There is an abundance of complicated terms that have to do with lacrosse equipment. It can be especially frustrating for novices just to identify the parts of a lacrosse stick.
What are the parts of a lacrosse stick? The lacrosse stick can be broken down into three general components: the head, the pocket, and the shaft. The head is the plastic material positioned at the top of the stick. The pocket is the stringed portion where the ball lies. The shaft is the metal pole that comprises most of the stick length.
The head, pocket, and shaft are identified in the picture below:
These three broad components are just the basic parts of the lacrosse stick. There are additional accessories and more detailed classifications that break down the lacrosse stick even further. To know all of the parts of the lacrosse stick, it is necessary to analyze each of the three components individually.
The Lacrosse Head
Location: The lacrosse head is the plastic material attached to the top of the shaft, hence why it is called the “head” of the stick.
Purpose: The head provides the framework for the pocket. All of the strings that make up the pocket are fastened tightly to the lacrosse head. Without the head to provide solid structure, it would be impossible to string a pocket that would retain its shape.
Rationale for Design: The head is structured with a narrower face shape towards the bottom of the head which eventually bows out toward the top of the head. You are probably asking yourself, “Why is the head not just one big circle?”
The head is shaped this way to optimize for a variety of basic lacrosse movements. For example, the bottom half of the head is optimized for cradling, the technique that lacrosse players use to retain possession of the ball.
The narrow design of the bottom portion of the head promotes ball retention in the pocket. It is much easier to retain possession when the ball is confined to a restricted area. This way, the ball does not rattle around as much and fly out of the stick.
The head aggressively bows out toward the top third of the head for the purpose of scooping up ground balls. The extra material at the top of the head aids tremendously with raking through balls lying in the grass or the dirt. It affords players a larger margin of error.
Excess material is removed from the sides of the lacrosse head to cut down on unnecessary weight and improve the aerodynamics of the head during the throwing motion. It is far more convenient for players to pass and shoot when the head does not trap a surplus of air and slow the stick down.
Parts Associated with the Lacrosse Head: There are three major parts that comprise the lacrosse head, along with one accessory attachment. These three parts are the scoop, the sidewall, and the throat. The accessory attachment is the ball stop.
We will analyze these specific parts in greater detail next.
Location on the Lacrosse Head: The scoop is positioned at the very top of the lacrosse head. It includes both the front and back of the plastic.
Overall Purpose: The central function of the scoop is to scoop up ground balls, which is how it earned its name. It also provides the framework for the top section of the pocket.
Rationale for Design: The scoop curls slightly upward to allow players to easily get under the ball when attacking from an angle. If the scoop did not have this slender curvature, there would be a much greater likelihood of the stick jamming into the ground and missing the ball.
The scoop is also pocked with holes across its design. These holes provide anchor points where knots can secure the top part of the pocket to the physical plastic of the head. Most lacrosse scoops only have four holes. However, there are some heads out there that include more than four holes across the scoop.
Location on the Lacrosse Head: The sidewalls are located on both sides of the lacrosse head.
Overall Purpose: The sidewall serves to strengthen the integrity of the lacrosse head. Heads need to be able to withstand a multitude of stresses, from forceful checks to hard passes. The sidewall is built to combat this strain on a daily basis.
Another function of the sidewall is to secure the lateral edges of the pocket to the plastic of the head.
Rationale for Design: Although there are certain sections cut out from the sidewall, you may notice that the material is a tad thicker relative to the other regions of the lacrosse head. The extra thickness supplies sturdiness to the lacrosse head to increase its overall durability. The sidewall cannot afford to be flimsy because this portion of the head absorbs the brunt of the force in lacrosse.
The sidewall lay out differs from lacrosse head to lacrosse head. However, the premise remains the same. Each sidewall support is geared toward enhancing head stability.
Similar to the scoop, the sidewall is fitted with holes for where the lateral edges of the pocket will be secured. It is standard for the sidewall to be filled with these holes along its entire length. This provides stringers with greater flexibility in customizing their eventual lacrosse pocket.
Location on the Lacrosse Head: The throat is located at the very base of the lacrosse head.
Overall Purpose: The purpose of the throat is to lock the entire lacrosse head on to the shaft. You can usually find the screw hole on the back of the throat.
Rationale for Design: The throat is the most narrow part of the lacrosse head because it needs to exactly fit the shape of the shaft. The throat cannot be too wide or the head will not fit snugly on to the shaft. This is important because the head will fly off or rattle around if the throat is not a tight fit.
It is standard for lacrosse head manufacturers to cut down on some of the excess material in the throat to minimize weight, similar to the sidewall.
The Ball Stop
Location on the Lacrosse Head: The ball stop is positioned near the bottom of the head, just above the throat.
Overall Purpose: The ball stop is a head accessory that is meant to assist players with catching passes. It is also meant to protect the bottom part of the plastic since this area of the head is hit on a consistent basis.
Rationale for Design: The ball stop is made up of soft material so that it can act as a cushion. It softens the blow of the ball as it hits the lacrosse head. This prevents the ball from repeatedly hitting the bottom plastic with hard force time and time again.
The ball stop used to be a more crucial component to heads in the earlier days of lacrosse. Heads were not maximally optimized for catching oncoming passes, causing it to continually hit the bottom plastic. Nowadays, lacrosse heads are far more robust and optimized for lacrosse play. Consequently, ball stops are not nearly as necessary as they used to be.
The Lacrosse Pocket
Location: The lacrosse pocket is the stringed material that is secured directly to the plastic of the lacrosse head.
Purpose: The pocket forms the cavity where the ball rests in the lacrosse stick. In the absence of the pocket, there would be no place for the ball to lie in the lacrosse stick.
Rationale for Design: The pocket is designed so that its deepest point lies below the top third of the lacrosse head. This is because the pocket works most efficiently when it is positioned in the narrower portions of the head. The ball is far more restricted in this narrow area, which allows the player to have maximal control.
If the pocket lied in the top third of the head near the scoop, the ball would slip out of the lacrosse stick at a much higher frequency.
Parts Associated with the Lacrosse Pocket: The lacrosse pocket can be divided into five distinct materials. These parts are the mesh, the top string, the sidewall strings, the bottom string, and the shooting strings. In addition, there is a part of the lacrosse pocket called the channel.
All of these exact parts will be investigated in further detail in the subsequent paragraphs.
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The mesh covers the entire face shape of the back of the lacrosse head. In the picture above, all of the grey material comprises the lacrosse mesh.
Overall Purpose: The mesh is the netting that actually contacts and encapsulates the ball when it lies at the deepest point in the pocket. It is what forms the actual “bag” of the lacrosse pocket.
Rationale for Design: Lacrosse mesh is comprised of woven nylon fibers organized into a diamond configuration. There are several reasons for the diamond configuration.
One, the diamonds provide stringers with anchor points to fasten the mesh to the lacrosse head. Second, the diamond configuration allows air to pass through the mesh freely, maximizing the aerodynamics of the pocket during the throwing motion. Third, the size of the diamonds play a significant role in how the mesh grips the ball. Generally, larger sized diamonds hold the ball more tightly than smaller sized diamonds.
Prior to mesh, lacrosse stringers would have to manually weave the entire pocket by hand utilizing a combination of string and leathers. Some players still use these pockets, but is much more of a rare occurrence. Mesh saves stringers a considerable amount of time since the surface of the pocket is essentially pre-woven.
The Top String
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The top string is located in between the scoop and the top portion of the mesh.
Overall Purpose: The function of the top string is to secure the top of the mesh to the top plastic of the head.
Rationale for Design: If you are extremely observant, you may notice that the top string is strung extremely taut. There is virtually no slack whatsoever. This design element is deliberate.
The top string needs to be rather tight to maximize the throwing consistency of the lacrosse stick. If there is too much slack in the top string, there will be a noticeable gap between the plastic of the head and the top of the mesh. During shots and passes, the ball will snag on this gap and click off of the plastic of the head.
This phenomenon is known as “lipping” in the lacrosse stringing community. Some players prefer a bit of lip on their throwing release. However, too much lip can actually alter the trajectory of the ball, resulting in an inaccurate throw. Obviously, this is something lacrosse players would like to avoid.
The Sidewall Strings
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The sidewall strings are very conveniently named. They are located between the sidewall and the lateral edges of the mesh.
Overall Purpose: The sidewall strings bolt the lateral edges of the mesh to the plastic of the head. However, there is much more to the sidewall strings than just this one purpose.
The sidewall strings are actually the most crucial elements in determining the nature of a lacrosse pocket. The sidewall strings determines the placement, depth, channel, and definition of the lacrosse pocket. All of these characteristics ultimately feed into how well a lacrosse pocket throws for a particular player.
Rationale for Design: The sidewall strings contain a series of various knots that attach the mesh to the sidewall of the lacrosse head. The way that the knot pattern is structured has serious ramifications as to how the overall pocket will turn out.
To put it in simple terms, certain knots stretch the mesh out, whereas other knots bunch the mesh together. Of course, there is more to stringer theory than that, but that is the essence of it.
The sidewall strings allow stringers maximal flexibility to customize the pocket to suit whatever preferences they desire. They can construct a low pocket or a high pocket, a shallow pocket or a deep pocket, a low hold pocket or a high hold pocket… you get the point. The list can go on and on.
This is why the sidewall string is organized the way it is. The knot pattern of the sidewall strings can provide players with a stick that is optimized to complement their specific play style.
The Bottom String
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The bottom string is positioned between the bottom portion of the mesh and the base of the lacrosse head.
Overall Purpose: The bottom string prohibits the ball from falling through the gap between the mesh and the base of the lacrosse head. You can imagine that ball retention would be a massive problem in the absence of the bottom string due to the effects of gravity.
The length of the bottom string can also be adjusted to modify the depth of the pocket.
Rationale for Design: Bottom strings come in many shapes and forms. Some bottom strings are rather lengthy, while other bottom strings are barely even noticeable. In the example above, the bottom string is comprised of a cotton laced shooting string. In most cases, the bottom string is made up of a nylon strand, similar to the top string and sidewall.
At its most basic level, the bottom string is a crucial determinant of pocket depth. Generally, the longer the bottom string is, the deeper the pocket is. This is because the mesh is allowed to sink down further when the bottom string has excess slack.
Thus, the bottom string provides a quick and easy means for players to adjust the depth of their lacrosse pocket in a pinch.
The Shooting Strings
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The shooting strings are positioned within the top third of the mesh from the tip of the lacrosse head. This is because shooting strings cannot lie lower than four inches from the top of the lacrosse head per lacrosse NFHS and NCAA regulations.
Overall Purpose: The shooting strings affect the release of the ball as it travels out of the pocket. They adjust the point at which the ball exits the pocket to make the ball release earlier or later in the throwing motion. This ultimately translates into the ball throwing higher or lower.
Rationale for Design: Shooting strings are designed with cotton or nylon material. The contrasting material of these strings impact the release of the ball differently.
I like to use the metaphor of describing shooting strings as speed bumps in the road. As the ball travels over these “speed bumps” the ball must slow down and remain in the pocket for longer. Thus, the shooting strings ultimately impact the release timing of the ball.
Cotton shooting strings lie flush against the mesh, whereas nylon shooting strings protrude outward from the mesh. You can see this difference in the image above. For this reason, cotton shooting strings are considered smaller “speed bumps” whereas nylon shooting strings are considered larger “speed bumps.“
Certain players that use nylon shooting strings even admit to having a better feel as to when the ball releases because they can detect when the ball snaps off of the nylon shooting string.
Location on the Lacrosse Pocket: The channel is the central track that runs from the deepest point of the pocket all the way up to the scoop.
Purpose: The channel serves to guide the ball down the center of the lacrosse head during the throwing release. Furthermore, the channel adjusts the release timing of the ball depending on how tightly or loosely strung the channel is.
Rationale for Design: From the picture above, you may notice that the channel somewhat resembles a “V” or “U” shape. The channel is purposefully designed with this shape in mind to force the ball down the center of the lacrosse head.
If the channel were constructed so that it resembled two lines running parallel to one another (a | | shape), then the ball would not release perfectly down the middle consistently. As a result, shots and passes would be a tad inaccurate since there would be a greater margin of error.
How tightly the channel hugs the ball during the throwing motion is also a major determinant of release timing. When the ball rubs on the sides of the channel on its way out, the ball is slowed down and remains in the pocket for longer. The tighter the channel, the more friction. The more friction, the longer the release.
If the channel is too tight, the ball can physically get stuck in the channel. This delays the release of the ball exponentially, causing the ball to plummet downward.
This is why stringers must find the perfect medium between a tight and loose channel to get the most out of their lacrosse stick. Channels that are designed too loosely are more likely to throw off target laterally. On the other end of the spectrum, channels that are designed too tightly have a greater likelihood of throwing off target vertically.
The Lacrosse Shaft
Location: The shaft is the metal pole that makes up the majority of the lacrosse stick.
Purpose: The shaft is the place where players hold the lacrosse stick. Players are not allowed to touch the head or the pocket when they are in possession of the ball.
Rationale for Design: The lacrosse shaft can come in a variety of lengths depending on position. If you are curious as to how lacrosse shaft length depends on position, see the table below:
|Position||Lacrosse Shaft Length|
The length of the lacrosse shaft has significant implications as to how well players are able to perform at their specific position. Attackers and midfielders use shorter lacrosse shafts to better protect their stick from defensive pressure. Defenders carry lengthier shafts to throw stick checks from farther away and keep ball carriers at bay.
Lacrosse shafts are composed of hollow metal and occasionally hollow wood. Shafts are hollowed out at the center so players do not have to lug around a heavy lacrosse stick out on the field. It reduces unnecessary weight while still maintaining the strength of the shaft itself.
Shafts can be comprised of scandium, titanium, aluminum, alloy, or composite materials. These materials are lightweight, durable, and sleek, which better equips players to execute basic lacrosse skills.
Parts Associated with the Lacrosse Shaft: There is really only one accessory part that accompanies the lacrosse shaft: the end cap. This accessory will be discussed next.
The End Cap
Location on the Lacrosse Shaft: The end cap, also referred to as the butt end, is positioned at the bottom of the lacrosse shaft. It is located at the opposite end of the lacrosse head.
Overall Purpose: The job of the end cap is to cover up the hollow metal at the end of the lacrosse shaft. When this hollow metal is left exposed, it is a serious safety hazard on the lacrosse field. The end cap eliminates this potential danger.
Rationale for Design: The end cap is made of rubber or plastic to provide a nice cushion for players that accidentally get jabbed by the bottom of a lacrosse stick. It is much safer to get poked by rubber or plastic as opposed to hard, sharp metal.
The Importance of Knowing the Lacrosse Stick Parts
Familiarizing yourself with the parts of a lacrosse stick is absolutely imperative to this sport.
Top tier coaches and professionals always say that the lacrosse stick should be an extension of the player’s body. Unlike many other sports, this piece of equipment can make or break the skill set of a player. If a lacrosse stick is not up to par, it can severely limit the potential that a player has.
To get the most out of your lacrosse stick, you need to start out with the basics. The very first step you should take is to get to know the parts of your lacrosse stick. Luckily, you just did that by reading to the end of this article.
This knowledge will help tremendously with identifying how to optimize the parts of your lacrosse stick to suit your individual play style. Every player is different. Some players like to emphasize their shot accuracy and speed, while other players like to look for ways to increase their ability to intercept passes.
Believe it or not, your lacrosse stick can help you to attain a slight edge on the field to accomplish whatever lacrosse skill that you are pursuing. Most players neglect this very important aspect of the game. It is up to you to rise above the competition.
So take advantage of this opportunity and experiment with your lacrosse stick. Try out different heads, shafts, and pocket styles. Ultimately, the more knowledge that you obtain through your own personal research, the better your lacrosse stick will be able to match your play style. You won’t know until you try!