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There isn’t another sport quite like lacrosse, both with its storied history and how it’s played. The speed and contact mixed with athleticism and physicality is unlike any other sport.
Lacrosse is a great sport and there’s no better time than now to get into the game with how fast it’s growing.
In comparison to other sports, lacrosse requires a lot of equipment to be successful and safe on the field. This guide will go over all the required lacrosse gear so you know exactly what you need and how it works.
Parts of a Lacrosse Stick
The most important weapon on the field aside from your own athleticism and lacrosse IQ is the one in your two hands. Your stick (or “spoon” as some call it) has two main components (the head and the shaft) that themselves have smaller but very important elements, from mesh to shooting strings to butt ends.
If any of this gets overwhelming, do not fret—there are complete sticks available from the beginner up through intermediate levels that include both a head and shaft to make buying a stick easier.
Typical price: $50 – $100
The head is the plastic and mesh at the top of your stick. It is your third arm by which you pass, catch, and shoot with and use to check opponents’ sticks.
The main components of a lacrosse head are the scoop at the very top, the sidewalls that connect the scoop to the throat, which is where the head connects to the shaft. There is also a ball stop at the very bottom of the head that sits on the throat to stop any passes from cracking the plastic.
The frame of lacrosse heads are made of advanced plastics that are typically somewhat flexible but durable. Different companies employ their own blends to keep your head shape and feel reliable.
The mesh is primarily nylon or a nylon blend. Most players opt for using mesh pockets, but there are those few players that channel the original spirit of the sport in a more “traditional” stringing that uses leather and string instead.
Here is a breakdown of the differences in heads between lacrosse positions:
Narrow face shape for better ball retention for attackmen that carry the ball a lot. Often have an offset lower on the head that promotes low pockets.
Typically have a narrow face shape for ball retention and an offset around halfway up the head to promote mid pockets that are better for outside shooting.
Typically have wider face shapes to provide more surface area for blocking passing lanes and laying checks. Typically very stiff.
Faceoff-specific heads use special plastics and shapes to better flex around the ball on faceoffs and snap back into place after. Note that any head can be used for faceoffs—there is no requirement to use a “faceoff head.”
This is the departure from the rest—a goalie’s head is much wider than a normal head. The head more resembles a tennis racket than a normal field player’s head. This allows for the largest surface area possible for the keeper to save shots.
The last big difference comes between girls and boys lacrosse. Since girls lacrosse has much less contact than the guys game, the heads are only allowed to have very shallow pockets. To counter this, advanced girls lacrosse heads often have dramatic offsets to allow for more control. Learn more in our girls lacrosse heads guide or girls lacrosse sticks guide.
Lacrosse Mesh & Strings
Typical price: $10 – $30 depending on if you buy a full stringing kit or have spools of string
It’s difficult to rank the components of your stick in order of importance but the string job is right up towards the top. You can have the most advanced head in the game, but if your string job sucks, you’ll be at a big disadvantage.
Hold & Whip of Lacrosse Pockets
You want a pocket that provides good hold (how well the pocket holds onto the ball) and matches your desired level of whip (essentially how much your stick throws the ball towards the ground).
Typically, hold and whip go hand-in-hand. If you have a lot of hold, you’ll likely have a lot of whip as well. Beginners typically opt for very little whip as they get used to the game while more advanced players may use more whip to allow them to get more power on shots.
Parts of the Pocket
The actual parts of a pocket include:
- Top string (string connecting the mesh to the scoop)
- Sidewall strings (string connecting the mesh to the sidewalls)
- Bottom string (string connecting the mesh to the throat of the head)
- Shooter strings (Shoelace-looking strings that go across the mesh)
There are different types of mesh based on how many diamonds are in each row (10-diamond, 6-diamond, etc.), but 95% of players use 10-diamond mesh which is pretty much the standard.
In terms of top, sidewall, and bottom strings, you can typically just use sidewall string for each. You can buy sidewall string in a large spool (if you string a lot), in individual pieces (if you just need strings for one string job), or in a full stringing kit that includes mesh and all the strings you need for a head.
I always recommend that players learn to string their sticks as early as possible. While this is definitely challenging to get the hang of, once you know how, it makes it way easier to adjust your pocket when needed to make sure it always throws how you like.
There are a lot of good tutorials on YouTube that can help you learn to string. Beginners may want to get a professional string job done on their primary stick and practice stringing on an older head until they can get it to throw similar to the professionally strung head.
If you’re not interested in learning to string, you can also buy pre-strung heads at your local retailer or online. They may lack the personal touch of your own stringing but are a pretty good catchall for the majority of players. You can also ask your coaches or other players on the team to see if any string sticks.
Finally, shooting strings are used to fine-tune your pocket to release the ball like you want. Adjusting the shooting strings, for example, can change the whip in your pocket (tighter = more whip and vice-versa).
What Kinds of Pockets are Legal?
To get into the legality of a string job, the boy’s game has something called the daylight rule. Refs will check to make sure there is no daylight between the top of the ball in your pocket and bottom of the sidewall when placed in your stick. You’ll see these types of stick checks following goals and done at random during a game.
For the girl’s game, the legality is measured differently given that the pocket is shallower. A portion of the ball must be visible over the sidewall when held in the pocket. Additionally, shooter strings have to touch the plastic frame to avoid any added flexibility to the mesh during play.
This section covers the basics of lacrosse pockets, but once you’re a bit more comfortable with the game, do yourself a favor and dive deep into the well of pocket types because there are a lot of crazy string jobs out there worth checking out.
Typical price: $50 – $250 depending on length and quality
The shaft might be the least overwhelming component to purchase when it comes to a lacrosse stick. The shaft needs little introduction—it’s the metal or carbon fiber pole you hold when playing.
The shaft attaches to your head via screws at the throat of the head. While almost any head will fit any shaft, you may have to drill a new hole in the shaft so the throat hole matches up perfectly. The only exception for when heads and shafts may not fit together is if you’re using a head with a throat plug (mostly only in faceoff heads) and a solid carbon fiber shaft.
The opposite end of the shaft is the butt end is essentially just a plastic cap that goes over the sharp edge. Most shafts will come with a butt end, but if yours doesn’t, you can typically buy one for a few bucks.
Materials & Shapes
Most shafts are made of metal alloys (such as Scandium and Titanium) or carbon fiber. There is no answer for which is better—it really comes down to preference and feel.
The shaft can also take on different shapes in its design as well (octagonal, concave, rounded, etc.). This is another preference thing—which is best for you is simply which you’re the most comfortable with.
What to Consider
When looking for a stick, weight and durability are the things you’ll want to consider. You want something that’s light but strong. Defensive players, especially, should look for strong and durable shafts that won’t break when laying checks.
Additionally, grip is something to consider even with your gloves on. A lot of newer shafts add a texturing element to their sticks at the traditional grip points. But, in case you settle on a stick without the added coating, you can always buy a bit of tape to go with your shaft and customize your grip points yourself.
Now, to the most obvious differences between shafts—the different lengths. Attack and middie sticks are shorter (30 inches) than their defensive counterparts (60 inches). Goalies can use shafts anywhere from 30 to 60 inches, though most opt for shafts in the 30 to 40-inch range.
Protective Equipment That’s Needed for Lacrosse
Since lacrosse includes whacking each other with sticks and hard body checks, players need to wear protective equipment to stay safe while playing this high-contact sport.
The boys game requires a helmet, shoulder pads, arm pads, and gloves. The girls game, on the other hand, only requires goggles.
Here’s a deeper look into each:
Typical price: $100 – $300
This might be the first piece of protective equipment you notice on a lacrosse player. A lacrosse helmet is a full cage helmet with a chin strap, caught somewhere between a football and hockey goaltender mask. A mouthpiece is also a necessary addition for most leagues.
Goalies lacrosse helmets are standard helmets but also have an additional throat protector that hangs off the front of the helmet. This is an important (and required) piece for those who play between the pipes.
Lacrosse Shoulder Pads
Typical price: $40 – $150
Lacrosse shoulder pads are not quite as clunky as football pads and come in two main types. Full shoulder pads provide coverage from the tops of your shoulder to the bottom of your sternum normally. They are a better option for attackmen and middies that often find themselves on the receiving end of contact.
Shoulder pad liners are another option at a much more stripped-down degree of protection. Liners normally run along the sternum without as much padding in areas beyond (shoulders, upper arm, etc.). Liners provide a wider range of motion and are a great option for players that are primarily on the defensive side of the ball or for advanced players (college, pros, etc.).
Lacrosse Arm Pads
Typical price: $30 – $130
Moving down from the shoulder, there is a lot of valuable, meaty real estate that needs protection and some arm pads are just what the doctor ordered.
There are three main types of arm protection in lacrosse:
- Arm guards – Offer the most protection; mostly used by attackmen
- Arm pads – Offer a medium amount of protection; mostly used by middies
- Elbow pads – Offer minimal protection (mostly just the elbow); mostly used by defensive players
Typical price: $30 – $200
And this brings us to the hands…the always enjoyable purchase of the gloves. The options are plentiful and designs can start to feel like a throwback to the days of Beanie Babies in terms of their “collectibility.”
In terms of what you should look for in new lacrosse gloves, the most important thing outside of protection is how comfortable they are. You should have a good feel of your stick while wearing them and shouldn’t feel that your hand and wrist mobility is restricted. This ultimately comes down to trial and error, and like any glove, a bit of breaking in is typically required.
Pro tip: look for a stick that provides extra padding around the thumb as well. This tends to be an area that likes to get hit and you’ll be thankful for the added cushion.
Lacrosse Rib Pads (Optional)
Typical price: $20 – $70
Lacrosse rib pads are optional extra protection for those who constantly find themselves in the middle of the action or for box lacrosse players.
As someone who’s suffered cracked ribs on the field, I always wished I wore rib pads. They are great for younger players, those who are susceptible to rib injuries, and players who carry the ball a lot.
Lacrosse Chest Protector (Goalies Only)
Typical price: $80 – $200
The warriors between the pipes may not have to deal with arm pads and shoulder pads but they do need to invest in a chest protector to absorb the shots they’ll soak up over the course of a game.
The chest protector is essentially a flak jacket that provides coverage to a keeper’s organs and other vulnerable bits along the torso. This is a non-negotiable purchase if you plan to play between the pipes.
Lacrosse Cleats or Turf Shoes
Typical price: $40 – $130
Not quite “protective” per se but no less essential to success on the field. Lacrosse specific-cleats may not have as many options as their football counterparts but their specialized design meets all of the stress and movements every field player will make.
Cleats are the best option for those players who find themselves frequenting grass fields with usefulness on turf as well. Turf shoes are a great supplement to those who may also find themselves on turf regularly as well.
Lacrosse Goggles or Headgear (Girls Only)
Typical price: $30 – $90 for Goggles, ~$150 for Headgear
For the only bit of protection for field players in the girls game, we look no further than goggles and headgear options that protect one of the most essential tools of all: your vision.
Goggles are pretty much what you’d expect but with a caged element over the eyes themselves, similar to what you’d see on a helmet.
Headgear employs the same coverage as the goggles but with an added shell over the top of the head to provide even more protection. While the vast majority of girls lacrosse players use goggles, headgear has become more popular in recent years—especially for girls with a history of concussions.
Lacrosse Gear Checklist
To make life a bit easier on you, here’s a complete checklist of everything you’ll need:
Boys Lacrosse Gear Checklist
Girls Lacrosse Gear Checklist
Lacrosse Goalie Gear Checklist
A Note on Lacrosse Equipment Pricing
As you can see above, the prices of lacrosse equipment come in a very wide range.
Like most sports, there is equipment of varying quality for all levels of play. Beginner equipment is almost always cheaper than advanced equipment, and within one category of equipment (such as advanced), there are many different levels of quality and costs.
If you’re looking to save on equipment you can check out used equipment from a site like Sideline Swap or a local second-hand sporting goods store. You can also ask coaches or other parents if they know of anyone with extra equipment.
Finally, there are lacrosse equipment starter sets designed mostly for beginners and young players that include all the necessary equipment to play.
Good Lacrosse Companies to Buy Equipment From
Like every other sport, lacrosse players have their favorite company/companies to get gear from. But unlike every other sport, the lacrosse equipment market continues to expand year after year with companies specializing in a range of areas popping up constantly.
There are companies that focus solely on shafts, others that just make mesh, and many that provide the full range of lacrosse equipment.
With so many options for buying lax gear, it’s always best to look at reviews and get input from your teammates to find the best options. We also have extensive buying guides that you can find links to throughout this guide and in our menu.
Here’s a list of the most reputable lacrosse companies available today:
- ECD (East Coast Dyes)
- Cascade (helmets)
- Under Armour