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Beginner’s Guide to Your First Stick: Picking a Head

2 - Published February 22, 2014 by in General

The sport of lacrosse is growing exponentially all over the country and all around the world.  With so many athletes falling in love with lacrosse, we have begun to witness the creation of a custom stick culture. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

No piece of equipment is as important as a good stick and yet, I have worked with and coached a lot of new players whose factory strung, big box retailer setup prevents them from reaching their full potential.  With this in mind, I thought I would put together a quick series of posts for new players to develop a better understanding of what they may be looking for in a stick.

While I’m at it, I figured I’d have a little fun and show all players how they can build their own custom head at home. So let’s get started, yes? Where better to start than picking a head?

Picking The Head

Choosing your first head

Some players may disagree with me, but I think that the lacrosse head is the most important piece of equipment you will ever purchase. Sticks aren’t cheap and while some lacrosse stores have areas where you can shoot around/test a head, this usually isn’t enough to really get a feel for how your stick is going to play. So what should you look for?

The Scoop

The scoop of the head is the top of the head.  As the saying goes, “ground balls win games,” which means you’ll be putting the scoop to good use. Scoops typically come in two different shapes. Brands like STX, Brine and Easton typically feature a flatter/straighter scoop whereas brands like Warrior, Nike and Gait feature more pointed scoops.

The Brine Clutch features a flatter scoop.

The Brine Clutch features a flatter scoop.

Flatter scoops tend to be easier for new players to pick up ground balls. The width of the flat scoop and the squareness gives you more contact area for the ball when it is on the ground.

The Nike CEO features a more pointed scoop.

The Nike CEO features a more pointed scoop.

More pointed scoops can cause some problems for new players. New players who have a tough time getting their butt and back hand down while scooping ground balls can often run the pointed scoop into the ground like a shovel. That being said, the pointed scoop has two advantages. First, the pointed scoop lends itself to a tighter channel. Second, the channeling created by the shape of the head helps direct the ball into the players pocket more efficiently which will ultimately help with ball control.

Width

Width is becoming less of an issue with the new college stick regulations forcing most stick manufacturers to design wider heads. That said, width can be both a benefit and a hindrance to new players. A wider head makes catching the ball a lot easier. It also means players who have yet to develop an understanding of pocket maintenance and stick regulations don’t have to worry as much about their stick pinching or becoming illegal. However, a wider stick makes it easier for defensemen to dislodge the ball – score one NCAA – and it forces players to rely more on their cradling abilities (tough for new players), rather than their stick, to hold the ball.

Warrior's X line is a good line to base your width decisions on. Featured here is the RevoX.

Warrior’s X line is a good line to base your width decisions on. Featured here is the RevoX.

So what should you look for when purchasing a stick, you ask? I recommend all of my new players buy college legal heads. Eventually the goal is to play college ball whether that is in the MCLA or NCAA, so why learn on a stick that you can’t use in college?

The Sidewalls

I’ll be covering sidewalls in more depth when we talk about stringing. That said, the sidewalls play a big role in shaping your pocket and your pocket plays a big role in shaping your game. More and more, lacrosse manufacturers are designing position specific heads. A prime example of this is Epoch’s new Hawk head with a design that lends itself to a high/mid-high pocket typically associated with two handed, shooting on the run, midfield play. While I can’t speak for every player, a lot of attackmen prefer low/mid-low pockets which suit their traditional one handed, lean in and beat you, style of offense. Defensemen tend to prefer low pockets which help control the ball after a big takeaway. With this in mind, if you are trying out for a specific position it may help you to look for a stick that lends itself to a pocket that suits the play at your position.

The Nike Lakota curves near the top of the head, allowing players to string a mid/mid-high pocket, perfect for midfield play.

The Nike Lakota curves near the top of the head, allowing players to string a mid/mid-high pocket, perfect for midfield play. Lots of stringing holes is an added bonus!

The Warrior Revo is one of the more widely used defensive heads.  The shape of the head lends itself to a low pocket.  The hefty sidewall adds strength for checks.

The Warrior Revo is one of the more widely used defensive heads. The shape of the head lends itself to a low pocket. The hefty sidewall adds strength for big checks.

In addition to shape, sidewall holes are important to pay attention to. As stick companies are getting smarter and producing more advanced products, every stick is moving to as many sidewall holes as possible. This means you don’t have to worry as much, but general rule of stringing thumb… more holes = happier stringer and a better pocket.

Flexibility/Stiffness

Head flexibility/stiffness is a lot of personal preference and a little position expectation. Defensemen often like a stiffer head for laying checks. Attackmen tend to like more flexible heads as they provide a little extra snap when shooting. Midfielders do a lot of the ground ball grunt work. More flexible heads have a little more give when scooping ground balls, but they tend to warp if you are jamming them into the group often (which as a new player, you will do). Most college legal heads have a good balance of flexibility/stiffness. If you are a defenseman looking for an extra stiff head, the STX Hammer U is a great go to as is the RevoX. Lacrosse stores and websites will be able to guide you in the right direction too!

The STX Hammer U has a hefty sidewall for laying down the hammer.

The STX Hammer U has a hefty sidewall for laying down the hammer.

Once you have purchased a head the real fun can begin. Check back next week for a Beginner’s Guide to Your First Stick: Dying the Head.

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