If you follow our LaxAllStars account on Instagram, you will have seen a TON of traditional pockets lately. As the season approaches, more and more people want their heads ready to go in the old style, so I’ve been on a tear lately when it comes to stringing… So much so that I actually ran out of cross lace, leathers, and sidewall, and had to order more.
While there is a small group out there that lives and dies by the traditional sword, there is a much larger group of people out there who have never, or at least rarely, used traditional. Some truly don’t like it, while others just don’t understand it.
Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll know enough to make a decision for yourself. This week’s Hot Pot is all about the Pros and Cons of Traditional:
– Traditional pockets can, when strung correctly and broken in thoroughly, provide the best feeling, hold, and control a player will ever experience. A beautifully strung pocket will cradle the ball softly, throw consistently, and give the player a feel and connection to the ball only soft mesh can begin to rival.
– Pure shooters love traditional once they get used to it. You don’t see as many using the lace and leather today as you did in the past (I’ll get to why in the “extra” section), but guys like Mike Springer and Jesse Hubbard absolutely swore by the stuff, and I’d have to agree. I can shoot harder, and more accurately, with traditional than I ever could with mesh.
– It allows you to fully customize your pocket. There was a LOT of complaining about the new stick rules, specifically about the loss of “individuality”, but very few people noted how traditional was still an option. You can’t get any more individual than traditional! If the stringer knows what they are doing, they can make a high, mid, or low pocket with ease, and combine varying degrees of whip and hold with all three. The perfect mesh pocket, even with all the technique out there today, does not approach this same level of custom design and function.
Traditional is not easy to string. The first time you try a traditional pocket, you will want to cut it out and burn it. That’s how bad it will be. That’s how bad my first effort was, but what’s the fun in being good at something right away? Just like it took you a while to learn all the mesh knots, it will take time to learn traditional. Thankfully, there a number of good resources out there that will show you how to do it. Still, time is an investment.
The Rain, oh no, the rain. When you first break a traditional out on the field, wetness is thine enemy. The leathers haven’t stretched out fully yet, the pocket isn’t settled, and the cross lace is still pure white. The reality is that a FULLY broken in traditional can actually work in the rain, because the leathers won’t stretch too much more. But a newer traditional in the rain is a recipe for disaster. A mesh back up is a good thing to have for truly rainy/muddy days.
A good trick if you do use traditional in wet conditions is afterwards, you put a ball in the pocket, held down by a butter knife, where you like your pocket to form. The leathers will tighten back up around the ball. If you leave the stick without a ball in it, the leathers will shrink up too much.
My stick broke. Game over? Typically, the saddest day for a traditional enthusiast is when their head breaks, but their pocket was still perfect. So much time, and energy, down the drain… Thankfully, I’ve found a solution to this problem (which I’ll get to a little later).
The All Important Extra!
Ok, there are two things I said I’d get to later in the post, and here they are:
- Why don’t we see as much Traditional today as we did 10 years ago?
My theory is that for a period of years in the early 2000s, plastic heads, on average, broke WAY too often for traditional to remain a viable option. When I was in high school (late 90s), I had two sticks and they lasted me for years. I was awful to these things, but they held up to the abuse and showed few signs of damage.
During my college years, as a player and coach, I saw heads start to break like crazy, and a couple of guys on our team actually went back to heads they used in high school. By 2007 or 2008, the plastic quality picked up, heads broke less, but for traditional, the damage was done. Players were used to buying a couple of heads per year, and mesh was easier to move from stick to stick.
- How do you combat Broken Head Syndrome?
While the quality of the plastic in heads has changed, and improved, sticks still break. It’s part of life. If you love traditional, this is an issue. One older method of tying the leathers to the scoop has been around for years, but it can result in a lip, and if the shooters aren’t perfect, pockets like the one below can throw off the plastic:
So how do you combat that? Get the leathers up higher, and tighter! It’s really quite simple:
Props to my brother, Lee Wilson, for showing me how to do the “tear drop” top string for traditional!
Now that you know how to create a traditional pocket that can be moved from head to head, are you more likely to give it a go? There are certainly some drawbacks, and it takes a lot of time, but the benefits are clear. What reason do you now have NOT to give traditional a try?