What is the Difference in Lacrosse Sticks? (Illustrated Guide)


To break into the game of lacrosse, it is necessary to get to know the equipment. One of the first things that newcomers notice is the broad spectrum of sticks that players use out on the field.

There are three different types of lacrosse sticks that are each specified toward a set lacrosse position: the attack/midfield short stick, the defensive long stick, and the goalie stick. The makeup of these sticks vary in shaft length, pocket depth, and head width to cater to an exact position.

These differences are no coincidence. Each lacrosse position has their own distinct set of needs that have to be addressed on the lacrosse field. These differences in lacrosse sticks help better accommodate these needs, making for a higher quality playing experience.

The explicit discrepancies and the reasons for these discrepancies will be investigated throughout this article. If you also have questions regarding what the differences between lacrosse stick brands are, read until the end to get your specific questions answered.

A Summary of the Differences in Lacrosse Sticks

The table below summarizes the major differences between the three types of sticks in lacrosse. These differences primarily have to do with the various parts of the lacrosse stick. If you need a refresher on the exact parts of a lacrosse stick, check out my article Parts of a Lacrosse Stick: An Illustrated Guide. The reasons for why each lacrosse stick is constructed the way it is will be discussed in the latter portions of the article.

Attack/Midfield StickDefensive StickGoalie Stick
Stick Length40 to 42 in52 to 72 in40 to 72 in
Pocket DepthOne Lacrosse Ball DeepOne Lacrosse Ball DeepTwo to Three Lacrosse Balls Deep
Head Width6 to 10 in6 to 10 in10 to 12 in

The Atack/Midfield Short Stick

The short stick is what most people think of when they picture a lacrosse stick. This is because the majority of field lacrosse players are equipped with the short stick. Offensive midfielders, defensive midfielders, attackers, and designated face-off men predominantly use this type of stick.

Stick Length (40 to 42 in)

The length of the attack/midfield stick is the shortest among the three types of lacrosse sticks. This is done deliberately because the short stick is predominantly geared toward offensive players.

It is much more convenient for ball carriers to protect a short lacrosse stick from defensive pressure. With lengthier lacrosse sticks, more of the stick is left exposed to potential checks. By using a shorter stick, defensive players have a hard time landing forceful stick checks on the opposing ball carrier.

Aside from the benefits of stick protection, it is much easier to throw and catch with a short lacrosse stick. Long sticks are somewhat harder to control given that the lacrosse pocket is much farther away from where the hands are positioned. In addition, long sticks carry additional weight due to the excess material, which makes it a bit more challenging to throw and catch in a fluent fashion.

Pocket Depth (One Ball Deep)

Generally, the pocket on an attack/midfield lacrosse stick is approximately one ball deep. The pocket can be shallower than this, but it cannot sink lower than one ball deep.

According to the NFHS and NCAA lacrosse rules, the top edge of the lacrosse ball cannot be positioned below the lowermost surface of the of the head sidewall. Thus, if the ball rests too deeply within the lacrosse pocket, the stick will be deemed illegal.

The reason for these stringent guidelines regarding pocket depth is to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over other players when it comes to ball possession. When the ball is able to rest well below the legal limit, it becomes extremely challenging for an on ball defender to strip the ball carrier of possession.

This rule regarding pocket depth levels the playing field between the offense and defense. It also promotes an up tempo style of play since there is a greater likelihood for forced turnovers and transitional opportunities.

Head Width (6 to 10 in)

Legal attack/midfield lacrosse heads lie within the range of 6 to 10 inches, which offers players some selection when it comes to how they want to customize their lacrosse stick.

By and large, most attackers and midfielders opt for a narrower lacrosse head that lies closer to 6 inches rather than 10 inches. This is because narrower lacrosse heads offer superior ball retainment as well as increased throwing accuracy.

Narrow lacrosse heads tend to form pockets that hold the ball better than wider lacrosse heads. This is because there is limited room for the ball to rattle around within the pocket. The restriction of movement keeps the ball in one place so that there is less opportunity for the ball to fly out of the stick.

In addition, narrow lacrosse heads force the ball down the center of lacrosse pocket on a more consistent basis. Since the ball releases down the center track with each and every release, ball carriers have much more control over the flight path of the ball. This helps tremendously with throwing precision.

The major drawback with narrow lacrosse heads is catching. Since players have less surface area to work with, it is much more likely for a player to occasionally drop a pass.

Most offensive players are willing to take on this additional cost since they possess superior stick skills. For these players, it is more favorable to reap the benefits of shooting and throwing accuracy as opposed to catching reliability.

The Defensive Long Stick

The defensive long stick, sometimes referred to as the long pole, is characterized by its lengthy shaft. The length of this lacrosse stick is nearly double that of the attack/midfield stick.

Close defenders and long stick midfielders (LSMs) carry around these hefty lacrosse sticks during games.

Stick Length (52 to 72 in)

As aforementioned, defensive sticks are noticeably longer than attack/midfield sticks. Just like the attack/midfield sticks, there is a method to the madness.

The extensive reach of the long pole allows defensive players to land precise stick checks on ball carriers from a healthy distance away. This not only increases the likelihood of turnovers, it dissuades ball carriers from dodging and creating scoring opportunities.

Virtually all offensive players prefer to dodge short stick defenders as opposed to long stick defenders. This is why offenses predominantly target short stick defenders for dodges whenever possible.

Guarding shifty offensive ball carriers is a tough task considering how quickly players are able to move with possession. With a lengthier stick, defensive players can keep constant pressure on ball carriers while preserving solid body position.

In essence, the long pole maintains a healthy balance between the offense and defense so no one side has the upper hand.

Pocket Depth (One Ball Deep)

The rules concerning pocket depth for attack/midfield short sticks are the exact same for defensive long sticks. It is illegal for the ball to lie completely below the lowermost surface of the sidewall rail.

There are certain times during the game where defenders must possess the ball in order to clear the ball over to the offensive zone. In order to offer the opposition a fair chance to get the ball back, it is necessary for defenders to adhere to the same pocket depth rules as attackers and midfielders. Otherwise, it will be exceedingly difficult for the other team to strip the ball, even if they do land several hard stick checks.

Head Width (6 to 10 in)

Similar to attack/midfield lacrosse sticks, the head width of defensive lacrosse sticks must be between 6 to 10 inches at its broadest point.

However, it is standard for defensive heads to be much wider than the average attack/midfield head. Defensive heads are designed to hover closer to the 10 inch mark when it comes to width.

This difference in head width stems from the contrasting skills and responsibilities between the offense and defense. Offensive players have to maximize their throwing and shooting precision to create scoring opportunities. Defensive players are not concerned nearly as much with throwing and shooting accuracy relative to offensive players. Their main priority is disrupting the playmaking ability of the opposition.

For this reason, defensive players opt for wider lacrosse heads because they are better equipped to intercept passes and absorb the forceful blows of stick checks.

As previously discussed, wider heads have a greater catching surface area. When defensive players position their long sticks in the passing lanes, this additional surface area offers them a slightly better chance at getting their stick on an opposing pass.

In addition, wider lacrosse heads have a broader base. This provides more stability to the lacrosse head as a whole, which gives the plastic of the head a superior ability to withstand the repetitive abuse of defensive checks.

The Goalie Stick

The goalie stick is definitely the most unique out of the three types of lacrosse sticks. This type of stick is characterized by an unorthodox head design. The structural arrangement of the head and the pocket are vastly different than that of the attack/midfield stick and the defensive stick.

Stick Length (40 to 72 in)

Goalies have a substantial amount of flexibility in determining the length of their lacrosse stick. Their stick can either be as short as the length of a typical attack/midfield stick (40 to 42 in) or as long as the length of a typical defensive stick (52 to 72 in).

Although it is legal for goalkeepers to use a 72 inch long shaft, they rarely ever actually play with a shaft that long in game. Throughout my entire playing career, I never saw a goalkeeper use a 72 inch long shaft. It is too difficult to react quickly to the ball with that such an excess amount of material.

It is far more common for goalkeepers to use a stick that is slightly above the standard length of an attack/midfield stick. The majority of goalkeeper lacrosse sticks lie within the range of 46 to 53 inches total. Of course, this is just the trend, not the rule.

The reason for this difference in stick length is that goalkeepers want to have the best combination of stick maneuverability and balance to cover the most amount of goal possible.

The benefit of having a shorter goalie stick is that it is much more lightweight. This reduction in weight allows goalkeepers to move their stick to to the ball a fraction of a second sooner. In the world of goalkeeping, a fraction of a second can mean the difference between a save and a goal.

On the other hand, lengthier goalie sticks are not nearly as top heavy as shorter goalie sticks. Since the stick is far better balanced, goalkeepers feel more at ease with the stick in their hands. This natural comfortability translates into more saves.

Ultimately, both shorter goalie sticks and longer goalie sticks have their pros and cons. It is up to the goalie to make the decision on what stick length suits their play style best.

Pocket Depth (Two to Three Balls Deep)

Another major point of difference that makes the goalie stick stand out is the pocket depth.

The pockets on goalie sticks are a lot deeper than the pockets on the other types of lacrosse sticks. It is essentially as deep as a grocery bag.

The extreme pocket depth of goalie sticks prevents the ball from bouncing out of the pocket following a shot. Shallow pockets have a tendency to create rebound opportunities for the opposition. This is obviously something that goalkeepers want to avoid at all costs.

There is nothing more demoralizing to a goalkeeper than making the initial save, only to give up a goal to a second chance opportunity.

A pocket that is two to three balls deep is able to give with the ball more and better absorb the power of an oncoming shot. This way, the ball remains in the goalie pocket and does not bounce back out to the crease.

Goalkeepers rarely ever possess the ball for an extended period of time during games, so the unfair advantage of ball possession is of little concern.

Head Width (10 to 12 in)

Furthermore, the width of a goalie lacrosse head is much broader relative to other lacrosse heads. This is because goalkeepers absolutely need this extra surface area to even have a chance at making a save.

If goalkeepers were only ever able to use heads that were 6 to 10 inches at their widest point, it would take a miracle for goalkeepers to make a save in game.

The average shot speed of a recreational lacrosse player is around 70 to 80 mph (check out my article What is the Average Speed of a Lacrosse Shot? for more information on this topic). With such high velocity shots and so little surface area to work with, goalkeepers would have a better chance at making a save with their body rather than their stick.

It is not the intention of the lacrosse community to continually pelt the body of goalkeepers with hard shots every single outing. This is why the width of the goalie head is so much larger relative to the other positional heads available.

Do These Differences in Positional Lacrosse Sticks Matter?

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the primary differences between the types of sticks in lacrosse, it is likely that you are wondering whether or not these differences actually matter.

These differences in lacrosse sticks do in fact matter. This is because depending on what type of lacrosse position you choose, you will need to invest in the proper stick in order to get out on the field. If you invest in the wrong type of stick, you may not be able to legally play at your desired position.

For example, you cannot play goalkeeper if you only have an attack/midfield stick at your disposal. Referees will simply not allow this to happen because of the astronomical injury risk involved.

Similarly, it is rare for a coach to allow a player with a short stick to play close defense. Lacrosse coaches want to have as many long stick defenders out on the field as possible to bolster the strength of the defense. Putting another short stick defender at close defense just gives the opposition another favorable matchup to exploit.

What’s the Difference Between Lacrosse Stick Brands?

There is also an overwhelming selection of lacrosse stick brands out there. In addition to the various types of lacrosse sticks, it is challenging for newcomers to differentiate between all of the lacrosse stick brands.

Having a base knowledge of the ways that lacrosse stick brands are different from one another will help you make an informed decision on what lacrosse stick suits you best.

A Complete List of Reputable Lacrosse Stick Brands

To understand the difference between lacrosse stick brands, it is necessary to first identify what the premier lacrosse stick brands are. The most renowned lacrosse stick manufacturers are listed below:

  • Brine
  • East Coast Dyes
  • Epoch
  • Gait
  • Maverik
  • Nike
  • StringKing
  • STX
  • Under Armor
  • Warrior

It is evident that there are many renowned stick brands to choose from. So what are the major differences between these lacrosse stick brands? We will discuss this next.

Contrasting Materials of Production

A major point of contrast among lacrosse stick brands are the materials used to construct the individual parts of the lacrosse stick. Certain lacrosse companies prefer to use specific materials for production as opposed to others.

The Shaft: There are a diverse amount of materials that can be used in the production of lacrosse shafts. Examples of common lacrosse shaft materials include titanium, aluminum, scandium, alloy, and composite.

Depending on the lacrosse manufacturer, the shaft can be constructed from a single material or a blend of these materials. The differences in production material directly translates into a broad spectrum of structural resilience and overall feel.

For example, STX is known for its production line of scandium titanium (sc-ti) shafts. These shafts have a sleeker, smoother finish and are extremely durable.

Another lacrosse company, called Warrior, manufactures an illustrious line of lacrosse shafts that are constructed from alloy. These shafts have a bit more of a tackier finish and are much lighter than the STX sc-ti shafts. But this comes at the expense of durability.

To put it simply, lacrosse shaft brands differ in terms of feel, durability, structure, and even flexibility.

The Head: Generally, all lacrosse manufacturers use a plastic mold to construct their lacrosse heads. Certain companies may infuse other materials to add structural integrity the hard plastic, but this is an uncommon practice.

The Pocket: The stringing materials used to construct pockets also differ between lacrosse stick brands.

All lacrosse stick brands utilize nylon thread. However, leading stringing material manufacturers, like East Coast Dyes and StringKing, also infuse materials such as wax so that the pocket is better able to withstand the effects of the weather.

At first glance, such a small difference in production material would seem negligible. But many lacrosse players attest to this infusion of wax making a considerable difference in the longevity of their pocket.

Custom Structural Dimensions

Another prominent source of contrast among lacrosse stick brands are the structural dimensions of the stick, notably in the design of the lacrosse head.

Manufacturers are able to play around with the arrangement of the side rail, face shape, head diameter, head weight, and number of sidewall holes to construct an original lacrosse head that is customized toward a specific play style.

Each facet of the lacrosse head that these manufacturers modify has significant implications on how a player will perform on the field. I will even go as far as to say that the structure of a lacrosse head can make or break the player experience.

For instance, if a beginner invests in a lacrosse head that is extremely narrow. They will have a laborious time catching the ball on a consistent basis. This will ultimately lead to frustration, which may even cause them to quit lacrosse outright.

This is why it is important to take into account the differences in lacrosse stick brands, especially when it comes to the lacrosse head.

Broad Spectrum of Prices

Lastly, lacrosse stick brands can vary in their price significantly. The lacrosse shaft, lacrosse head, and lacrosse pocket have a diversity of price tags. Some products fall well below $100, while other products are priced above $200.

Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Higher ticket items generally use more expensive production materials and are battle tested by the most elite lacrosse players in the world. More inexpensive items are geared more toward the beginner that is just trying to learn the fundamentals of the game.

Check out my article Average Lacrosse Stick Cost (With 31 Real Price Examples) to learn more about the different prices of lacrosse sticks.

Do These Differences in Lacrosse Stick Brands Matter?

In the early days of lacrosse, stick brands held much more significance. Nowadays, with so many up and coming lacrosse companies manufacturing an exorbitant volume of high caliber lacrosse products, it does not really matter what specific brand you go with.

I personally have tried out a number of lacrosse stick brands myself. I have purchased lacrosse stick products made by Brine, East Coast Dyes, Nike, StringKing, STX, and Warrior.

I do not really stay loyal to one stick brand when it comes to lacrosse shafts and lacrosse heads because the differences are rather negligible to me. I have only ever broken one lacrosse head in my life and it lasted quite a few years before breaking.

The way that shafts and heads are made now, I am never really concerned with the prospect of defective lacrosse stick products. In my experience, virtually all of my sticks have lasted me multiple seasons.

The only time where I actually take lacrosse stick brands into account is when I purchase stringing materials for my pocket. This is because the lacrosse pocket is where I have had the most problems in the past.

During my first couple years playing lacrosse, I constantly had issues with strings fraying and breaking. Furthermore, the mesh on my pocket would always be completely worn down by weather effects when the end of the season rolled around.

I saw a noticeable difference when I started using performance stringing materials from East Coast Dyes. Prior to using these stringing materials, I would always have to restring my pocket midway through the season. With the performance stringing materials from East Coast Dyes, my pocket was able to last for a full season and beyond.

The moral of the story is that if you are going to splurge on a specific lacrosse stick brand, invest your money into reliable stringing materials. After all, the pocket is what predominantly controls your throwing and catching consistency. You want to make sure that this area of your stick is top notch come game time!

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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