To cut the palms out of your lacrosse gloves or not? THAT is the question. For youth, high school and college players, the answer is an obvious and resounding, “NO”, but for post-collegiate players and pros, it’s a valid question. But the point I’ll be pressing in this post is that it might be time to look at this rule again, and see if it’s really still needed. The great debate focuses on cutting your palms out. Let’s get weird.
The first question some will ask (probably those who have never played with their palms cut out) is, “why on Earth would I ever do that?”. And unless you’ve experienced the sensation of palmless lacrosse, it’s a fair question. So we’ll go through a brief history of time. Or the People’s History Of The Lacrosse Glove Palm. You see, years ago the palms of lax mittens were made of leather, and nothing else. Some were soft, and wore through quickly. Others were rock hard, and wore in over time. And still others were the Goldilocks equivalent, in that they were soft and tough. But somewhere down the line, the palms always got ruined. Maybe it was mud, or rain, maybe it was just wear and tear. But eventually, the palms became unplayable, so we would simply cut most of them out.
You would cut a big old hole around the palm of your hand (in the palm of your glove, not your actual hand. duh.) and then probably tape up the fingers a bit to make sure your delicate extremities would still be protected, and the glove would stay in place. The thin old school leather gave a great feel to stickhandling, but nothing compared to the feeling like you didn’t have gloves on. And cutting the palms out got you that much closer. When I was in college, MOST gloves still had leather palms and one of our attackmen used to cut them out and then sew practice pinnie mesh in there instead. It was all about getting as close to the stick as possible.
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Even back then (by rule) you still had to have palms in your gloves, but the worn leather was pretty close to a “hand on stick” feel. I’ve heard that the reason for mandatory palms is two-fold: 1) it was done to protect players. No one wanted to see a finger slip out of a glove and get shattered between colliding pieces of metal. 2) it was done so that players couldn’t slip their fingers out and thumb the ball.
Both of these were great reasons back in the day, but when I look at the game today, I just don’t know that it applies as much.
When synthetic palms came out, people started wearing through the palms of their gloves less quickly. The feel wasn’t quite the same as leather, but the longer lasting material proved to be the future of the sport. As this was happening, glove design technology and research was improving as well, and the result was tighter gloves, that fit closer to the hand, that also lasted longer. All of them were good equipment evolutions for the sport.
But now that gloves are so tight to the hand, the risk of a finger slipping out, even with cut out palms, has rapidly diminshed. It feels like you’re wearing a batter’s glove with some of the newer models, and I can happily say that whenever I try on a new pair of gloves, they never feel like they will slip off of my hands. The gloves are tight on the wrist, and don’t go anywhere.
Also, the smaller profile of the glove makes it harder to cheat, and harder to hide sneaky fingers. They also offer less of a “wall of foam” protection, like the old L-33 and L-35 used to do, so players would feel much less safe poking a finger out to pinch the ball in their sticks.
Almost all the guys in the MLL cut out the palms of their gloves. The same is true in the NLL. When you go to post-collegiate events, a lot of those guys are playing with palmless gloves as well. Their fingers are still protected, and these guys are playing VERY phyiscal lacrosse, yet we see no injuries resulting from this practice. It makes me think lower levels of the game could use to allow this as well. The most imortant piece of equipment is a lacrosse player’s stick, so being able to connect with that stick more intimately is the key here. It would simply make the game a little easier to play, and would allow that much more skill and stickhandling to be showcased.
Photo courtesy LaxPower.com
I’m a fan of leather palms in general, and I’d love to see them make a comeback, but the fact stands that leather is simply expensive. And it still wears out faster than synthetic materials do, especially in the context of lacrosse glove palms. So in order to keep costs down, but keep elevating the level of play and skill, I would propose that in 2013, college players are allowed to cut their palms out. If it works at that level, high school lax could be brought under the umbrella by 2015, and youth could make the move whenever they felt like doing it, if at all.
There would have to be a lot of regulation I’m sure, but as long as none of the palm material from the fingers or thumb were cut out, I think it would be ok. Heck, the NCAA could even specify a size hole that can be cut and then the manufacturers could offer palms with diagrams showing maximum allowable cut lines. I don’t know the specifics of it, but it’s definitely doable. Now the only question is, does anyone else care enough to make it an issue?