The “lax bro” reputation is a label typically defined by the sport’s laid-back style and attitude. But when the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team faces off against No. 3 Denver on Saturday, that trademark takes on an entirely new meaning for senior David Planning, who will take the field against Max Planning, his real-life little brother.
“He’s my best friend,” David said. “I’ve been playing with him since we were as young as we could be … It’s weird growing up playing together in the backyard, and then you get out on that field and he’s wearing a different color.”
The brothers wore the same colors for two years when they played together at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., before David committed to OSU. Sophomore Max Planning then joined the Denver roster in 2014, allowing the Planning brothers to rekindle that on-field relationship, but this time on opposite sides of the field.
“We played against each other last year, too, so it’s really special,” Max said. “He’s my best friend. We’re brothers, but come game time we’re not gonna be, so it’s gonna be fun.”
The Pioneers defeated OSU, 9-5, during the 2014 season, and are currently 4-1 returning to Columbus this weekend. David scored three goals against his brother’s team last season, but this year he said he strives to even the score, admitting he ignores the sibling rivalry on the field.
“I kind of forget he’s out there,” David said. “When you’re in the game you’re just thinking about what your job is … We want to win. That’s really the only thing that matters.”
The brothers each play midfield, and while David said his little brother is his own player, Max could not help comparing himself to his older brother.
“A lot of people actually say we play alike, and I’ve picked up a lot of my lacrosse skills from watching him over the years,” Max said. “He’s been my role model my whole life.”
On March 5, David was recognized for that leadership as one of the 20 NCAA Division I athletes nominated for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award, which honors athletes who display outstanding community, classroom, character and competition performances.
To date, David has started in 38 games for the Buckeyes with 42 career goals, and was selected by the Ohio Machine in the 2015 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft. But the decision to pick him up not only came from his success on the field, Machine coach and vice president Bear Davis said.
“You can tell he’s very self-motivated, and that’s a big part of it,” Davis said. “I have been able to see him practice a few times and see his strengths and his skill sets. They fit in well with us.”
David carries those skills off the field as an Academic All-Big Ten athlete and come fall, the business administration major intends to pursue a postgraduate career in politics, but for now he remains focused on lacrosse.
“This sport is a part of who I am,” David said. “To play the sport I love for the Ohio Machine this summer would be a dream come true … but for now, I am focused on my senior season here … There is nothing I want more than to bring some shiny hardware back to Columbus at the end of this spring.”
Achieving that goal could begin with a win over Denver on Saturday, and while he ultimately wants OSU to earn its spot in the Big Ten Championship, David said he and his team try not to look too far ahead.
“We never look forward,” David said. “We just come in levelheaded and play our game … Playing a rival team like Denver, it’s going to be challenging, but we always want to play the best opponents. We believe that’s where we belong.”
Both David and Max expressed determination to lead their respective teams to victory, leaving only one question unanswered: Who will the Planning parents be cheering for this weekend?
“They’ll be on the 50,” David said. “We both play offense, so they cheer for offense.”
The Planning brothers, along with the rest of the Buckeyes and Pioneers, are set to face off on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.