Hot Pot Of Lax: Youth Sticks Are Holding Back The Game

youth lacrosse big kid small kid
Big kid, little kid. It happens.

Beware, today’s Hot Pot of Lax is SERIOUS!

This week’s Hot Pot victim: The Pockets That Lacrosse Manufacturers Put In Youth Sticks

Youth lacrosse sticks get a lot of heat from the gear heads out there, but when the rubber hits the road, the plastic isn’t the issue.  It’s true that sticks designed for youth players are usually more flimsy, and noticeably cheaper, than their elite and mid-range counterparts.  And it’s true that an adult player will probably break a youth head very quickly if they were to use it in a competitive game, but again, that’s not the problem.  The single reason that youth sticks are holding back the game are the POCKETS that manufacturers put into these sticks.

Back in the day, you used to get a Brine stick, in either mesh or traditional, that had been strung by a bunch of old ladies sitting in a room about 45 minutes West of Boston.  They weren’t lacrosse players obviously, but when you got a stick, you could see that time had been taken to do it according to the manual, and that corners weren’t cut.  The strings were taught, the pocket was stiff, but with a little wall ball, anyone could have a perfectly acceptable pocket in their first lacrosse stick.

This was true up through the early 2000s.  You could still, for the most part, buy a new stick for beginners and with a little work, go out and use it pretty quickly.  How things have changed!

Nowadays, I have to restring almost ALL of the pockets on the sticks of my 5th and 6th grade players.  And there are two really noticeable differences in the sticks coming out for kids today when compared with sticks of yesteryear: 1) the materials used in the pockets are of a noticeably lower quality and 2) the actual string jobs themselves are just plain AWFUL.

A normal piece of mesh usually bags out in rain.  That’s to be expected.  But the kind of mesh most manufacturers put in sticks today (STX, Brine and Reebok are great examples here) is of the absolute lowest quality.  So when it rains, the pockets on most of the kids out there bag out to insane proportions.  Kids who had sticks that were legal by half a ball’s width played for 5 minutes in the rain, and then had sticks that were ILLEGAL by half a ball’s width.  This is simply unacceptable.

The sidewalls, topstring and even the shooters are also of a low quality and fray and break quickly.  The strings in beginners’ sticks are also often quite thick, but still cheap, and this results in poorly string pockets.  Knots don’t hold well with cheap string.  Stringing holes that could usually accommodate 2 passes through can only handle one, and many stringing techniques are therefore eliminated.

The heads cost the companies DOLLARS to make (like $4 per head or something ridiculous like that) and then sell them for $40, which is affordable for most people.  But they increase their profit margin by using lower quality mesh, and strings, and this hurts their product, and the players using it, much more than using a cheaper plastic ever would.  These pockets are unreliable, change with the weather like crazy and wear out very quickly.  So while the head and shaft are fine, the pocket falls apart.  It’s almost as if the sticks are actually DESIGNED to fail!!!!  One Brand that stands out to me as putting a higher quality pocket in their sticks is Warrior.  Their youth heads are not elite heads, but the plastic is thick, they are strong and stiff and the pocket is usually pretty decent as long as one stays away from the soft mesh.  But one should never buy beginner’s soft mesh.  It’s the worst stuff in the world.  Talk about bag city!  But I digress.

Youth lax wands in action.

Now maybe I’m way off with my math and it costs more than I know it does to product a head.  Ok.  We’ll give the manufacturers the benefit of the doubt here.  And we’ll just assume that they HAVE to use the materials they use to stay profitable.  Fine.  But that still doesn’t explain why the actual stringing in most youth sticks is still SO bad.

The mesh is almost NEVER pulled tight across the top of the heads.  So almost every youth stick develops a lip in the rain or if the kids loosen any strings, which they often do.  The sidealls are a joke. Mesh holes are rarely tied down to the plastic, so the whole piece of mesh usually slides up and down the side of the stick, which gives kids a lot of whip when they’re only just starting, and makes it very difficult to teach them how to throw and catch properly.

The shooting strings being 3 across or 2 across and a V is immaterial, but the fact that shooters are almost never attached to the plastic IS a huge issue, and leads to even more problems with kids throwing off of the plastic lip of the scoop.  Most youth sticks also leave off the nylon shooter and rely solely on hockey laces, which is a stringing 101 mistake.  Come on, guys!  These are the basics here!

Fianlly, it’s rare that sticks come with company stringing manuals anymore.  And I find this more bizarre than anything.  The plastic and metal of a stick DOES NOT REALLY MATTER.  The Pocket is the most important thing.  But now companies don’t even show you how to maintain or create a pocket in a lacrosse stick?  Wow.  And this is what makes me think that the crappy pockets are on purpose.  This stick is just the beginning, and sooner rather than later, the kids will move on to better heads.  But what if the manufacturers have gone too far?  What if we’re turning kids off to the sport because the entry level equipment makes it so hard to be good?

I see a lot of kids that can catch and then run with the ball.  But they can’t really cradle, or dodge.  They just keep the ball in their stick with the soft mesh and bag pocket.  When they go to shoot or pass, not only are they unsure of themselves, but they are unsure of their stick.  And if this is all being done in the name of profit, I think the manufacturers may be hurting themselves more than they are helping.

The manufacturer that sits atop the pile is Warrior.  They make a stiff head that lasts and put a decent pocket in it.  Maverik’s Bazooka was a great head, but they never promoted it, and again, the stringing was abysmal.  Embarrassing, really.  The same is true for the STX AV8 and all of Brine’s beginner heads, and Reeboks are no better.  I had to restring an entire 3K yesterday because it simply fell apart after the kid used it 3 times.

So maybe the companies involved with lacrosse can afford to put better materials in their sticks, and maybe they can’t.  But there is NO excuse for the bad stringing and absence of a stringing manual.  Those should really be considered the basics.



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This literally NEVER happens. 80 yard long lax goal. Boom. Celebration Time.

Via reader, Bill, and the Washington Post!


    • Ideally, the latter (if the starter head has a good pocket materials wise) but the important thing is good stringing. It has to do more than just LOOK like a lacrosse stick, the string job has to THROW like one too. that is the most important thing IMHO.

  1. I don’t play lacrosse, but I like playing in my backyard just for fun. So I got a stick, I think it was Brine, and after a week the pocket was all screwed up and I had to keep getting it tied back up.

  2. Couldn’t agree more – the string jobs on youth sticks are awful. But I think this also applies to all new lacrosse players in general. When I first started playing I had no idea how to take care of my stick (pocket) – adjust shooting strings, fix sidewalls, make it deeper, etc – but fortunately I had a couple friends that had ample lacrosse knowledge and were nice enough to help teach me the ins and outs of taking care of your stick. Without his help who knows what direction my lacrosse “career” would have gone and how long I would have played the factory installed “pocket.” Having experienced players or coaches that are willing and able to help new players not only learn the game but also learn how to take care of their sticks is vitally important for the growth of the game.

  3. I think that the pockets in beginner sticks are awful too, but I think it’s kind of a good problem. Hear me out…
    1) It shows how much the game is growing. I don’t think the old ladies west of Boston could keep up with the sticks being purchased today. How many AV8’s do you think STX sold this year? Putting a quality string job in each one of those sticks, even with cheap foreign labor, is probably cost and time prohibitive.
    2) Your first stick should suck. A lacrosse stick is very personal and your pocket preference is something that’s going to develop as you learn the game. After a spring of lacrosse under their belts, kids will be better prepared to get a hard mesh stringing kit or maybe go to a stringing clinic and learn about what works and what doesn’t for them.

    That being said, I think one of the biggest mistakes that beginner players make with their first stick is having too deep of a pocket. A shallow pocket is going to force better fundamentals when throwing and catching. Keep that pocket at around half a ball deep, and even soft mesh isn’t that bad.

  4. Corporate Greed has infiltrated the lacrosse world people…it was a matter of time this would happen, and now you see $200.00 sticks, helmets, etc. that dont cost squat to produce. How to stop it? stop buying their products!

  5. This post is the absolute truth! I re-string younger players sticks all the time, and am happy to do so as it is painful to see what kind of laughable pocket they were using straight from the factory.

  6. I think the ideal pocket for a beginner is almost ridiculously shallow, no whip, and little hold. let them learn to catch and throw correctly. Also, shallow pockets can make you a better player because you learn to protect your stick instead of power cradling.

  7. Good Post. Anyone that has spent time around beginers’ sticks coaching, working at a lax store, ect. knows that factory string jobs are a joke. Any shortcut available when stringing they are gonna use. Chances of that changing… The lax community needs to keep relying on it self to not only fix these pockets but teach the basics as well.

    Bill brings up a good point also. If “Johny’s” first pocket is great the first time he gets one what are the chances he learns how to fix it or string? But if the pocket is poor hopefully the player wont give up, find a resource or someone will help him fix his pocket.

  8. I own a retail store in Covington,Louisiana and I order all my heads unstrung. I then hire a couple of local players from different schools to string the heads. The younger kids come in to watch and learn from the older kids.

  9. They also need to stop selling offset heads to beginners. What do beginners need an offset head for? They can’t throw properly.

    Remember when offset heads first got big? Tierney literally banned them from his team b/c the players were throwing them straight into the ground. Many of the more experienced players these days have adjusted and can throw with them but SO MANY still cannot well. GET YOUR HANDS UP. That’s what Tiernery was yelling about. B/c you need to get your hands higher than usual which meant it took more time to make a good pass. Also offset equal more whip.

    Anyway, the whole offset head, having whip, and big bag pockets, are all forced on younger players. This is fine at the higher level b/c players across the board have adjusted and can play with them now. Just not that well. You should only play enough whip that allows you to still make a good accurate quick pass.


  10. Amen. I actually had a store owner call and yell at me b/c a ordered every kid in our HS and JHS program to stop getting pre-strung heads. Apparently his profit margin was more important than learning how to actually throw properly…

  11. This post is pure truth. Speak it, tell it, preach it, brother Connor! I’ve restrung 100+ new factory-strung heads over the last year alone in Alabama. During summer and fall ball last year, I’d go early because parents would ask the league director why Junior’s passes/shots were subterranean, he’d point them towards me (“Go see that guy over there working on that stick…”), and then I’d fix the problems (normally having to redo everything except the topstring because of time constraints, but sometimes even that was done so poorly that it needed attention). I averaged 3-6 sticks per session, which is absolutely ridiculous. There are brand-new sticks!

    I’ve also worked with goalies who needed new mesh after ONE DAY of practice because shots tore the mesh (I’m looking at you, Brine: fire your soft mesh supplier already).

    To the lax manufacturers reading this: you’re welcome, but I should start sending each of you invoices whenever this crap happens. This needs to stop now.

  12. I have an Under Armor Spectre with the soft green mesh. Do you suggest restringing? Also, what is the best mesh/shooting string situation for young players who are not really position specific? Son plays 9U. Thanks. Keith B., Cumming, GA

  13. @keithb restringing your stick is totally up to you. If it has a good pocket and you like how it throws and shoots then I wouldn’t restring it.
    The best mesh/shooting string situation really depends on the player. Some players like some whip and other don’t. Younger players sometimes get caught up in having to much whip and hold though so they can’t pass or shoot well. I would say get a pretty well strung pocket and just keep playing around with the tightness and shape of the shooting strings until your son finds what he likes/is able to play with best.