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Jesse Hubbard is one of the most decorated players in all of lacrosse. He won three NCAA Championships with Princeton, was a three-time All-American in college, was a five-time MLL All-Star and won a World Lacrosse Championship with Team USA. In Part II of a three-part interview with Hubbard, today we talk to Hubbard about how he strings his stick and the evolution of pockets and the new 2010 head rules.
You’ve played with traditional all of your life up until your retirement from the MLL. Why’d you switch to mesh so late in the game, and what was so appealing about traditional in the beginning?
I always liked the way the ball came out of a leather pocket. I could feel the ball come off the shooting strings better with leather than with mesh. It took a while to string and break in a leather pocket, but when it was ready to go I knew it would perform. I have strung my leather pockets the same way since middle school. I actually played my last three MLL seasons with a mesh pocket because I needed the consistency and accuracy. We played too many games in the rain to use traditional, and I was feeding the ball a lot more than earlier in my career.
Did you model your game after anyone in particular? If so, did his stringing have an effect on how you strung your wand?
I watched a lot of college games when I was growing up, and I was really a fan of all the good college players. The Gaits were very influential to players from my generation, as were guys like Mark Millon, Ryan Wade, Rob Shek, Roy Colsey, Charlie Lockwood, Tom Marechek, and Terry Riordan. I definitely paid attention to what kind of pockets they used and I tweaked my pockets based on what I saw. Except for Millon, all the above guys I mentioned used traditional during their college careers, and it was interesting to see the subtle differences among their pockets.
Who strings your spoons?
I always strung my own traditional spoons. Although I can string up a mesh stick pretty easily, I prefer the mesh spoons that Greg Rose (Madlax, VA) whips up. A few years ago, I tried one of his sticks for a shooting demo at my camp and I asked him if I could keep it. It was just so consistent. That was the end of traditional for me. When I came out to the next MLL practice, a traditional-using teammate of mine asked disgustingly, “What is that thing in the head of your stick?”
What goes through your head when you see youngsters look at their stick after an errant pass or shot?
I hate to say it, but that’s what I always did. Sometimes it is your stick’s fault. Most people don’t expect the ball to go astray when they make a pass, so when it does, it can be a surprise to them. Coaches hate that though, and the quickest way to piss off your coach is to blame your pocket.
How do you think the 2010 rule specs for heads will come into play this Spring? Will kids focus more on fundamentals? Less sidearm, more overhand?
Given that the new 2010 NCAA rules specs do not require a larger overall head size, I don’t think it will affect the game much. The only thing that the new specs will probably alleviate is the ball getting stuck in the lower part of the head/pocket when the field tests are conducted. In recent years, sticks were failing the field test (the ball must roll out of the pocket when a stick is tilted forward from vertical) because the sidewall strings were pinching the ball and preventing the ball from rolling out. Given that the ball is usually well above this area of the pocket during cradling and ball handling, this failure was not necessarily indicative of a stick that had superior ball-retention capabilities. The new specs include minimum widths at various distances up from the base (ball-stop area), so in general, most heads must become wider more quickly as you progress up from the base toward the scoop. But under the new specs, the minimum measurement at the head’s widest distance across actually was decreased from 6.5 inches to 6 inches, so in the spring of 2010 you will see most college players playing with heads (such as the Warrior Evo Pro X6) that are significantly narrower than the heads used in 2009 and earlier. I would have loved to use a head to these specs during my career, as the head is narrower at its widest point. There is a false assumption still floating around the lacrosse world that the NCAA mandated wider heads for 2010. They actually allowed for narrower heads other than at the very base of the head.
You played with a STX Viper most of your life until you joined the Warrior R & D team. Why?
The Viper was the best of the meager head offerings during my high school and college career. There were so few choices that the duopoly of STX and Brine offered. The few new heads that came out every year were often much worse than the heads they were trying to innovate upon. I won’t list the numerous flops here, but I always wondered who was coming up with the designs and what they were thinking. I’ll give a brief rundown of the available heads that people actually used in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s. STX made the SAM, which was a basic triangle and was popular in the 80’s. The Brine Superlight II was also triangular in shape with less than 2-inch sidewalls, but people used it in the 80’s and into the 90’s. The Brine Shotgun and Magnum were both decent heads that included a deeper sidewall. STX had the Laser Lite and then later the Laser Hi-Wall, which was similar in shape with deeper sidewalls. The STX Excalibur seemed to have some breakage issues when it first came out, but it seemed to catch on after a couple years because it was so light. The STX Viper came out a few years later and seemed to have a different feel than the Excalibur as well as a full two-inch sidewall. I switched from the SAM to the Shotgun to the Excalibur to the Hi-Wall to the Viper, and then used the Viper throughout most of high school and college. It was a basic shape and was light, but the top string holes were drilled so close to the bottom of the sidewall that my top shooting string would routinely rip through the plastic leaving my shooting string dangling with no anchor. This drove me crazy since it renders the stick useless unless you find a way to tape the string back onto the head, but I couldn’t find anything else out there. I stayed away from the Brine Edge because it was too heavy. I was very fortunate to start working for Warrior after college and to be able to influence the way heads are designed. I have designed numerous Warrior heads starting with the Blade and Razer, and I have contributed to numerous innovations in head design. There are so many head choices now that every player should be able to find one that suits his specific needs.
Check out shots of Hubbard’s stringing below, including how he likes his mesh and how he strings his traditional stick. Tomorrow we’ll have Part III of the interview, where Hubbard gives insight into what goes into designing a head.
Check out the Hubbard Experience to learn how you can step up your game.