This week we’re going to look into how I break in a traditional pocket. Note, how I do this may be different from others, there’s no “right” way. It’s important to remember that breaking in a traditional pocket is a gradual process, it’s not something you can do over night. However, once broken in and properly maintained, you’ll get a pocket that you’ll never forget.
How To Break In A Traditional Pocket
Alright, here’s what you need:
- A strung traditional pocket (kind of important here)…Here I am using my newly strung STX Stallion Omega
- Water (bucket or tap)
- Either a pocket screw or ball and butter knife
- Patience, this is key
Before we begin, we need to take quick step backwards to address your leathers. The most important rule is to use good quality leathers (shameless Gopher Lax plug). The second is to properly stretch your leathers. This will allow the pocket to break in consistently and also test the quality of your leathers. If you don’t stretch beforehand, the leathers will stretch and break in at different spots throughout your entire head. This will lead to a very inconsistent pocket. Ladies, this goes for you as well. Stretch your leathers for the same reason.
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Step 1 – Wall Ball or Shoot Around
Note, during the initial break in, your shots and passes are going to be all over the place. Avoid tinkering with the shooters until after you’ve finished that session. Typically, what I do with the shooters is leave them in the head with descending tension (top the tightest and bottom the loosest). Spend some time on the wall, this is the key to a good break in.
Step 2 – Get the pocket wet
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Water and traditional pockets are a no no. You may be slightly correct but in the break in, water is your friend. Again, if you’re using good quality leathers, water will not ruin them. You do not have to drown the pocket, get it wet so the leathers absorb the water. No bucket? Run it under the faucet until the pocket is wet.
Step 3 – Pocket Stretching
Use your favorite method. Here I’ll pound the pocket out for a minute with a baseball bat (similar to how you do it with mesh) and then throw it in a stretcher. Don’t have a stretcher? A ball and butter knife work just as well (kids, check with your parents on the knife part first)….
Step 4 – Observations
When you stretch the pocket, if the leathers are tight (not loose) then leave it over night to dry. If the leathers are loose, SLIGHTLY tighten the leathers. If you over tighten, you’ll create stress points at the bottom of the pocket and create a potential snap point. Are your sidewalls loosening? Here’s where you tighten those up. How do you avoid that issue at the start? I suggest double interlocking the sidewall. If they loosen slightly, it’ll only be that area.
Step 5 – Is it working?
You can tell the pocket is breaking in once the cross lace starts biting into the leather. Once this happens, stop with the water treatment and continue the stretch up the pocket isn’t stiff anymore.
Step 6 – Follow up
From time to time your pocket will expand, use the stretcher to reshape and shallow the pocket to your desired “legal” depth.
Step 7 – Wait! What about the shooters????
This will be an ongoing process. You need to remember that the top shooter needs to be the tightest and the bottom the loosest. If you’re wall-balling and something is off, loosen all the shooters and then tighten the top. When that’s working, tighten the second, etc…
It’s important to use patience with this. I’ve had traditional pockets that I’ve broken in in a week and some that have taken a month. Go slow, put the reps in, if you ever have questions, I’m here to help!
Next week’s article is a real Rock-It…..I’ll be putting my spin on a ladder pocket in an STX Crux 500. Stay tuned!