How does a stringer string his pocket? After all, stringers are players, too. Does this task become simpler or infinitely more complex? At one point, I believed the latter, but, now, I know the former to be true.
During the underclassmen days of college, when my stringing explorations were young, spry and filled with infinite hope, I thought it could always get better: faster shot, more accurate passing, better hold; sometime during my senior year, I learned about compromise. My role on the team changed from year to year and I realized that my obsession with bigger, stronger, faster was counterproductive.
Now, wiser, older and less obsessed, I can find a pocket, both with mesh and leathers, that I am quite comfortable using in a game. First, to understand why I string my pocket a certain way, you should know a little bit about what kind of player I am and what I am looking for in a pocket.
As a player, I am an attackman or middie (when you’re new and have a bit of legs, it happens) who likes (tries?) to dodge, feed, score and play a little defense as well as clear from time to time. The largest predicament I had/have (sometimes), and I think a lot of players have this issue, is finding the the right amount of whip that will allow me to shoot fast but, also, pass accurately.
When I spoke of compromise before, this is what I was mainly referring to; I have decided to go with a pocket that passes more accurately rather than shoot the fastest I can, as I believe this lends to strengthening a team, which strives towards the overall goal of every lacrosse game: to win. Some players have very distinct roles on a team and can cater their pocket to that specific role; for example, the big gun on the team is more valued for his cannon than his ability to pass, so he should tailor his pocket to having the best possible shot.
Now that I’ve identified the type of player I am, or am trying to be perhaps, we can get down to the specifics. My ideal pocket, broken down into its features and components:
Pocket Placement (a.k.a. the Drop)
I like the ball to sit about 2/3 up from the base of the head, so I’ll usually string a pocket where the ball sits directly in the middle and allow the pocket to move up naturally, as it breaks in, right under the shooting strings. I will usually switch from a locked sidewall string to a floating sidewall string near the middle of the head to allow the ball to move lower in the pocket as I move to a vertical cradle.
Whip (a.k.a. tension/friction as the ball releases)
The only real issue I have with mesh is that finding the right amount of whip usually compromises either accuracy or power, which is why I traditionally use traditional; I typically string a pretty tight channel, especially near the top, to get that pop when I put full power behind a shot, but still allow for a soft and subtle wrist-flick pass.
I use the shooting strings as a finishing touch for how the ball releases and holds in the stick. The bottom shooter assists the channel with gripping the ball when cradling and shooting, mostly; I usually keep this relatively loose – just tight enough not to have parts that droop. The middle and top shooter both aid the channel in how the ball will release on passes and shots; I will usually have the middle string a bit tighter than the top string, as I like the ball to snap off the plastic a bit and this assists in creating that phenomenon. The tension of these top two shooters can also affect how easily the ball comes into the pocket when either scooping a groundball or catching a pass.
Obtaining the best results takes skillful and guided experimentation of the sidewall configurations (singles, doubles, locks, floats, etc.), the number of shooters and the shooter tension. Every head is also different, so re-creating the same results from head to head requires more of this same kind of experimentation. Stay patient, as you will be blessed with positive results if you can learn from using the pocket in a practice environment and implement those learnings into your pocket.