YOU ASKED FOR IT: An Interview with STX's Chris Heim on the 2003 Heads

We've received hundreds of e-mails asking questions about the new STX heads, especially after we posted pictures of the Hype a few months ago. Chris Heim joined STX as a product developer and sales rep four years ago after learning the industry at Ulman and Bacharach. He's a 1994 graduate of Goucher in Baltimore and grew up in York, Pennsylvania. He's the guy that's at all the camps and tournaments showing STX products to kids and often stringing up special pockets for them. Chris joined us in an E-Lacrosse chat room interview and tells us everything about the new line.

E-Lacrosse: We have Chris Heim from STX with us today and we have many questions about the new line-up of STX heads. Hey Chris.

Heim: What's up John?

E-Lacrosse: I know you're spending a lot of time meeting retailers lately with the new sticks. How are they being received? I think the early pictures of the Hype, Liquid and Fuse have people very curious and Gary's been out there showing the G-force.

Heim: I have been extremely busy John! Many miles for that orange ride of mine! First of all let me express my thanks to you and all the lacrosse players out there who have e-mailed me over the course of the past few months as they've seen pictures of some of the new models. I've tried answering everyone but sometimes I know I miss one or two. Sorry if that was any of you readers! The heads are being received first with a "WOW" and secondly with a "hey it really does work!" And Gary has been showing the G-Force at camps and events all Summer as well as using it!

E-Lacrosse: STX is obviously stepping out of the traditional box with these new heads. Let's talk about each of them.

Heim: We are, and for good reason! It's time to start making the game exciting outside of just marketing efforts. We have a history of this. We started with the first plastic head, first octagonal handle, first open side wall. Since then everyone's just played off of those early design concepts, but we've been working on some of these advances for a while. So now we are ready to take the leap into the next generation of lacrosse sticks and equipment. It's important to remember we still offer the traditional heads for those that aren't down with the next generation yet, just like we have in the past, always carrying straight heads while our canted designs are still our best sellers. That's just loyalty to our designs and to our customers. What we want to do is offer sticks for every player at every level under the STX name. It starts with the Rotor, Quark and Vector (straight heads), Proton, X2 and Bionic and then the new realm Hype, G-Force, Fuse and Liquid.

E-Lacrosse: Of course. I even noticed that the Hype offers traditional stringing holes AND those for the new configuration. But let's start with the G-Force. The G-force is Gary's design, right?

Heim: Yes it is 100% Gary's design!

E-Lacrosse: He's been seen with it a lot lately and seems pretty proud of it. What are the advantages of a head designed by the best player in the modern game.

Heim: He's played and dedicated his life to this game and no one, I mean no one has done more to make this game more exciting! He's just transcending that on-the-field excitement and utilizing his unique understanding of lacrosse to bring a better stick to players. He has been showing it off, and for good reason. It's a very strong, lightweight head that's very narrow! Tough to accomplish.

E-Lacrosse: Will this stick make me play like Gary Gait?

Heim: I've seen your game John and after careful thought, no it won't. But, Gary worked for over a year to produce a head that he feels helps him better accomplish the things he does on the field. And we've all seen what he does on the field. I think it's a milestone in any industry when the best in the game puts his all into innovating the equipment. Like Michael Jordan and the basketball shoe. Gary's almost a on a mission to pass on his expertise and offer something that he feels works better. By the way, Daisy, my beagle is chewing a G-Force head right now! And if she likes it that much…well now she's chewing a golf cleat! Ehh, so much for that theory!

E-Lacrosse: Explain the ridges in the G-Force design.

Heim: The ridges are designed to give the maximum depth allowable for a side wall. The rule states no more than two inches, If you measure you'll see every peak and valley measures exactly two inches. The offset nature of the ridges allow for a deeper side wall within the rules. The ridges are also angled for better ball control and pocket sway, allowing for the ball and pocket to move as you cradle.

E-Lacrosse: I see. Less sidewall at the bottom to inhibit pocket movement.

Heim: Right.

E-Lacrosse: What is the scoop like on the G-Force

Heim: The scoop is designed to retain stiffness and rigidity for pokes and checking. It will be an extremely strong head for defensemen. The holes in the G-Force scoop are lined up with the bottom lace holes to allow leathers to be strung in a straight line for better shooting and more accurate passing. Remember Gary only uses traditional strung heads and they are making a pretty good comeback with self stringing becoming more popular!

E-Lacrosse: Does he use the G-Force to play box, as well?

Heim: He used the Rotor for half of the last NLL season, our cheapest straight head, and then he designed the Power Play which is a box head design. He said that he will use the G-Force in the Heritage Cup this weekend but we'll have to wait and see waht he uses for the NLL Season. You can also look for Gary's new helmet and some awesome indoor action this weekend! He's heading up there on Friday and just said he's feeling healthy and ready to go!

E-Lacrosse: We'll be there.

Heim: You're everywhere and somehow I figured you'd be going to this one! I'll be trying to hold off Hurricane Lili and pin down our STX Shooting Inflatable at the Lacrosse for Leukemia Tournament here in Baltimore.

E-Lacrosse: Thanks. I'll miss the Lax for Leukemia tournament for the very first time this year. It's a great event. The Power Play head seems very popular with the box guys I know. I have one and like it too, just shooting outside, though I've given up the box game in my old age.

Heim: It is a great stick and we have another ready to go as well!

E-Lacrosse: Another Box head?

Heim: Yep! Watch out Canadians. We're making it just for your game!

E-Lacrosse: That's exciting, especially while most manufacturers seem to be oblivious to the gaining popularity of boxla, even here in the DC area and southward.

Heim: Like I said earlier, we are making heads for every style and level of lacrosse player, indoor included!

E-Lacrosse: OK, let's talk about the hype. Who designed that thing?

Heim: It's my baby!

E-Lacrosse: I know. I just thought I'd let you say. Tell me about it.

Heim: The Hype is a head designed around a pocket rather then trying to make a pocket fit a head. I couldn't sleep one night and started thinking about that - designing a head around the pocket. I took the Proton, cut off the bottom sidewall and drilled holes op the side to see what kind of action I could get with a pocket. Then when I was lying in my hammock revising the original sketches I started wondering what would happen if I suspended the already tight side wall strings. I know it sounds crazy but it's true. I wanted to make the pocket sway like the hammock I was in and replace my butt with a ball. I then loosened the side walls and there it was. I re-attached the lower side wall to conform with the rules and widened it so it wouldn't get in the way. The end result, with a little help for our engineers was the Hype. It's another lightweight and very, very stiff stick that cradles the ball without allowing the ball to roam free in the pocket which often causes errant passes or delays in shots while positioning the ball.

E-Lacrosse: This offers a deeper pocket but without the effects of a deeper whip too. How does that work.

Heim: The deeper pocket doesn't mean "how far below the stick can I get the ball". The deep pocket is formed higher than most. The groove however allows the ball to come right off the shooting strings. It has, by far, the quickest release of any canted head on the market. Kids today often think a deep pocket means how far below the sidewall stringing holes can I go before its illegal. Not true! The pocket depth measurement starts where the side wall ends and not necessarily where the nylon or mesh begins.

E-Lacrosse: Exactly. We've seen some bulletin board posts from kids who did not understand that. The pockets that kids come up with to put in this head may even teach us all a few things about stringing and where it can go. I have only seen pictures of the Liquid. This is a brand new concept that allows movement beyond what we're used to. What are the advantages of that?

Heim: The ball seems to take on a life of its own when it's in the pocket. The free floating sidewall allows unison between the ball and the pocket to move as one thus allowing for better cradling. It's an extremely tight or narrow head and with free floating sidewalls the balls and pocket move as the player moves.

E-Lacrosse: Is there a special pocket on it or can any pocket be strung?

Heim: No, it works well with mesh or traditional.

E-Lacrosse: It looks like the head fits into the shaft, instead of the other way around.

Heim: It does. Good observation! It's the first of its kind! It fits in the STX Custom Alloy (C405) and Scandium handles as well as aluminum. The design allows for better leverage when you are cradling or controlling the ball! The rule states you can not touch any part of the plastic with your hand. With this extra inch you can slide your hand up and make a huge difference. We were pretty surprised with the result and have tested it in a few tournaments this past summer.

E-Lacrosse: Is it also stronger that way?

Heim: Yes it is a stronger throat because you are making the head and handle one. You first screw through the head, then through the handle and back into the head. Did that make sense?

E-Lacrosse: It does make sense. A bit of leverage offsets the pressure of a hit or check onto both the handle and the head as opposed to just the plastic of a normal head. That's great! O.K., I know kids are going to ask about the warrantee with moving parts being a new thing. Does the Liquid carry the standard STX warrantee?

Heim: Yes it is stronger because of that bond. It's layered on both sides inside and around the shaft. And yes of course our warrantee remains the same. We stand by everything we ship and produce!

E-Lacrosse: The Hype and G-Force are in the E-Lacrosse store already and we're pre-selling the Liquid and Fuse now too! When can our readers who order a Fuse or Liquid expect us to have them in the Warehouse?

Heim: In December, if all goes well, we'll be shipping the Liquids! I think the first week of January is when you'll be able to get them out to kids who order early. They're really going to love the new heads. I've spent so many hours on the road talking to kids at camps and tournaments and many of our ideas are the end result of the miles I put on the STX 4Runner. Most of these new ideas came through interaction with our customers in some form or another. We take everything they say very seriously and always design products with them in mind!

Chris's STX 4Runner
E-Lacrosse: We see that here at E-Lacrosse, too. The only way to keep customers in the creative process is to be close to them and listen well. O.K., now I've been excited for the mixed materials concept in the Fuse for a while. I got a sneak peak last year. The same materials are used for the liquid, right?

Heim: Right. The other material is an elastomer that feels and acts like rubber. It is chemically and mechanically bonded to the plastic to help deaden the ball once inside the pocket. It provides a soft feel for the ball and won't allow for rebounding or rattling of the ball when butting up against it. It's like the grippy rubber on your toothbrush!

E-Lacrosse: Didn't STX pioneer mixed material golf putters too?

Heim: Yep. If you watched the PGA Championship, Rich Beem was using a STX putter, the Sync Tour, when he won the whole enchilada. He also won a tournament a couple of weeks earlier, The International, with the same putter! I think he likes it!

E-Lacrosse: So, I think the Fuse is modeled after the Proton, my favorite head. Tell me about it. We talked some about the materials.

Heim: The Fuse was basically our way of recreating the Proton. In fact its initial product name was the P2. STX has been developing this process since I started there 4 years ago and we finally have unleashed it on the lacrosse world. It's the same material used in the Liquid and will greatly improve upon the feel of the ball when it's inside the stick, which is already very popular.

E-Lacrosse: What's your favorite of the bunch?

Heim: Hype, or the Fuse! Although I did a clinic with the G-force last weekend in St. Louis, MO. and I have to say, Gary knows a thing or two about the dynamics of a lacrosse head! The kids said it was "tight".

E-Lacrosse: With all these new technologies going into so many new heads, can we expect to see these ideas combined in future years? For example, will the mixed materials concept used on the Fuse and Liquid find its way into the Hype for 2004 or 2005? Or maybe the hype stringing option included on other heads? Isn't this just the beginning of something great?

Heim: You can definitely look for future heads to incorporate some or all of these new features plus some others. We've applied for the patents so we might as well use them! We currently have about 15 heads in development at all times. These can be considered only the tip of the iceberg. It's all about product innovation. We were the pioneers when we started the plastic craze 32 years ago and we're just looking forward to continuing it into the future.

Heim with the Hype at the STX Cockeysville Invitational

E-Lacrosse: It's a shame, but promotion has become more important than product to some unwitting consumers and, especially, new players lately.

Heim: Yeah, it sure seems that way, but most places I go I think the kids get a sense STX is listening to what they want rather than how much money we can rake in. We really spend a lot of money on product development and research rather than spending it all on advertising.

E-Lacrosse: I agree. We even touted some of the lesser expensive heads you released last year. But this year, it looks like we have some very exciting things going on in the higher end of the line.

Heim: It's most important to our beloved owner Mr. Tucker that we develop the very best quality equipment and sticks. We just want every player at every level to be able to find a stick that's perfect for his or her game and budget within the STX family of sticks.

E-Lacrosse: Well from the Rotor to the Fuse, I think that's accomplished. But what about the goalies?

Heim: We designed the Shadow as a miniature version of our best selling Eclipse. It's a scaled down version of the Eclipse designed to help younger goalies get a better feel for the stick and have more control of the oversize head.

E-Lacrosse: Is this just for kids or can an adult expert player use it?

Heim: Funny you ask. I see more goalies warming up with attack sticks nowadays, the thinking being "if I can catch the ball in that I can surely catch it in my goalie head".

E-Lacrosse: Exactly. I see that a lot. Like a warm up ring on a baseball bat.

Heim: This head can be used as a training stick for adult players. It will allow for a true goalie head feeling, pocket and all when the ball is caught. And some could choose to use it in a game! It will be a much smaller pocket and thusly a smaller target for a riding attackmen when he's clearing, thus making the goalie a force to be reckoned with once he leaves the crease.

E-Lacrosse: I think there's a trade off there that some keepers may find attractive.

Heim: Give the credit to our own Brian Dougherty for that thought! He told me he makes maybe one save a game off the plastic, everything else is in his pocket or off of his shaft. If he had freedom of choice, which he doesn't, he said he'd use it. He even warned all goalies to beware of him running down the field to get off a shot!

E-Lacrosse: I think we're gonna have him writing for us this spring. That will be interesting!

Heim: No question, there's only one Brian Dougherty. Thank God he's on our side!

E-Lacrosse: That's my thinking too. Thanks for talking to us today. I know this was time consuming. It's much appreciated by me and our readers I'm sure. I think stringers are already in high gear figuring out what these designs will mean to them and their next steps in creativity. In fact, E-Lacrosse is holding a Hype Stringing contest starting next week. I hope you and Gary will be judges with me for the contest!

Heim: No problem, I'd love to and I'll ask Gary to join in. I know he loves doing stuff for E-Lacrosse. We can send the kid an autographed G-Force stick to whoever wins. I'll autograph a Hype (LOL), but I think his name carries more weight! And I enjoyed this talk, especially because I'm excited about the products and want kids who read E-Lacrosse to understand the functionality involved. I've read some of the feedback from the message board and I hear what your fans are saying! Hopefully, they like the stuff and if they ever have any questions or problems they can always call me or email me directly at STX. I do whatever I can to help!

E-Lacrosse: I know you do. And we appreciate it. I understand you'll be available for a follow up to this interview in a chat session on E-Lacrosse with our readers sometime in the next few weeks. That will be a great session for them to ask any remaining questions and we'll post it on the front page with plenty of notice. We'll see you then!

Heim: I'll be there! Thanks John!

E-Lacrosse: Thanks Heim!


Carc's sporting the new REBEL/STX Uniforms!

October 4, 2002