You know what sucks about getting older and still playing the beautiful game? Those little niggling injuries.
When I was kid, the little knocks and scrapes that I’d pick up over the course of a game didn’t seem like that big of a deal. The next day, I’d be a bit sore and maybe need a band-aid or two, but I could play on mostly unaffected. Though I’m sure my mother would have preferred I not pick up so many so she wasn’t always having to bleach the blood out of my uniforms and practice gear.
But these days — now that the youthful adrenaline and testosterone has drained from my body — those same little knocks and scrapes are anything but a little deal. Bruises ache for days, if not weeks. Scrapes seem to take forever to heal, and my work pants always get stuck to them. I’m still limping about from a slide tackle I took last week. And now it’s my wife that’s stuck having to get the stains out of my clothes.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for me to minimize those annoying little injuries? Something that would be low profile or look like I’ve wrapped myself in foam like the kid from “The Little Giants”.
Luckily, there is… and I actually know the guy who makes it. In fact, I grew up playing with him. And I recently sat down with Claudio Storelli, the founder of Storelli Sports, so he could tell us about his up and coming brand of protective gear for soccer players of all ages and abilities.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Claudio, thanks for catching up with me my old friend! It’s been quite a few years since I’ve heard “Claudio’s Coming to America” story, and I’m sure quite a few reading have never heard it. Would you mind giving us a quick 2-minute biography on your life, and how a guy born in Milan ended up in New York and launching a soccer brand?
Claudio Storelli: Well my friend, after my days playing soccer with you in Ohio I went to college at Santa Clara University, where I played Division I soccer. It was a really awesome experience, especially considering I was only 16 my freshman year and we made it to the National Championship. Great memories! After two years there I transferred to Stanford University, graduating with a dual degree in Econ and Philosophy.
I then moved on to Columbia Law School in the Big Apple, which is funny because when I started there I couldn’t even drink! And though I graduated by 23, I decided that law wasn’t for me… so I went into business. First as a top management consultant at McKinsey & Co., then by starting a few businesses. My latest creation is Storelli Sports, and it is also the one that makes me the proudest. It is truly a beautiful idea being executed in a beautiful way, and we are having a ton of fun with our customers in the process.
D.J. @ WSOTP: So you ended up in New York City working the life of a big city business man… how did you end up launching a new sportswear brand?
Claudio Storelli: In September 2009, Jing Liang (co-founder and Head of Technology & Product Development) and I were playing indoor soccer at a prestigious indoor facility in downtown Manhattan. The league was frequented primarily by investment bankers who — at least at the time — had no shortage of money. We noticed that though our fellow players were wearing the most expensive gear available, from $400 boots to premium shirts, you’d still see players with big, bloody “strawberries” on their thighs, others with gashes on theirs knees, and someone was always limping along thanks to a kick to the side of his calf. Something was clearly wrong with that picture.
Those players had the money to buy any product they wanted, yet they were coming out of the field injured as if they had been to battle. Anyone who’s played in a youth tournament — or watched their kids play in one — could certainly relate. At that moment, Jing and I realized that there wasn’t a soccer brand out there that focused on protection beyond the classic shin guards. This was true even though there was a very “painful” need for that protection, to prevent from having the fun sucked out of the game and making parents worry more than they should. At that moment, the idea of Storelli Sports was born.
D.J. @ WSOTP: With how fast and physical the kids are these days in my own indoor leagues, I could definitely see how some extra protection from the late tackles would be a great idea. But taking a great idea from the drawing board to reality can be a tricky task. How did you get the Storelli Sports off the ground?
Claudio Storelli: Before we could even have a product made, we had to research why the “big brands” hadn’t addressed the issue themselves. Our findings were two-fold:
- Soccer is not recognized as a high impact sport, and since the big money is in shoes, branded kits, and cheaply made/expensively sold soccer apparel, those brands kept focusing on all the traditional “money-making” aspects of the sport. But in the process, they’ve ignored some of the most impactful issues that players around the world face, such as the injuries that players pick up by hitting other players and/or the ground.
- Traditional protective materials — like EVA foam or neoprene found inside football pads/helmets — aren’t well suited to protect soccer players, and need to be bulky to afford real protection, thus limiting flexibility, comfort and range of movement. Think about it this way… you could wrap your thigh in shinguards, but you would end up looking and moving like Robocop!
The end conclusion from those two points: Storelli needed to find a technological solution outside of soccer. After several months experimenting with materials used originally by NASA, we settled on a special type of polyurethane foam that expresses remarkable impact absorption properties, while being lightweight, breathable, flexible and even anti-bacterial. But figuring out how to get this new foam into soccer gear was another problem altogether. For that Storelli again turned outside the world of soccer to Tom Marchesi, who was recruited to be the creative soul of Storelli Sports. Tom had spent the last few years designing “cool” products for skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding brand Dakine. Working with construction techniques never adopted in soccer, Tom had the unique ability to draw from his “outside” experience with designs and materials to find creative, very different solutions. We also thought it was important to include players in our design process from the get-go, and polled a large test group on every dimension of the gear. In this way, the resulting products would be something that players liked, not just something that the Storelli team liked.
D.J. @ WSOTP: So with all of this outside influence in Storelli’s gear, I’d imagine your designs aren’t exactly run of the mill?
Claudio Storelli: Your right… Storelli gear looks NOTHING like normal soccer gear! It looks more like something a speedracer would wear to protect him/herself from accidents. Or as a recent customer eloquently put it, “Storelli gear feels like something Batman would wear….it looks cool….when I wear it, I feel protected, I feel stronger!”
D.J. @ WSOTP: So what are these Batman-esque products that Storelli is integrating these new technologies into? Please don’t tell me you’re making a utility belt.
Claudio Storelli: Hahaha… no, we’re not making Batman utility belts! But so far, Storelli has produced three patent-pending inventions: our signature ChesTrap™ chest-pad that makes it easy to trap the ball by absorbing impact and shots; the aXorb™ goalkeeper glove foam technology that affords unparalleled shot absorption, and the LegGuard™, a groundbreaking new piece of lower leg protective equipment that stands to revolutionize standard soccer gear. All three technologies can be found in our Storelli BodyShield line, which we feel is the most innovative line of technical soccer apparel to come out in decades.
D.J. @ WSOTP: So you keep mentioning about the technical aspects and benefits of your technology. While it’s one thing for you to tell me how great Storelli’s products are, I’m a man who likes some hard evidence to back things up. Do you have any science to wow us with?
Claudio Storelli: We do. But rather than explain it to you, why don’t I show it to you? First up is our protective foam technology:
Next up is a short clip demonstrating the technological benefits of our aXorb™ goalkeeper gloves.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Now seeing how you’re a goalkeeper yourself, it seems like these products are specifically geared towards your fellow netminders.
Claudio Storelli: At the moment, Storelli gear does seem skewed towards goalies. But the brand is NOT just a goalkeeper brand. In fact, we’ve actually just introduced our first gear for outfield players in the BodyShield Sliders, and we will soon be debuting ChesTrap™ undershirts and LegGuard™ for field players too. The last two are currently being tested and worn by professionals around the world and is getting a LOT of players excited…
D.J. @ WSOTP: Wait… you’ve got sponsored pros already? Care to namedrop at all?
Claudio Storelli: I am literally biting my lips right now. But my PR agent is staring at me with the look of an old angry teacher who knows you are about to do something bad… Okay, I will behave! What I can tell you is that Storelli has decided to focus and invest first and foremost on new technologies and materials, and so we’ve passed up on the opportunity to associate — and pay — “big name” players to our logo. In fact, the opposite has happened. Because of the value our products offer and their lack of substitutes, professional players have come from all over to ask to wear our gear! Right now, we have players rocking Storelli that play for Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA in MLS, Shamrock Rovers and several other top European clubs that we can’t mention due to their contractual relationships with other brands. So if you’re particularly eagle-eyed, you might just see it yourself!
D.J. @ WSOTP: Fair enough. So if I were a player wanting to snag some Storelli gear of my own, where should I look?
Claudio Storelli: There are loads of places to get your own Storelli products, the first and most obvious of which is our website, www.storelli.com. But just six months on from our initial launch, the uptake and demand for Storelli exceeded even our expectations! All of the most important soccer outlets are considering carrying us — despite it being a really new brand — and we can now be found in hundreds of brick and mortar soccer stores across Europe and the US. You can even order Storelli gear from online retail giants like Europsort, World Soccer Shop and The Goalkeeper Co.
D.J. @ WSOTP: With that many outlets already offering Storelli gear, it’s understandable why you and your team are so excited about the prospects for the brand. Are there any exciting developments around the corner that you’d like to let us know about?
Claudio Storelli: There is really ton of exciting stuff happening. First off, we are coming out with some products that will really change the way people dress when playing soccer. And I’m not talking about launching a bright pink shoe hoping to start a temporary fashion trend with little substance behind it! I am talking technical products with real science behind them, and a functional purpose that no other product provides. For example: our LegGuard™… you’ve never seen anything like it. And after wearing it and seeing that you can run through defenders and not care if you get kicked left and right, you’ll probably wonder “Why did it take this long for someone to come up with this brilliant idea?!”.
We also have three-quarter pants for goalies and field players on the horizon too. You know how we all come out of practices and games with bloody knees? Nobody right mind would play soccer wearing silly knee pads. So we’ve designed two really aggressive pair of pants with embedded protection that is completely hidden, but still super effective. So you can dive or slide around like crazy, and come out unscathed. No more bloody knees or thighs that stick to your sheets at night. No more wounds that re-open at every practice. All that is left is the love for the game, and your desire to play as hard as you can.
D.J. @ WSOTP: That’s all really exciting stuff! I’m curious to see where you see Storelli Sports five years down the road. Are you hoping to continue expanding your offerings, or instead focusing on improving the existing set of products?
Claudio Storelli: In five years a lot will happen, and on three axes. First, we will broaden our line to cover players from head to toe. Second, we are investing heavily in researching new technologies that are at the cutting edge of any industry, not just the soccer industry — which is traditionally pretty slow to adopt innovation. And third, we have new patent-pending innovations to come and have no intention of stopping.
Other brands have the luxury of placing a logo on a $1 shirt and sell it at $100 because of their expensive ads. Storelli Sports doesn’t have that luxury. We survive only if our products are the best, most technical products out there. So we intend to stay at the forefront of innovation and change the lives of soccer players around the world.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Well Claudio, thanks so much for sharing so much about your exciting new Storelli Sports brand. But I do have one last thing for you, and it will force you to dive back in to your memory banks to answer. Around the time when you first came to US, you traveled with my family and I to take in your very first MLS game. Do you remember what you were most excited about from that game?
Claudio Storelli: Oh man, I can’t believe you remember that! You just put a huge smile on my face. And it’s all coming back to me… Columbus Crew game against Miami Fusion and Valderrama was playing, right? I can think of several things that would have got me super excited at that age… tell me if any are correct.
- Hot dogs. For some reason, I have a thing for hot dogs at sporting events. It’s strange.
- The cheerleaders… to admire their technical dancing skills, obviously. But, give me a break, I was 15 and there are no cheerleaders in Italy!
- Valderrama. That guy was amazing. He didn’t run at all, but his passing was great…. and his fantastic hair of course!
D.J. @ WSOTP: Now that’s the Claudio I remember! And while I certainly remember your “fondness” for the cheerleaders, the thing I remember you wanting to see the most was the old MLS-style shoot out. If I recall correctly, you were probably the only person to celebrate at Columbus Crew Stadium when the visiting Fusion scored a late equalizer… just because you would get to see our thankfully now-retired tie-breaker! If we only knew that the young shouting Italian kid in the stands would one day be dressing the pros we were watching on the field! Best of luck to you, Claudio.
Many thanks again to Claudio Storelli for sharing with us today about his exciting new Storelli Sports Brand. Not to mention, it was great to catch up with an old friend!
And for those readers who were diligent enough to read through the entire interview, Claudio would like to reward you with a discount when you shop next at www.storelli.com… all you have to do is enter the coupon code “WSOTP” at checkout, and you’ll receive 25% off your purchase!