Since the fall, the NCAA and USL have made some MAJOR changes to the rules. One of the biggest rules, that affects pretty much every player of every skill level, is the change to how sticks can be strung. While it’s been an exciting time, there is a lot to know and a lot of questions. One of my biggest pet peeves is people either not knowing the rules (if you haven’t passed the free online test, I really don’t think you should be yelling or arguing with officials this season) or people purposefully circumventing the rules. USLacrosse and the NCAA have gone great lengths to test and approve these new rules, so it’s in every player, parent and coach’s best interest to know and understand them. That brings me back to my blog, something I haven’t touched in a while (sorry!), and thought I might use it to shed some light on these burning questions. If you read through this article and still have more, feel free to submit them to my Question Bin and I’ll get to it as soon as I can!
A break down of what I’ll be discussing:
First, let’s go over the rules and what they mean (taken from the 2018-19 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rulebook):
The Pockets (Field Sticks)
SECTION 20. The nominal diameter of the shooting string nylon cord and sidewall string nylon shall be 0.3 cm maximum. The nominal diameter of pocket nylon shall be 0.3 cm maximum unless fused mesh is utilized to attach the pocket to the head of the stick.- No real change here, basically the rules are saying, do not use thick string. If you’re using “sidewall” or “top string” manufactured by lacrosse stringing companies, you should be in the clear (always worth checking).
SECTION 21. Field sticks shall have no more than two separate “shooting” strings. “Shooting” strings shall not be rolled or coiled or twisted more than twice between each thong. Flat laces may not be used as shooting strings. “Shooting” strings are not required. No real rule change here. Note, a lot of people overlook that it says “between” thongs. That means you can have as many twists as you want from the sidewall to the first though. Rules have also been amended to reflect the change with mesh- you may not twist/roll a shooting string more than ONCE per hole of mesh.
SECTION 22. Any “shooting” string must be directly attached to both sidewalls within 3.5 inches of the top outside edge of the scoop, or the top shooting string must be directly attached to both sidewalls within 3.5 inches of the top outside edge of the scoop, and the bottom shooting string may be an inverted “U” in shape and must be directly attached to both sidewalls within 6.5 inches of the top outside edge of the scoop. “Shooting” strings may not be crossed. “Shooting” strings may not touch from outside the outermost thongs to the sidewall. Again, no real rule change here, but it is important you’re keeping in mind how far down your shooting strings will go. Rules used to stipulate “top third” or “top two-thirds” of the head. Officials will now be able to use hard and fast measurements to insure legality of the pocket’s shooting strings.
SECTION 23. All components of the pocket shall be integral, either by tying or by stitching. In no case shall components be slid over the shooting strings, cross lacings, or thongs. This rule strictly prohibits the use of beads, tubing, or similar items on any part of the pocket. Other materials that may be prohibited: any materials that are sharp/unyielding – i.e., metal or hard rubber material that could be dangerous to another player. No change.
SECTION 24. The combined height of the sidewall and the depth of the natural forward facing pocket containing the ball shall not exceed 6.4 cm, the diameter of the ball. The combined height of the sidewall and depth of the reverse (backside) pocket containing the ball shall not exceed 6.4 cm, the diameter of the ball. The top of the ball must remain visible above the top of the wooden or plastic sidewall after the ball has been dropped into the front and back of the pocket of a horizontally held stick. The top of the ball must remain visible above the sidewall on both sides of the pocket. Only change here is that you must now check your pocket to make sure it is legal on the backside! Note- in HS officials may apply pressure to the pocket. In college, they may not apply pressure when checking pocket depth.
SECTION 25. The ball moves freely within all parts of the head of the stick, both laterally and along the full length of the front and back of the pocket. To ensure the ball rolls freely, the official will tilt the stick in both directions so that the ball moves freely from the ball stop to the scoop and out of the stick. The ball must not become wedged between the walls, under the guard or under the bridge of a wooden stick, or in the ball stop or under the walls of a plastic/ molded head stick. The ball must easily fall out of the pocket when the stick is turned upside down. There must be no holes or gaps in the pocket that are larger than 1.5″ (38.1 mm) diameter. We have the video below, but the idea behind this rule is to prohibit the construction of a pocket that will keep the ball lodged, either for advantage when drawing or dodging/shooting.
Note: The following are some examples that either alone or in combination might cause a lack of free ball movement in the head/pocket: Shooting strings that are not interwoven with the cross lacings and thongs and are allowed to sit on top of these other stringing areas; thongs that are raised above the plane of the pocket; thongs made from a sticky/tacky substance or this type of substance added to the thongs.
It goes without saying that understanding the entirety of the rulebook can be very challenging. There’s a lot left up to interpretation and frankly, if you’re not familiar with the game, some of the verbiage may seem foreign. Fortunately, every year there is a rules video (or two!) released so people can understand what officials are looking for, and how they’ll call new legislation.
First- make sure you watch this video on how officials will check the stick (at the collegiate level). Many people are nervous about what “the ball moves freely within all parts” will actually look like. This video shows you how the officials will check each stick and what they are looking for:
You will also find that the CWLOA (college women’s lacrosse officials association) also provides numerous materials. Thank you to USL for providing the above video.
Second, check out the full HS rules video. In it will explain stick checks, but again, all of the other rule changes, too. Note, the NCAA also has a video available, so feel free to check out USL and the NCAA website for more information about that!
Now it’s time to get into the fun part. You’ve read the rules, you understand what you can and cannot do, so it’s time to get creative! First, let’s go over the Pro’s and Cons of Mesh vs. Traditional Stringing:
*note this does NOT apply to soft mesh
As you can see, there are many pro’s and con’s to each type of pocket. The same can be said about mesh. Here is a very basic overview of the different types of mesh and the benefits that they provide:
Soft Mesh: Soft mesh is the original mesh out there. No coating, no frills, just mesh and nothing but mesh. Soft mesh is great for beginners. It has amazing hold and give, but the biggest issue of soft mesh is just that, it’s soft. Soft mesh is absolutely horrible for any kind of inclement weather, and it is extremely hard to create a consistent pocket that doesn’t whip. Because it is soft, there is no form to the mesh, it’s likely to bag out over time, too. This is something you would consider for newer players, whole mesh pockets, or pockets that use little amount of mesh. When you start to combine leathers and soft mesh though, it becomes hard to string and harder to maintain.
Hard Mesh: With all of the specialty meshes out there, it’s hard to find one of the most original meshes out there: hard mesh. Hard mesh is simply a soft mesh that is coated with a material to toughen up the mesh to play and weather. Hard mesh is ideal for those just getting into the mesh game. It stands up to weather well, has a short break in time, and fairly easy to string. Hard mesh is hard, so initially it may not have the best feel, but if you take the time to break it in, you’ll find it provides a lot of the pro’s that mesh has to offer.
Wax Mesh: Another spin on soft mesh, wax mesh is a mesh that is coated in wax. Wax is basically the middle to hard and soft mesh. Because wax is forgiving, it has a great feel right from the get go. There is little to no break in time with waxed mesh, and because wax is water resistant, it stands up very well to the elements. This is hands down our favorite mesh to use because of these properties not to mention it also has a little bit of grip to it.
Semi-hard, Semi-soft, Crux Mesh, Firethreads etc: Mesh has really come a long way over the previous years. Many companies such as StringKing, ECD, STX, etc have developed technologies that allow for thinner and less stiff mesh, but all of the weather resistant properties of waxed mesh. Some of these mesh pieces we find to be too soft, and create a lot of whip, but there is a real benefit to the give, hold and durability of these pieces of mesh. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for and don’t mind dropping some money for a nice piece of mesh these are worth looking into. It’s also worth mentioning that STX Crux Mesh and the likes also provide pre-cut mesh designed for women’s lacrosse heads so you don’t have to guess on the pattern!
Ok, so you’ve got your mesh, but now what do you want to string? There are many ways of going about stringing your head, and the first thing you’ll want to consider is how much of your pocket do you want to be mesh. There are really 3 main options, with obvious leeway and creativity in-between.
The first is a runner with mesh in between. This is the choice for those looking to dip their foot in the world of mesh, without actually diving right in. A runner with mesh is similar to a ladder/rail pocket, but has the benefit of no glue, ties breaking in the middle, etc. It provides a little more durability while still giving you the feel of a traditional pocket. Here is an example:
The next type of pocket is one that uses a larger portion of mesh. This really starts to go into the mesh world and where you’ll see many of the benefits and cons of using mesh. You can use runners (nylons) or leathers to go down the side of the mesh for more consistency and longevity. The hardest part of stringing this pocket is obviously that you have to know a little bit more about mesh, and potentially cut your own if you’re not using a precut factory piece:
Last, there is the full mesh pocket. Here you are really going full steam ahead with mesh. You’ll see all of the pros and cons to having mesh, and you’ll find you’ll have to use a full piece of men’s mesh but tweak it ever so slightly. This is the fastest pocket to string, and one that if you do it correctly, should need minimal adjustments. (Not pictured)
If you’re looking for some good examples, be sure to head over to our instagram page (@2lacrosse) and check out some of the other female stringers out there (@laxtractive, @fossyhola, etc).
If I had to guess, I would say many younger players will (should) switch to mesh. They can have deeper pockets and there for with the ease of mesh, can begin to learn to throw and catch without the tennis rackets that many sticks come with. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stick with them throughout the remainder of their career simply out of comfortability.
Older players I see experimenting and sticking to what they really like and are familiar with. I’ve spoken to a lot of coaches and some are very much for trying something new, and some are very much against it. Change is new, and change is hard. So it’s really going to take an open mind and patience as we find the perfect pocket.
Will mesh be a big benefit on the draw? I think it might. But once everyone gets one, it all evens itself out. Keep in mind mesh for women is also just starting, the evolution of the women’s mesh pocket will probably be fast and also rocky the first years.