Lacrosse players frequently throw around the word ‘whip’ when tossing around the ball. If you are new to the game of lacrosse, you are probably wondering what exactly the term whip means.
Lacrosse players use the generic term ‘whip’ to describe how low a lacrosse stick naturally throws. A lacrosse stick with high whip has a general tendency to throw the ball into the ground. In contrast, a lacrosse stick with low whip has a natural propensity to throw the ball high in the air.
Of course, this is just the broad gist of the conceptual theory behind whip. There are numerous components that factor into how high or low a lacrosse stick, which is the very premise behind whip. In the latter portions of the article, we will discuss these various elements that affect lacrosse whip and how you can apply this knowledge to enhance your lacrosse pocket to better suit your play style.
Meaning Behind Whip in Lacrosse
As aforementioned, whip is a term that lacrosse players utilize to provide a relative indication of how high or low a lacrosse stick throws.
Lacrosse whip has no definitive units of measurement. It is simply a casual means for players to compare and contrast the throwing characteristics between lacrosse sticks.
The Concept of the Whip Sliding Scale
I like to think of whip on a sliding scale from 1 to 10, with low whip sticks on one end of the spectrum and high whip sticks on the other.
Low whip sticks are on the lower echelon of this scale, falling anywhere between 0 and 3. Medium whip sticks lie somewhere in the middle between 4 and 6. High whip sticks are situated in the upper echelon of this scale, ranging anywhere from a 7 to 10.
The basis of this theoretical sliding whip scale is summarized in the image below.
The Potential Issues with the Whip Scale
The whip scale is highly contingent on what sort of lacrosse stick a player is used to throwing with. Consequently, two players may have contrasting opinions on the amount of whip that a lacrosse stick has.
One player might believe that the lacrosse stick is about a 5 or 6 in terms of whip. Another player may throw around with the very same lacrosse stick and consider it to be a 7 or 8.
These discrepancies in judgment do exist from time to time. However, most lacrosse players are at least able to come to a broad consensus on where along the whip spectrum a certain lacrosse stick generally lies. It is for this reason that the whip scale can be somewhat useful.
Factors that Influence Whip
There are several aspects that ultimately determine whether or not a lacrosse stick is considered low whip or high whip. The largest determinants of whip are investigated further in the subsequent paragraphs.
Pocked depth is one of, if not THE, largest determinant of whip in lacrosse sticks.
For those of you that do not know, the ‘lacrosse pocket’ is the stringed portion of the lacrosse head where the ball actually lies. Pocket depth refers to how low the lacrosse ball sits at the deepest point in the lacrosse pocket.
Generally, the deeper the lacrosse pocket, the more whip that the stick will throw with. The shallower the lacrosse pocket, the less whip that the stick will throw with.
This is because a deeper lacrosse pocket causes the ball to release later out of the throwing motion relative to a shallower lacrosse pocket. Since the ball is held in the lacrosse pocket for a longer period of time, the ball releases at a downward angle when it finally does escape the stick.
Channel of Pocket
The channel of the lacrosse pocket is another element that heavily influences whip.
The channel of the lacrosse pocket determines the exit pathway of the ball during the throwing motion. The pocket is deliberately strung in such a way so that the strings hug the ball as it releases from the stick. The intention behind this is to direct the ball down the center of the lacrosse head at a consistent rate. This translates into improved throwing precision and accuracy.
It is for this reason that the channel forms a loose V shape. Now you are probably saying to yourself, “Well that’s great and all… but how does the channel affect whip?”
The ball will drag along the channel if the channel is strung extremely tight. This extra drag will cause the ball to release later from the lacrosse stick, resulting in the lacrosse ball throwing lower toward the ground.
In contrast, the ball will release earlier from the lacrosse stick if the channel is strung exceptionally loose. This earlier release translates into the ball throwing higher into the air.
In summary, whip is largely influenced by how tight or loose the channel is. A tighter channel equates to more whip, whereas a looser channel equates to less whip.
Shooting strings play another major role in regulating the whip of a lacrosse stick. Shooting strings have the power to shift the catch point of the lacrosse ball up or back, which ultimately determines how low or high the ball will throw.
Amount of Shooting Strings: The more shooting strings you add, the more whip your lacrosse stick will throw with.
Think of shooting strings as slight bumps in the road that the ball encounters on the way out of the pocket. These slight bumps in the road slow down the ball as it is releasing from the pocket, causing the ball to release later in the throwing motion. This later release translates into greater whip.
Placement of Shooting Strings: The placement of shooting strings also factor into whip.
As a general rule of thumb, the lower that a shooting string is placed, the more whip the lacrosse stick will throw with. This is due to the fact that low shooting strings have the potential to interrupt the catch point of the pocket.
The catch point is the point at which the ball physically releases from the lacrosse pocket. Lower shooting strings disrupt the natural catch point of the lacrosse pocket, causing the ball to essentially hit an impenetrable wall on its exit pathway.
This impenetrable wall, that is the lowest shooting string, results in the ball remaining in the pocket for longer and hooking toward the ground. This additional hook translates into more whip.
Tight Shooting Strings vs. Loose Shooting Strings: The tightness or looseness of the shooting strings also influence whip.
This also has to do with disruption of the natural catch point of the lacrosse pocket. The tighter that you pull a shooting string, the more it will act as that impenetrable wall that we discussed earlier. This additional obstacle caused by the shooting string tightness causes the ball to hook to the ground during the throwing release.
On the other hand, loose shooting strings have a negligible effect on the natural catch point of the pocket. For this reason, the ball exits the pocket smoothly and does not hook to the ground.
Types of Shooting String Material: The type of shooting string material is another component that plays into the whip of a lacrosse stick.
As shown in the image above, there are two general kinds of shooting strings that lacrosse players use: cotton shooting strings and nylon shooting strings.
The material properties of these shooting strings are slightly different from one another. These slight differences are reflected in how cotton shooting strings influence whip differently than nylon shooting strings.
Cotton shooting strings lie flatter against the pocket relative to nylon shooting strings. Consequently, these shooting strings do not slow down the ball as much on its way out of the pocket. As a result, cotton shooting strings result in less whip.
In contrast, nylon shooting strings present a bit more of a bump in the road for the ball as it flies out of the pocket. This stagnates the release of the ball and causes the lacrosse stick to throw with more whip.
Pocket Definition vs. Bagginess
The definition or bagginess of the pocket also has a tremendous impact on whip.
Defined pockets strictly follow the contour of the ball, whereas baggy pockets are loose and unshapely. Since defined pockets hug the ball more tightly, they hold the ball in the stick for longer during the throwing movement. This extra hold prolongs the throwing release, resulting in a downward throw.
In contrast, baggier pockets allow the ball to move more freely. This lack of restriction allows the ball to release much more smoothly from the pocket. Consequently, it is standard for baggier pockets to throw with far less whip than a defined pocket.
Pocket placement is another feature that affects the whip of a lacrosse stick. When I refer to pocket placement, I am referring to where the deepest point of the pocket lies on the lacrosse head.
The placement of the pocket influences the slope of the lacrosse pocket. Lacrosse pockets that are located higher steepen the slope of release for the ball. This aggressively angled slope causes the ball to catch and whip toward the ground.
Low pockets have a much more gradual slope. Consequently, the ball does not catch in the pocket nearly as much relative to the high pocket. For this reason, low pockets tend to have a higher throwing release.
Mid pockets combine the best of both worlds. The slope is not too gradual nor too steep, which translates into a middle tier amount of whip.
Type of Mesh
Another item that affects how your stick will throw is the type of mesh that is strung into the lacrosse pocket. Mesh is the nylon material that has the diamond configurations scattered throughout the material. The mesh is what makes up the majority of the lacrosse pocket.
Believe it or not, the diamond size of the mesh influences the amount of hold that the lacrosse pocket grips the ball with. Typically, larger mesh diamonds grip the ball more than smaller mesh diamonds. This additional hold causes the ball to stick in the pocket slightly longer, extending the timing of the shot release.
Thus, mesh that is based around more sizable diamond configurations result in more whip. 6 diamond mesh is a prime example of this added whip effect.
Mesh that is constructed with smaller diamond sizes hold onto the ball less, which leads to less whip. The standard 10 diamond mesh that is strung in the majority of lacrosse sticks throws higher than 6 diamond mesh on average.
Tightness of Top String
The final factor that we will discuss is the tightness of the top string.
The top string is the piece of nylon thread that secures the mesh to the top plastic of the lacrosse head. Tightening or loosening the top string has a direct correlation as to whether or not the ball clicks off of the plastic on its way out. Some lacrosse players use the term ‘lipping’ to refer to the action of the ball clicking off of the top of the head.
When the ball lips off of the plastic, it alters the trajectory of the ball slightly downward. Even if a lacrosse pocket is specifically strung to minimize whip, heavy lip on a lacrosse stick can still cause the ball to throw downward.
The main contributor to heavy lip on a lacrosse stick is a loose top string. If the top string does not securely fasten the mesh to the top of the lacrosse head, the ball will inevitably tag the plastic during its flight path. Ergo, a loose top string equates to more whip on a lacrosse stick.
A taut top string prevents the ball from clicking off of the top head. Rather than lipping off of the plastic, the ball will release smoothly off of the mesh. To put it simply, a tightly strung top string results in less whip.
Importance of Whip to Player Performance
Helps a Player to Unlock their True Playing Potential: Discovering a lacrosse stick that has the perfect amount of whip can do wonders for the skill set of a lacrosse player. A favorable amount of whip provides lacrosse players with the tools necessary to experiment with advanced level lacrosse moves to eventually integrate them into their game.
This goes the other way as well. Players that utilize lacrosse sticks that have far too much whip or not enough whip will find that their stick skills are severely hindered. A player that cannot consistently pass or shoot accurately will have a troublesome time finding success in lacrosse.
This is why it is so imperative that newcomers to the game of lacrosse find the right stick for their individual throwing motion. Otherwise, they may introduce some bad throwing habits into their game that may turn out to be unfixable.
Accentuates Throwing Power and Accuracy: Finding a suitable amount of whip also helps complement increased throwing power and accuracy.
The reason that many lacrosse players add whip into their stick is not because they like having to counteract the ball throwing into the ground. It is because the extra hold and prolonged release of the lacrosse stick allows players to extend their shooting windup as far back as possible.
This extra extension generates a greater amount of torque and force behind the shot. More power means more velocity.
For this reason, many lacrosse players are always searching for that happy medium between shot velocity and throwing accuracy. Players that find this delicate equilibrium get to enjoy the benefit of a high velocity shot as well as the capacity to throw passes on a dime.
Finding the Right Amount of Whip for You
Now that you have heard about the valuable advantages that a suitable amount of whip can offer lacrosse players, you are likely wondering how to find the optimal amount of whip for you. Look no further! We will explore this idea next.
Wall Ball: Playing wall ball is an effective way to dial in the amount of whip on your lacrosse stick.
To do this, pick a spot on the wall and continually throw the ball at this spot with fundamentally sound passing form. After about 20 to 30 reps, take note of whether the ball was consistently throwing above or below the target.
If the ball was mostly hitting the spot you were aiming for, keep your lacrosse pocket as it is. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
However, if the ball was consistently hitting above or below the target area, you may have to make some slight adjustments to your lacrosse pocket. The easiest way to do this is to experiment with the tightness of the shooting strings.
Tighten up the shooting strings just a tad if the ball was throwing too high. If your ball was throwing too low, slightly loosen the shooting strings. Perform another 20 to 30 wall ball reps and then reassess the situation.
Continue this process until your lacrosse pocket is consistently hitting the target. This procedure may be tedious, but is the most effective way to optimize the accuracy of your lacrosse stick.
Point of Release Drill: Another method to adjust the whip of your lacrosse stick to perfection is the point of release drill.
The purpose behind this drill is to find the exact point at which you should snap your wrists to hone in on the accuracy of your lacrosse shot. However, this drill can be slightly modified for the purpose of adjusting the whip on your lacrosse stick.
This drill was made famous by one of the most renowned lacrosse players in the world, Paul Rabil. Watch the video below to learn the exact mechanics of this drill!
Rather than adjusting the point at which you snap your wrists, you can adapt this drill for the purpose of adjusting the shooting strings on your lacrosse pocket.
For example, if your shot sails high and above the corner of the goal, you should marginally tighten up the shooting strings. If your shot did the exact opposite and landed too low on the net, lightly loosen up the shooting strings.
Repeat this process until you are able to hit the corner of the goal on a regular basis. Once this drill is all said and done, you will have a lacrosse stick perfectly tuned to your specific shooting motion.