There is one common fault with lacrosse sticks that plagues many players. If improperly strung, lacrosse sticks throw straight into the ground. There are a great deal of lacrosse players that are completely unaware of this fault. They believe that these throwing issues lie with themselves and not their lacrosse stick.
Lacrosse sticks throw down into the ground when they have too much whip. The problem of too much whip originates from stringing issues with the lacrosse pocket. Some prominent examples of these stringing issues include broken nylon threads, excessive pocket depth, or extremely tight shooting strings.
These are just a few of the potential factors that could be causing your stick to throw the ball into the dirt. To truly analyze every stringing aspect of your lacrosse pocket that could be hindering the accuracy of your throws, keep reading further.
The Main Problem: Too Much Whip in Your Lacrosse Stick
The overarching problem that is impairing your throwing ability is excessive whip. Now you are probably asking yourself, “What is whip?”
The Basic Gist of Whip
Whip is a generic term that lacrosse players use to characterize how a lacrosse stick throws. The more whip a lacrosse stick has, the more likely it is to throw into the ground. The less whip a lacrosse stick has, the less likely it is to throw into the ground.
To read up more on the basic theories behind whip, check out my article A Full Breakdown of What Whip Actually Means in Lacrosse where I sum up everything you need to know about whip.
Extreme Whip Typically Results from Stringing Issues
As aforementioned, excessive whip primarily stems from stringing complications with the lacrosse pocket.
There are such a considerable amount of different strings involved in the creation of the lacrosse pocket. To just rattle them off real quick, there is the mesh, the top string, two sidewall strings, the bottom string, and the shooting strings. Any of these strands could potentially be affecting the throwing accuracy of your stick.
For this reason, it is necessary to investigate how the nature of each string in detail to determine whether or not it is the culprit of your throwing dilemma.
To make this process easier on you, I compiled a comprehensive checklist of every possible stringing factor that could be impacting the excessive whip in your lacrosse stick. I listed the most common stringing problems towards the top of the list and the more rare stringing issues toward the bottom. This checklist can be found under the subheading “Stringing Factors that are Potentially Causing the Whip in Your Lacrosse Stick.”
Before we dive into that list, let us first verify that the throwing issue is not some underlying problem with the lacrosse head or the lacrosse shaft.
Possible Explanations Other than Stringing Complications
Broken Lacrosse Head: First, check to make sure that there are no physical breaks in the plastic of the lacrosse head. Sometimes, you may not even realize that your lacrosse head is broken until viewing it after the fact.
Lacrosse heads can only withstand so much force. A hard check or even taking a bad angle on a ground ball can provide a sufficient amount of force to snap a lacrosse head. This damage can have a tremendous impact on how your lacrosse stick throws.
Warped Lacrosse Head: In addition, many lacrosse heads grow warped over time. When I say that the lacrosse head gets warped, I mean that the lacrosse head bends, pinches in, and changes shape without me purposefully doing so.
The effects of warping are more pronounced when the lacrosse head has been exposed to excessive heat, overuse, and face-offs. This structural change in the lacrosse head can increase the likelihood of your stick throwing the ball into the dirt.
Defective Lacrosse Shaft: You should also analyze your lacrosse shaft to see if it is bent in any way. Just like the lacrosse head, in game circumstances can alter the structural form of the lacrosse shaft.
For example, rather than being perfectly straight, the shaft may veer off a degree or two in one direction after a certain point. One hard check has the power to knock a shaft off kilter.
How to Resolve These Problems: Unfortunately, since the problem lies with the material of the gear itself, your best bet is to invest in other equipment. Unlike stringing, there is no real quick fix to these sorts of equipment issues.
Stringing Factors that are Potentially Causing the Whip in Your Lacrosse Stick
One of the Strings is Broken
Task: Analyze the top string, two sidewall strings, the bottom string, and the shooting strings to see if there are any tears.
Explanation of Problem: Broken threads on your lacrosse pocket can compromise the integrity of the pocket itself. All it takes is one deficient string to sabotage the throwing prowess of the lacrosse pocket.
This is a common occurrence in lacrosse because the durability of these threads are tested every time a player steps onto the field. These strings have to stand up to every catch, ground ball, face-off, and more!
How to Resolve this Problem: Once you identify a tear in a particular string, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that you are going to have to replace that string. The good news is that you do not have to replace the entire pocket itself, just that one particular string.
Ask around and find a knowledgable stringer to replace this string for you. Most teammates or coaches are up to the task of helping a fellow lacrosse player out.
Too Much Pocket Depth
Task: Determine if the ball lies too deep within your lacrosse pocket to throw adequately.
Explanation of Problem: Lacrosse pockets that have too much depth hold onto the ball for too long during the throwing release. This additional hold causes the ball to release out of the lacrosse stick later in the throwing motion, which is why the ball is being directed toward the ground.
As players break in their lacrosse sticks, the depth of their lacrosse stick increases. The repetition of catching balls constantly hammers the lacrosse pocket deeper and deeper until the ball sits too low in the pocket.
How to Resolve this Problem: An easy way to make your lacrosse pocket shallower is to tighten up the bottom string. Tightening up the bottom string will pull the bottom of the mesh down and considerably reduce how low the ball sits in the pocket.
The picture below illustrates what an adequate pocket depth looks like.
Pocket Channel is Too Tight
Task: Determine whether or not the channel of the lacrosse pocket resembles too much of a V-shape.
Explanation of Problem: The pocket channel is the exit pathway that the ball takes during the throwing motion. The purpose of the channel is to direct the ball down the center of the lacrosse head. To do this, the strings hug the side of the ball and force it down the middle point of the head.
An adequate channel increases throwing accuracy. However, if the tightness of the channel is taken too far, the ball can get stuck midway through the exit pathway. This causes the ball to remain in the stick for an extra half second longer, which ultimately results in your stick throwing downward.
How to Resolve this Problem: First, ensure that the channel of your pocket is the approximate width of a ball for the majority of the exit pathway. If the ball gets caught midway through the channel, this is likely what is impacting your throwing capabilities.
To resolve this issue, the knots on the sidewall strings must be altered in order to expand the width of the channel. Modifying the sidewall pattern to definitely requires some baseline stringing knowledge. For this reason, it is imperative that you find a seasoned stringing veteran to fix this problem for you.
A picture of what a proper channel looks like is shown below.
Too Many Shooting Strings
Task: Identify how many shooting strings you are using. Any more than two to three shooting strings typically results in excessive whip.
Explanation of Problem: Think of shooting strings as bumps on the road that the ball must fight through on its way out of the pocket. The more bumps in the road there are, the longer it takes for the ball to travel out of the pocket.
This additional time in the pocket translates to a later release. Later releases typically result in a greater probability of the ball throwing down.
How to Resolve this Problem: Take one or two shooting strings out of your lacrosse pocket entirely. Experiment with your modified lacrosse pocket and see if your throwing accuracy has improved.
Shooting Strings are Placed Too Low
Task: Determine the exact location of where the lowest shooting string sits on your lacrosse pocket. Any strings that lie below the second 10 diamond row may be contributing to the excessive whip of your lacrosse stick.
Explanation of Problem: Using the bumps in the road analogy from before, lower shooting strings slow down the lacrosse ball early in the throwing motion.
This delays the amount of time it takes for the ball to reach terminal velocity and exit the lacrosse pocket. Later releases translate into downward throws.
How to Resolve this Problem: Move up all of your shooting strings or completely remove the lowest string. Again, this fix really only works if your shooting strings are below the second 10 diamond row.
Shooting Strings are Too Tight
Task: Determine whether or not your shooting strings are too taut.
Explanation of Problem: Every lacrosse pocket has a natural catch point where the ball physically loses contact with the pocket and begins its flight path. Shooting strings have the power to shift this catch point depending on how tight they are.
Tight shooting strings serve as an impenetrable wall that the ball cannot drive past to reach its natural catch point. As a result, the ball reaches this impenetrable wall and sits there until the force of the throw is sufficient enough to overcome this obstacle.
This later release translates into a downward throw.
How to Resolve this Problem: Put a little bit more slack into each individual shooting string, especially the lowest shooting string. This extra slack will deter the ball on its way out of the lacrosse stick, which will result into a higher throw.
Use of Nylon Shooting Strings
Task: Identify how many nylon shooting strings you are using, if you are using any at all.
Explanation of Problem: Cotton shooting strings lie flat against the mesh. Nylon shooting strings, on the other hand, protrude out from the mesh. Thus, nylon shooting strings provide more resistance to the ball as it flies out of the lacrosse stick compared to cotton shooting strings.
This extra resistance prolongs the release of the lacrosse ball. A later release equates to a lower throw.
How to Resolve this Problem: Trade out the nylon shooting strings for cotton shooting strings. Experiment with your throwing motion to test out if this had any significant effect on the whip of the lacrosse stick.
The difference between a nylon shooting string and a cotton shooting string is depicted below.
Too Defined of a Pocket
Task: Establish whether you lacrosse pocket is defined or baggy.
Explanation of Problem: Defined lacrosse pockets follow the outline of the ball much more closely relative to baggy lacrosse pockets. Thus, defined pockets have more contact points with the ball. This additional contact allows the ball to better nestle within the pocket.
Since the ball clings in the pocket for a longer period of time with defined pockets, the ball comes out later. This extra hold results in excessive whip.
How to Resolve this Problem: The knots of your sidewall pattern will have to be adjusted in order to disperse the mesh more equally throughout the surface of the pocket. Changing the knot configuration requires stringing experience.
For this reason, I would seek out someone who knows their way around a lacrosse pocket to solve this issue. The discrepancy between what a defined pocket and what a baggy pocket looks like is shown below.
Pocket Placement is Too High
Task: Determine where the deepest point of your lacrosse pocket lies relative to the midline of the lacrosse head. If the pocket falls above the midline near the top of the lacrosse head, consider lowering the placement of your pocket.
Explanation of Problem: Lacrosse pockets with high placement have an extremely aggressive slope to the channel. Low pockets showcase a much more gradually sloped channel.
Channels that have a rather extreme slope cause the ball to catch in the pocket and whip in the dirt. Gradually sloped channels typically do not have this complication.
How to Resolve this Problem: The sidewall pattern will have to be modified to lower the placement of your pocket. This requires a knowledgable stringer.
Examples of the various types of pocket placement are illustrated below.
Mesh is Excessively Grippy
Task: Determine what type of mesh you are using in your lacrosse stick.
Explanation of Problem: As a general rule of thumb, more sizable diamond configurations on mesh equates to extra hold. Furthermore, wax infused mesh also enhances the grip of the pocket.
This extra hold retains the ball in the pocket for longer, which angles the throwing motion downward.
How to Resolve this Problem: If you are using larger sized diamond mesh or wax mesh, make the switch to semi-soft performance mesh. This kind of mesh minimizes the amount of hold on the ball, which allows the ball to release earlier in the throwing motion.
The only drawback is that implementing a change of mesh would require the complete restringing of your lacrosse stick. If you are truly desperate to fix the problem, this is an option to at least acknowledge.
The image below illustrates the drastic difference in diamond size between standard 10 diamond mesh and 6 diamond mesh.
Top String is Too Loose
Task: Make sure the top of the mesh is secured tightly to the top of the lacrosse head.
Explanation of Problem: The purpose of the top string is to fasten the top of the mesh securely to the top plastic of the lacrosse head. In order for this to happen, the top string needs to be extremely taut.
A loose top string leaves a gap between the mesh and the plastic of the lacrosse head. As the ball travels out of the lacrosse stick, the ball clicks off of the plastic as it bridges this gap. This click off of the plastic alters the trajectory of the ball, further angling it to the ground.
How to Resolve this Problem: The top string either needs to be tightened or replaced. Replacing the top string does not require a full restringing of the entire lacrosse pocket, just the top string itself.
To give you an idea of what a taut top string looks like, I included the image below.