The lacrosse stick is far and away the most important piece of equipment in lacrosse, which is why the majority of players take special care to keep their stick in pristine condition. One question that pops up frequently, particularly among new players, is whether or not lacrosse sticks can get wet.
Lacrosse sticks can get wet in moderation. Overexposure to water can weaken pocket strings and wear away a stick’s tape grip. It’s best to avoid rainy, grassy field conditions whenever possible since wet mud will stick to your pocket and ruin its throwing ability.
Water and lacrosse sticks have a somewhat convoluted relationship, as defining the line between how much water exposure is acceptable versus unacceptable is complicated at best. Below, we will discuss when you should concern yourself with water overexposure and how you can go about dealing with this issue.
Why Lacrosse Sticks Can Get Wet in Moderation
The parts of a lacrosse stick are built to last, so a little bit of exposure to the elements is nothing to worry about.
For a reminder on what the different parts of a lacrosse stick are, read through my article The Parts of a Lacrosse Stick: Illustrated Guide.
Lacrosse Shafts are Water Resistant
Lacrosse shafts are comprised of tough materials, such as aluminum, carbon fiber, scandium, and titanium. Water beads off these materials when it comes into contact with the shaft. Since the water doesn’t get absorbed into the shaft itself, the integrity of the shaft remains strong.
Prior to modern metal and composite shafts, lacrosse shafts were made up of wood. Although wood is structurally sound, it’s not quite as waterproof as metal and composite material, as the wood is more prone to absorbing water. Fortunately, shaft manufacturers have moved away from wood in favor of more durable materials.
Lacrosse Heads are also Waterproof
Similar to lacrosse shafts, lacrosse heads also carry waterproof properties. Lacrosse heads are made of plastic materials, the primary ingredient of which is nylon resin.
When water contacts these plastic surfaces, the water simply beads off rather than being absorbed into the head. Consequently, water has little effect on the structural integrity of the head, even after prolonged exposure.
Pocket Strings are the Most Vulnerable to Water, But are Still Durable
The only part of the lacrosse stick where water is of any real concern is the lacrosse pocket. Since all lacrosse pockets are composed of strings, the pocket absorbs moisture when it comes into contact with water. This water absorption is of little concern in the short term, but with prolonged bouts of exposure this could cause the strings to fray and eventually snap.
Once a string in the pocket has snapped, that entire section of string must be replaced. If you’ve grown used to how your pocket throws, the last thing you probably want to do is mess with it. Changing one string around could potentially change how the entire pocket throws.
When to Start Worrying About Overexposing Your Lacrosse Stick to Water
So the real question that you’re probably asking is, “When should I be concerned with water overexposure?” Although this is not an exact science, there are a few telltale signs that you should start paying more attention to how your lacrosse stick is holding up.
Consecutive Lacrosse Outings in the Rain or Snow
Often times, lacrosse sticks undergo the most damage when they’re exposed to heavy water exposure for several outings in a row.
For example, if you play lacrosse in the midwest, it’s almost guaranteed that you will have multiple days where you have to play in the rain or snow, particularly in the early part of the season. The transition from winter to spring is typically the time where you can see the effects of water physically wearing down your stick.
If you live in an area where rain or snow come down frequently, you should examine your pocket for rips and tears every so often, as this is the main area where the structural integrity of lacrosse sticks fail. For those of you that live in areas where it’s warm year around, you need not concern yourself with this issue.
Hardening of Your Lacrosse Mesh
In addition, one telltale sign that your lacrosse stick is beginning to see the negative effects of water overexposure is the hardening of your mesh.
During games or practices in wet, grassy fields, your mesh is bound to pick up some mud. This mud may not seem like a problem at the time that it sticks to your mesh because the mud is pliable when it’s wet. It only turns into a major issue later when this mud hardens, which will inevitably have a tremendous impact on your pocket structure.
Technically, water is not the culprit here, it’s the debris that accompanies water that does the majority of the damage. Still, the fact remains that wet lacrosse fields do not coincide well with lacrosse pockets. So if you notice your mesh beginning to harden, keep it away from wet field conditions for a while.
How Water Overexposure Affects a Lacrosse Stick’s Performance
Now that you know when water overexposure comes into play, your next topic of interest is likely how water overexposure negatively affects performance. Although playing in wet conditions is a part of lacrosse, there are some consequences to pay if you continually expose your lacrosse stick to these conditions.
Noticeable Changes in Your Pocket’s Throwing Consistency
The biggest repercussion of water overexposure is throwing inconsistency. As a pocket is left out in the rain or snow, the moisture will end up deforming the pocket, causing it to settle in an unorthodox manner.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a great deal of change in a pocket to throw off a player’s game. I know this because I have experienced the negative effects of water overexposure in my own pockets.
On one occasion, one of my strings on my traditional lacrosse pocket was so frayed that it was on the verge of snapping. You could quite literally see the innards of the nylon strand itself. To see what I’m talking about, check out the picture below.
This happened after a few days of playing out in heavy rain conditions. Although physical wear and tear also played a role, the constant exposure to the rain certainly didn’t help with the situation.
After you play with a lacrosse stick for a while, you get naturally attuned to how it throws. I immediately noticed that my pocket was throwing lower than normal after a few passes. I did a quick check of the sidewall strings and soon discovered the frayed string, the main source of the problem.
Fortunately, I’ve had this problem before after rainy games so I knew where to look. Newer lacrosse players don’t have nearly as much experience in the stringing department, so they may go days or weeks completely unaware that they’re playing with a defective lacrosse stick. Typically, they end up blaming themselves for their throwing inaccuracies despite the pocket being the primary issue.
This is why it’s so crucial that players pay attention to their pocket after playing in especially harsh conditions. The pocket is far too important to game performance for you to neglect.
Reduced Grip on Shaft Tape
Furthermore, water overexposure will also diminish the tacky grip of new stick tape.
Some lacrosse players rely heavily on the grip of their stick tape to maintain a solid handle during the shooting or passing motion. If you generate enough force behind a shot, you may notice that your bottom hand has a tendency to slip off the lacrosse stick due to the excess pressure. This is typically where lacrosse players rely on tape the most, as supported by the fact that the many lacrosse players tape the bottom third of their shaft.
Allowing your bottom hand to slide off the bottom of the shaft during the shooting motion is not ideal, especially if the ball hasn’t released yet. Players have a much greater capacity for shot power when they keep two hands on their stick throughout the shooting motion. After all, using the combined muscles of your left and right arm to drive the ball forward is far superior to solely relying on the muscles of a single arm.
If water overexposure diminishes the tape’s grip, it defeats the whole purpose of taping your stick in the first place. Slick tape is essentially the same as the natural feel of the shaft and will do nothing to prevent your bottom hand from sliding off. Consequently, players with slick tape may see a subtle decrease in shot speed.
For this reason, players that rely on tape will have to regularly rewrap their lacrosse shaft with new stick tape if rain or snow is frequent.
How to Deal with the Effects of Water Overexposure
It’s frustrating having to face the consequences of water overexposure. To help you combat these issues, I’ve compiled a few effective methods of returning your pocket back to normal.
Use a Pocket Pounder to Get Rid of Any Deformities Caused by Water
In the event that water overexposure distorts the shape of your pocket, you need to hammer out these deformities through brute force. One of the best ways I’ve found to ward off pocket deformities is using a pocket pounder.
At first glance, this product doesn’t look like much. It’s really just a ball on a stick. However, it’s remarkably efficient at forming a pocket right where you want it to be.
The way it works is rather simple. All you do is hold the pocket pounder by the handle and repeatedly pummel the mesh at the specific location where you want the pocket to form. This breaks up any defects in how the water caused the pocket to settle. It also helps to remove any debris, like dirt, that embedded itself into the mesh and caused it to harden.
If you pound at your pocket for a good five to ten minutes, you should see a drastic improvement in how your pocket throws. As a side note, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this only using a ball and your hand. I’ve tried this before and ended up cutting up my knuckles because they hit the plastic edges of the lacrosse head.
Invest in High Performance Mesh and Strings for Your Pocket
Unfortunately, the pocket pounder can only do so much. If a string is broken or a piece of mesh is beyond repair, you may have to replace that section of the pocket completely.
If you do choose to restring certain sections of your stick or completely start anew, I highly recommend that you invest in high performance strings and mesh. High performance strings are specially designed to better withstand the elements, such as rain or snow.
There will be times where you will have to go out and play in these harsh conditions. Unfortunately, you can’t keep your pocket dry all the time. Although a couple bouts in the rain may not do any visible harm, it may sneak up on you if you continue to expose your pocket to water on a consistent basis.
Personally, I always use high performance strings and mesh to keep my pocket viable for as long as possible. It takes me a long time to adjust to a new pocket, so I tend to play with the same string job for multiple seasons at a time.
Tips on How to Keep Your Lacrosse Stick in Top Notch Condition
Maintaining the condition of your lacrosse stick is key to playing at a high level in lacrosse. There are a couple of surefire ways to keep the condition of your lacrosse stick in as optimal shape as possible.
Stow Your Stick Away Properly After Practices and Games
To avoid unnecessary damage to your lacrosse stick, you need to stow away your stick in a proper fashion. Leaving your lacrosse stick in the trunk of your car under all your other equipment will deform your stick over time.
Instead of throwing your lacrosse stick in the trunk, put in one of the passenger seats and store it in the garage once you head home. It can get extremely hot in the trunk of a car, especially during summer. This excessive heat could actually weaken the plastic of the lacrosse head until it’s unable to return to its original shape, a process commonly referred to as warping by lacrosse players.
You can find more information about the specifics of warping by clicking over to my article What Does Warp Mean in Lacrosse?
Even in between games at tournaments, it’s good practice to stow away your lacrosse stick in an equipment bag or in the shade. Leaving out your lacrosse stick to soak up UV rays on a hot day or rain on a cloudy day will only do unnecessary harm. Placing your lacrosse stick under cover helps to ward off these negative effects.
Get a High Quality String Job to Begin With
In addition, it’s important to realize that water has a tendency to exacerbate problems that are already present in a lacrosse pocket.
For example, if your lacrosse pocket has a hard time holding its shape because of the sidewall knot pattern, water overexposure will only worsen this shapelessness. If a pocket is strung up nicely at the start, it’s much less likely to succumb to the effects of water overexposure.
This is one among many of the principal reasons why you should seek out a veteran stringer to construct your lacrosse pocket. In the event that no experienced stringers are available, do everything you can to learn on your own. There are plenty of YouTube videos and blog articles (like the ones on my site) that take you step-by-step through how to string a lacrosse head.
Just know that learning how to string your lacrosse head takes time and patience. The first few pockets you string will likely fail, but if you push past this point, you’ll continually to get better and better. This will not only allow you to string a pocket that is able to better withstand rain and snow, it will also allow you to craft the ideal pocket suited toward your individual play style.
As a disclaimer, I don’t recommend trying to string for the first time on your game stick. At least consider doing a few trial runs on a backup head if you have any lying around. Then, once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, move on to your gamer.
The Bottom Line
Lacrosse sticks will survive a few rainy or snowy lacrosse events here or there, but prolonged exposure to water will eventually weaken your lacrosse pocket. Thin strings can only take so much abuse before surrendering to the elements.
To extend your lacrosse pocket’s durability, take the time and effort to invest in your stick. Whether it be through higher quality stringing materials or stowing away your lacrosse stick properly, these efforts will lengthen the life of your lacrosse stick significantly.