With the overwhelming amount of equipment required to play lacrosse, it can be difficult for a new lacrosse player to know every little thing about every little piece of equipment. One of the most common inquiries that new lacrosse players ask is whether or not all lacrosse sticks are of the same size.
There are three different stick sizes that are specialized toward specific lacrosse positions: the short stick, the long stick, and the goalie stick. The head shape and overall length of these sticks vary noticeably from one another. There are distinct measurements in place that regulate stick size.
To provide a better indication of the actual size discrepancies among the three different stick types, there are easy to follow tables in the sections below that outline the explicit legal measurements that govern each kind of stick. In addition, there are images provided showing exactly how size differs among lacrosse sticks.
Table of Different Lacrosse Stick Size Measurements
The lacrosse rules committee has laid out various measurements that a stick must adhere to in order to be considered legal. These measurements can be broken down into the following three categories:
- Length of Complete Stick
- Length and Width of Head
- Length of Shaft
For those of you that do not know, the lacrosse stick is not one single entity. Rather, it is made up of a multitude of different parts. Generally, a lacrosse stick can be broken down into three simple parts:
I included the picture below depicting what these different parts look like for your reference.
If you’d like to learn more about the specific parts of a lacrosse stick, click over to my article The Parts of a Lacrosse Stick: An Illustrated Guide.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the parts of a lacrosse stick, we can take an extensive look at what the legal measurements are for the different lacrosse stick sizes.
Legal Length of Complete Lacrosse Stick
The most notable difference in lacrosse stick sizes is the length of the complete stick (head and shaft combined). Even if you may not know the exact legal measurements of the different lacrosse sticks, you can easily tell that the players carry around lacrosse sticks of varying lengths just by watching a lacrosse game. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the trouble of digging around online for these legal measurements. The minimum and maximum stick length for each kind of lacrosse stick is listed in the table below.
|Type of Lacrosse Stick||Minimum Stick Length for Adult||Maximum Stick Length for Adult||Minimum Stick Length for Youth (Age 10 & Under)||Maximum Stick Length for Youth (Age 10 & Under)|
It’s important to remember that the legal length of complete lacrosse sticks differ between adults and youth players. Adults carry around longer, heavier sticks because they have the body frame to support them. Youth players have the option of playing with shorter length lacrosse sticks if they do not yet have the strength necessary to play with a full length lacrosse stick.
Legal Length and Width of Lacrosse Head
The next glaring size difference in lacrosse sticks concerns head dimensions.
Goalkeepers have an unconventionally large lacrosse head shape given their unorthodox responsibility of making saves. Goalie heads encompass a much broader surface area that are better equipped to stop oncoming shots. All other positions on the field (referred to as field players) have a much smaller head shape. Since they’re not trying to make saves on opposing shots, a bigger, clumsier head would impede their performance on the field rather than improve it.
|Type of Lacrosse Head||Length||Width|
|Field Heads||10″||6″ – 10″|
|Goalie Heads||16.5″||10″ – 12″|
Standard Length of Lacrosse Shafts
Although we’ve already discussed the legal length of complete lacrosse sticks, it’s also worthwhile to discuss the standard length of lacrosse shafts in their own right. If you elect to buy a lacrosse shaft separately, note that lacrosse shafts are sold at three different fixed lengths. Shaft diameter, however, remains the same for all lacrosse shafts. The standard lengths of the three different kinds of lacrosse shafts are listed in the table below.
|Type of Lacrosse Shaft||Standard Length|
Size of Short Stick (Used by Attackmen & Midfielders)
The short stick is the most commonly used stick size in lacrosse. This is because offensive midfielders, defensive midfielders, attackmen, and the majority of face-off specialists all use a short stick on the field.
Short sticks are advantageous on the offensive end of lacrosse because players are better equipped to safeguard possession when they have the ball. In the face of aggressive pressure, less of the lacrosse stick is exposed to potential defensive stick checks. Experienced ball carriers can simply position their body in a way so that it hides their stick from the on ball defender. This way, the on ball defender has a minimal chance of landing a forceful stick check and stripping the ball away.
Plus, it’s much more convenient for ball carriers to control a shorter, lighter stick than a longer, heavier stick. Trying to dodge, pass, or shoot is tough to do with long poles. Shorter lacrosse sticks offer superior quickness and maneuverability, which are qualities that are essential to fundamental offensive strategy.
Size of Long Stick (Used by Defenders & LSM’s)
A standard length long stick is nearly twice the size of a standard length short stick. Again, this has to do with accommodating positional responsibilities.
Defensemen, long stick midfielders (LSM’s), and even a couple of face-off specialists make use of the long stick during lacrosse games. The long pole is specialized for the defensive side of the ball.
Long sticks offer defenders a diversity of worthwhile benefits. For one, they allow defenders to pressure ball carriers from a safe distance away. Defenders could maintain a solid cushion between them and the opposing ball carrier and still have the opportunity to generate turnovers due to the extended reach of a long stick.
With short sticks, defenders are forced to get up in close quarters to land a solid defensive stick check. Often, this does more harm than good because ball carriers can easily dodge past when the on ball defender is in such a vulnerable position.
Furthermore, the additional reach of the long stick allows defenders to easily disrupt passing lanes, snag ground balls from a distance, and hedge closer to the ball in the event that help is needed.
Size of Goalie Stick
Goalies sticks are far and away the most unique and flexible in terms of how they’re shaped.
An obvious point of differentiation between the goalie stick and all the other lacrosse stick types is the head. As aforementioned, goalie heads are custom built to be much broader in size relative to a field lacrosse head. This offers goalies a feasible chance of actually catching high velocity shots coming directly at them because of the additional surface area.
In addition, goalies have the widest range of stick length to work with. Surprisingly, goalie sticks can even reach up to the extreme lengths of a long stick if that’s what they prefer. However, I’ve never actually witnessed a goalie play with a 72″ long goalie stick during formal game play.
Goalies have a tremendous amount of stick length flexibility at their disposal because every little edge counts when attempting to make saves on the crease. Certain goalies prefer to have shorter length sticks because they’re lighter and able to react quicker to oncoming shots. Other goalies prefer to have longer length sticks to counteract the top heaviness of the head.
Either way, there will be pros and cons. It’s simply a matter of testing out what works best through trial and error.
How Can the Size of a Lacrosse Stick Become Illegal?
Generally, most lacrosse players don’t have to worry about the issue of playing with an illegally sized lacrosse stick. The majority of lacrosse players simply purchase their stick from reputable lacrosse manufacturers. Since these lacrosse manufacturers automatically produce sticks to remain within the legal size range, players have no need for concern about violating the stick size guidelines.
Players only run into legal issues with the size of their lacrosse stick when they decide to mess with the dimensions of the stick themselves or when the stick has seen a hefty share of lacrosse seasons.
Cutting Down a Lacrosse Stick Too Short
Certain players decide to manually cut down a shaft because they feel the excessive length does not suit their play style. Players that trim down the length of their lacrosse shaft on their own to further customize it run the risk of cutting the length down too short, deeming the entire stick illegal.
Once you cut down a lacrosse shaft well short of the legal length, there is no way to magically make the shaft long again. So if you ever end up choosing to shorten your lacrosse shaft, be sure to measure and cut with care. Otherwise, your lacrosse shaft may end up being a souvenir rather than an actual playable piece of equipment.
Pinching a Lacrosse Head Too Tightly
In addition, players can also run into potential problems by attempting to customize the dimensions of their lacrosse head by “pinching” the lateral edges of the head closer together.
Narrower lacrosse heads tend to throw with more accuracy because the ball is forced to release down the center of the head with each and every throw. Certain lacrosse heads are specially designed to be narrow, whereas other heads are specially designed to be wide for catching purposes.
There are many players out there that have a wider lacrosse head, but want to experiment with a narrower lacrosse head. Instead of purchasing an altogether new lacrosse head, they physically pinch the plastic closer together and bake the head plastic so this “pinched” shape locks into place.
The issue with this method is that players have little control over how pinched the head shape will become. Sometimes, the head becomes extremely pinched to the point where it’s illegal.
Experiencing Head Warping as a Result of Overuse
Lastly, the dimensions of a lacrosse stick can also naturally devolve into illegal territory over time.
Like everything else, lacrosse sticks are not meant to last forever. As a lacrosse stick undergoes the everyday rigors of practice and games, the amount of physical stress that the stick undergoes begins to accumulate. The effects of this physical stress is compounded by the weakening of the stick material due to exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
Typically, the lacrosse head is the main culprit when it comes to the dimensions of a stick becoming illegal. The plastic that lacrosse heads are comprised of loses its strength over time until the head can no longer retain its original shape. This phenomenon is so commonplace in the lacrosse community that it even earned itself a name: warping.
To learn more about head warping along with several tips on how to avoid its negative effects, click over to my article What Does Warp Mean in Lacrosse?
What is the Penalty for Having an Illegally Sized Lacrosse Stick?
Referees conduct stick checks at random points throughout lacrosse games. As part of their stick check, they measure the complete length of the lacrosse stick, the length of the head, and the width of the head. If they find that any of these measurements are not up to par, they will assess a two minute, non-releasable penalty to the offending player (source).
This can be a dire blow to a team, especially in a close game. A penalty such as this can quickly turn the tide over to the other team, sparking a scoring run that they never knew they had in them. Obviously, it’s best to avoid this scenario because the legality of your lacrosse stick is something that’s completely under your control.
In order to be entirely sure that no element of your lacrosse stick violates the rules, click over to my article What Makes a Lacrosse Stick Illegal: An Illustrated Guide to learn all the details on how to pass the referee’s stick check test.
How to Know What Size Lacrosse Stick to Get
With all of this information regarding lacrosse stick size fresh in your mind, you likely want to know that size lacrosse stick to purchase.
To do that, the very first thing you have to do is decide which position you want to play. As you now know, the position you play in lacrosse has a direct impact on what size lacrosse stick that you’ll play with. I would advise against purchasing a randomly sized lacrosse stick on a whim, especially if you don’t have the slightest idea of what each lacrosse position does.
In order to make an informed decision on what position will suit you best, you need to do your research and find out exactly what each lacrosse position does. There are benefits and drawbacks to each position. It’s important to take a wholistic look at each position before making your final commitment.
For example, if you’re obsessed with scoring goals, you may want to try your hand at attack. But once you realize that you will be dealing with harsh stick checks to the hands and ribs from tenacious defensemen game after game, you may want to reconsider.
Check out my article The 4 Major Lacrosse Positions: A Beginner’s Guide to get all the knowledge you need to decide which lacrosse position is ideal for you.
How to Adjust the Size of a Lacrosse Stick to Suit Your Body Frame
Although lacrosse shafts are only available in three fixed lengths, it’s possible to further adjust the size of a lacrosse stick to better fit your body structure.
This is done by manually cutting down the lacrosse shaft. The majority of youth players implement this practice since they haven’t reached their full development yet. They’re better able to learn the proper fundamentals since a shorter, lighter stick is more proportional to their body frame.
This is not to say that cutting down your lacrosse shaft is only reserved for the youth. Goalies and defensemen cut down their stick frequently to maximize performance on the field.
If you’re curious as to how this is accomplished, you can watch the clip below. They lay the process of cutting down a lacrosse shaft step-by-step so you can do this on your own. Keep in mind that there are sharp tools involved, so be careful! The potential risk for injury while cutting down your lacrosse shaft is real.
If you’re anything like me, you may not be the definition of a handyman. When I looked into manually cutting down a lacrosse shaft, I completely skipped over all of this work and decided to drive over to the local Home Depot and see if they would do it for me.
To my surprise, they not only cut the shaft for me, they did it for free! The edges of the shaft were noticeably jagged, but I was able to clean up the cut by rubbing it down with sandpaper.
So if you want to cut down on the size of your lacrosse shaft, driving out to your local hardware store is definitely another viable option. Make sure you tell them to measure out the cut carefully though, otherwise you will end up with an illegally sized, useless shaft!