Before heading off to the Lake Tahoe Lacrosse Tournament, I decided to cut down my longstick by about 4-8 inches. It ended up being more like 8 inches, and although I was a little worried that this seemingly innocuous change could throw my game off in a major way, I went with it anyway, in the name of anecdotal scientific research.
And lo and behold, I actually liked it! Phew. That was lucky! Cutting down a longpole is a one way street. Once you cut it, there is no lengthening. But yes, it worked, and I’m a fan. And I’m pretty sure I’ll never play with a full length pole again. Let’s get a little deeper into the pros and cons of a shortened stick, and the overall theory behind a long pole.
There is obviously a huge defensive advantage gained by having longsticks on the field. The NCAA and MLL have realized this and both leagues have limited the number of poles allowed on the field at once. Currently that limit is set at four (not counting a goalie’s stick) in both versions of the game. Even box lacrosse players use longsticks! That’s right, they do. A typical box stick is around 40-42″ long. But a Box longstick is 46-48″ long. So it’s clear that 4 extra inches can make a difference!
But can 4-8″ LESS be helpful too? I’d say so. And here’s why:
I have a pretty active stick. I throw a lot of checks, mirror the stick of the guy I’m covering when it looks like he’s trying to feed, get my stick in passing lanes, and generally just wave my wand around like a drunken wizard. When I was in college, I weighed 205 pounds, could run all day and had more than enough muscle to move around a full size longstick with ease. But now I’m 31, I don’t run, I don’t lift, and yet I still want to play a similar style of lacrosse. So I simply needed a lighter, smaller pole to be effective.
And after cutting 8 inches off of my longstick, I definitely felt a difference. The stick is a little lighter. That much is true, and obvious. But it’s not the only difference I noticed right off the bat. The balance to the stick COMPLETELY changes. Think about it. The head is the same. Your high, or strong hand, on the stick is your leverage point, and I ended up keeping the distance between my two hands the same, and my lower hand on the butt end. So this means that the only thing that has shortened is the distance between your strong hand and the head.
With a full shaft, to get a good slap check, you need a good windup, or you have to be really strong. Well, with the shorter shaft, I definitely felt like I could throw the slap more effectively, and harder, from a closer range. Again, in college I could throw these checks with the full size pole, but I’m not even half the athlete I was back then. In this sense, the shorter pole has given me my game back!
Now on a poke check, things have changed a bit, but really only with my timing, and this actually played to my advantage I think. I still throw a good amount of pokes, often when running with a guy, but always when they are initiating their dodges. I used to really use the full extension of the pole and get it out 7 feet away from my body. I could throw a good one-handed extending poke check back then. But now if I tried that, I’d definitely overextend, I just don’t have the athleticism to pull it off.
So instead, I use the shorter pole a step later, after the attackman has taken a step into his dodge. They think they’ve gotten inside the poke check range, but with the shorter pole, I can still throw it, which is a nice surprise. And then I can still use the pole to feel where the man is dodging too. The shortness also allows me to keep throwing checks effectively, even when the attackman gets in a little closer.
I also liked the cut down pole on ground balls. If you’re the kind of d-man who just like to swoop in and pick up GBs from the periphery, then you might want to stick with the full size. But if you want to get in there, scoop it up and power cradle your way to freedom, the shorter pole could be a great move. It was noticeably easier to handle the ball in traffic and come up with GBs with the shorter longstick. Now maybe that’s because I’m in great shape these days… but I think I would have enjoyed a cut down stick in college too, especially in this regard.
So there were definitely positives that arose from the shortened pole. I wasn’t as tempted to over-extend or throw home run checks. I simply didn’t have the reach anymore. I was able to throw more checks and didn’t get caught up in the length of my own stick. GBs, passing and stickwork was a snap. That was probably the most noticeable improvement.
But there were some drawbacks, and if I played a different style of defense, I’d switch back to a full size pole. Some guys like the huge poke check extension. Some guys are 6’4″. And some guys are simply strong enough to play with a full size pole, and still do all the things I mentioned above. MLL players, D1 to top MCLA level players and top high school poles are all probably strong enough to handle the full 6 foot pole. But guys at lower levels (both older and younger too!) should consider a shortened wand. For me, it was a game changer, and it has restocked my interest in playing pole!
I’m 6’1″ tall, have used a full size longstick for the past 10 years, and have a brother who swears by the full-size longstick (he’s 6″4″ though), but I think I’m converted. It’s the biggest stick I feel comfortable playing with, and if there’s one message to take away from this discussion it is this: Experiment and find what works for you. Then go out and DOMINATE!