Lacrosse, a fast-paced and highly competitive sport, requires not just talent and conditioning, but also the right equipment. When it comes to equipment, the lacrosse stick, often referred to as a ‘crosse,’ stands out as one of the most vital pieces. The right stick can enhance your performance, complement your style of play, and even feel like a natural extension of your body on the field. So, how do you choose the best lacrosse stick? Here are some critical factors to consider.
Age and Experience Level
Your age and how long you’ve been playing lacrosse can significantly influence your choice of lacrosse stick. For beginners, especially younger players, a complete stick could be the ideal choice. Complete sticks come fully assembled with a shaft, head, and a pre-strung pocket, ready to use right out of the box. They offer a good starting point, allowing new players to focus more on mastering the basics of the game.
However, as players progress and gain more experience, their needs evolve. Seasoned players often prefer to customize their sticks, opting for separate lacrosse heads and shafts. Some even go as far as acquiring an unstrung head and a stringing kit. This level of customization allows players to string their lacrosse head to match their personal preference and playing style.
The position you play in lacrosse is one of the most defining factors in the type of stick you should select. Each position has unique responsibilities and demands on the field, and these are reflected in the stick configurations that are typically chosen.
Attackers and midfielders, who are often the primary ball handlers and scorers on the team, usually favor a 30-inch shaft. This shorter length allows for better control when cradling, more precise passing, and quicker maneuvers for dodging defenders. The speed and agility afforded by a shorter stick can significantly enhance their attacking prowess, enabling them to weave through defenders and fire off quick, accurate shots on goal.
Defensemen and long-stick midfielders, on the other hand, are tasked with disrupting the opposing team’s attackers, blocking shots, and intercepting passes. To facilitate these duties, they generally prefer a 60-inch shaft. The extra length provides an extended reach, which is crucial for poke and lift checks to dislodge the ball from opponents. Moreover, the longer stick aids in blocking shooting lanes and intercepting passes, ultimately enhancing their defensive capabilities.
Goalies, the last line of defense tasked with preventing the opposing team from scoring, have a different set of needs. They have more flexibility in their choice of shaft length and can opt for anything between 30 and 60 inches. A shorter shaft might provide quicker hand movements, which is beneficial for saving close-range shots. Conversely, a longer shaft can extend the goalie’s reach, particularly useful for saving long-range shots and clear passes out of the defensive zone. Ultimately, the length of the shaft for a goalie can significantly impact their reach and agility, so it comes down to personal preference and the style of play they are most comfortable with.
The choice of material for your lacrosse shaft is an important consideration as it can significantly influence your performance and playing experience. The shaft is the part of the stick that your hands directly touch and control, so the material’s characteristics can directly impact your comfort and handling of the stick.
01. Metal Alloy Shafts
Metal Alloy shafts have been a traditional and popular choice among players for a variety of reasons. One of the main appeals of Metal Alloy shafts is their affordability. They are generally less expensive than other materials, making them a good option for beginners or players who are not looking to make a significant investment.
In terms of performance, Metal Alloy shafts offer solid durability. They can withstand the rigors of the game, including hard checks and ground impacts, ensuring that they last for multiple seasons. The ease of handling is another major advantage. These shafts typically have a moderate weight, offering a balance between lightness for quick maneuvers and enough heft for powerful shots or passes. This balance between weight and strength makes Metal Alloy shafts a versatile choice, suitable for players of various positions and styles of play.
02. Carbon Fiber shafts
On the other end of the spectrum, Carbon Fiber shafts have become increasingly popular, particularly among more experienced or specialized players. Carbon Fiber shafts are known for their lightness, which can contribute to quicker hand movements and faster shot speeds. The reduced weight can also help reduce player fatigue over the course of a game.
Another unique characteristic of Carbon Fiber shafts is the flex they offer. Unlike Metal Alloy shafts that are typically rigid, Carbon Fiber shafts can bend slightly during shooting and passing motions. This flex can add a whip-like effect to shots, potentially increasing the speed and power of your shots. Some players also find that the flex offers a unique feel and feedback when handling the ball.
However, these advantages come at a cost. Carbon Fiber shafts are usually more expensive than their Metal Alloy counterparts. Therefore, they might be considered an investment, typically chosen by players who are committed to the sport or have specific preferences that align with the benefits of Carbon Fiber.
The lacrosse head is a crucial component of the lacrosse stick. It is the part of the stick that directly interacts with the ball, making it instrumental in influencing your ability to control the ball, pass accurately, and shoot effectively. The design and characteristics of the lacrosse head can vary widely, and different types of players often have different preferences based on their roles on the field.
Defensive players, whose primary responsibilities include dislodging the ball from opponents, blocking shots, and intercepting passes, often prefer a stiffer head. Stiffer heads are typically made from more robust materials, ensuring they can withstand the rigors of defensive play, which often includes aggressive stick checks and ground ball battles. The extra rigidity provided by a stiffer head is not just beneficial for durability, but it also gives players more stability when scooping the ball off the ground. Moreover, a stiffer head can provide more consistent and accurate passing, which is crucial for clearing the ball out of the defensive zone.
On the other hand, attackers and midfielders, who are often responsible for scoring goals and creating offensive opportunities, might lean towards a more flexible head. Flexible heads are typically lighter than their stiffer counterparts. This reduced weight can lead to quicker hand movements when cradling, dodging, and shooting. A lighter head can also reduce fatigue during the game, allowing attackers and midfielders to maintain their agility and speed throughout the game.
Another advantage of a flexible head is that it can add whip to shots. The whip refers to the degree to which the stick bends or ‘whips’ forward during a shot, which can influence the trajectory of the ball. A higher whip can potentially increase the speed of the shot and make it more unpredictable for goalies. However, it’s worth noting that more whip can also make it more challenging to control the direction of the shot, and it may take some time to get used to.
The choice of head type – stiff or flexible – largely depends on your position, style of play, and personal preferences. It’s important to experiment with different types of heads to find the one that suits your game the best. Whether it’s the reliable consistency of a stiff head or the quick, whip-enhancing nature of a flexible head, the right choice can significantly enhance your performance on the field.
Beyond these fundamental factors, there are also other considerations when choosing a lacrosse stick. These include:
- Pocket Type: The pocket is the netted part of the lacrosse head where the ball sits. Pockets can be shallow or deep. Shallow pockets offer quicker ball release but less ball control, while deep pockets provide better ball control but slower release.
- Weight: The weight of a lacrosse stick can affect your speed and stamina on the field. Lighter sticks are easier to maneuver and can be beneficial for attackers and midfielders who need quick stick handling. Heavier sticks can offer more strength and stability, which can be useful for defensive players.
- Grip: The grip of the shaft can impact how comfortably and securely you can hold the stick, especially in different weather conditions. Some shafts come with a textured or rubberized grip to improve handling.
- Durability: While lighter materials might offer better performance, they may not always be the most durable. Consider the trade-off between performance and longevity, especially considering the cost of the stick.
- Price: Lacrosse sticks can vary widely in price, with high-end models costing several hundred dollars. Consider your budget and how much you’re willing to invest in a stick. Remember, a higher price doesn’t always mean a better stick for you. It’s about finding the right balance of features that suit your style of play and level of experience.
Choosing the right lacrosse stick can be a game-changer. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, finding a stick that complements your style of play and feels like an extension of your body can enhance your performance and enjoyment of the game. Remember, it’s not just about choosing the most expensive or advanced stick on the market, but about finding the one that fits you best. Take the time to consider your options and make an informed decision. The right stick is out there waiting for you!