Buying a new stick is like getting a new baseball mitt – it needs to be properly broken in before it can be used effectively. Most players and parents don’t realize this, and we see many “tennis racquets” –new or restrung sticks that haven’t been adjusted – in our training sessions. The pocket of a girls stick must be adjusted to make it easier to catch, cradle, and throw while also conforming to the rules – primarily that the ball, when placed in the pocket of a stick held horizontally, must show slightly above the top of the stick’s sidewall.
The complexity of stick adjustment depends on how the stick was initially strung. Manufacturers string sticks differently, and not always to the player’s advantage. We always recommend purchasing an unstrung head, and then having a qualified lacrosse shop string it. The cost differential for this service is minimal, and the product is typically higher quality. You can usually even select customized colors for your strings.
The shooting strings, which run across the top of the head and are usually different in color than the rest of the pocket, need to be regularly tuned. These strings are made of nylon, so they stretch over time and must be monitored for maximum performance. Also of note, we’ve actually seen new sticks sold without shooting strings – or with these strings left untied at the ends. Clearly, some manufacturers don’t hire knowledgeable people to string their sticks.
A properly-tuned stick enables a player to catch more easily, dodge more effectively, and shoot more accurately. Sometimes, players aren’t aware their sticks are “out-of-tune,” and compensate by altering their throwing motion. Sadly, many recreational and middle school coaches are unfamiliar with proper stick adjustment, so girls who begin playing in third or fourth grade can easily develop poor throwing and shooting habits just as they’re beginning to learn the sport.
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