What should I look for when buying a girls stick?
Narrative - People always ask me what should I look for when buying a girls lacrosse stick.
Here's My 2 cents
A little background about me. I have been Coaching girls lacrosse going into my 18th year as of 2022, from youth through Varsity HS. I have done clinics and worked with some colleges & HS teaching the Backer Defense & motion Attack. I learned the Backer “D” at a convention and have added my own tweaks’. I have been stringing sticks since 2005. I have seen some good sticks and plenty of bad sticks that make it near impossible for a player to acquire stick skills. I try to instill confidence and ease the frustration of learning a new sport so the girls can excel and be successful. Having good equipment puts them on the fast track to success.
I’d like to think common sense should prevail but…………..
The single most important feature when buying a stick is the POCKET! Ask any Coach and they will tell you not to buy a tennis racquet. If you can catch, pass & shoot with a tennis racquet I want you on my team! This is, of course is a reference to sticks that are sooooooo... flat and tight making it virtually impossible to play lacrosse.
There is a lot of "SIZZLE SELL" in the LACROSSE stick selling business. The latest, greatest, best, etc. etc. etc. Bottom line you want a stick that works! Stick buying is an interesting psychological process and since everyone has an opinion and so many choices, how do you choose?
The best way to buy a stick is to throw with the stick you are interested in buying? Tournaments sometimes have vendors who will let you throw with multiple sticks so you can see if it works for you. Try different sticks your teammates are playing with. Don’t rush your decision, throw with as many as available, returning to the ones that worked best for you narrowing them down before buying it! The worse thing is to spend $300+ on a stick and have your daughter come home after playing and say she HATES it!!! Trusted opinions from Coaches, seasoned players, and Parents are a good source too! However, everyone has an opinion and your daughters’ might not be the same. Also, be aware of the herd mentality where 90% of a team buys one stick. It might be the greatest stick in the world but still not right for your daughter! That’s why trying the stick is so important.
Popular selling concepts now are light sticks, attack & defense sticks… I have not personally bought 100% in to these concepts! However, personal preference should be the guide: whatever makes you a better player AND WORKS FOR YOU! On light sticks, my first thought is how effective will your check be…. It’s hard to check with a feather where you are putting all the muscle into the check. FYI – maximum field stick weight 567g = approx 20oz most sticks now weight 145g/5oz – 211g/7oz And many players add tape, grip, headbands, new butts etc. adding to the total weight of the stick. On the concept of Attack and Defense sticks, in the girls’ game I am suspect. In the boys game you have long pole - defense and short sticks - attack/midfield. In the girls game, other than youth, 99% play with the standard size stick 43”- 43 1/4”. Shorter sticks have some advantages and disadvantages. I would venture to guess 98%-99% of the Women/Girls playing are using the standard size 43"/43.25" stick. You can cut the stick down to a min 36” , but in my years coaching, cut downs are generally not done; except on the youth level. If you are going to cut down for a youth player get an aluminum shaft (yes, you can do composite shafts, it’s just expensive) use a hack saw for a clean cut. Cut 1” off at a time until your player is comfortable with the size. You can always cut more off, but impossible to add it back if you cut too much!!!. ☺
Now, I will concede that pockets can be set up for Attackers who like a quick release and defenders who generally want to maximize hold and have a stick with some weight for checking. Adjustments can be made in the pocket to provide a quick release or maximize hold. My suggestion would be to find a stick with the best pocket that works for your daughter. So don't let someone sell you on a model for Attack/Defense. If your Coach changes your position do you really have to go out an buy a new position stick? So again throw/pass/catch with the stick you are thinking about!
What to look for in a pocket - To be fair, everyone has their own individual taste, style, preferences etc. For me, I like leathers and use them in our designs to frame the ball and guide it down the channel for accuracy! Leathers break in; unlike synthetic plastic, rubber, vinyl etc. A few years ago the womens game allowed mesh for the first time. I believe traditionally strung girls sticks will be a memory in a few years or a novelty at best. Since its introduction on the womens/girls side there have been many choices in mesh...... 2 diamond, 3 diamond all the way to full mesh. CoolStick uses a 7 diamond soft mesh between 2 leathers for superior hold and accuracy. We've experimented with many different designs but settled on the 7D with leathers because it was the one my girls said worked the best!!! Since adding the new BallsEye to this pocket it has become the clear choice of those buying a CoolStick.
What else makes a good pocket? Ideally you want a maximum legal depth pocket that provides exceptional hold on the ball. The ball should sit under the lower shooter. This way the ball is in the ready position to pass or shoot! Make sure the ball has minimal rattle meaning it is directed up the crosse with little side to side movement. The less side to side movement the more hold & accuracy! In my opinion mesh has a clear advantage to reduce rattle & help the ball track perfectly throughout the Crosse.
Stringing styles create different actions and feels in the head. The use of sidewall strings create a little more give while direct to the sidewall a firmer landing and more whip. Again, throwing/passing/catching is the only way to determine what you like!!! I like the sidewall string because it adds another layer of "GIVE" on the catch. What is your personal preference? What feel do you like?
Parental note: If you want your daughter to succeed, help her; don't buy the $45 starter stick. I know you do not want to spend a lot of money on her if she is not going to stay with Lacrosse and good sticks can be $200 + +. Then, I say don't buy, borrow a stick from a friend that is already broken in or see if you can rent one! Once your daughter commits get her a good stick to help her succeed.
USL RESOURCES - Minimal equipment is required in girls’ and women’s lacrosse due to its non-contact nature. A stick, mouthguard and protective eyewear are the only required items for most players. Headgear and close fitting gloves are optional for field players. Goalies are also required to wear a helmet with face mask, a separate throat protector, padded gloves and a chest protector.