The depth of your lacrosse pocket can be a tricky thing to adjust, especially if you have no prior stringing knowledge to work off of. I ran into this issue when I first tried my hand at readjusting the pocket depth of my stick. Since then, I’ve learned a great deal that has helped me to perfect my lacrosse pocket.
There are five main ways to deepen your lacrosse pocket:
- Loosen the bottom string.
- Soak the pocket in warm water.
- Break in the pocket with wall ball.
- Use a pocket pounder.
- Restring the sidewall pattern.
If you aren’t familiar with how to do the items listed above, don’t worry. In the subsequent sections, I will describe each of these methods step-by-step so that you’ll be able to achieve that ideal pocket depth you’ve been searching for.
How to Make Your Lacrosse Pocket Deeper
The lacrosse stick is the most important piece of equipment to your performance on the field. If your pocket is off, your performance will be off. For this reason, it’s very important to get the depth of your pocket right.
I listed the following methods in the order that you should try them in, with Method #1 being the first thing you should try and Method #5 being the last thing you should try. Of course this is only a guideline, so if you feel like prioritizing one method over another, go ahead!
Method #1: Loosen the Bottom String
The first method that you should try is loosening up the bottom string. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the bottom string is the nylon strand that fastens the lowest portion of the mesh to the head plastic.
This is the most convenient way to deepen your pocket because all you have to do is readjust one string. Below, you can find a step-by-step guide on how to accomplish this.
Once you retie the knot, make sure to push your pocket down so the bottom string can settle evenly. You should observe a noticeable increase in pocket depth.
Method #2: Soak the Pocket in Warm Water
Another effective method of deepening your pocket is plunging it into warm water for an extended period of time.
When a pocket is newly strung, it’s not as deep as it will eventually become. This is because the strings holding the pocket together are still strung taut. The pocket needs time to settle and loosen up to reach its fully deepened state.
Bathing the pocket in warm water accelerates the break in process. What I like to do is position a ball where I want the deepest part of the pocket to be and secure it in place with chopsticks. For your reference, I included the picture below to show you how I would do it.
From here, I immerse the entire pocket in hot water for an hour or so. Depending on how newly strung the pocket is, I may repeat this process once or twice more. Again, I included a picture of what this looks like below.
Some players recommend softening the pocket further with shampoo. I used to do this with standard mesh, but with the performance mesh available nowadays I haven’t had the need to use this tactic.
From there, I usually leave the ball held in place by the chopsticks for another 24 hours until the mesh is completely dry. Once I pull the chopsticks away and remove the ball, the pocket is fully broken in to my preferred depth.
I would caution against implementing this strategy if your pocket has colored mesh. The dye from the colored mesh can actually soak into the water and tinge the plastic of the head slightly, particularly if the lacrosse head is white.
The reason I say this is because I actually ran into this issue myself. When I first attempted this method, my mesh was a bright red and my lacrosse head was a pure white. In the hot bath, some of the red dye found its way into the water and stained the head plastic with a slight red hue. It was hardly noticeable, but being obsessed with lacrosse equipment at the time, it drove me crazy!
Method #3: Good, Old Wall Ball
Next up on the list is good, old-fashioned wall ball. With the previous methods, we were trying to break in the pocket through artificial means. Playing wall ball, on the other hand, breaks in the pocket naturally.
As you continue to throw the ball and catch it, the pocket will start to take a definitive shape. It will begin to deepen from the repetitive impact of the ball colliding against the pocket. The faster you bounce the wall against the wall, the quicker your pocket will break in because of the additional force the ball carries when it hits the pocket. Not to mention that it will fiercely test your hand eye coordination.
You’re going to have to put in hundreds of repetitions before you see any discernible difference in your pocket depth. The length of the wall break in process is also contingent on how fast you throw the ball. If you’re just lobbing the ball against the wall, it will take considerably more repetitions for your pocket to fully break in.
Furthermore, you’re likely adjusting the pocket depth because your stick isn’t throwing right in the first place. For this reason, I would only recommend wall ball in the event that your pocket depth needs a slight tune-up. If you’re experiencing major throwing issues due to your pocket depth, experiment with the other options first before committing to wall ball.
The last thing that you want to do is muddle your throwing technique because of a disorderly stick. But who knows? Maybe playing wall ball with a shallower pocket will unearth some problems with your throwing motion that you weren’t aware of before. Regardless, proceed with caution when implementing this method.
Method #4: Use a Pocket Pounder
If you want to replicate the pocket deepening effects of wall ball without actually playing wall ball, I would highly recommend making use of a pocket pounder.
Essentially, a pocket pounder is a short rod with a lacrosse ball attached to the top. It allows players to easily break in the mesh by repeatedly pounding the pocket in to make it deeper. This pounding motion mimics the forceful collision that takes place when a player catches a fast moving ball during wall ball.
Pocket pounding has a marked advantage over wall ball in terms of deepening a lacrosse pocket in a short span of time. This is primarily due to the fact that a player could deliver an appreciable amount of force exactly where they want their pocket to be. They can pummel this mesh area over and over again until there is a noticeable increase in depth.
Unfortunately, wall ball is not specially catered toward the break in process. It’s meant for improving your stick skills.
Once I realized this fact, I try to manually deepen my lacrosse pocket by repeatedly bashing a lacrosse ball against the mesh only using my hand. As I was trying this, I accidentally cut my knuckle on the plastic of the lacrosse head. After that experience, I finally decided it was worth it to go out and buy a pocket pounder. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had any bloody knuckles since then!
Method #5: Restring the Sidewall Pattern
If all of the prior methods fail to work, then the issue probably lies with your sidewall knot pattern. In order to do this, you must have a baseline knowledge of how to string. Otherwise, you’ll unravel the sidewall knot pattern with no means to restore it back to the way it originally was.
The sidewall knot pattern affects the properties of a lacrosse pocket in a variety of ways. Contrary to popular belief, it does much more than simply tether the lateral edges of the mesh to the sidewall. The knot pattern affects pocket depth, pocket definition, pocket placement, pocket hold, and channel tightness. Bear this in mind if you do choose to modify the sidewall pattern.
In the most basic sense, the sidewall knot pattern either clumps mesh diamonds together or spreads mesh diamonds apart. The more clumped together the mesh diamonds are, the deeper the pocket will be at that particular point. The more spread out the mesh diamonds are, the shallower the pocket will be at that particular point.
Since your primary goal is to deepen the lacrosse pocket, you’re going to have to rearrange the knot configuration so that the mesh diamonds are pulled together. To execute this, you need to take mesh diamonds that are separated out into multiple knots and bunch them closer together using one single knot.
I realize that this can be difficult to understand with words alone, so I provided an illustration below to to take you step-by-step through this process.
With stringing, there are endless combinations of knots that you could use to achieve your pocket aspirations. So although this is an easy way to clump the mesh diamonds together for a deeper pocket, realize that there are alternative methods out there that achieve the same thing.
What to Do if None of these Methods Work
In the event that none of the methods above prove successful, you’re going to have to scrap your current pocket and start from scratch.
I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but you may want to consider investing into new stringing materials as well. If you’ve used the same mesh for the past year and still plan to integrate that same piece of mesh back into your stick, I would advise you to at least entertain the idea of a new piece of mesh.
Stringing materials can make a world of a difference in terms of player performance. I know for me at least, I saw a marked improvement in my game when I made the switch from standard mesh to ECD Hero Mesh. Its semi-soft feel and added consistency really helped me to take my game to the next level.
With alternative stringing materials, you can string a stick the same exact way as you did the first time and end up with a pocket that plays completely different. In short, it may not be the string job that’s holding your pocket back, it may just be that your current stringing materials don’t complement the string job as well.
Regardless, I would seek out a veteran stringer to completely reinvent your string job the right way. Make sure to specify exactly how you want your pocket to be. Explicitly communicate what pocket depth you prefer. Tell them whether you want a low pocket or a high pocket. Show them examples of previous pockets that you liked in particular.
The more information you provide to a stringer, the better the pocket will turn out. I’ve strung lacrosse pockets for my teammates many times before. I can say with confidence that those who were most satisfied with what I strung up offered a considerable amount of information to work with beforehand.
Be Weary of the Legal Pocket Depth Limit
When you’re continually tweaking the pocket depth to get it just right, it’s easy to lose sight of what the legal depth limit is. Many novice lacrosse players tend to go overboard with pocket depth in their pursuit to get the most amount of hold possible. Obviously, this is something you want to avoid as a lacrosse player because referees do conduct stick checks often!
How to Know if Your Pocket Depth is Legal
As a general rule of thumb, your lacrosse pocket should be a little less than one ball deep. However, I know this can get a bit ambiguous at times.
One quick way to determine whether or not your pocket is legal is to perform the same pocket depth test that referees use during games. The explicit directions for how to do this are neatly laid out below.
- Place a ball at the deepest point in the pocket.
- Position the lacrosse head at eye level so that the face is directed upward.
- Keep the lacrosse head as parallel to the ground as possible. Tipping the lacrosse head one way or another may provide inaccurate results.
- Look at where the ball rests in the pocket and determine whether you can see the entire ball or not.
- LEGAL – If the sidewall string obstructs you from having a complete view of the ball as it rests in the pocket, it’s legal.
- ILLEGAL – If the sidewall string has no effect on your ability to see the ball and you can view the entire ball clearly, it’s illegal.
For your reference, I provided an illustration of what this looks like below.
It’s hard to say how you should treat pockets that lie on the borderline of legal versus illegal. On the one end, you get the maximum amount of hold out of your pocket because the pocket is so deep. On the other end, you risk drawing a penalty if you stumble on the wrong referee.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how to best handle the situation. For some players, it’s worth the risk. Other players cannot handle the anxiety of potentially failing a stick check test, so they avoid this issue altogether by making their pocket shallower.
If you do intend to walk the line of danger, I would advise going up to the referees prior to the game and politely asking them to check to see if your stick is legal. Since you’re doing it before the game has started, there’s no harm done. They either tell you that your stick is good or they tell you that you need to make the pocket shallower. Just make sure to tighten up the bottom string if they say that your pocket is too deep!
To learn more about exactly how to pass a referee’s stick check test, click over to my article What Makes a Lacrosse Stick Illegal: An Illustrated Guide.
The Penalty for Excessive Pocket Depth
Unfortunately, there are times where players do get caught red-handed with a pocket that is excessively deep. This inevitably warrants a punishment that’s issued from the referees.
Players that are found to have an excessively deep lacrosse pocket are penalized with a one minute, unreleasable penalty.
You can find more detailed information on the nature of unreleasable penalties by clicking over to my article What is an Unreleasable Penalty in Lacrosse?
This is the only circumstance where an illegal stick is penalized with a one minute penalty. For players that are found to be using an illegal stick for any other reason than excessive depth, the penalty lasts for three minutes rather than one minute (source).
Furthermore, an illegal stick that is excessively deep can return to the field of play if the pocket depth illegality is fixed. A stick that is deemed illegal for any other condition other than pocket depth cannot return to the field of play under any circumstance. It’s essentially confiscated from the game (source).
The Bottom Line
There’s a diversity of ways that you could go about deepening your lacrosse pocket. It’s only a matter of choosing a method and running with it. Worst comes to worst, you can always scrap your current pocket and start fresh with a new string job. Just be careful to not push beyond the legal bounds of pocket depth, otherwise you’ll end up costing your team an unnecessary penalty.