Innovation is the name of the game in lacrosse. I couldn’t even begin to imagine where the game would be without it. While that same argument could be made about any other sport, it certainly holds more weight in lacrosse due to how equipment heavy the game is. In the mid-2000s, the lacrosse world ran rampant with throwing new ideas at a wall and seeing what stuck. It was a time of trial and error with most products falling flat on its face and with very few changing the landscape of the game. In 2022, the Gait D has the potential to flip the lacrosse world on its head.
It has been quite some time since the lacrosse world had a new product to spark some conversation into the community. The first plastic molded lacrosse had was introduced in 70s and I can’t even imagine what kind of controversy that stirred up. That same decade, lacrosse sticks started to become more interchangeable with the heads being able to be removed from the shaft and more of an emphasis being placed on adjusting the stringing of the head itself. Players were still using wooden lacrosse shafts until the 80s when the first aluminum shaft was introduced which was proceeded by metal and titanium shafts in the 90s.
The formula of what a modern lacrosse stick was starting to solidify itself in the early 2000s with plastic heads, metal shafts, and mesh becoming the industry standard. Companies then started experimenting more and more with their products in attempt to make that next industry breakthrough. While some products like the Noz 2 and Warp certainly had potential, neither revolutionized the game like originally intended. The last real innovation to the game I can remember is the introduction of carbon fiber shafts, and even that was more of a minor tweak instead of an industry changing product.
When I heard that Gait was getting back into the hard goods game, I was skeptical to say the least. It feels like the market is flooded with hundreds of products with very few differences to make any individual product stand out amongst the saturated crowd. Based on the headline alone, I was nervous Gait was going to release generic lacrosse products that bank on the Gait name more than the actual product itself. Boy was I wrong.
The release of the Gait D instantly took the lacrosse world by storm, and rightfully so. For those who don’t know, the defensive focused head features two protruding “hooks” on the upper sidewalls of the head closest to the scoop. It’s a simple idea in concept, but it’s never been brought to actuality. Why may this be a point of interest you may ask? These hooks are lethal at grabbing onto opposing lacrosse heads, shafts, and even mesh with the intent of causing turnovers. No one has ever thought to add elements to the head itself that steered off the traditional shape and intent of the head; passing, catching, and throwing.
On a surface level, who doesn’t love this? A lacrosse head made with the intent of causing turnovers by pushing the boundaries of the current set of rules. It carries the same type of energy as a mother telling her son to get off the couch and go outside and he then brings his gaming console onto the patio. It’s intently defiant but in no ways breaking the rules. I love it.
On the flipside, the question has started to emerge on if the Gait D has too much of an advantage over other defensive focused lacrosse heads. I’ve seen the Gait D in action this summer and let me tell you, this head is lethal regardless of skill level.
A player on a middle school team that I coach in the summer approached me excited to show off his brand-new Gait D that he strung himself. I would say he was a pretty average defender given his age who was overly reliant on stick checks instead of utilizing fundamental defensive footwork and positioning. During his very first practice using the Gait D he had a caused turnover every offensive possession. He instantly went from a player who regularly made mistakes by to being the best 13 year long-pole I have ever seen.
You may read that and scoff at the idea of a 13-year-old instantly becoming better thanks to a new head, but I assure you the head is that good. Every check you throw has a decent chance of getting caught onto something a normal lacrosse head wouldn’t. Once players understand the power they have to hook onto opposing sticks, their entire focus changes. Every check is followed up with a hard tug to hopefully break the ball free. Players will intentionally yank on their opponents shaft as hard as they possibly can to inevitably send that stick to the moon. Defenders will get beat on 1v1 situations and not be phased knowing how easily they can recover with a properly timed hook on a trailing stick head or shaft.
It creates a new dynamic to the game that has never been thought of before. I have seen multiple kids this summer get thrown to the ground thanks to a well placed check and tug from an opposing Gait D. Once you get hooked you can either let go of your stick and let it go flying, or hold onto it with dear life and get thrown to the grounf. I’ve talked to multiple college coaches this summer who have all agreed that they will be buying their entire defenses Gait Ds for the upcoming season. If the head is still legal by spring of 2023, defenseman will be at a competitive disadvantage if they are not using a Gait D.
Is the Gait D good for the game? It’s hard to say. On one hand, innovation in any capacity will always be welcomed especially when it is improving player performance on the field. On the other hand, the head has intentionally skimmed around the current set of NCAA rules which has led to a product that is far superior than everything else on the market.
Only time will tell how the NCAA will handle the Gait D, but I think they have three options. Option one being to ban the head entirely as it has radically shifted the way defenseman play lacrosse. The only reason I do not like option one is that it feels like a slap in the face to companies looking to really innovate the game. Option two is let the head remain legal and shift the way the game has been played in order to favor the defense.
The third option, and by far my favorite, is to shelve the Gait D for the time being and come up with a new set of rules that balance the head a little bit more. For example, decreasing the size of the hooks themselves or rounding out the edges a little bit more would help “nerf” the head from being overpowered but still keeping its intended purpose. Even with these modifications, the head is able to maintain its original purpose but keeps the head from being a necessary product for every defender to own.
Going this route feels like the right move as it promotes innovation without reinventing the game entirely. After the success of the Gait D, other lacrosse companies should be motivated to push the envelope of what exactly a lacrosse head is. If the NCAA came out today and put an immediate ban on the head, companies may fear putting valuable research and development into an innovative product that ill inevitably be banned. Innovation is good for the game.
I applaud Gait for releasing a product that sparked controversy in the community and changed that way the game is played. I’m sure it was terrifying to fund and release a product that may be inevitably become a legal, but Gait did it anyways. Let’s hope the conversations being had now surrounding the Gait D only promote more innovation in the near future.