The Importance of Proper Stringing for Lacrosse Goalies
Proper stringing is absolutely critical for goalies looking to optimize their performance. The goalie head’s stringing controls key aspects of stick handling and ball control that can make or break a goalie’s game. A perfectly strung pocket allows a goalie to cradle and carry the ball smoothly, retain possession on saves, direct clean outlets, and clear the ball accurately. The right amount of hold and whip on shots also ensures the ball sticks in the pocket instead of clanging off an ill-strung head.
Conversely, poor stringing leads to decreased passing and clearing accuracy, fumbled catches, poor ball retention on saves allowing messy rebounds, and painful stingers off the shaft. An improperly strung pocket with too much whip can lead to wild rebounds and uncontrolled outlet passes. By taking the time to string their head properly and test different stringing styles, a goalie can significantly upgrade their passing, catching, ball control, and shot stopping abilities.
The key aspects of goalie stringing involve crafting a medium to deep pocket that retains its shape, balancing ball control and hold with quick ball release on outlet passes, dialing in the right combination of sidewall stringing and shooters, and stringing a pocket that matches the goalie’s preferred head shape and flex point. By starting with high-quality mesh and strings and taking a meticulous approach to stringing up the sidewalls, creating a smooth channel or pocket shape, and installing sturdy shooting strings, goalies can string a pocket optimized for their playing style and needs.
The bottom line is that proper stringing makes a massive difference for goalie play. A perfectly strung pocket acts like an extension of the goalie’s stick, almost becoming one with their hands, whereas a poor pocket introduces variables and uncertainty into catching, cradling, passing and shot stopping. For goalies looking to play at their highest level, a properly strung head is an absolute necessity, not just a luxury. The time invested in stringing pays huge dividends on the field. With a well-tuned pocket, goalies gain consistency and confidence game in and game out.
Variations in Sidewall Stringing Patterns for Customization
When stringing up their head, one of the key decisions a goalie must make is choosing a sidewall stringing pattern. The sidewall stringing controls the overall shape, feel, and performance of the pocket. By experimenting with different sidewall patterns, goalies can create a customized pocket optimized for their playing style and preferences.
There are several common sidewall stringing patterns goalies can test out in their heads including the straight shooter sidewall, 1-straight-1 staggered sidewall, 1-and-1 or 1-and-2 sidewall, and a fully interlocked sidewall. The straight shooter sidewall involves a simple over-under stringing of the sidewalls holes moving up the head. This creates wider diamonds that lead to a quicker release and more hold. The 1-straight-1 staggered pattern alternates one straight runner up the side with one staggered diamonds. This balances quicker ball release with improved hold through offset stringing.
The 1-and-1 pattern strings one straight runner up the sidewalls and then interlocks every other hole. This creates a deeply pocketed head with excellent ball retention. Moving to a 1-and-2 sidewall extends the pocket even more by interlocking every second and third hole. Finally, a fully interlocked sidewall strings each hole in an alternating interlocked pattern. This creates the deepest pocket with the most pronounced channel. Fully interlocked pockets excel at cradling and retaining possession on saves but can be harder to release the ball quickly on outlet passes.
By starting with a basic sidewall approach like the straight shooter and then trying out staggered, 1-and-1, and fully interlocked styles, goalies can see how sidewall stringing impacts pocket shape, hold, and release speed. Tighter sidewalls like 1-and-1 or full interlock add depth and ball control, while wider straight shooter pockets enable quicker passes and movement. Goalies looking for the tightest cradling and ball control may prefer a 1-and-1 or fully interlocked sidewall, while goalies who play fastbreak styles favor straighter sidewall patterns for quick outlet passes.
The mesh, head shape, shooting strings, and personal style all factor into choosing the best sidewall pattern. By taking the time to string and test different sidewall configurations in their heads during the offseason, goalies can discover the optimal sidewall approach that creates their ideal pocket shape and performance. Dialing in sidewall stringing is crucial for experienced goalies looking to take their game to the next level through customized pockets.
Mid to Low Pocket Placements for Improved Control
One of the most important stringing considerations for goalies is pocket placement. The location of the pocket on the head has a major influence on ball control, retention, and release when passing and making saves. Goalies generally string pockets in the mid to lower areas of the head to optimize control.
A mid pocket is strung about 3-4 inches down from the scoop, while a low pocket sits 5-6 inches down the head. Lower pockets increase ball retention and control by cradling more of the ball within the head. This helps goalies securely carry the ball upfield on clears and maintain possession after making saves. The deeper pocket also provides more whip and pocket pinch on shots to absorb impact. However, low pockets can reduce passing speed on outlet passes since more energy is required to release the ball from the stick.
Mid pockets offer a balance of control and quick release. Sitting higher in the head, mid pockets don’t wrap as much of the ball but still provide good cradling and shooting performance. The moderate pocket depth increases hold on saves without sacrificing outlet speed. Mid pockets also enable goalies to direct passes more quickly off stops compared to low pockets. The choice between a mid or low pocket often comes down to player preference and comfort level.
Some goalies, especially at youth levels, will string shallow pockets for the quickest passing and release. However, these pockets sacrifice too much control and retention for most goalies. Playing goalie already requires quick reflexes, so enabling smooth cradling and secure ball control typically takes priority over maximizing outlet speed.
No matter if choosing a mid or low pocket, goalies should ensure the top of the ball rests above the bottom of the sidewall when cradled. This positions the ball securely in the pocket sweet spot without creeping down into the lower throat area. Testing out different pocket placements during stringing, and making adjustments over time, allows a goalie to optimize pocket depth for their desired performance.
Sidewall Stringing Pattern Variations for Customization
One of the most important customization decisions in stringing a goalie head is choosing a sidewall stringing pattern. The sidewall stringing controls the shape, feel, and performance of the entire pocket. By experimenting with different sidewall patterns, goalies can optimize the pocket to match their playing style and needs.
There are several common sidewall stringing approaches including the straight shooter, 1-straight-1 staggered, 1-and-1, 1-and-2, and fully interlocked patterns. The straight shooter sidewall involves simple over-under hole stringing to create wider diamonds for quicker release and more hold. The 1-straight-1 staggered alternates one straight runner up the sidewalls with one staggered diamond to balance control and release.
The 1-and-1 pattern interlocks every other hole to form a deeply pocketed head with excellent ball retention. Moving to a 1-and-2 extends the pocket even more by interlocking every second and third hole. Finally, the fully interlocked sidewall strings each hole in an alternating pattern for the deepest pocket and most defined channel.
By starting with a straight shooter sidewall and trying staggered, 1-and-1 and fully interlocked styles, goalies can see how sidewall stringing changes pocket shape, hold, and release speed. Tighter sidewalls like 1-and-1 add depth and ball control, while wider straight shooter pockets enable quicker outlet passes. Goalies seeking the tightest cradling and control may prefer a 1-and-1 or fully interlocked sidewall, while goalies playing a fast break style need quicker sidewall patterns.
The optimal sidewall pattern depends on factors like head shape, mesh type, shooting strings, and playing style. By stringing and testing different sidewall configurations during the offseason, goalies can find the best match for their ideal pocket performance. Dialing in customized sidewall stringing is key for experienced goalies looking to master their stringing and take their game to the next level.
Shooter Setups for Optimizing Whip and Ball Release
An often overlooked yet critical stringing aspect for goalies is properly installing shooting strings. Shooters control the pocket’s whip on shots and the quickness of ball release on outlet passes. By tuning their shooter setup, goalies can customize both ball control and passing speed.
Shooting strings come in various materials like nylon, hockey lace and leather/rawhide. Nylon strings provide the most pronounced whip for absorbing heavy shots. Hockey laces increase overall pocket stability. Leather/rawhide shooters soften pocket pinch while retaining a balanced release. Some goalies string double shooters in the top and bottom of the sidewall holes to further increase whip and ball retention.
The interlock pattern and tension of shooting strings also affects performance. Tighter interlocks slow release for added ball control while wider interlocks quicken release speed. Some goalies use a “locked-and-loaded” style with one tight, one wide interlock for control and quick outlet passes. Shooter placement can also customize whip, with higher nylons maximizing rebound control and lower leathers/laces optimizing passing.
Testing different shooter configurations is key. For example, goalies struggling with stingers may add another nylon shooter to increase pocket give. Swapping out a lower nylon for a hockey lace can improve passing accuracy after saves. Shooters can also be adjusted to match different head shapes. Wider heads may need more shooting strings spaced closer together for optimal pocket control.
Getting the shooter stringing right takes experimentation, feel and experience. But proper tuning pays huge dividends in game situations. Optimized shooters are the difference between commanding possession after saves versus giving up rebounds, and executing clean outlet passes versus bobbling the ball. Shooters personalize pocket performance, making them a key stringing element for goalies.
Face Shape Stringing for Channel, Straight or V-Shaped Pockets
An important stringing consideration for goalies is choosing the face shape of their pocket. Goalies can string pockets with defined channels, straight sidewalls, or distinct V-shapes depending on their preference. The face shape impacts overall ball control and release.
Channel pockets involve narrowing the top of the head during stringing to pronounce the central pocket channel. This helps guide the ball directly into the pocket sweet spot for excellent control during cradling. Channels provide the deepest throws and best hold on saves. However, they can reduce accuracy on quick outlet passes after stops.
Straight sidewall pockets maintain consistent spacing between the sidewalls without a defined channel. These enable the quickest release and passing but sacrifice some cradling control compared to channels. Straight pockets work well for goalies who play fast in transition and value quick ball movement.
V-shaped pockets widen the sidewalls toward the scoop to form a distinct V-pattern. The V-shape funnels the ball into the pocket quickly during passing and shooting for added control. It also provides a quicker release than channels while retaining good fundamentals. Goalies who like a blended style may prefer V-shaped pockets.
The optimal face shape often comes down to a goalie’s individual style and head type. Tighter face shapes like channels pair well with heads designed for control like the STX Eclipse. Wider heads meant for quick passing like the Maverik Rome benefit from straighter sidewalls. Testing different face shapes during stringing helps goalies find what suits their game.
No matter the shape, the sidewalls should angle in enough to properly frame the ball while ruling out errant bad angles off the rails. Dialing in personal preference for channel, straight or V-shaped stringing is another way goalies can customize their pocket and performance.
Sidewall Locks to Prevent Rollover and Increase Stability
One of the most important adjustments goalies can make when stringing their head is adding sidewall lock strings. Sidewall locks are extra pieces of interwoven string that increase structure and prevent rollover of the pocket sidewalls during play. Adding locks dials in pocket shape and improves ball control.
The most common lock stringing technique is the triple threat. This uses three lock strings spaced evenly from the throat of the head up through the midsection of the sidewalls. The locks reinforce the sidewalls and resist widening from continual impact on saves and passes. Locks become even more critical as mesh breaks in and the diamonds stretch over time.
Some goalies will use additional locks in their heads, placing them closer together near the scoop or throat for increased stability. Locks work especially well with more flexible heads like the Maverik Rome to maintain pocket shape. They help restrict rollover and collapsing along the sidewalls as the head whips and flexes.
When installing locks, goalies should weave them tightly under the first sidewall string and over the second for optimal durability. The locks should never rest on top of a sidewall string. Keeping the locks clean, flat and tucked provides the sturdiest wrap. Goalies should check their locks routinely for loosening or damage from impacts.
While it takes time and care to properly install locks, they deliver major consistency and control benefits in game action. Locks allow a pocket to keep its shape despite heavy use over a season. They also boost passing and shooting accuracy by preventing the sidewalls from cupping or rolling over time. For goalies demanding the most dialed-in setup possible, locks are a must for refined technical stringing.
Adding a Midline for Improved Ball Control and Balance
An advanced stringing technique that can take a goalie’s pocket to the next level is installing a midline. A midline is an extra shooter string threaded horizontally through the center diamonds of the mesh. Midlines enhance overall ball control and pocket balance.
The midline acts like a secondary shooting string, adding extra support and stability right below the primary upper nylons or laces. This provides more overall structure to the pocket for increased ball retention, especially on saves from awkward angles. The midline also improves pocket balance by keeping the mesh evenly tensioned on each side of the channel.
Midlines work best when strung relatively tight in soft mesh. This helps the midline dig into the mesh to keep its shape. Some goalies will use a thicker hockey lace midline for added durability. Midlines can be paired with traditional shooters or triangular top stringing for maximum ball control. Adding a midline and shooter to a simple single straight runner sidewall can optimize even basic pockets.
The main downside of midlines is increased pocket stiffness. Midlines reduce the amount of nice soft pocket give found in more traditional stringing. Goalies who like a lot of whip on their saves may not appreciate a rigid midline. Testing out midline tension and placement is important to prevent an overly stiff pocket.
Overall, a properly installed midline is a great way for goalies to take their stringing to an elite level. The midline’s stability and pocket balance make it easier to direct saves and outlets. Midlines give goalies added command over their stick through advanced stringing techniques.
Goalie Head Throat Designs and Their Effect on Ball Retention
An important but often overlooked aspect of goalie heads is the throat design. The shape and structure of the throat area directly impacts ball retention and control. When stringing up a head, goalies should factor in how the throat setup affects pocket performance.
Tight, narrowly-shaped throats like those on the STX Eclipse and Maverik Rome help cradle more of the ball down low for added security on saves and clears. The narrow throat acts as an extension of the pocket to provide a deeper overall feel. This maximizes control at the cost of some quickness releasing outlets.
Heads with wider throats like the Brine King IV provide less ball support in the throat itself. However, the increased clearance enables quicker passing after saves. The tradeoff is less ball control during carries upfield. Wider throats also often have more pronounced scoops to help direct outlet passes.
Some heads like the Warrior Nemesis have an hourglass-shaped throat. This transitions from wide at the face to narrower towards the scoop. Hourglass throats aim to balance ball retention with quick ball movement after stops. However, they can be harder to string consistently.
No matter the throat shape, goalies should ensure the pocket sits an inch or two above the plastic for optimal control. Dropping the pocket too far into an open throat removes support and hold. Testing throat shapes when buying a new head ensures goalies get a throat design suited to their preferred playing style.
The throat of a goalie head may not seem like a critical element. But its shape and structure directly enables – or limits – ball control and quick outlet passing. By considering throat design during stringing along with other factors like sidewalls and pocket placement, goalies can further elevate their overall pocket performance.
Customizing Pocket Depth for Ideal Hold and Release
One of the most important stringing considerations for goalies is customizing pocket depth to achieve their ideal hold and release. The amount a pocket cradles the ball impacts passing speed, carrying, and ball retention on saves. Goalies can string pockets at different depths to match their playing style.
Shallow pockets sit higher in the head, wrapping less of the ball. These enable the fastest outlet passing but provide the least ball control. Mid-depth pockets in the 3-4 inch range from the scoop offer a balance of hold and release. Mid pockets provide solid fundamentals for most goalies.
Deep pockets descend lower on the head to cradle more ball. While they maximize control on possessions and saves, deep pockets reduce outlet speed. Goalies playing a methodical clearing game may prefer pockets with extra depth. Pockets should never drop so low they touch the head’s throat plastic.
The best way to find ideal pocket depth is testing different placements during stringing. Start higher in the head and gradually drop the pocket lower by adjusting top strings, sidewall interlocks and shooters. Throwing and catching tests how depth affects hold and quick stick. Goalies can continue incrementally lowering their pocket until the release feels too slow for their liking.
Pocket depth also depends on factors like head shape, mesh, and sidewalls. Wider heads and soft mesh call for more depth to take advantage of increased ball control. Tighter heads with stiff mesh play best with mid-level pockets. Dialing in personal pocket depth is crucial for peak performance.
Top String Hole Patterns – Wide or Tight Diamond Shapes
A key stringing choice for goalies is how to thread the top string holes to form the diamonds along the scoop. The shape and spacing of these diamonds directly impacts pocket control, hold, and ball release.
Wider top string diamonds provide a quicker release for outlet passes. By keeping the diamonds spaced farther apart, the pocket has less of a “choking” effect on the ball up top. However, wide diamonds decrease overall ball control in the pocket. There is less tension cradling the ball during carries and on saves.
Conversely, tighter diamond shapes slow release by gripping more ball above the pocket. Close-set diamonds let goalies “hang” the ball in the upper third of the head for commanding carries and secure saves. Control-focused goalies tend to favor tighter diamond stringing.
Many goalies string a moderate diamond width as a balance of control and release. Widening the diamonds slightly in the center channels also quickens release while keeping tighter diamonds along the sidewalls for support. Adjustable top strings like leathers allow diamonds to be manually tightened or loosened as needed.
Testing different diamond spacing during stringing helps goalies find their ideal configuration. Wider is quicker, tighter equals more control. The diamond shape also impacts pocket stability – wider diamonds can increase collapsing. Goalies should ensure even tension across the top stringing for consistency.
Getting the top string diamonds dialed in is an important piece of the pocket tuning process for goalies. The diamonds work hand-in-hand with sidewalls, shooting strings and lace tension to provide the desired grip, hold and release. Mastering top string diamond shape is key for truly customized pocket performance.
Shooting String Options – Nylon, Hockey Lace, or Leather
One of the most impactful customizations goalies can make to their stringing is selecting shooting string type. The material used for shooting strings directly affects crucial pocket qualities like whip, hold, and release.
Nylon shooting strings provide the most pronounced whip for absorbing heavy shots. Nylons give the pocket extra flex to dampen stingers. This makes them ideal for controlling rebounds. However, nylon’s stiffness slows release for passing. Some goalies double up on nylon shooting strings for even more give.
Hockey laces offer a blend of stability, durability, and moderate hold. Laces maintain pocket shape well over time while providing a balanced release. They lack the defined whip of nylon but offer a more consistent overall feel. Hockey laces work well as mid-pocket shooting strings.
Leather or rawhide shooting strings soften pocket pinch while still retaining solid hold. Leather strings have a nice tacky feel for controlling saves while enabling a smoother release for quick outlets. Leathers need frequent replacement as they soften and stretch.
Many goalies mix different shooting string types to balance control and release. A common configuration is nylon up top for rebound absorption paired with leather or laces down below to enable passing. Testing different materials dial in the exact hold and release needed.
Choosing shooting strings is an important personalization step when stringing a goalie head. Materials like nylon, hockey laces and leather/rawhide each imbue pockets with unique performance qualities. Blending different shooting strings gives goalies maximum control over pocket feel and function.
Mesh Types – Hard, Soft, and Hybrid Weaves for Desired Feel
The type of mesh is one of the most important decisions goalies make when stringing their heads. The mesh weave has a major impact on the overall feel and performance of the pocket. Goalies can choose from hard meshes, soft meshes, or hybrid blends to achieve their desired pocket qualities.
Hard meshes like Stringking Type 3F or ECD Hero 2.0 have thick, densely woven diamond patterns. This stiffness provides pronounced whip and a very lively feel when stringing pockets. Hard mesh maintains its structure over time for excellent consistency. The tradeoff is some loss of soft feel catching and increased ball rattle.
Soft meshes like Stringking Type 4s or Throne Mesh provide a buttery feel and quieter pocket. Softer meshes move with the ball more smoothly for excellent control cradling and directing saves. However, soft meshes bag out quicker and lack the crisp release of hard variants. Frequent attention is needed to maintain pockets.
Hybrid meshes like Stringking Type 3X combine the feel of soft mesh with the stiffness of hard variants by altering diamond shapes. Hybrids aim to balance control and stability. Goalies wanting the best of both worlds may like hybrid meshes.
The mesh used impacts everything from pocket feel, ball retention, and passing speed. Testing different mesh types is the only way for goalies to determine what works best for their preferences. The right mesh paired with complementary strings and lace tension gives goalies an ideally tuned pocket.
Top String Styles – Straight, Split-X and Mesh Options
Goalies have several options when it comes to stringing their head’s top string and scoop area. The three most common top stringing methods are straight, Split-X, and full mesh tops. Each provides different levels of pocket control and feel.
Straight top strings involve interweaving a single lace in a simple over-under pattern across the scoop. Straight tops place all tension on the sidewalls. They yield consistent pockets with good ball control but lack adjustment flexibility if diamonds stretch.
Split-X tops separate the top string into right and left tracks that criss-cross in the center scoop. Split-X enables independent tightening of each side for more customization as the head breaks in. However, the crossing can cause inconsistent tension.
Full mesh tops cover the entire scoop area with mesh instead of hole lacing. This provides the most flexible top for increased pocket give. Full mesh tops need strong sidewalls and shooting strings since the mesh lacks rigidity. Mesh tops provide the softest overall feel.
Many goalies choose straight hole lacing for its simplicity and consistency. Split-X offers more finite tuning as pockets settle. Full mesh creates deep, flexible pockets perfect for controlling saves. Testing top string styles during stringing helps goalies determine what complements the rest of their pattern.
Choosing the right top stringing method is an important nuance when piecing together the full pocket package. The top string impacts flexibility, customization, feel, and hold. Mastering different top string styles gives goalies full creative control when crafting their ideal pocket.
Testing and Adjusting New Stringing for Personal Feel
The final and perhaps most important step after stringing a new goalie head is thoroughly testing it and making any necessary adjustments. The only way to optimize a pocket is by throwing with it extensively to determine needed tweaks for personal feel.
After stringing up a head, goalies should simulate game situations like making saves, clearing, passing, and re-directing shots. This reveals how the pocket performs under stress. Keep track of any issues like rattling, lack of control, uneven release, or collapsing.
From testing, goalies can make needed fixes. Stiff pockets can be softened by adjusting shooters or sidewall tension. Loose pockets can be tightened through new locks or tighter diamonds. Pockets releasing unevenly may need the top or sidewalls evened out.
A perfectly strung pocket straight off the jig is rare. Creating an extension of your stick requires trial and error. The beauty of lacrosse stringing is everything can be customized over time. Goalies should not get discouraged if a pattern needs tweaking.
Patience and persistence pays off when stringing up a new head. Keep adjusting, pocketing and testing until the ball moves exactly how you want from cradle to save to outlet pass. When the pocket finally clicks, the hard work will have paid dividends in newfound control and confidence in the crease.