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String Theory: How to Achieve the Perfect Pocket
Scotland native Charlie Shearer is practically international stringing royalty - women’s lacrosse players come from all over Europe to have him string their pockets. He's so good he landed gigs stringing for Team England and Team Scotland. Official stringer for the women's national teams - who even knew that was a job?? #stringinggoals
Ahead of the FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, we asked Charlie to share a few of his stringing secrets:
You string pockets for some of the top players in the world – when you got started, did you have any idea that it would turn into a career?
I played lacrosse for 10 years, so I’ve been around the game for quite some time. About three years ago, I started to teach myself how to string women’s pockets. It originally started as a hobby, but through social media, working with different athletes and attending events, I earned a reputation for stringing some of the best international legal pockets. Through those connections, I’ve had some really amazing opportunities come my way, like working with Team England and Team Scotland.
Let’s talk about your stringing process - what’s the first step?
Get to know the player – Effective stringing isn’t cookie cutter, it’s individualized to each player. I always spend the first bit getting to know the player – talking to her, talking to her teammates, and watching film or a live game. I need to know and understand an athlete’s style of play in order to determine specifics like what material to use, number of diamonds to incorporate, and whether to recommend the STX Launch or Runway Pocket.
The perfect pocket is going to complement a player’s strengths and supplement the weak spots so, in my mind, learning the athlete is the first and most important step in the process.
Power player - For players who are attack-focused and tend to rely on their own natural power to make the shot, I typically recommend the Launch Pocket.
The go-getter - Players who like to run straight through the line of opposition need a stronger hold when moving the ball up the pitch – in those cases, the Runway Pocket is the best choice.
Once you’ve gotten to know the player and determined the right pocket, what’s next?
Stringing time – Now for the best part – actually stringing the pocket! To get started, I always use sidewalls and a removable top string. This helps maintain the size of the diamonds and also acts as a failsafe, should you need to replace any parts in the future due to wear and tear.
How do you approach stringing the Launch Pocket vs. the Runway Pocket?
The Launch – I’ve found that the Launch is designed to naturally take an 8-diamond pocket. Going with the 8-diamond improves the hold of the pocket and makes it more forgiving when a player is catching, while still retaining the speed needed for shooting.
The Runway - On the other hand, I’ve found that a 10-diamond pocket is the best option for the Runway. The 10-diamond has great hold and creates a stiffness that allows you to rip a shot or a hard pass with high precision.
There’s an art to stringing and forming those diamonds – what’s the secret?
From the outside, working in – Every stringer has a signature style, which is one of the things I love about the stringing world. It's always cool to see someone's unique touch and approach. Personally, I opt to start on the outer portions of the diamonds, working from the bottom up on each side and then finishing off the insides together. This helps to create an even tension across the whole head.
You’ve cut your diamonds – now it’s time to add the shooters. Any tips on how to control the release?
It’s on U - For a super smooth release, place both the straight and the ‘U’ high up in the pocket. If you prefer to feel the ball come off the shooter, you can position the ‘U’ a little lower – this is something you have to play around with a bit to see what suits your playing style, while maintaining accuracy.
Post-stringing, how can players take care of their pocket?
Break it in - It’s super important to take the time to break it in, properly. Cord, cross lace, leathers - those are materials that stretch. To allow the pocket to bed gradually, I recommend getting in several hours of wall ball before making harder passes and shots.
Keep an eye on pocket depth - If you consistently check the pocket depth and correct it after each use, you’re going to have a pocket with killer performance. To alter the depth, I recommend placing a ball in the stick, tightening the leathers first, and then working the Launch or Runway. This will help maintain the pocket channel.
Looking for the perfect stick to go with your fresh pocket? Check out the STX Crux i, reviewed and approved by English lax girl Lucy Ford.
For regular stringing updates and tips, follow Charlie on Instagram!