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Keeping it in the Family: Team USA’s Jake & Jesse Bernhardt Choose STX
Two brothers playing for competing professional teams – does this story sound familiar? Yup, Jake & Jesse Bernhardt are essentially the Manning brothers of the lacrosse world. They even have a younger brother, Jared, who’s up and coming in the sport (just like Peyton & Eli’s younger brother Cooper). Oh, also, their dad is a coach for the Houston Texans #nbd.
We sat down with the Brothers Bernhardt to talk about joining Team STX, going pro and what it's like to play against each other. Here’s what the Chesapeake Bayhawks defender and Ohio Machine midfielder had to say:
Jesse: STX was the first lacrosse brand that I ever used. We used to go to a camp in Orlando hosted by Coach Dave Cottle from Loyola and the University of Maryland. At camp, you were given an STX stick – always an STX X2 or Proton – and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. If you had told me back then that one day I would sign with STX, I would have completely lost it!
Jake: I wanted to be a part of a company that shared similar values and beliefs to myself. STX continues to develop and introduce innovative technology, with a commitment to helping players be as successful as possible on the field. The STX Excalibur was also the first stick I ever used, so it just felt right.
Jesse, as a defender, and Jake, as a midfielder, what gear would you recommend to other players in your same positions?
Jesse: As a defender, I try to keep the equipment tight – I prefer the smaller elbow pads and shoulder pads. One of my favorite pieces of STX gear is the Cell IV Glove set. With most brands, you have to take the time to break in new gloves – with STX, I pull them right out of the bag and go play a game. For a while, my go-to head was the X10 and now I’m moving towards the STX Hammer 500. I also like to use the STX Hammer SC shaft because it's super light, but still durable and strong. For a defender I think having a wide head to pick up groundballs is key.
Jake: My current set-up is the STX Stallion 700 head with an STX Stallion SC-TI OCS shaft, Cell IV Gloves and Stallion 500 Elbow Pads. This combination of stick and pads supports the versatility I need to be a two-way midfielder.
Was going pro always the dream?
Jesse: I think every young athlete aspires to go pro. I always knew I loved sports and wanted to play them as much and for as long as I could. Going through college and seeing that it was going to be a real opportunity was very exciting. My dad actually didn’t get his first stint in the NFL until his most recent one with the Houston Texans. If you were to tell our family 15 years ago that three of us would be in professional sports in some capacity, we would have laughed.
Jake: For me, going pro was always the ultimate goal – growing up, I wanted to be a professional football player and still do! As a kid, hanging around my dad and his football teams always felt like home. Our dad didn't get into professional coaching until later in his career, but watching someone I admire take that on has given me great insight into how professionals should conduct themselves on and off the field.
Any insight for guys looking to get into pro sports about the business side of it?
Jesse: It may sound simple, but it’s true – they are called professional sports for a reason, and not just because you get paid. There’s a very real business side to it and professionalism is key.
Jake: I think so many of us look at professional players (whether they’re from the NFL, MLB, NHL, etc.) as just extremely talented athletes, but in my experience, it really comes down to three things: character, work/recovery ethic and health. If these three things are priority, your stock as a professional athlete will be elevated.
How would you describe your playing chemistry? How does that translate now that you are on different teams?
Jesse: Our playing chemistry is pretty unique. We are about as close to being twins as you can get without actually being twins. We are Irish Twins, meaning less than a year apart (355 days). We always grew up playing on the same team, so now it just feels like another day in the park when we get to step out on the field together. Since we do compete once or twice a year against each other, I’d like to think we could probably give our teams a fairly good scout on one another.
Jake: Jesse and I just have a knack for knowing where each other will be on the field at any given time. We also have similar tendencies – if you watch either of us play, we try to be the first ones out on the defensive end to push transition. I think this is where our football genes kick in because breaking out for a pass is very similar to running a route in football.
What was it like growing up with your dad as a coach? What influence did he have on your game?
Jesse: I’m not sure there is enough time in the day to answer this question, so I’ll try to keep it short. We are who we are because our dad was a coach. The opportunity to be around sports, see the behind-the-scenes and connect with players we admired – all of those experiences were instrumental to our development as kids and athletes. We grew up in a household of three boys, with a football coach as a father and a mom who was a collegiate swimmer at St. John’s, so competition and hard work were just a part of the deal. I give all the credit in the world to my parents and brothers because you are what you surround yourself with and for me, that was my family. You don’t really get to choose your family, but I ended up with a pretty great one.
Jake: It was and continues to be a huge part of who I am. From a young age, all I wanted to do was coach. Jesse and I always loved going to my dad's practices and spending time with him in the office. We grew up in the locker room and spent time around his teams and the coaching staff. Even though we were young, my dad was always very transparent with us and we learned a lot from being around his teams. We learned from mistakes his players made on and off the field. You can see his influence in my game and the calculated approach I have as a coach.
How does it feel to be on the 2018 U.S. national team? What are you most excited for?
Jesse: There are so many words I could use to describe the feeling of being chosen to represent Team USA again. Humbled, proud, excited, honored are just a few. The ability to suit up with my brother again and walk on the field representing the USA is something special. It’s pretty cool that two brothers from Florida are representing the Men’s National Lacrosse team – it says a lot about the sport’s potential to grow and expand geographically. After the World Games this summer, I’m not sure if we will ever put on the same jersey again, so I’ll be soaking up the whole experience as much as I can.
Jake: Extremely grateful. I cannot wait for the World Games and to get to share the field with my brother again. I've thoroughly enjoyed the tryout process and getting to collaborate and spend time with the guys I’m usually competing against.
We know football and lacrosse - any other big sports passions in the family?
Jesse: Dad was always a Yankees fan growing up, so you’ll see baseball on our family TV every now and then. Like I mentioned, our mom swam at St. John’s so she’ll be cheering for them during basketball season, but none of them match up to football and lacrosse.
Jake: To this day, my favorite professional sports team is the New York Yankees and my favorite athlete is Derek Jeter. We're originally from Long Island, NY and our father is a longtime New York Yankees fan, which ultimately made us Yankee fans and baseball fans.
To get the Jake & Jesse gear hook-up, click here.
Want to get to know some of the other guys on the squad? Meet Sergio Salcido, the midfielder who went from Syracuse walk-on to top MLL draft pick.