Crafting the perfect pocket is an art. There’s a fine line between a creating a masterpiece and breaking the rules. Thankfully, women’s sticks have come a long way since the wooden, pancake flat tennis rackets of yore. Composite materials lighten the shaft, angled necks facilitate stronger shooting, and tapered, textured shafts aid grip. Actual shooting strings emerged, improving accuracy and adding whip. There is a lot of new technology available for women now–My stick has the gripper pro stringing, which prevents the ball from slipping and helps direct passes and improve accuracy.
Even with all of this, I’ve always been jealous of the Men’s pocket. In middle school all
my guy friends lax-bros-in-training were on an eternal quest to build a bigger, better pocket. They softened their heads in the microwave, meticulously pinching them shut to minimize the surface area for checking. They watched YouTube videos of DIY pocket pounders, and sat in the back of every class -pounding the netting until the teacher told them to stop. Repeatedly. A one-inch adjustment of my strings before a game resulted in the inevitable scramble to retighten at the end of the warm up. Sometimes, you just wanna cheat the system.
While it might be easy to slyly tug on the bottom strings of your stick right before the ref plops the ball in for final judgment, this could have disastrous consequences later (sorry Florida). Some refs are oblivious to life*; the only lacrosse exposure they’ve had was that brief scene in the end of Mean Girls when a behaviorally reformed Regina George barrels down the field, stick in hand, wearing something that resembles a basketball uniform. In 2004. Then they saw a “referees wanted” ad on craigslist in 2012. And now they’re your ref. Said refs will not be concerned about checking your pocket after a goal. They’ll just be trying to figure out what a goal is. However, there are other refs who will care. These refs sleep with the USL rulebook under their pillow, and check USL website daily for new rule interpretations. They will care so much about the state of your pocket that they will check after EVERY goal (I’ve experienced this in high school and college). They will also measure the length of your stick, and the angle of the pocket against a table (this happened to me while playing in Santa Barbara in February).
For the sake of these refs, and your development as a player (too big of a pocket is a stick skills crutch) build your pocket right. The trick to building a pocket is that you want to minimize the slack in the narrow portion of the head near the neck. That’s where the ref is going to check to ensure that the ball is visible above the sidewall. This is fine. You don’t want a pocket there anyways; at no time during play should the ball live near the neck. It doesn’t matter if you’re a middie or a defender; you should be cradling and releasing from the sweet spot right below the bridge of your first shooting string. This is the only place you want a pocket. So…. (1) get your stick wet (2) tighten all the string all the way (3) Get a ball and nestle it in the sweet spot right below the 1st shooting string (4) Wrap rubber bands, hair things, whatever you need to keep the ball in place (5) Let your stick dry, hanging off a level surface over night (to ensure the ball doesn’t slip). Do this a couple times a month, or after you play in wet weather to maintain your pocket, and you’ll be golden.