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The Stick Doctor: Lessons from Stick Stringing.

“Stick Tweak”  2008.  8×12 inches.  Pen & Ink on heavy drawing paper.


(Writer’s Note:  This post is almost a year late and I promised Connor Wilson this write-up considering his stringing expertise!  You should see his crazy strings…)


“Lacrosse is an expensive sport, but it’s cheaper than seeing a shrink.”

My parents told me during my early teen years that if I wanted to play lacrosse, most of the expenses would have to come out of my own pocket.  A lot of that came from multiple summer jobs.  Looking back, it taught me how to work very hard for the things I wanted in a material world and the value of hard earned money overall.  But that discipline introduced me to a very important skill in the sport of lacrosse – stringing a stick.

A few summers ago, a parent asked me a while back to explain why stringing a stick is so important?  My answer was “what will you do when your child’s pocket rips… buy him a new stick, each and every time?”  I don’t think he still got the idea.

“If life gives you Lemons, you make Lemonade.”

I remember that “cheesy” quote coming from my 5th grade reading teacher, but when you’re in a New England boarding school in the middle of nowhere, without the Internet (back then) and no lacrosse stores in sight – you just tend to pay more attention to your lacrosse sticks and equipment.  I just remember sitting in my dorm room/common area reading the directions from the stringing kit(s).  You know, that booklet/program stapled together?  They all come with them!

While referring to a “factory strung” stick, I would master the leathers one day, then the sidewalls the next.  Cross laces – a few weeks, or months.  Yes, we are talking about “traditional stringing” here.  Shooter strings depended on my release point and the amount of “whip”.  The same things went when stringing a mesh pocket.  It was VERY frustrating and annoying but eventually things started to form.  Each component took their amount of time and created a certain hardship until I got them right without referring to the manual(s).

“$15 and a can of Coke!”

I was known as a “Stick Doctor” on my team and the requests came to either string or fix a pocket in return for some money, cans of soda or cups of instant ramen noodles (which were considered GOLD in boarding school life).  I was happy not only to maintain my stringing skills but also to make the service into some sort of business.  And since it became some sort of “business” I had to meet the customer’s deadline while getting my homework done.  Mastering time management soon developed from that experience.  In retrospect, I can honestly admit to learning “the ropes” of understanding personal responsibility when starting AND running your own business, instead of working for one.  They are entirely polar opposites.

Developing a STYLE.

“Don’t look for a style.  Let if find you, again and again as it deepens and grows in richness, and as to your style, your friends will recognize it, you won’t, unless you stole someone else’s.  Style comes to you when it is ready and it comes as inevitably as sweat on a July day.” – Charles Goslin (Pratt Institute. Former professor of design. Feb 23, 1932 – May 16, 2007)

Looking back at those stringing manuals, the one thing they forget to mention is that there is NO RIGHT STYLE or ONE STYLE.  It’s all about developing a style that is RIGHT FOR YOU – THE PLAYER.  Stringing sticks for almost 20 years, I’m still open to learning different styles and techniques.  You never stop learning and finding good habits.  It’s also like the engineering components of a bridge or the different positions on the lacrosse field.  Whether it was a leather, nylon, shooter or mesh, they were all important in the development of a pocket.  They all count.

The parent in the beginning of this story still wasn’t convinced about the benefits of stringing your own stick.  I, on the other hand, am not convinced that always buying a new stick is the answer, no matter how much money one possesses.

“What’s so important about stringing a stick?” the parent asked.

My response was honest and direct.

“Stringing a stick, is the best thing you can do for your lacrosse game, while sitting on your @$$!


The following photos are my stringing techniques for an STX Eclipse with hard-mesh and “open sidewalls” for a channel when throwing.

1) Find and start in the middle, or the center point!  Yes, it can be done…

2) Work from the center point going out towards the left/right sides.  This helps with symmetry and balance.

3) Tie off the ends points once reached.

4) Building the “herringbone/truss pattern” a.k.a. “open sidewall”.

5) After reaching the top from bottom, pull through at one of the first sidewall/shooter holes.

6) The start of the “truss pattern”.

7) The finished side.

8) Go to the next sidewall and repeat process.

9) The finished “open sidewalls”.

10) Add some “shooters”.  Here, I like my standard two, hockey laces, three rows from the top and three rows separating the two.

10) This is what the final product looks like for me.  Keep in mind that this is my style and throws with the amount of “whip” that compliment my “release points” when throwing.

Good luck.


  1. Your point about style is really important.  I’ve been stringing for a long time too and I’m always tweaking my pattern and trying new things.  
    A players relationship with their stick is one of the most unique things about lacrosse.  Even if someone doesn’t string their own stick, they need to know how to adjust it and maintain it.  
    Great post.    

  2. Speak it, tell it, preach it, brother Vinnie. There is no such thing as incorrect style as long as the fundamentals are correct (pocket tight to the scoop, tight sidewall, shooters ramping for the preferred amount of whip, etc.) and this style doesn’t impact performance. My favorite example of this is Ulman custom pockets (defunct Maryland mailorder outfit) from the 80s and 90s: he started his sidewall knots from the INSIDE of the topmost hole of the head (knots were tiny so they did not impact the ball in any way). The kids from a certain stringing forum would probably fall over themselves to tell a legend that he was doing his sidewalls backwards and/or wrong.

    1. HAHA!  I remember Jim Ulman and Ulman Lacrosse Co. well.  The owner’s son, Clay, and myself were teammates at the John’s Hopkins Blue Jay lacrosse camp in the summer of ’93.  His dad would show up and have all these give aways and boxes of pizza.  I remember one of Ulman’s stringing styles of nylons running vertically thru hard/soft mesh pockets – enabling a tracking system of some sort so the pass/shot would have pin-point accuracy.   When I returned home, I tried to do something like that on my goalie stick but it added more weight and I think I ruined the pocket as well!

      I can go on forever!  :o)

  3. A goalie head! Finally! Someone who deals with goalies. We’re fairly new to the game – my kid is in 6th grade – and he LOVES being a goalie. In fact, it’s the only thing he wants to do. Now he wants to try stringing his own heads and I’m so happy to see this article so I can show him. Do you think 11 yrs old is too young to do that sort of thing? He’s on his 3rd goalie stick (he torqued one so badly that the shaft bent) and they are getting expensive.

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