As a rising lacrosse star who was recently selected in the National Lacrosse League draft in August 2021, Justin Inacio’s focus is not on his professional sports career.
For Inacio, he’s pursuing a new passion: creating a lacrosse-specific app called REPS. During the pandemic, Inacio was inspired to make a career change —deciding not to become a surgeon.
“I had an in-depth reflection of my future and what was going to make me happy,” Inacio said. “I realized that the medical school route wouldn’t provide me with that internal happiness that I would want for the rest of my life.”
Along with being the No. 10 overall pick to the Calgary Roughnecks, Inacio is studying biology on a pre-med track at Ohio State. In the future, if lacrosse didn’t work out, Inacio said he initially wanted to go to medical school and become a surgeon.
“I had my life mapped out. Do well on the MCAT, go to medical school, go to residency, then become a surgeon,” Inacio said. “Right now, taking this new path, there’s a lot of uncertainties.”
Currently working toward a business minor, Inacio said he wanted to look into a different field of work. He applied and received an internship with the Center of Innovation Strategies at Ohio State, kick-starting his creative design process.
Having grown up with lacrosse and working within the program, Inacio said he realized the biggest problem in his childhood sport: player development.
He said there were limited coaching opportunities and athlete-to-athlete connections in local areas, creating a need for more accessible resources.
“I thought of solutions to these problems and products that could ultimately help with the cause,” Inacio said. “I then decided to create REPS. This platform would be the centralized connection that got athletes and coaches to provide the necessary resources to aid in player development.”
The platform will allow users to either post or find information about private lessons, practice sessions, camps and pickup games. Coaches will have the ability to connect with athletes, build their brand and receive payments through the app.
The app will address the idea of having select personal trainers for lacrosse in the area. Instead, it will all be mainstreamed through the app and provide the process of starting private lessons and connecting with other athletes and coaches.
“Athletes and coaches don’t have a big platform to promote themselves to give private lessons,” Inacio said. “We think our platform can do just that.”
Inacio said he envisions the app to be a central resource for all athletes’ future needs.
Along with the variety of tools that will be implemented across the platform, a marketplace to buy and sell equipment will also be added.
“REPS will be an all-in-one place for everything lacrosse,” Inacio said. “Think of a LinkedIn for athletes.”
Inacio said he and his app development team want to expand to other growing sports as well, such as golf and field hockey.
In the app creation process, Inacio reached out to different software engineers with a sporting background. He said he wanted to find someone who had the same drive and passion for this idea.
Inacio stumbled onto Evolution Apps LLC, which is an app development agency. He got in contact with the co-founder, Nikolai Derek, who loved Inacio’s app idea.
“He absolutely loved it,” Inacio said. He played lacrosse and soccer in college. He’s a powerful app developer, and I knew he was the guy I wanted to work with.”
Derek comes from a marketing background, as he ran and later sold his own company, Derek Marketing Group. However, during the pandemic in April 2020, Derek said he decided to pursue app development.
Both Inacio and Derek said they knew they would pair well with each other. Derek said their similar backgrounds will make for a beneficial partnership.
Evolution traditionally builds apps rather than partnering with them. But REPS was the first app Evolution will work with beyond just app development.
“This is something that is so passionate to him that we wanted to be more involved in the process,” Derek said. “We have phone calls every day, discuss every detail. We want to make REPS the best it can be.”
REPS is set to be released Memorial Day weekend, during the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Final Four.
“It’s the biggest lacrosse event of the year,” Inacio said. “I can’t think of a better time to release the app.”
For now, Inacio is balancing classes, lacrosse and work with REPS during his fifth year at Ohio State. His goal is to pursue REPS full time after graduation while also playing in the NLL.
Inacio said he wonders every day whether he made the right choice by pursuing his app instead of medical school.
“There’s no point of going to university to do something you may regret years down the line,” Inacio said. “I’m willing to risk that to find happiness in my life and do something I’m extremely passionate about.”