Lacrosse is known as the fastest sport on two feet. In lacrosse, you use your stick, also known as cross, to pass, pick up ground balls, as well as score and defend. There are many players who suffer a broken stick throughout their career, and the importance of getting a new one is crucial to their game. The stick is to lacrosse as a ball is to soccer, or a hockey stick is to hockey. Simply put, you cannot play without one.
When deciding on which stick to get, there are important details to take into consideration. Meghan Shneck, Director of Operations for the Monmouth University women’s lacrosse team, shared her thoughts on the different types of sticks available and at which level a player should begin to use them. “Beginners usually start with a completed stick set. These sticks usually have a wider head and a thicker pocket material,” said Shneck.
As a player advances, so should their stick. “As they become more skilled, a player will look for a narrower head. These sticks start to develop channels to hold the ball in the sweet spot,” continued Shneck. The “sweet spot” being the place below the shooting string where the ball sits most comfortably in the stick. When the ball is in this spot, there is an advantage of having a better shot or pass.
In terms of competing at the highest level, Shneck counsels, “Advanced sticks will have a single piece runner in the middle straight up in the material of the head of the stick. This helps with the ship, speed and accuracy of the ball.”
There are many ways to string a stick depending on what you are looking for. Shneck had her own preference while at Kean, “My favorite stringing is with four leathers on the inside with mesh or synthetic. I feel like as an attacker the leathers give you a good fast whip of the ball. On the other hand, mesh holds the ball really well. Personally, I like leathers for attackers and mesh for defenders and/or players who have a hard time keeping the ball in their stick. Also, mesh helps form a nice pocket for the draw,” said Shneck.
The draw in women’s lacrosse, which occurs after every goal is how a team gains possession of the ball, in men’s lacrosse this process is known as the faceoff.
Monmouth women’s lacrosse Assistant Coach Christie Kaestner also recognizes the importance of the sweet spot to the women’s game. “When I teach little girls, I always talk about the sweet spot and help them create a nice pocket right there to develop their ability to control the ball,” said Kaestner.
A former attacker at Duke University, Kaestner recognizes the tremendous technological advancements in terms of lacrosse sticks. “Sticks these days have tremendous sweet spot technology – the pockets are designed to encourage a sweet spot and allow for better control, especially for younger players,” described Kaestner.
In terms of the difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse sticks, Kaestner explained, “Women’s sticks are designed to encourage skill and feel of the ball, unlike a men’s stick with a deep pocket, a women’s stick is much shallower and thus requires more feel and skill to handle the ball.” Due to the checking allowed in the men’s game, the head of a men’s stick has a deeper pocket, which keeps the ball in place within a greater range of movement. Women’s stick heads have a shallower pocket and shorter sidewalls, allowing for frequent passing.
Kaestner, a player of the sport of lacrosse since she was a child, has always had her own personal preference of stick. “I loved a tracker pocket when I was in high school because it had a great sweet spot and today’s pockets are all modeled after the tracker,” said Kaestner. In regard to the type of stringing she has preferred throughout her years as a player and coach, she sees the value of stringing. “I’m not a fan of the new mesh for women because I think it’s harder to release the ball, just like with a men’s stick. The mesh in their [men’s] sticks creates a different point of release, a flatter angle, so it’s harder to aim,” she said. If you’re questioning what matters the most when buying a lacrosse stick, she cautions, “The head doesn’t matter all that much, but the stringing does, go for a string head with a sweet spot in the pocket – you can’t go wrong,” she said.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the main places to purchase lacrosse sticks, has a pro tip website, where they stated, “More advanced players will want to use a lacrosse head that allows for more intricate adjustments. This will allow the player to adjust the stick to fit a changing playing style. One aspect of the lacrosse stick that can be adjusted from player to player is pocket depth. Deeper pockets allow for better ball control and shallower pockets are best for quicker release. A player’s pocket depth is up to their personal preference.”
From a men’s lacrosse perspective, things change. Gordon Phillips, a senior long stick midfielder for the Monmouth Men’s lacrosse team, is quite skilled when it comes to different types of men’s lacrosse sticks.
“The main difference between men’s and women’s lacrosse sticks is firstly, the weight of the shaft. As there is more hitting in guys, a heavier shaft is needed to sustain the hits and abuse. Another difference is the head. A men’s head is thicker on the sides and does not have a bend on the top of the head because a mesh pocket would be difficult to string into this. Lastly, the pocket is different. Girls tend to use traditional, which includes leather strings or a run way; while guys use mostly mesh, which will stretch and can be strung deeper for better control of the ball, more depth and makes the ball easier to catch, but less consistent,” Phillips said.
There is something players do besides having different heads and shafts, and that is the taping they use on their sticks. Not everyone does it, but those who do, may do so for different reasons. “Players tape their sticks based on how much grip they want and where they want their hands to sit on their shaft. The tape allows players to have more control, especially when it’s raining,” said Phillips.
Monmouth Women’s lacrosse Assistant Coach Tim McGeeney said it’s all about where you’re starting, and where you plan to end up in terms of what stick to begin with, specifically for men’s lacrosse players. “Due to the varying depths of men’s pockets and the type of stringing, new players are encouraged to start with a stick called the Warp from Warrior. The mesh is made of soft Kevlar and is resistant to change. This type of stick was introduced just a few years ago to create a better experience for new players,” he said.
The complete Warp stick costs around $120 dollars. A former All-American goalie for Loyola College, McGeeney has extensive knowledge of the sport.
Depending on how old you are and when you begin playing, lacrosse is a sport that brings a lot of fun experiences, and new friendships. When a player breaks their stick, the process to get a new one is fun and trying to find what stick suits you best can be a rewarding experience.