A lacrosse stick or crosse is used to play the sport of lacrosse. Players use the lacrosse stick to handle the ball and to strike or "check" opposing players' sticks, causing them to drop the ball. The head of a lacrosse stick is roughly triangular in shape and is strung with loose netting that allows the ball to be caught, carried (known as "cradling"), passed, or shot.
The pocket of the head is where the ball is carried and caught. It consists of interwoven string attached to the head. Traditional stringing with leather strings interwoven with nylon has declined in popularity in favor of synthetic mesh stringing. Mesh is typically made of nylon and comes in a variety of diamond configurations, which can affect the pocket's throwing and retention characteristics.
The typical mesh pocket uses four main nylon strings to affix the mesh piece to the head: a topstring, two sidewalls, and a bottom string. The topstring is often made of a slightly thicker string, in order to resist the abrasive forces that come from scooping the ball up. The sidewalls are used to affix individual mesh diamonds to the sidewall holes on the sidewall of the head. The sidewalls have the most effect on the pocket's performance, as they dictate the placement of the pocket in the head, the tightness of the channel of the pocket, and even the pocket depth. The bottom string is used to fine-tune the pocket depth, and serves to keep the ball from slipping through the bottom of the pocket.
In addition to the four strings used to affix the mesh piece, shooting strings are woven through the diamonds of the mesh in order to help fine-tune the pocket's characteristics. They can either be made of typical nylon string, or a hockey style lace. Shooting strings are often used in straight, U, or V shapes. They serve to increase the pocket's hold on the ball, as well as fine-tune the way the stick throws. They can act to change the tension of various portions of the pocket, helping to create a "ramp" for the ball to roll along as it exits the pocket.
As of the 2013 season, the NCAA has passed a rule stating that shooting strings are limited to an area within a 4-inch (10 cm) arc drawn from the top of the plastic of the scoop. This essentially eliminates U- or V-shaped shooting strings, as they almost always cross below the 4-inch (10 cm) line. The pocket depth is governed by rule as well. When the ball is placed in the deepest point, the top of the ball must not be below the bottom of the sidewall.
Modern handles, more commonly referred to as shafts, are made of hollow metal. They are usually octagonal, instead of round, in order to provide a better grip. Most are made of aluminum, titanium, scandium, or alloys, but some shafts are still made from other materials, including wood, plastic, or fiberglass. The open end of the hollow shaft must be covered with tape or a plug (commonly referred to as the "butt" or "butt end" of the stick), usually made of rubber. The head of the stick is usually attached to the shaft with a screw to keep it in place.
Stick length is governed by NCAA regulations, which require that men's sticks (including the head) be from 40 to 42 inches long for offensive players, 52 to 72 inches long for defensemen, and 40 to 72 inches long for goalies. Offensive players usually prefer their sticks to be the minimum length in order to give them the advantage of having a shorter stick to protect from defensive checks. Conversely, defensive players usually prefer their sticks to be the maximum length to permit them the greatest range in covering their offensive player.
Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, cheeks, and tongue. They're required for all lacrosse players.
A lacrosse helmet is a protective headpiece worn in men's lacrosse. Modern helmets consist of a hard plastic, non-adjustable shell with thick padding on the inside, a face mask made of metal bars, and a chinstrap used to secure the helmet to the head.
Lacrosse gloves are heavily padded and designed to protect players' hands, wrists, and forearms from checks, or legal defensive hitting common in the sport. Gloves consist of thick padding on the back of the hand and forearm covered in leather or canvas material, and a palm area made of synthetic and mesh material. A goaltender's gloves may have extra padding for the thumb to protect against injury from shots.
Women's lacrosse rules do not require glove use, except for goalies since hitting is not permitted, but some players use smaller gloves for increased grip and minor protection from incidental contact.
Field players must wear shoulder and arm pads. Boys must wear a protective cup.
Goalies must also have a throat guard attached to the helmet and a chest protector.
Proper Hand Placement (Grip)
Holding a lacrosse stick properly is one of the most fundamental skills of the game, and it is often one of the most overlooked aspects to reaching your full potential while out on the field. First, your dominant hand should be placed above your non-dominant hand, and the positioning of the top hand is particularly important because going too high up will result in a less powerful throw and going too low would affect your control of the stick.
Start by placing your non-dominant hand on the butt of the stick, holding firmly as if you are making a fist. Your dominant hand then goes near the middle of the stick, gripping it as if you were shaking someone’s hand. Depending on whether you are using a long or short stick, however, you might need to adjust the placement of the bottom hand to whichever position feels comfortable.
While you use your top hand to push the lacrosse stick over your shoulder, you use the bottom hand to guide the stick. As a result, therefore, holding a lacrosse stick is a push-pull motion whereby the top (dominant) hand is the push hand, and the bottom (non-dominant) hand is the pull hand.
One of the hallmarks that define an accomplished lacrosse player is the ability to throw with both the dominant and the non-dominant hand and throw very well in either instance. Serious players always aim to accomplish this, and responsible coaches always push their players to embrace ambidexterity.
When a player can throw well with both their dominant and non-dominant hand, it gives them an advantage on the field because then, they can easily switch hands thus throwing off the opponent. Gaining the confidence and skill that is required to throw with both hands requires a combination of persistence, proper mechanics and daily practice, but hard as it sounds, it is very achievable.
Initially, you might find that you are not as fast enough, or your shots are not as accurate as they should be, but this is just part of the process. Just keep at it and eventually, you will find that you have perfectly mastered the art of throwing with both your dominant and non-dominant hands which is an incredibly enviable and valuable skill in the sport. Better yet, you might find that practicing with a teammate will make the whole process much more enjoyable.
Establish Your Lead Foot and Your Anchor Foot
Just the same way there is a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand, there is also a lead foot and an anchor foot when playing lacrosse. There are several simple exercises that a player can undertake to distinguish their lead foot from their anchor foot for instance:
When you cross your arms, which one goes underneath? Your anchor foot will be the foot on that side of your body.
When you do some falling starts with your heels placed together, which foot do you step forward with first? This is your lead foot.
The general rule of thumb is that your lead foot will be the one opposite your dominant hand. So if you are a right-handed player, you will find that you place your right foot at the back (serving as the anchor) and your left foot forward (serving as the lead). The reverse is true for left-handed players.
Having a lead and an anchor foot allows you to open your hips and this leads to the generation of power as you twist your torso ready to make a throw. Stepping to the target with the correct foot is, therefore, a vital part of playing optimally.
When you are ready to make a throw, the correct way to stand is with your body square, perpendicular to the target. Depending on whether you are making a pass or taking a shot, the target here could be your partner’s stick head where you intend to direct your throw, or it could be one square of the net.
Whichever the case, your hips and shoulders on the side of the non-dominant hand should be aimed at the goal, with your torso rotated away. Additionally, hold your head still and have your eyes fixed on the target.
Both your legs should be bent slightly but to ensure that you give your shot enough momentum, the lead foot should be bent a little more than the anchor foot. Additionally, place slightly more weight on the anchor foot than you do on the lead foot because this will generate the momentum you need as you swing around stepping towards the target as you make your throw.
As far as the arms go, push them out and lift them, instead of holding them close to the sides of your body. For an effective throw, make sure the lacrosse stick’s head and butt cap are in line with the target. Additionally, always keep in mind that your elbow will show where your throw goes so if your elbows are too high, the ball will go too high and vice versa. With your arms lifted in the air, swing them back and simultaneously, your anchor foot will drop back.
In lacrosse, the throwing motion employs the concept of continuous acceleration whereby you start slow and gradually speed up. This is an important thing to remember because if a player starts abruptly, then the ball could easily fall out on the ground behind them.
For the throwing motion, start by bringing both hands to your chest level while you are holding the lacrosse stick. You then pull the stick back on the side of your dominant hand, all the while making sure the stick stays parallel to the ground and that your elbows are bent slightly. Using your dominant hand, you then push the stick hence bringing it over your shoulder and in front of you. Remember to stabilize the stick using your non-dominant hand and snap the wrist of your dominant hand.
While moving the stick over your shoulder, you should simultaneously step forward with your lead foot with the big toe pointing towards the target. The force of your push hand thrusting the stick over your shoulder is what propels the stick forward, therefore, creating the throwing motion that sends the ball flying towards the target.
The vital thing to remember here is that a throw involves a compound motion whereby all the movements have to be undertaken simultaneously. The wrist snap and the pullback give the ball speed and allow it to fly with a straight trajectory instead of an arching one, so they are vital components of a perfect throw.
Perfect throwing motion isn’t complete without a follow through. This involves moving the stick in the direction of the throw even after releasing the ball from the stick head. Follow-through is important because it not only improves the accuracy of your throw but also ensures that the receiver is aware that a pass has been made and keeps them alert in readiness to catch the ball.
Once the ball has left the pocket, simply let the stick continue with the momentum instead of stopping it abruptly, and bring your anchor foot forward to meet the lead foot. When you are done, the pocket should be pointing in the direction of the target, therefore, making the complete arc of your stick, a diagonal line running from the top of your push hand to the bottom of your non-dominant hand.
Practice Shooting From Different Angles
The ideal situation is always to be able to make throws while you are standing directly in front of your target. However, this might not always be possible because most of your shots during a game could be difficult to make. For this reason, get accustomed to shooting from different angles as this would be a better representation of less-than-ideal on-field conditions.
During practice sessions, perform drills that force you to shoot from the left and right of your target and those that also force you to shoot from down low and also from high over your head. Work on your sidearm as well and perform drills where you aim to throw at one particular point such as the top or bottom corners of the goal.
How to Hold a Lacrosse Shaft
When catching a lacrosse ball, your primary hand should be near the top of the lacrosse stick, and your non-dominant hand should be near the butt-end of the lacrosse shaft. This is a much bigger separation between your two hands on your lacrosse stick when catching a lacrosse ball versus when you are throwing a lacrosse ball.
The key to making the most out of the time you spend practicing is to practice as you play. When playing lacrosse, you should never be standing still or straight up. It's important to be in an athletic stance and move your feet to the ball.
Make sure you are facing the direction the pass is coming from
Stand in an athletic stance with your feet shoulder with apart
When the ball is in flight, move your feet so that the ball comes to you instead of having to catch in an awkward position
When catching a lacrosse ball, you want to keep your stick "in the box" so your teammates have a good target to hit. The location from the top of your helmet to your shoulder is referred to as the box. Make your stick an easy target to identify by keeping it in the box, and then move your feet so that the ball reaches that area every time.
Keys to Catching a Lacrosse Ball
Do not snap at the lacrosse ball; this will most likely result in the lacrosse ball bouncing off of your lacrosse head. Snapping is when you fling your stick at the ball or try to cradle the ball out of the air.
Have soft hands and allow your stick to give a little as you receive the lacrosse ball into your lacrosse stick.
Keep your eye on the lacrosse ball from the time it leaves your teammate's stick until it lands in your lacrosse pocket.
Practice catching a lacrosse ball always and often.