Did you know that Lacrosse is largely considered to be the first sport played in America? And it’s easy to see why early Americans might have originally fallen in love with the game, seeing as it is highly fast-paced while also being very strategic and very exciting.
What arguably sets lacrosse apart from other sports though, is definitely the lacrosse stick itself. Like many other sports, the perfect lacrosse player needs to be complemented by the perfect tools and in this case, that means a light, powerful, durable and accurately lacrosse stick.
While you should never blame poor performance on your hardware, it is certainly true that upgrading your lacrosse stick can lead to a more competitive player as you find it easier to block checks, retain the ball, take shots, pick up from the ground and so much more.
In the perfect scenario, your lacrosse ball will become almost like an extension of your own body as it melds into the background and you simply know how and when to extend your arm for maximum effect. It will help you to deliver more powerful shots, to block more effectively and much more.
But all this simply puts more pressure on the process of choosing your lacrosse stick. How do you go about getting the best lacrosse sticks in order to avoid wasting money and in order to bring out your very best performance – to enhance your natural skills?
This guide will take you through the process of choosing the best lacrosse sticks and will help you to choose sticks that will improve your performance and your enjoyment without wasting money on sub-par weapons.
One of the first questions you need to answer when looking for the best lacrosse sticks, is whether you should buy the lacrosse stick, the head or the shaft?
A lacrosse stick, also known as a crosse, can essentially be divided into those two parts. These are the head, which is the pocket and the area surrounding it, and the shaft. The shaft is the pole that you hold in order to wield the lacrosse head.
Different lacrosse shafts and heads will vary depending on who they are aimed at (the position of the player, their experience level, their gender) and depending on your budget among other things. As such, the best way to get the most perfect combination to match your play style, will always be to buy a lacrosse head and a lacrosse shaft separately and then to attach the two together.
But while this is the best option by far for the expert player, those who are a little less experienced might instead want to stick (no pun intended) with the simpler option of just buying a ready-made lacrosse stick.
When you buy a ready-made lacrosse stick however, you should be aware that this is generally going to mean that you are getting a stick that is aimed very much at beginners. That means it will likely be made from a light and brittle material (often just plastic) and or that it will have a very wide head designed to make blocking checks and retaining the ball easy, while at the same time diminishing your accuracy.
What’s more, is that the length will most likely be aimed at children (meaning it will be very short) and it will be made with a plastic construction. In other words, this means that it won’t be suitable for professional play and that it won’t be suitable for clubs or perhaps even high school competitions.
Sometimes these types of sticks are referred to as ‘mini’ lacrosse sticks. These are the short, slim and plastic-feeling lacrosse sticks that are aimed squarely at beginners and certainly not intended for professional use. It is best to avoid these sticks if you want something that is going to be able to grow ‘with you’ or if you want something that you can use to play competitively.
With that said, competitive players will sometimes use these shorter, lighter sticks as a convenient way to play indoors, or in their back gardens and this can be a useful way to practice their skills. If this is the purpose that you are buying these ready-made lacrosse sticks for though, then just be certain to ensure that they will fit regulation size balls.
And while this is all true for the most part, there will be the occasional instance when you can actually get an all-in-one lacrosse stick that will actually meet the NCAA regulations. If this is what you’re looking for, then make sure that you check to see if it meets NCAA regulations first and then only make the purchase if so.
This might offer the best lacrosse stick for new players on a budget but just be aware that even if your lacrosse stick does meet regulation, it’s still not likely to be as high quality as if you bought the head and the shaft separately.
Bearing all this in mind then, it follows that most people are going to be looking to buy their head and shaft separately if they intend on playing professionally. This will allow them to get the ideal combination for the best possible performance and to choose a shaft and a head that will perfectly compliment their position, their play style, their level of experience and even their budget.
In this section, we’ll take a look at how you can go about choosing the perfect lacrosse head for your shaft.
The first thing to consider are the different parts of the lacrosse head. These are:
These are the edges around the outside of the lacrosse head that you use to thread the rope. The biggest factor to consider when looking at the sidewalls of different heads, is just how much flex they have. Flexible heads will be more lightweight and more malleable, which makes them great for picking up ground balls and which also makes them a little easier for beginners.
Stiffer heads on the other hand are heavier but will allow you to deliver harder checks, thereby making them a great option for defensive players.
Of course, the sidewalls are also what give the pocket its dimensions as they form the circumference. This brings us on to the next factor…
The pockets of a lacrosse stick will also impact on its performance in a number of ways. Wide pockets in particularly are generally preferred for newer and more defensive players. That’s because the greater width makes it easier to catch the ball. However, attackers and players that have a little more experience playing will generally prefer heads with a narrower pocket. This will give them more accuracy and will also make it a little easier to hold on to the ball.
Pockets can also come strung or unstrung. That means in some cases that you have to feed the string through yourself in order to create the net that will catch and hold the ball. In other cases, the head will come ‘pre-strung’.
The reason for this, is that an experienced player may want to customize their head further by altering the depth and flex of the pocket through their method of stringing. On the other hand, a new player might find this unnecessarily complex and be better served by a ready-made package.
Pockets can be made from numerous materials as well. They can be mesh (which tends to be preferred by goalies), whereas woven pockets are also available. Pocket depth can impact on the feel and control of the ball, but deeper pockets do also slow down the release of the ball.
Another aspect of the head is the scoop. This is the lip at the top of the sidewalls that you can use to – as the name would suggest – scoop balls off of the floor. Scoops are also where shots and passes will leave the pocket.
Scoops can be measured by their width and their drop. The drop refers to the dip located in the center of the scoop and the more dramatic this is, the more accuracy you will game from your shots. However, a flatter scoop is generally slightly better for hoovering up ground balls.
The offset refers to the position of the pocket, which is slightly behind the shaft. The offset will move the scoop behind the line of the handle where the player holds it, which in turn improves cradling and ball retention and allows them to develop more power for shots.
There are broadly two ways you can categorize lacrosse heads and decide which is going to be right for you. The first is by considering your level of experience, while the second is by considering the position in which you are going to play (and your own personal style, to a lesser extent).
Starting with experience level, you need to pick either a lacrosse head that is going to be easy for newcomers to pick up and play, or one that will provide a little more refined skill in order to use but which might offer more accuracy and/or power as a result. There is almost always a trade off to be made here.
In this section, we’ll consider the best lacrosse stick heads for beginner, intermediate and advanced players…
A beginner lacrosse head should be one with a wide head, which in turn increases the surface area available for catching. This means you need to be less precise when blocking and catching. Likewise, having a softer mesh/net within the lacrosse head will minimize the risk of the ball bouncing off like a tennis racket and thereby help with retention.
This will also make the ball that bit easier to cradle and to run with. Complete sticks that come ready made will often have a flatter scoop, which will allow beginners to easily pick up the scoop.
As mentioned earlier, it is also generally preferable for beginners to purchase their lacrosse sticks pre-strung. This way, they won’t need to have to worry about the process of stringing their own heads and they will be able to get something that is perfectly designed to their level of experience.
Those players with some experience will be able to start progressing to heads that will improve their accuracy. The best lacrosse stick head for an intermediate player will be one that is still relatively welcoming for a beginner but that also allows them to hone their skills and to make more difficult shots.
At this point, you should also start looking for the right type of lacrosse head for your chosen position. The best lacrosse stick for an intermediate will start to reflect whether they are a middies, attackers or defenders – and those specially made sticks will often use higher quality materials.
Advanced players with lots of skill will want to start specializing a little more and spending a little more on their equipment. More high tech lacrosse sticks might have more holes for instance in order to allow for more stringing options, they might have more resilient materials too.
At this point, it also becomes increasingly important to consider the precise kind of player you are – what works for your personal style as well as your position. You should even find that you find a preference for the type of pocket you use and how you string it – you should know where you want the ball to sit.
Professional sticks and heads of course make the best lacrosse sticks currently available. These will use premium materials, highly precise designs and no ‘hand-holding’. They tend to have a flat face for the head and particularly tight and rigid structure.
What’s most important here, is that the lacrosse head meets the regulations outlined under NCAA. There are minimum and maximum measurements to follow, as well as some requirements with regards to material. If you want to play professionally, then make sure that it meets NCAA regulations. For younger players, the NFHS is the high school equivalent.
The other way to decide which lacrosse head is right for you, is to consider your position when you play. The requirements for an offensive player for instance will always be different from the requirements for a defensive player.
In this section, we’ll take a look at what you need to consider in order to find the perfect lacrosse head for any given position.
Offensive players are required to have maximum control over the ball at all times. That means that they need to be able to pass quickly to other players and to make accurate, fast shots. This in turn means that those in attacking positions will generally benefit from a narrower head, along with a good pocket placement and tight throat.
Defensive players on the other hand will want a lacrosse head that can withstand checks and that will allow for maximum reach and spread. That means something wide enough to intercept shots easily and something resilient enough to catch and hold onto the ball at high speeds. At the same time, they will also often feature flatter scoops and stiffer construction in order to prevent warping.
Those in the mid field need a stick and head that can act as much as an offensive stick as a defensive one. That means thy need to be able to protect the ball as they transport it to offense but also be able to intercept passes and checks in the defensive position. They’ll also want a good scoop for hoovering up ground balls.
Goalies of course need the largest heads on the field in order to stand the best chance of blocking shots. These should be able to take up as much of the net as possible, though some accuracy is still going to be required if only to be able to pass the ball back out. It needs to be sturdy too – as the shots will come in at a very fast rate!
The head is largely what is going to impact on the way that it feels to wield a lacrosse stick but it is also very important to consider the impact of the shaft itself. Far from being ‘just a stick’, you’ll once again find that there are various options to consider for the best experience and that these can greatly impact on playing style and feel.
For instance, the length of your stick is going to immediately make it better suited for either defensive or offensive play. A long stick will tend to be better for defence, as it will allow you to reach balls from further in order to better intercept passes and checks. Conversely, those who are playing offensively will want a shorter stick as this will be lighter and smaller, allowing them to remain more agile on the field and better able to get into a good position.
It's also worth considering the relationship between the width of the head and the length of the stick. Generally, wider heads will be paired with longer sticks, meaning that the overall effect is simply a ‘bigger stick’.
Lacrosse sticks can be made from numerous different materials. This is an important consideration, as of course the material will impact on the weight, as well as on the strength.
Choosing the right material can be the difference between something heavy to wield and quick to break, or something that will be quick and light. It’s also worth noting that some sticks will have a slight flex in them, which can improve the energy transfer allowing for more power. Popular materials include:
This is a strong and light option that will also tend to be very affordable. It’s not as strong as some more expensive materials but for a beginner/intermediate, it will more than suffice.
A composite shaft will be made from high-end carbon fibers and this makes them incredibly strong and yet lightweight. They are aimed at more experienced players and are particularly well suited to attackers.
Titanium is stronger and lighter as compared with aluminum and is good for advanced players. It’s also a little stronger than most composite choices, which makes it a good fit for defensive players.
This is the material with the highest-strength-to-weight ratio currently available. It has thus become one of the most popular options among players at the highest level. It will last a long time while being highly lightweight for quick movements.
Of course, the big drawback here is the price. While not unreasonable for a pro athlete, beginners will probably not have need for such a premium stick and should instead start with something more basic.
As you can see then, there are a lot of options when choosing the best lacrosse stick and a lot of things to think about. Ultimately though, the thing to know is that a beginner will be able to make do with a basic stick – possibly ready made – and using light materials with a wide head.
As you get better and more experienced, you need to try using different sticks, experiment with different positions and find your own playing style. From there, you can choose something more specific to your own way of playing and you can start to spend a little more on the more expensive materials for your shaft.
Whatever you end up choosing, it’s worth spending the time to find the perfect weapon as it will not only make you a much more formidable opponent out on the field but also improve your enjoyment of this great game!