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Choosing A Women's Stick
At UKLacrosse we get asked all the time about which women’s stick is suitable for which position, or simply, which is the best women’s stick. To help answer these questions, we’ve put together some notes below –
It is virtually impossible to purchase a ‘straight’ head these days, and all available heads are off-set. These provide superior control when cradling, and easier groundball pick ups. There have been attempts to avoid the Brine off-set head patents, firstly with the so-called ‘bent handle’ (e.g. deBeer’s TOS system, and STX’s Forward Cant system), and secondly, the mid-head offset by Adidas. It should be stressed that the ‘bent handle’ systems offered by deBeer and STX are only legal if the head and handle are of the same system. It is not possible to ‘mix’ either one of these heads with a straight shaft, or a bent shaft with a head designed for a straight handle. Note: the deBeer TOS system has now been discontinued, and that supplier has reverted to the standard off-set heads with straight handles.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘best’ stick, only the one which works best for you, and your level of play and skills. Entry level sticks are available on a shortened handle, to help those of smaller stature when they first take up the game e.g. the Brine Pixie. There are mixed opinions on using a shorter stick. Although it provides easier handling, especially for shorter girls, there are disadvantages on reach for both interceptions, and ground balls. The more advanced heads do have specific characteristics designed for the more advanced player e.g. narrower sidewalls, allowing a deeper pocket, but offering less protection of the ball. Some heads have a flatter scoop to allow more room for error on groundballs, but others have a more angled scoop, requiring more precision on ground balls, but offering more accuracy, and power, on shooting. A player taking the draw will normally look for a stiff head to gain more control at the draw. A stiff head may also be preferred by defenders. We regularly get asked about a specific head/ stickj for defense or attack/ middie, but with the strict FIL rules on women's sticks the ability to design one specifically for a position is not available compared with men's stick e.g. the new Brine Empress was originally designed as a defensive head for the US market with some features specifically advantageous for a defender. These include upper sidewall ridges to facilitate more effective checks, and a 2-screw throat for stronger fixing to the shaft. However, this head when compared to other FIL sticks performs far better on power of shot, speed of shooting/ passing and accuracy with the ability for far flatter passes. It is light with a very narrow sidewall to create a deeper pocket. In all respects it out performs all other sticks available which conform to FIL Rules!!
We would also raise questions on some brands of heads where the pocket is fully synthetic, in one piece. That is, without two outside leathers. The fully synthetic pocket, is available on low end deBeer and STX sticks, and does not provide as good a pocket to facilitate catching and cradling. Why do manufacturers string the sticks with these? Simply because there is no maintenance, and more importantly, it's cheaper to string!! The big disadvantage is that when you realise there are disadvantages, it will cost to have the stick restrung!!!
FIL Stick Rules
All play within the UK comes under FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse), stick rules – a separate article refers to these rules, with a link to the latest list of FIL Approved Crosses.
The one single major factor which is rarely discussed or highlighted is the balance of a lacrosse stick. In other sports e.g. tennis, badminton, cricket etc. the balance of the racquet or bat is considered of major importance for consistency and achieving a high level of skill. We advocate a light stick, but one which is balanced to suit an individual player. The idea that a heavy stick should be better confounds most scientific principles. A light stick can be handled quickly, efficiently and more easily. Head speed = ball speed, and a lighter head can be accelerated quicker to achieve that ball speed. In addition, you will have the benefit of ‘feeling’ the ball with a light stick. The one advantage of a heavy stick is ‘checking’ but again a heavy stick will be slower to check with, and in the women’s game, too heavy or aggressive checking is usually penalised. Far better to get more, and quicker checks, than one heavy, slow check.
The lightest and strongest handles are normally the top end alloys, but composite handles have become popular in the women’s game. These are offered in several styles, either thin or thick, with different shapes/ profiles to help cradling, and handling. Another advantage of composites is that they come in a multitude of designs, as well as being warm to the touch compared to metal handles.
Types of Pockets
In addition to the older ‘traditional’ pocket, all suppliers now offer what is referred to as a ‘pre-sewn advanced pocket’.
The older ‘traditional’ pocket consists of 4-leathers that run vertically from the scoop to the throat, and these are interlaced with nylon cross-strings to provide the pocket. Some still prefer this type of pocket, but it is more difficult to string and maintain this type of pocket. The biggest disadvantage is that in the wet the leathers stretch so changing the pocket, and then shrink and harden on drying, so altering the pocket yet again. Any mud will also affect this type of pocket, so it must be cleaned and maintained for optimum performance.
The fully synthetic pocket is the deBeer Trakker pocket, found on that supplier’s low end sticks. It has virtually no maintenance options, is cheap to string, but offers very little ‘feel’ of the ball. We do not recommend this type of pocket for any level of play!
Far better, are the deBeer Trakker Pro, and other suppliers’ variations e.g. Brine’s TXP. These are where the middle two leathers of a traditional’ pocket are replaced with a sewn synthetic piece which mimics the replaced leathers. We highly recommend these pockets for all levels of play. They are easily maintained and offer good ‘feel’ of the ball in the central channel created between the two outside leathers. They are available in a variety of colours allowing custom stringing options.
A more recent development has been the ‘Gripper’ pockets from deBeer, and now the Brine ‘Paramount’, which are both formed from a rubberised material. Some players have taken to these and prefer them, but others prefer the original fabric derivatives. One major recent complication is the way that deBeer chose to string their Griiper and Trakker Pro pockets with cut-off outside leathers. This is now illegal with FIL rules, so any sticks strung in this way would be illegal to play with within the UK.
It is now legal under FIL Stick Rules for any approved brand of pocket to be strung in any approved head.
Note: Virtually all women’s heads no longer use sidewall strings, though with the older heads it is easier to string the pocket with sidewalls, where there are less sidewall holes. The pocket is now strung directly through the sidewall of the head, with designs being developed to prevent wear.
These are the top cross-strings in a pocket, designed to maintain the integrity of the pocket near the scoop, preventing the ball from catching the scoop on shooting and passing, or to assist the hold of the ball prior to release. The nature of the shooting strings is very much a personal choice, but normally one is straight and the other is an inverted U or V. The FIL rules only permit two shooting strings. The rules state that if both shooting strings are shaped then they must be in the top third of the head, but if one is straight then they should be in the top half of the head. There are also specific rules concerning the number of ‘twists’ between the vertical pieces i.e. maximum two twists and not multi-coiled shooting strings as permitted in the USA.