Many lacrosse goalies starting out have the question: how deep should my pocket be?
The answer is a little more complex than simply naming the number of balls of depth each goalie head should have built into their pocket.
Deep pockets and shallow pockets both come with a set of pros and cons. So its important to understand the tradeoff before deciding how deep your pocket should be.
At the bottom of this post I share some tips to make your pocket deeper or shallower if your wand is in need of an adjustment.
Ideal Pocket Depth for Goalie Heads
First let’s explore the trade offs between a shallow pocket (1-2 ball of depth) and a deep pocket (more than 4 balls of depth).
A deep pocket is going to prevent rebounds better than a shallow pocket.
Here’s an example of a deep pocket (probably around 4 balls of depth):
When a fast shot hits a shallow pocket its more likely to bounce out like a tennis racket or trampoline whereas the deeper pocket will absorb some of the velocity and often entangle the ball like a fishing net thereby eliminating the rebound.
A deep pocket with a properly formed channel is also going to be a lot easier to cradle with. As the goalie goes through the cradling motion, the ball will stay put in the channel. In the shallow pocket the ball rolls around while we’re cradling. At worst the ball can simply pop out of a shallow pocket while cradling.
So why not use a deep pocket in every goalie stick?
Well deep pockets are harder to throw with than shallow pockets.
Making accurate clearing passes is a crucial aspect of a goalie’s game and once a pocket reaches a certain depth it becomes a nightmare to throw with.
Throwing long distances with accuracy is a tough task with a deep pocket. As a high school goalie it’d be a shame to see a wide open middie at midfield and have to bypass that outlet because you know your stick can’t throw that far or that accurate.
The other thing with a deep pocket is that your release is slower. Shallow pockets release quicker and can help you nail a streaking middie even if there’s only a small window of time when he’s open.
Here’s an example of a shallower pocket at about 2 balls of depth:
Note: Those excess shooting strings should definitely be trimmed.
So there’s a tradeoff between shallow and deep when it comes to pockets. Shallow pockets throw and shoot better but give up more rebounds and are harder to cradle with.
Ultimately, then its up to the individual goalie as to what they prefer.
As I’ve analyzed the stick setups of MLL players the majority tend to favor deep pockets. Probably because the shots they face are so fast that even feathery-soft hands are not enough to prevent rebounds with a shallower pocket.
When you look at top high school and NCAA goalies their pockets are definitely a little shallower and range anywhere from 2-3 balls deep on average.
How Are Your Hands?
Another factor that goes into choosing your pocket depth is the goalie’s hands.
A goalie with soft hands can get away with a shallower pocket.
The soft hands absorb the impact of the shot and don’t produce many rebounds. Then you get the benefits of a shallow pocket without giving up a lot of rebounds.
If you don’t have soft hands – first try these goalie drills and then consider using a deeper pocket.
How to Make a Deeper Pocket
Let’s now assume your pocket is too shallow and you’d like to add some depth. How do you go about doing that?
There are several methods I’ve used and seen used in my goalie career. Here they are.
Many goalie string jobs will gain depth as the mesh gets stretched out. Especially if you have new mesh you can easily give your pocket depth by pounding it.
Lot’s of different methods to pound a pocket – lacrosse ball, butt end of another stick, fist – and they can all get the job done.
Warrior even makes a device called the Pocket Pounder built just for this task.
Wet the Mesh
If a good old-fashioned pound job doesn’t give you the desired depth than you can try soaking the mesh.
One player I coached soaked the mesh and then hung a soup can from the mesh hanging down. When it dried overnight it stretched his mesh to create more depth.
You can also leave heavy rocks or weighted lacrosse balls in the pocket to help it form and gain depth while it dries.
After getting the mesh wet you also then attempt to pound it to give it the additional depth you’re looking for.
Adjust Sidewall Strings
Finally if those two methods don’t work you can deepen a pocket by adjusting the sidewall strings.
Undo the knot at the bottom of the sidewall string and start introducing a tiny bit of slack all the way up.
I recommend everyone watch ECD Greg’s video below on goalie pocket theory before making adjustments. You still want to keep the top and bottom parts of the mesh tighter than the middle to create a channel.
Loosening the sidewalls will deepen the pocket. Start slow so as not to over correct.
How to Make a Goalie Pocket Shallower
Now let’s discuss the opposite. Where your pocket is too deep and you’d like to make it shallower.
Adjust Sidewall Strings
We really only have the one option to make our pocket shallower – tightening up the sidewalls.
If your pocket has bagged out from wear and tear or its just too deep to begin with you can adjust the sidewall strings to reduce depth.
Start from the top of the sidewall and pull the strings that attach the mesh to the head tighter. Work your way down the sidewall until you get to the bottom where you have a piece of string that is the slack you took out of the sidewall. Just tie a knot at the bottom replacing where the old knot was.
You still want to keep the top part of the mesh and the bottom part of the mesh tighter than the middle part of the mesh. This will help create a nice channel that controls the ball while cradling.
Watch this goalie pocket theory video from East Coast Dyes to understand what I mean:
Tightening the sidewall strings is pretty much the only method I know of to make the goalie pocket shallower. If you know of another method, leave me a comment down below.
Determining a pocket depth for goalies is really based on your style.
It’s important to have a stick that is deep enough to eliminate rebounds, but not so deep that you cannot throw accurate outlet passes after your saves. It’s going to have to be your experience to find that gray area so that you can do both, because saving shots and clearing are equally important.
I personally go with a pocket that’s a little shallower at about 3 balls of depth. Seems to me to be the sweet spot between throwing great outlets and handling well and not giving up rebounds.
Until next time! Coach Damon
What depth do you use in your goalie pocket? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment down below.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.