Are U Strings Illegal in Lacrosse? (New Rule Update)

The lacrosse stringing rules can seem a bit convoluted, especially with all of the rule changes that have recently been instituted. To help clear up some of this confusion, I took it upon myself to analyze one particular part of lacrosse stringing that has been rapidly evolving as of late: the legality of the “U” string.

U shooting strings are illegal at the youth, high school, and collegiate lacrosse levels. U shooting strings used to be legal at all levels, but this changed when the NCAA enacted a rule where all shooting strings must fall within 4″ from the top of the scoop in 2013. The NFHS followed suit in 2015.

The institution of the 4″ rule changed the very landscape of lacrosse. Like every major change from tradition, this regulation was initially met with backlash. But as the years have gone on, players have begun to adapt to this rule. This article will investigate the exact reasons as to why the lacrosse community decided to take this bold action. I will also offer some helpful advice on how to string your lacrosse pocket to fit these new statutes.

The Legality of U Shooting String Setups in Lacrosse

The NCAA and NFHS removed U shooting string setups from the game of lacrosse by installing one rule: the 4″ rule. The exact wording of the groundbreaking 4″ rule goes as follows.

Any additional strings or laces (e.g., shooting strings) must be located within 4” of top of the crosse (this prohibition does not apply to the goalkeeper’s crosse).

NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rulebook (Section 19)

Initially, the NCAA planned to make all shooting strings fall within 3.5″ from the top of the scoop. After a great deal of petitioning from lacrosse players and coaches, the NCAA let up an additional half inch.

How the 4″ Rule Effectively Eliminated U Shooting String Setups

All U shooting string setups fail to fall within this 4″ threshold. The laces are located from the head’s midline all the way up to the head’s top third. This stringent regulation eliminated any possibility for nifty stringers to find a loophole within the system.

This came as a shock to lacrosse players everywhere. There were individuals that had played practically their entire career with a U shooting string setup up until the rule change. Some lacrosse players were furious with the rule change, while others welcomed it.

No matter what sentiment that these players held toward this rule change, they all had to transition over to an altogether different shooting string setup if they currently had U shooting strings in their pocket.

In order to have a high caliber shooting setup to get the most throwing precision and accuracy out of the pocket, straight shooters became widely popularized within the lacrosse community. These straight laces felt smooth, fine tuned the throwing release, and even looked aesthetically pleasing.

Example of Illegal U Shooting String Setup

I was actually one of the players directly effected by all of this transitional chaos. The shooting string setup pictured below was the one I personally used for all my gameplay. The string job was inspired by one of my all time favorite players, Kyle Harrison.

Although I did have a particular affinity for this shooting string setup, it was not meant to be. I had to abandon this setup for something else. Luckily, as soon as the rumors came out that the NFHS was trending in this direction, I started to look at other options. Eventually, I settled on a shooting string setup that featured two straight laces and one stacked nylon. Once the rules came into formal effect, I had already played with my new shooting string setup for several months.

From my personal experience, I strongly disliked these new stringing rules when they first came to light. After playing with my same U shooting string setup for multiple seasons, I saw no reason why they were forcing me to change a part of my game that didn’t appear to have a problem in the first place.

Over time, this dislike gave way to tolerance, and that tolerance gave way to fondness. Soon, I realized that these unusual shooting string regulations had more merit to them than I initially thought. They benefited the sport of lacrosse far more than I had ever considered possible.

What were these benefits? To understand how these rules favored the growth of lacrosse, it is necessary to discern why shooting string setups were eliminated from the game to begin with.

Why Were U Shooting String Setups Banned in the First Place?

There were two primary reasons as to why U shooting string setups were phased out of lacrosse. The first reason was to mitigate excessive hold and the second reason was to make the game more up tempo.

Prevents Excessive Hold

If strung properly, a U shooting setup offers a tremendous advantage over a purely straight shooting setup in terms of hold.

The U string would clutch the ball more tightly as it rested in the pocket. It was far more likely that the ball would stay nestled within the U shape when cradling, even in the face of defensive checks. Consequently, ball carriers that featured U string pockets could eat up defensive pressure and will their way to the cage without really having to worry about turning the ball over.

Obviously, defensemen were not too fond of matching up against opponents that would exploit the U string to its fullest advantage. Defensemen have a tough enough job already with managing the unrestricted movement of offensive players and keeping tabs on the vast amount of open field that ball carriers have to work with.

This stringing rule update helped to level the playing field between offense and defense, making for a more fair game overall.

Speeds Up the Sport

Wiping out U shooting string setups also had a direct effect on the pace of lacrosse games.

Prior to the 4″ rule, ball carriers had a tendency to hog the ball and take the ball to the cage themselves. Since the U shooting string setup was so overpowered, even the most talented defensemen encountered trouble fending off ball carriers who abused this setup. As a result, if a ball carrier failed to find purchase with one dodge, they would back out of the set and re-dodge again. Sometimes, a ball carrier would perform two or three re-dodges before finally blowing by the defender.

Needless to say, this slowed down the tempo of the game quite a bit. Lacrosse was not meant to be a one man show on offense. Every facet of the sport was meant to place a heavy emphasis on the team.

Plus, nobody wants to spectate a sport that favors the notion of one ball carrier tediously attacking and re-attacking every single play. That sort of play is boring to watch.

Players, coaches, and fans want to see the ball rapidly moving around the player carousel, so that each teammate receives a touch. They want to witness the ball flying all different directions so that the defense is constantly rotating. This sort of speedy play style is the sport that lacrosse fans know and love.

Say what you want about the NCAA and the NFHS. But at the end of the day, the removal of U shooting string setups did help to promote this kind of accelerated game play.

What Shooting String Setup Should You Use Now?

With the advent of a new age of shooting string setups, you are likely wondering what shooting string setup to call your own. Fear not. There are still a number of viable options when it comes to selecting what shooter setup works best for you and your play style.

Shooting String Setup #1: Three Laces Across

This is a shooting string setup that was popular even before the removal of U strings was formally issued.

With three laces strung straight across the top of the head, the ball releases very smoothly as it travels across each lace. Since there are three shooters total, you can still generate a decent amount of hold with this type of setup. This extra hold translates to superior ball possession and shot power. Although it may not compare to the hold offered by the U shooting string, it is one of the best legal shooting string setups available today.

Shooting String Setup #2: Two Laces Across

This setup is extremely similar to the one we just discussed. Rather than featuring three shooting strings however, it only features two.

By removing one of the shooting strings, you do sacrifice some hold. However, you are able to release the ball a fraction of a second quicker for passes and shots. This is because two shooting strings present less resistance to the ball than three shooting strings. If you rely more on quickness and deception rather than brute power, this may provide the advantage you are looking for.

In my opinion, this is one of the more favorable options for attackmen because the quick release functions so well in and around the crease. At the attack position, every fraction of a second counts. That split second difference in your pass and shot release will certainly come in handy.

Shooting String Setup #3: Two Laces Across, One Stacked Nylon

This is actually the shooting string setup I like to use with my mesh pockets today. With the fusion of the laced shooters and the nylon shooters into one stringing setup, you are able to get a wicked feel for the ball as it releases from the pocket.

The laced shooters promote a nice, smooth release as the ball rides near the scoop. Then, when the ball hits the heavy nylon shooter, the ball physically snaps off of this shooter and out of the pocket. I personally prefer a snappy release to a smooth release, so this has always been ideal for me.

It is a solid all around setup in that it provides a moderate amount of hold and a moderate release timing. This setup does not lean too hard one way or the other. To start out, I recommend experimenting with this shooting string setup first to get a feel for which direction you want to branch out to.

Of course, there is a manifold of various different shooting string setups out there, but the ones above are the most common setups that I’ve seen actually used on the playing field. Don’t be afraid to test the waters. There are plenty of suitable stringing options that will accentuate your particular play style. It is just a matter of going out and finding them.

Final Thoughts

As a final note, don’t treat the end of U shooting strings as the end of lacrosse. Trust me, lacrosse will go on. Although there will be growing pains during this adjustment period, it is nothing that cannot be overcome.

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Austin Carmody

I am the owner of Lacrosse Pack. I enjoy hitting the local lacrosse fields and honing in on the craft in my free time.

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