We’re venturing in to a new sport for our latest Industry Insider as we sit down with Tommy Kirkland, international lacrosse player and co-founder of Pioneer Teamwear.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I am Tommy Kirkland, the co-founder of Pioneer Teamwear. We are a custom teamwear provider; working across grass root clubs, schools and universities across the UK and Europe. A previous Mechanical Design Engineer, we formed the business back in 2015. Alongside running my own teamwear business, I am an international lacrosse player, having represented Scotland and England at European and World Lacrosse Championships over the past 12 years. I am currently in the British Lacrosse team for the 2022 World Games taking place this summer in Birmingham, Alabama USA.
What is Lacrosse and how long have you been playing?
Lacrosse is a native American sport created in the 1800s. It is extremely popular in North America, whilst other smaller nations such as England, Australia and Japan are the ‘best of the rest’. I first picked up a stick back when I was 9 years old at my primary school and have not looked back since!
How does the future of the sport look?
Last year, lacrosse received international recognition from the IOC and is on course to be included at the 2026 Commonwealth and 2028 Olympic games, which is a fantastic opportunity for the sport. Lacrosse last appeared in the Olympics in 1908, so it has been a while! British Lacrosse is the newly formed national body of the sport in our country and shall be showcased in The World Games this summer, which is often used as a steppingstone for sports on course for inclusion in the Olympics. A new version of the sport has been created for the Olympics, called ‘sixes’. It is a six a side version which is played on a slightly smaller pitch – think Rugby 7’s!
Are you supported financially?
In short – no. Lacrosse is an amateur sport and is entirely self funded, either through personal finances or sponsorship. A large majority of my business earnings are spent on my training and sporting trips around the world!
Back to your work, what do you do in your current role?
My current working role includes all aspects of the business, along with my business partner and fellow founder, Josh. We handle everything across the business; from sales and finance, to printing and packing. Whilst we don’t currently have any employees, we do use subcontractors and freelancers within our flexible team, across production, design, and sales.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
An average week for me would likely include sales and liaising with customers; managing production and stock purchases; customer service and design – to name a few! Alongside this, I have club training and weekend games and also British Lacrosse training, with a session in midweek and often a longer Sunday or weekend session. Along with additional sprint and gym sessions, it’s fair to say I am pretty busy!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I have been a keen sportsman my whole life and when the opportunity to run my own sports business arose, I jumped at the opportunity. Whilst my degree and initial graduate role was in engineering, the sport industry has always interested me. I often kept my eye on the ongoings across the sports business world and having collected my fair share of sports kit across the years, I always thought the opportunity to produce and provide custom kit would be something exciting.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Running a business is extremely difficult, especially when we are learning as we go. My learning curve has been steep, and whilst we have made mistakes on the way, I’d like to think that we have moved on from these and are a completely different establishment from when we started back in 2015! The two main focuses for us are both the customer and the product – our buying customers have to come first as without them, we wouldn’t be operating! Making sure teams look good when they step out on the field is something of great importance to us as a company.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
With many consumers adapting their buying habits, the introduction of sustainable materials is really exciting. Recycled and organic materials are now more readily used by manufactures to increase their sustainable offering, which has allowed us to offer more options to our customers. It would be great if we could soon be in a position where we can only offer organic and recycled products.
Running your own business and being an international sportsman must be difficult, how do you manage your time?
Time management is always difficult when I have so much on my plate. Whilst the business is expanding year on year, my free time seems to be shrinking! I aim to be as flexible as possible with my schedule, fitting in my gym and training sessions whenever I have the opportunities, whether that be early in the morning or lunch times– saying that, our customers always come first!
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Running your own business is definitely hectic, often spinning many plates at a time; alongside my sporting commitments it’s fair to say I don’t have too much spare time. When I’m not working or training, I enjoy heading out into the great outdoors on a dog walk, and enjoy meeting up with friends for the occasional beer!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
The sporting world is constantly changing; I think adaption is key, so keeping an eye on the industry as it changes can only be beneficial.
How to connect with Tommy Kirkland…
Check out our website at www.pioneerteamwear.co.uk and Instagram @pioneerteamwear. Also, the British Lacrosse website at www.britishlacrosse.org. We also have a GoFundMe to help send the British Lacrosse Teams to the World Games.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Tommy Kirkland! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.