Editor’s note: Mark Powers of the Salt Shakerz Lacrosse Club stops by to show off his newest custom head. It’s pink and light blue and you can only get one if you “know” people! At least for now anyway. Take it away Mark!
In my opinion, the lacrosse stick is the single most influential piece of sporting equipment in the world. In no other sport is a piece of equipment so vital to the game itself and to each individual player’s success. The right stick in the hands of a capable player is an amazing force in our game, and the stick is the sport’s equalizer. Having the right stick gives you so much confidence, it makes you feel invincible (Editor’s Note: kind of like a Power Balance bracelet! ha. We got jokes.).
The stick becomes an extension of your brain, sending passes and shots exactly where you intended. When you’re using that stick, the game seems to slow down. Conversely, when a trusted stick breaks or a new stick just isn’t working out and coming together the way you’d hoped, there is no more vulnerable feeling in lacrosse. Practices spent with the ball throwing consistently up, down or off the plastic will cause any player to look for a nice big rock to crawl under.
To me, the most important part of the lacrosse stick is the head itself. It plays more of a role in a player’s success than the shaft or the head’s pocket. I say that because no two heads are exactly the same. They could be by the same manufacturer, or even the same model of head, but something is just intrinsically different. It’s why some heads break sooner than others and why pockets seem to fall immediately into place in one head as opposed the other. Also, the head dictates the pocket. Not every head will accommodate every style of pocket. Some sticks are easily strung and quickly broken in, while others never come together no matter how much effort and/or TLC went into forming a pocket.
I bring my feelings up because I think I’ve found my new holy grail of lacrosse heads. I haven’t had a stick feel this good in a long time. Of course I’m talking about my brand new Brine Clutch 2X—-Salt Shakerz edition!
The head is absolutely out of this world. Not only has Brine’s new 2-shot coloring technology created the prettiest factory-created head ever, but the stick literally strung itself and the head has changed my opinion of the Clutch line while becoming my ‘gamer’. (More on the stringing below.)
First let’s talk about the stick’s appearance. You know it. I know it. This is a special head that clearly isn’t available for purchase in stores. The reason it’s pink is obviously a salute to breast cancer research, the Shakerz’ philanthropic cause. Meanwhile the baby blue just naturally goes with the pink and mirrors the Shakerz’ jerseys from the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic last summer.
The head was made especially for the Shakerz by one of our own, Sean Slater, a Product Manager at Warrior/Brine. Slater played with the club down at the 2011 Bump & Grind tournament in Miami, and we’re looking forward to having him back on the field with the squad this weekend as the Shakerz travel to the Jam By the Sea tournament in San Diego. Look for more custom Shakerz gear from Slater and Warrior/Brine to debut at Jam by the Sea. And look for more coverage of that event on LaxAllStars!
The Head Itself
I have owned a clutch before. In fact, I still own an original clutch that I came into shortly after they hit the market a couple years ago. That being said, I wasn’t enamored with the head. Full disclosure; I play mostly defense, so my displeasure with the original model was probably due to the fact that head was not necessarily defense-oriented and I never used it in a game to play D. However, I love the original as an offensive stick. Over time, the head naturally pinched at the throat like no other, and the contour of the sidewall allowed for deep pockets without a lot of whip.
According to Lacrosse.com, “The Clutch 2 has a new face shape with reverse flared side walls. Redesigned scoop and throat adds additional support without adding weight.”
The Clutch 2X does have a new face shape, but it seems mostly to make it NCAA legal. More importantly, you can definitely notice the changes to the scoop and the head’s stiffness. The new angle of the scoop allows for the easiest ground balls. You barely have to drop your hand to cause the proper angle for the ball to pop right into the pocket. The stiffness of the head is evident as soon as you pick it up and squeeze it. To me, it is one of the stiffest non-spyne, non-Titanium, infused sticks that I’ve seen in quite some time. I swear! I like my game sticks to be stiff not only for defensive purposes, but also because I like any product that I buy to last a long time. There is nothing more frustrating than when a head that is seemingly still good, warps itself out of shape and won’t bounce back. I do not anticipate that happening with this head. The stiffness of the Clutch is also important to note, because you often don’t see that in a stick that can be used by all positions on the field. Also, the increased rigidity doesn’t seem to make the head noticeably heavier, as I would have expected it to.
All in all, Brine made me a believer with the new Clutch 2X. In my opinion, it delivers the ideal combination of stiffness, shape, durability and stringability so that the head can be utilized by any player at any position. You won’t be able to get the Shakerz edition—not yet anyway—but I still highly recommend seeking out a Clutch 2. I’ve been converted.
This stick literally strung itself. I like sticks that provide multiple string holes, but the Clutch 2X does it perfectly. The stringing holes in general, but especially those toward the scoop, are bigger to accommodate top strings and/or shooters—a big deal to me because I run all of my shooters thru the plastic. It allows them to be pulled tighter, and if the shooters run thru the holes in the plastic as opposed to the sides of the mesh, they won’t throw off the tension and symmetry of the pocket. Also, I use an interlocking sidewall as opposed to the standard knots that most people tie these days, so the natural contour of the sidewall allowed a deep pocket to form near the middle/upper half of the head, where I like the ball to sit. For me, it’s important to have the proper sidewall setup, and the Clutch delivered.
The most important part of stringing is ensuring that you have good materials, even when stringing mesh. Every piece of mesh is different and it takes time for each player to develop his preference. Personally, I like Brine mesh the best, followed by the standard colored hard mesh you would find on the wall at lacrosse store. I dunno if it’s the standard/factory Brine mesh (I got it in that factory strung, off-the-rack, 10 diamond Clutch I referenced above, and also in a Brine stringing kit), but it seems a little softer than the Warrior, STX, and Harrow varieties. The mesh is not as hard or synthetic as the others; it seems more rope-like. Once it’s broken in, the pocket is ideal.
As any good stringer will tell you, the most necessary part of stringing a mesh pocket is stretching the mesh before putting it into the stick. Some people use products like lotion or shaving cream to stretch the mesh, but I eschew that approach. My favorite way to stretch the mesh is to roll the mesh over itself and pull it apart (to the sides, as if you were ripping your shirt apart Hulkamania style) as you continue to roll the mesh down towards the bottom. I don’t stretch the whole piece of mesh, I like to leave a couple of inches of mesh un-stretched at the bottom for the Mesh mullet that sits under my pocket. Once I insert the mesh into the head, I don’t like to cut it near the bottom string (always makes me nervous that I’ll cut it too close and render the piece of mesh useless)–instead I use the few leftover inches to curl the mesh up and rest it below the bottom string.
Once the mesh is stretched, it’s top string time. For the Salt Shakerz Clutch 2X, I employed a new approach—something I saw right here on LAS. I used two pieces of top string and strung them thru the folded over holes at exactly the same time. One length of string thru the front of the mesh, the other thru the back, so they cross each other in each hole of the mesh as I went across the top. I also did this when connecting the mesh thru the holes in the scoop, which gave the top string a cool aesthetic. Normally I use a standard-style top string, but after stringing this up, I think I’m converted because the the thickness of the top string(s) allows them to act as an extra shooting string and I hate the feeling of the ball clicking off the plastic as it releases.
Once the top string is attached, it’s time for the sidewalls. As I mentioned above, I use an interlocking sidewall when stringing mesh. What that means is that I string the sidewall thru the mesh, from the throat to the scoop, before entering the sidewall string into the plastic and then back thru the mesh and around the sidewall string, interlocking it. It’s very similar to the way you string the sidewall on a traditional stick. I start at the bottom of the head. I knot the string and I string it thru the plastic so the string is on the inside of the head.
Then I take the string, and using the outter most column of mesh holes, I string the sidewall over, under, over, under until I reach the top of the mesh, the last hole before the top string. At that point, I loop the sidewall string over the plastic and thru the mesh from the outside of the plastic. From there, I string the sidewall back down the head to the throat where I started. It’s important to remember that the string first goes thru the outside of the plastic, thru the plastic itself, and then up around the sidewall/mesh that was strung up the side, and then thru the outside of the plastic again.
I like to string this way because A. It’s how I learned from the STX manual, and B. I find that it allows greater movement in the pocket, unlike the patterns and knots most ppl use, which I find make the pocket stiff.
After the topstring and the sidewalls, most people would insert the bottom string and then head on to the shooters. I on the other hand begin to break the stick in. I take a softball—yes a softball, and I beat it into the pocket. The reason I use a softball is because it’s significantly bigger than a lacrosse ball and it will help form a bigger pocket. After beating in the pocket with the softball on the front side and back side of the stick, I run the whole head under water, effectively soaking it. From there, I beat the softball into the stick again, especially toward the top of the stick where I like my pockets to sit. Finally I will press the softball deep in the pocket and set the stick up in a position (like between 2 chairs) so that as the mesh dries, it will form a pocket around the softball, making a nice big pocket. I’ll allow the pocket to dry for 24 hours before taking the softball out, checking the pocket and repeating the process.
Once the pocket is totally stretched, I’ll insert the bottom or ‘pull’ string. Mine is very simple. When looking the the stick from behind, I’ll use the left-most of the 4 bottom holes. I’ll tie a double knot in the string to keep it from pulling thru the plastic and feed it up thru the plastic so that the knot obviously sits on the outside of the head. From there, I’ll string the bottom string thru the row of mesh directly below where my sidewalls left off so there is no gap. From there I go over-under-over-under to the other side of the mesh. Once at the end, I’ll send the string down thru the right-most bottom hole and tie another double knot.
Now it’s time for the most important part of the pocket, the shooting strings. I like mine very Vanilla. I generally use four shooters straighter across the top of the head. I use 1 nylon string and 3 hockey laces. I don’t like the V or U string because it’s tough to select the right tension for them–I find they can cause whip or an uneven release. Also, since I use an inter-locking sidewall and the pocket moves up and down, the V/U is not conducive.
I string my nylon shooter across the first row of mesh below the top string. I do this to ensure that the top is nice and tight and the ball snaps right off the strings when I shoot or pass. To string the shooters, I send the nylon or hockey lace from the outside of the plastic, thru the sidewall hole and then thru the mesh. I use the same over-under-over pattern that I used for the sidewall and the bottom string. I string the shooter thru all of the mesh and then out the plastic on the other side. Then I take the remaining shooting string and weave it thru the initial string so that the front and back of the mesh between the holes is covered. Standard shooting string style. This is the only way to do it.
The most important part of the shooters is their tension. I like the lowest of the 4 strings to have no tension, so that when pressing down with a lacrosse ball on the string, it offers no resistance. From there, the next string up so should be a little tighter. The one above that, tighter still, before hitting the top string, which should be the tightest. By doing this, you are effectively creating a staircase for the ball to travel up before being propelled out of the stick.
Now the Salt Shakerz Clutch 2X is ready for battle. Be on the lookout for it on a field near you.