Question: Dear Jonathen,
thank you for all the good advice you keep giving through all of your blogs. I’m going into high school next year and i’ve been playing goal pretty much ever since i started playing lacrosse eight years ago. I have not always owned my own stick but for about three years now I have. Last year my stick broke in the cold weather. So I kept the shaft and got a new head and restrung it with hard mesh. This is my new backup stick and for the other stick I got a new head and stick and transferred the mesh I’d always had, which was soft, into it. Now i have gotten that stick restrung with soft mesh again because i have never been able to get my hard mesh broken in permantley. Last summer I attended a camp were Billy Day ( the head coach of the boston cannons) broke it in for me. This was in august though and i found my self in the one month of the whole year were i don’t pick up a stick every week. By the time i returned to the game the mesh had become hard and tight again. Ever since i haven’t had enough time to work on the stick and am afraid to use it practice because i have serious coaches who don’t like bad clears which i seem to make with the stick or blocked shots that bounce back off of my stick which feels like a tennis racket! I know the weight trick and the shower trick to break a stick in I’m just wondering if you have any advice on how to keep the stick permanatly broken in. Thank you so much,
Answer: Great question and thanks for all of the details they help me to picture exactly what is going on.
What Billy did for you was just work the heck out of that mesh most likely. Mesh tends to stiffen up after a while. For me now, I pick up a stick every month or so for demonstrations. Even then I can feel that the mesh has stiffened up. But after a while, a few shots, and some good workings with my hands and gloves it comes back to it’s old self and will throw consistently.
To “work” your mesh you can just take your hand (with your glove on) and punch the mesh, both from the front side of the stick but also from the back side. You’re trying to work that mesh from both angles so that it softens up.
You can also spray it with a water bottle each time you play. This will loosen things up, but they will again stiffen up after you let the stick dry, so you’ll have to do it again the next time you play.
For most of the goalies I talk to who are women I find that they all suffer from lack of hand and upper body strength. These are critical for managing the stick when you play. Both for cradling and clearing, as well as catching the ball on a save and not giving up a rebound. With that in mind, I recommend that you go with a soft mesh, OR a large diamond pocket. With the large diamond pocket (12 or 10 diamonds) you also need a level of strength to throw the ball, but as for cradling and controling rebounds these tend to work well. While the soft mesh works well for a while, when it gets wet it tightens up and turns into a tennis racket.
Remember this though, your sticks will change, your pockets will change, but you always stay the same. You will get to the point where you should be able to make two passes with a new stick and know just what you need to do to adjust to that stick. If I pick up a stick and it has a whip, I adjust my throws higher to get the same result. Same with a stick that is shallow. A couple of throws and my release is lower to get the same result. ( And I know I have to be extra soft with my hands to control those rebounds.)
To be totally honest, I have never found sticks to stay “permanently” broken in. They are a woven fibre so they get loose, they stiffen up. The only constant is that we have to adjust. I will say that as I’ve gotten older I have learned to understand how to adjust when they change and that is something that you will get used to as you play more.
You should use your new stick (the one that needs breaking in) in your warm ups and in passing prior to the critical points in practice. You can also warm up with your back up stick in games as well and then go to your “game” stick once the game starts. This helps you preserve that game pocket as long as possible once you have it just the way you want it.
Hope that helps Kate. Thanks for writing and good luck. Let me know if you need anything else.