was his idea.”
Tillmann, however, noted a crucial difference between his model and other available products.
“We put our weight in the pocket, to make the stick create the same momentum that it would if it had a ball in the pocket.” Tillmann said. “There are other training aids that make the stick heavier, but, for us, where the weight is situated is what makes it unique. It allowed us to get our patent.”
The coach maintained that the best way to improve any lacrosse skill is “to hit a bucket of balls,” but said the Head Rock offered a convenient compromise.
“With the Head Rock, players can build their mechanics on their own, even before practice or shootaround. You can get a lot of repetitions done in a short amount of time.”
In addition to getting feedback from lacrosse camps in his Hyattsville community, Tillmann has also had the advantage of having a professional try out the Head Rock. Major League Lacrosse player Pat Young, a former collegiate player at the University of Maryland, gave the product a glowing review at a recent event.
“I like that,” said Young, in a clip that made it onto the product’s website. “It actually feels like a full-blown ball.”
Another pivotal moment that Tillmann recalled came earlier this year, during a coach’s hour at the 2019 U.S. Lacrosse Convention in Philadelphia, where the vendors showcased their products to all the coaches present.
“We were getting a lot of weird looks,” Tillmann said, noting that the concept of dry reps is a relatively foreign idea in the lacrosse community. “I was so busy trying to sell the thing that I wasn’t able to take videos of their faces before and after they tried the product.”
While he lamented the missed opportunity of capturing those emotions, Tillmann joked that for him, the looks of astonishment are his greatest accomplishment.
“It’s pretty fun to see their faces light up when they try it out,” he said. “It makes it all worth it in the end.”