Figuring out the subtle intricacies of the lacrosse pocket can be a tough undertaking, especially as a novice player. One of the fundamental aspects that new players should understand is what depth to make their lacrosse pocket.
Lacrosse pockets should be slightly less than one ball deep in order to preserve legality and retain the most amount of hold. The sidewall string should interfere with your view of seeing the entire ball when holding the pocket at eye level. Goalkeeper’s pockets should be two to three balls deep.
In stringing, there is always a delicate seesaw between maintaining legality while chasing the most amount of hold possible. A prime example of this delicate seesaw is figuring out the ideal pocket depth. Read further to discover how you can maximize hold by adjusting your pocket depth, while still adhering to legal stringing guidelines.
Legal Pocket Depth in Lacrosse
To understand how deep you should make your pocket, we must first understand the rules and restrictions in place that prevent a lacrosse pocket from being too deep.
The lacrosse rules committee instituted these regulations concerning pocket depth because it levels the playing field between the offense and defense. It’s exceedingly difficult for defenders to generate turnovers if the ball is embedded deeply within a lacrosse pocket. By enforcing restrictions on how deep a lacrosse pocket can be, defenders have a fair chance at stripping ball carriers of possession through defensive checks.
Putting the rationale for these rules aside, let’s dive into the explicit stipulations that sanction pocket depth.
Legal Pocket Depth for Field Players
As aforementioned, the legal pocket depth for field lacrosse players is slightly less than one ball deep. When the ball rests at the deepest point in the pocket, you should be unable to see the whole ball. At the very least, the top of the ball should be blocked from view by the presence of the sidewall string.
To better illustrate this concept, I provided the labeled diagram below.
In the picture on the left, the pocket is very much legal. Not only does the sidewall string interfere with viewing all of the orange lacrosse ball, you can even observe the ball through the slits of the sidewall holes.
This is in stark contrast to the image on the right. With the image on the right, there is a discernible gap between the sidewall string and top of the ball. You have a full, uninterrupted view of the orange lacrosse ball as it lies at the deepest point in the pocket. If an official were to get a hold of this pocket for a stick check, it would warrant an immediate penalty.
To guarantee that your lacrosse stick will pass the stick check test every time, click over to my article What Makes a Lacrosse Stick Illegal? An Illustrated Guide.
Legal Pocket Depth for Goalkeepers
Goalkeepers feature much deeper pockets relative to field lacrosse positions. It is standard for a goalie pocket to be as deep as two to three balls. Unlike field lacrosse players, goalies do not have any pocket depth limit.
This extreme depth is more conducive to withstanding the considerable force of oncoming lacrosse shots and keeping the ball out of the back of the net. Shallower pockets tend to let up more rebound opportunities for the other team since the pocket is more taut. Shots end up hitting the shallower pocket and bouncing back out in front of the goal.
Furthermore, goalies don’t have nearly as stringent of pocket depth guidelines because they rarely ever possess the ball, let alone create scoring opportunities on the offensive end. Since they hardly ever possess the ball, there is no need for strict rules to govern their pocket to promote fairness between offense and defense.
To see an actual example of how goalie pocket depth compares to normal lacrosse pocket depth, see the image below.
Goalies usually stick to a lacrosse pocket that is two to three balls deep because they still have to accurately throw the ball on occasion, particularly during clears. Although deeper goalie pockets don’t let up nearly as much rebound opportunities, they’re also harder to throw with precision.
For this reason, pockets that are deeper than three balls are fairly uncommon. Generally, goalie pockets that remain within the two to three ball range are deep enough to contain opposing shots while still preserving throwing accuracy.
Should You Deepen Your Lacrosse Pocket to the Maximum Legal Limit?
With the legal ramifications of pocket depth out of the way, we can move on to how deep within the legal limit you should make your pocket. Generally, there are two courses of action that you can commit to in terms of pocket depth: the very legal, shallow pocket or the borderline illegal, deep pocket. Each route has its pros and cons, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide which option suits your individual preferences.
Pros and Cons of Very Legal, Shallow Pocket
|little to no risk of pocket being deemed illegal||have to sacrifice some pocket hold|
|quicker pass release||harder to catch passes|
|faster shot release||reduced potential shot power|
As far as the pros go, shallower pockets do not run nearly as big of a risk of failing the pocket depth legality test because they’re well into legal territory. Some lacrosse players don’t like to walk the line when it comes to penalties, so it makes the most sense for them to keep their pocket depth strictly according to code. They avoid the feeling of unease when the referees ask them for a stick check.
If you have a tendency to get extremely anxious in regards to potentially costing your team a penalty, I would advise leaning towards a shallower pocket depth.
Furthermore, shallower pockets are better suited toward a faster pass and shot release. Since the ball is not so deeply nestled within the confines of the pocket, it’s far easier for the ball to travel up and out of the pocket toward the intended target.
With that being said, this quicker throwing release does come at a cost. Specifically, the cost of reduced hold. Consequently, shallower pockets are more apt to turnovers in the face of hard defensive stick checks simply because the ball isn’t burrowed into the pocket as deeply.
In addition, it’s harder to catch with shallower pockets because they have less give. The mesh on a shallow pocket is far more taut and is more prone to deflecting the ball back out onto the field as a result. Baggier pockets don’t pose the same problem.
Lastly, since the pocket lacks maximal hold, players aren’t able to wind their stick back nearly as much to generate shot power. The ball simply slips out if a player extends back too far. For this reason, shot speed also encounters a slight dip with shallower pockets.
Pros and Cons of Borderline Illegal, Deep Pocket
|maximum pocket hold||higher risk of pocket being deemed illegal|
|easier to catch passes||slower pass release|
|greater potential shot power||delayed shot release|
When analyzing the pros of a borderline illegal, deeper pocket, the greatest advantage by far is the pocket hold. Many ball dominant lacrosse players opt to go this route because every little edge counts in this regard. An incremental difference in pocket hold could be a player’s saving grace from a costly turnover late game.
Furthermore, the task of catching passes is made easier because the ball is buried farther into the pocket by the time it makes first contact. As a result, the ball is less likely to roll out and turn into a loose ball.
The extra hold offered by deeper pockets also translates directly into additional shot power. Players are able to rear back on their shot a lot more with a deep-seated pocket and incorporate their entire body into the shot motion. All of this extra energy gets channeled into the ball, resulting in a faster shot velocity.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with deep pockets. Deeper pockets that push the legal limit are much more likely to get called for a penalty. Some officials are lenient when it comes to pocket depth, while others are sticklers. If you come across the wrong referee in game, you may cost your team a penalty that could completely shift the tide of the game.
Also, deep pockets have a delayed throwing release. Once the ball has settled down into the deepest point on the pocket, it takes a greater amount of force to drive the ball into motion and expel it from the pocket. This delay may only be half of a second, but this time is extremely precious at the higher levels of competition. For players that operate in and around the crease, this can be a significant setback.
How to Adjust the Depth of a Pocket to Fit Your Preferences
Once you’ve evaluated the pros and cons of both shallow and deep pockets, you’re ready to physically adjust the depth of your pocket according to your unique specifications. The only problem is that you may not know how to do this just yet.
Don’t panic! I will take you step-by-step and show you exactly how to modify the depth of your pocket by yourself.
Adjust the Bottom String
This first method is fairly simple. It involves the string located at the very bottom of the mesh, aptly named the bottom string.
To deepen the pocket, all you have to do is feed a little more slack into the bottom string so that it’s looser than it originally was. Untie one of the bottom string knots, feed in a healthy section of string through the bottom string hole, and retie the knot.
For your reference, I illustrated this process below.
If you want to make the pocket shallower instead, you have to tighten up the bottom string rather than loosen it. Untie one of the bottom string knots, pull on the string slightly, and retie the knot.
To make this process as clear as possible, I illustrated this process below.
Rework the Knot Pattern on the Sidewall String
If your pocket is still not as deep or as shallow as you’d like it to be after experimenting with the bottom string, the next option is to alter the knot pattern on the sidewall string.
This method requires a bit more stringing knowledge relative to the previous method. This is because the sidewall pattern is largely responsible for all of the various properties of the lacrosse pocket. The sidewall pattern does not only influence pocket depth. It affects pocket placement, pocket definition, and channel tightness as well.
In short, if you don’t have a solid base of stringing knowledge at your disposal, I would recommend calling up a teammate or coach that has a little bit more experience in the realm of stringing before proceeding with this method.
Disclaimer out of the way, it’s time to actually get into how to do this!
Although the knot pattern influences several properties of the lacrosse pocket, I am only going to describe how the knot pattern affects pocket depth for the sake of teaching this method.
As you probably know, the centerpiece of the lacrosse pocket is the mesh. The mesh is what makes up the entirety of the pocket. The mesh is pocked with rows of diamonds all throughout the material. Stringers tether the mesh to the plastic of the head using a series of knots at distinct sidewall holes along the head.
To make a deeper pocket, stringers bunch the mesh diamonds together at one distinct location by using a special series of knots. Stringers can also spread the mesh diamonds out and lock them in place with knots to make a shallower pocket.
If readjusting the bottom string didn’t do the trick, you’re going to have to manually bunch together or spread out the mesh diamonds yourself to construct a pocket of ideal depth.
For pockets that I want to make deeper, I typically just consolidate multiple mesh diamonds that are spread out using one single knot. For example, if I see that there are two knots that lock in two separate mesh diamonds onto the sidewall, I simply unravel these two separate knots and bunch them together by utilizing a single knot.
I know this can be hard to visualize, so I included the illustration below.
To make a pocket shallower, I do the exact opposite. I identify a single knot that bunches up multiple mesh diamonds together and spread out the mesh diamonds by incorporating two knots instead of one.
This process is demonstrated in the image below.
Unfortunately, I rarely ever get the pocket depth perfect on the first try. I usually have to experiment with different knot configurations several times before getting the pocket depth right where I want it to be. So be patient with the process! After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
How to Tell When Pocket Depth is Not the Issue
Sometimes, we as lacrosse players concentrate our efforts so much toward one single facet of the pocket that we get tunnel vision. We spend our time trying to identify a problem in one area that we neglect all other properties of the pocket entirely.
This is a major drawback of focusing too much on pocket depth. If the pocket is throwing inaccurately, it is our first instinct to automatically readjust the bottom string in hopes of a quick fix. When it doesn’t work, we’re baffled as to how to resolve this issue.
Sometimes, the fault lies not with pocket depth, but with other elements of the pocket. For example, if your throws are veering off to the left or the right, it’s likely because the channel of the pocket is not tight enough. The channel should be approximately a ball’s width to help drive the ball down the center of the head with each and every throw.
In other instances, the fault may not even lie with the pocket itself. Sometimes, the fault lies with the player’s throwing technique.
This is often the case with novice lacrosse players. They’re quick to blame the gear rather than analyze their own fundamentals. Before you commit to messing around with your lacrosse pocket, I would advise taking a good hard look at your technique before proceeding. Sometimes, all you need is a teammate or coach to scrutinize your technique for a minute or two.
I actually experienced this myself. As a beginner, my throws were wildly inaccurate and I was always under the impression it was because I had an improperly strung pocket. I even had my friend completely restring my pocket. When my throws were still wildly inaccurate, I came to the realization that maybe the pocket wasn’t the issue after all.
I used my phone to take a quick video of me playing wall ball and played it back to myself. In five minutes, I realized the problem. I wasn’t throwing completely overhand. I was throwing slightly sidearm, which was dramatically taking away from my throwing consistency.
The main takeaway from that story is to explore every possible avenue before committing to a course of action. In my case, I would’ve saved a lot of time had I just taken the time to think through why my throws were off.
As long as your lacrosse pocket falls within the realm of legality, it’s your decision as to how deep you want the pocket to be. Prior to messing around with bottom string length or the knot pattern on the sidewall, be sure that pocket depth is actually the root of the problem. Otherwise, you will end up trying to resolve a stringing issue that doesn’t even exist!