The lacrosse pocket is a fundamental piece of lacrosse equipment. At a glance, a lacrosse pocket just looks like a bunch of strings weaved together. You’d be partially correct in saying so, but there’s a lot more behind lacrosse pockets than meets the eye.
A lacrosse pocket is a generic term used to describe the stringing that’s fastened to the plastic of a lacrosse head. It’s where the ball physically rests within the lacrosse stick, hence why it’s called a pocket. How the lacrosse pocket is strung largely dictates a players’s throwing accuracy.
In regards to lacrosse pockets, the simple summary above barely scratches the surface of all the little intricacies of what a lacrosse pocket is all about. In order for you to learn everything you need to know concerning lacrosse pockets, I will teach from the ground up, starting with the overarching purpose of the pocket all the way to tips on how to get your pocket strung.
The Purpose of a Lacrosse Pocket
It’s hard to pin down one singular purpose to what the lacrosse pocket does because it has a variety of functionalities. For this reason, I outlined all of its unique purposes below to give you all the essential pocket knowledge you need.
Nestles the Ball into the Lacrosse Stick
For one, the pocket is what is responsible for retaining the ball within the lacrosse stick. Without the pocket, there would be no place for the ball to sit. The lacrosse head would only serve as a hollow framework. The lacrosse stick would act as a glorified hoop on a shaft rather than a fully functioning tool on the field.
The way the pocket is structured, it features a noticeable depression where the ball could easily rest. This way, the ball remains within the stick once it finds its way in. Players make use of this intentional stringing cavity every time they possess the ball. If the pocket lacked this stringing depression and was completely flat, players would have a much more challenging time maintaining possession of the ball.
Complements How You Pass and Shoot
Furthermore, the pocket also has a tremendous influence on how you pass and shoot.
Since the pocket is the only part of the stick that physically contacts the ball throughout the passing and shooting motion, it’s a primary contributing factor to how the ball will release. Of course, your passing and shooting technique also has a colossal impact on how the ball will release, but the structure of the pocket is equally, if not more, important.
If you have an inappropriately constructed pocket that’s flat, lopsided, and inconsistently strung, the precision of your throws will reflect that. Even if you have a solid passing and shooting technique, your efforts will be negated if the pocket you’re playing with is inadequate.
For example, the ball may actually frequently get trapped within the pocket, making it impossible for the ball to even release during the throwing motion. This is a classic case of a lacrosse pocket holding a player back from reaching their true potential.
Determines How Easy It Is to Retain Possession
Lastly, the lacrosse pocket can also make it harder or easier on a player to maintain possession of the ball depending on how much hold the pocket naturally has.
Expertly strung pockets make it extremely tough on defensemen to strip the ball from the stick, even if they do land a forceful stick check. Ideally, this is the sort of pocket that all offensive players want. However, there is typically a trade-off to attain this superior level of whip.
As a general rule of thumb, more hold typically results in more whip. For those of you that do not know, whip is a broad term that’s used to describe how a lacrosse stick throws relative to the ground. High whip lacrosse sticks have a natural tendency to throw straight into the ground, whereas low whip lacrosse sticks have a natural tendency to throw high in the air.
You can find more information about the fundamental stringing concept of whip by clicking over to my article A Full Breakdown of What Whip Actually Means in Lacrosse.
Finding a delicate balance between whip and hold can be tedious, but it can really bolster your game performance.
The Parts of a Lacrosse Pocket
The lacrosse pocket is made up of an assortment of various strings that each have a name, as labeled by the illustration above. I strung each specific part of the pocket a different color to help you better learn the individual stringing elements. So if you’re wondering why the color scheme of the pocket looks so ugly, that’s the reason!
We will delve into what the exact purpose is behind each of these strings as well as what sort of effect it can have on throwing.
General Description of What It Is – Mesh is made up of woven thread fibers that are organized into a diamond configuration. The amount of diamonds per row alternates as you go down the mesh. In the mesh used above, the amount of diamonds per row alternates between 10 diamonds and 9 diamonds for the entire length of the mesh.
What It Does – The mesh acts as the primary foundation of the lacrosse pocket. When the ball sits at the deepest point within the lacrosse pocket, the mesh serves as the primary point of contact between the ball and the stick.
How It Affects Throwing – There is a variety of different lacrosse meshes available to players today. The most popular mesh that is used is standard 10 diamond mesh, as shown in the image above. However, there are also alternative types of mesh that feature unique properties that can better accentuate a player’s unique style.
Examples of these other popular mesh types are listed below:
- Performance Mesh
- Wax Mesh
- Soft Mesh
- Hard Mesh
- 6 Diamond Mesh
The type of mesh that’s strung into your pocket can affect several throwing parameters, such as precision and consistency. Moreover, it can also have a major influence on your ability to throw effectively in the face of harsh weather conditions, such as rain or snow, because certain mesh products are specially coated to withstand the abuse of the elements.
General Description of What It Is – The top string is a long nylon strand that runs along the top of the pocket. In a pre-packaged string kit, it’s typically the longest piece of string of the bunch at a little over an arm’s length.
What It Does – The top string fastens the very top of the mesh to the scoop of the lacrosse head. It prevents any noticeable gaps from forming between the top of the mesh and the scoop.
How It Affects Throwing – The top string prevents the ball from smacking off the top of the plastic as the ball releases, which results in a much smoother throw. It also keeps the mesh symmetrical, preventing the pocket from becoming lopsided and throwing erratically.
General Description of What It Is – There are two nylon strands that are identical to one another in thickness and length. These are the sidewall strings. They run along the lateral edges of the pocket. They either have the same length, or a slightly shorter length, as the top string.
What It Does – The sidewall strings secure the lateral edges of the mesh to the plastic of the head through a series of knots. The placement and types of knots that are used in this sidewall string pattern has a strong influence on the different properties of the pocket. These properties include the following:
- Pocket Depth
- Pocket Hold
- Pocket Placement
- Pocket Definition
- Channel Tightness
How It Affects Throwing – Since the knot pattern of the sidewall strings is largely responsible for how the pocket will turn out, it has a direct correlation with how the pocket will throw. The sidewall strings impact the subsequent aspects:
- Release Timing
- Horizontal Throwing Accuracy
- Vertical Throwing Accuracy
- Throwing Power
This is the area where most novice stringers go wrong. It takes a great deal of time and practice to get the knot configuration just right to form the ideal pocket.
General Description of What It Is – Typically, the bottom string is a nylon strand that has the shortest length relative to the top string and sidewall string. However, a cotton lace can serve as a viable bottom string in place of a nylon strand.
What It Does – The bottom string locks the bottom of the mesh to the plastic of the lacrosse head. It closes the gap at the base of the pocket where the ball would otherwise slip out if the bottom string were not present.
In addition, the bottom string also plays a major role in how deep a lacrosse pocket is. As a general rule of thumb, the tighter you make the bottom string, the shallower the pocket becomes.
How It Affects Throwing – Pocket depth has a significant effect on how a pocket throws. Generally, the deeper the pocket is, the more whip that will result.
It only takes a minute or two to adjust the tightness of the bottom string and thereby adjust how the pocket throws. For this reason, the majority of lacrosse players fine-tune the length of their bottom string when they encounter issues with their throwing. It’s the quickest and most effective way to get a pocket throwing accurately again.
General Description of What It Is – The shooting strings are laced through the mesh within 4″ from the top of the head. Typically, shooting strings are thicker than nylon strands and are comprised of cotton. They carry a strong resemblance to hockey lace in terms of appearance.
However, cotton shooting strings are not the only type of shooting strings. Players also have the option of integrating thin, nylon shooting strings as well.
What It Does – Unlike the previous aspects we discussed, shooting strings are not essential to the lacrosse pocket. In fact, a pocket that features no shooting strings at all is completely legal.
Most players do choose to make use of shooting strings because it fine tunes certain elements of the pocket. Although the sidewall knot pattern carries the most weight in regards to the properties of a pocket, the shooting string help to slightly tip the scale in one direction or another.
How It Affects Throwing – Several concrete ways that shooting strings impact lacrosse pockets are listed below.
- Adjusts the Whip
- Can Increase Pocket Hold
- Can Increase Throwing Power
- Gives the Pocket a Distinct Feel
General Description of What It Is – The channel is the V shaped track that the ball travels down on its way out of the pocket. It’s a specific portion of the mesh that is formed as a result of the sidewall knot pattern.
What It Does – The channel ensures that the ball travels down the center of the head with each and every throw. It also has the capacity to increase pocket hold since the ball is less likely to roll out of a pocket with no channel.
How It Affects Throwing – The channel improves horizontal throwing accuracy since it prevents the ball from shifting left or right.
Ideally, you want the channel to be about a ball’s width in diameter. This way, the channel hugs the ball throughout its entire exit pathway. Too tight of a channel may result in the ball getting caught in the pocket. Too loose of a channel and your throws will lose accuracy.
Types of Lacrosse Pockets
Lacrosse pockets are typically classified based on where the deepest point of the pocket is located, as shown in the images above. There are pros and cons to each individual pocket style. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to string a pocket that is strong in all areas. For this reason, players must prioritize certain stringing elements over others to get the best pocket that suits their game.
|One-Handed Cradling||Slow Throwing Release|
|Easy to String a Defined Channel||Harder to Scoop Ground Balls|
|Can Throw Passes on a Line||Decreased Shot Power|
The low pocket is positioned in the lower third of the lacrosse head. It works best for a lacrosse head that flares out below the midline of the head.
The low pocket is a favorite of attackmen, largely because it’s the most supportive of one-handed cradling. In order to evade defensive pressure, attackmen have to resort to primarily one-handed cradling.
However, low pockets tend to have low whip, resulting in decreased shot power. Although it would be nice to have an extra couple miles per hour on a time and room shot, it’s not a necessity for attackmen because most of their scoring is done in close quarters near the crease.
|Moderately Good at Everything||Fails to Excel In Any One Area|
As the name suggests, the deepest point of a mid pocket lies directly in the middle of the lacrosse head.
The mid pocket is an all-around pocket that performs sufficiently in all areas. Whether it be throwing precise passes, generating power behind a shot on the run, or scooping up ground balls, the mid pocket can do it all.
The only drawback is that although it can do everything moderately well, it doesn’t shine in one specific area. This could present some challenges for players that are trying to become a shooting specialist or the go-to playmaker on offense. Often times, players just need that little extra edge in their pocket to go from a good player to a great player.
With that being said, the mid pocket is the ideal option for players that want to have the tools necessary to do everything on the field.
|Greater Shot Power||Difficult to String a Solid Channel|
|Quicker Throwing Release||Harder to Throw Passes with Zip|
|Easy to Pick up Ground Balls||Can’t One-Handed Cradle Effectively|
The high pocket lies in the upper third of the lacrosse head and is considered the most challenging pocket to string.
The high pocket is a favorite of offensive midfielders. This type of pocket offers the greatest amount of shooting power, something that offensive midfielders desperately need. Since the majority of their shots come from the alley, which is about 8 to 10 yards out from the cage, they need a little extra oomph! in their shot to sneak the ball past the goalkeeper.
The problem is that the prospect of cradling one-handed with this kind of pocket is virtually nonexistent. Fortunately for midfielders, there are not many circumstances where they have to one-handed cradle since they’re matched up against short stick defenders for the most part.
In a class of its own, traditional pockets do not fit into the normal categorization of lacrosse pockets. Instead of being strung with manufactured mesh, traditional pockets are entirely handcrafted with leathers, crosslace, and nylon threads.
This kind of pocket was popular back in the early days of lacrosse when mesh had not yet been invented. If you notice in the picture above, the structure of the leather and crosslace form rudimentary diamonds all up and down the pocket. This was actually the original inspiration for modern day lacrosse mesh.
The reason that traditional pockets are such a rare sight nowadays is that they require a great deal of time and effort to maintain. The pocket is far more likely to be lopsided, the crosslace diamonds may settle unevenly, and the leathers wear down relatively quickly. Unfortunately, if one string breaks in a traditional pocket, you have to replace that entire section. Not to mention that it’s hard enough trying to find a talented stringer that knows how to create a traditional pocket well.
For all these reasons, mesh pockets have overtaken traditional pockets.
A Brief Overview About How Lacrosse Pockets are Strung
Now that you have a basic understanding of the parts of a lacrosse pocket and what purpose they serve, we can move on to the process of how these pockets are strung.
There are virtually an endless amount of ways you could string up a lacrosse pocket with all the different options that are available to players. With that being said, there are a few universal principles that all stringers follow in order to create the most effective pocket possible. Below, I will describe these foundational elements in depth and lay out a step-by-step guide that you can reference if you ever decide to string up your own pocket.
Gather Your Stringing Materials
The first order of business is to collect and identify all the stringing materials that will eventually be needed for the string job. Don’t skip this step. If you forgo the gathering and identification of the necessary stringing materials, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way. For example, there have been times where I didn’t take the time to strictly identify which of the strings was the top string and which was the bottom string. I simply just grabbed a random nylon strand from the string kit and started chugging away at the top string.
Little did I know that once I was nearly done, the string I had picked was not long enough to do the job. Rather than selecting the longest nylon strand from the string kit (which is meant for the top string), I had selected the shortest nylon strand (which is meant for the bottom string). Upon realizing this, I essentially had to start over. The moral of the story is don’t make the same mistakes I made!
A checklist of that stringing materials that you will need is provided below.
- Unstrung Lacrosse Head
- 22-24″ Top String
- 22-24″ Sidewall Strings
- 6-8″ Bottom String
- Shooting Strings
- Pliers (optional)
You can see exactly what each of these stringing materials looks like by clicking over to my article 8 Things You Need to String a Lacrosse Head (With Images).
Stretch the Mesh and String the Top String
When you first open up the mesh package, it will be neatly scrunched up. You’re going to want to do is stretch the mesh out to prepare for stringing.
Once this is done, you have to make a decision as to whether you will be stringing a 9 diamond top string or a 10 diamond top string. Either are effective at devising a reliable pocket. Personally, I tend to lean toward 9 diamond top strings, which is what I ended up stringing for this demonstration.
It goes without saying, but make sure that the top string is strung so that the mesh is symmetrical. Accidentally skipping over a mesh diamond will cause the entire pocket to be lopsided.
String the Sidewall Strings with a Knot Pattern
Next, you will need to string the two sidewalls. This is by far the most important element of the string job.
As aforementioned, the knot pattern that you use on the sidewall strings is what will construct the pocket. There are a variety of knots that stringers use to form an effective pocket. Examples of these different kinds of knots are listed below.
- Interlock (I)
- Special Interlock (SI)
When and where you use these different knots plays a crucial role in how your pocket will turn out. It takes a bit of time to learn how to implement a knot pattern that will result in a solid pocket. If you’re new to this, I would advise watching some tutorials online to figure out what type of sidewall pattern works best for your lacrosse head. In my opinion, this is the perfect way to nail down the fundamentals of stringing theory.
Secure the Bottom of the Mesh to the Head with a Bottom String
With the sidewall strings out of the way, it’s time to move on to the bottom string. The bottom string doesn’t have to be anything fancy. All it has to do is loop around the bottom row of mesh to keep the ball from flying out.
As a side note, pay close attention to the tightness of your bottom string as it will have a direct effect on pocket depth, like we discussed earlier.
Add a Shooting String Setup (Optional, But Recommended)
This is an optional step, but most lacrosse players end up doing it anyway. Ultimately, how many shooting strings you use and which rows they fall into is up to you. Just make sure that the shooters are strung straight across the diamond row within 4″ from the top of the head, otherwise your pocket will be deemed illegal.
As a general rule of thumb, a greater amount of whip results from shooting strings that are placed lower and pulled tighter.
Cut and Burn the Excess String
At this point, all of the hard work is already done! Now, it’s time to clean up the pocket by cutting the excess string down to a reasonable length and burning the ends. Burning the ends of the strings prevents them from fraying over time.
How to Know if Your Lacrosse Pocket is Illegal
There are a couple of rules that must be kept in mind when stringing a lacrosse pocket. Lacrosse players must follow these mandates to a T or they will end up drawing a penalty.
- Illegal Pocket Depth – The sidewall string must interfere with your view of seeing the entire ball as it rests in the pocket when holding the pocket at eye level. If you can observe the entire ball as it sits in the pocket, your pocket is too deep.
- Presence of a Pull String – This is a type of bottom string used to manipulate the depth of a pocket to look like it’s legal, when it really isn’t. If you’re caught with this, your stick will be deemed illegal.
- Illegal Placement of Shooting Strings – All shooting strings must fall within 4″ from the top of the head. No “U” shooting strings are allowed.
- Too Much Excess String – Any excess string hanging off of your pocket that is longer than 2″ will deem your stick illegal. This is an embarrassing penalty, so just take the extra five minutes to cut and burn the excess string.
- Using More than Two Sidewall Strings – Pretty self explanatory. Just stick to two sidewall strings and nothing more.
- Deceptive Multi-Colored Mesh – If you paint a white circle on a colored piece of mesh to fool defenders into thinking you have the ball, your stick will be deemed illegal. I’ve personally never seen this before, but I figured it was something worth noting since it’s in the rulebook.
You can find additional information along with detailed images of what these pocket illegalities look like by clicking over to my article What Makes a Lacrosse Stick Illegal: An Illustrated Guide.
Useful Tips on How to Get Your Pocket Strung
To finish off this article, here are a couple of helpful tips on how to get the most out of your pocket.
Know Your Play Style
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to figure out what sort of lacrosse player you want to become. Do you predominantly want to be a shifty dodger? A time and room shooter? A playmaker that sets up his teammates?
All of these different play styles demand a special kind of pocket to complement them. If you don’t know what your strengths are as a player, it will be difficult to decide what strengths you want out of your pocket.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
For the longest time, I only ever played with a mid pocket because I was too stubborn to try anything else.
Luckily, I eventually decided to mess around with unconventional pocket styles in the middle of the summer offseason. It took some time, but eventually I realized that the high pocket upped my performance on the field tremendously.
Being a middie, my play style centered around high powered shots on the run. The high pocket helped to accentuate my shot power that much more and nudge me in the right direction. I ended up scoring a lot more goals in the following seasons partly because I was practicing on my own time, but also because I was willing to try new things.