The face-off is a part of the game that is unique to the sport of lacrosse. It requires skill, knowledge, quickness and anticipation to be successful. A good face-off player can dictate the pace and course of a game, he can also change the outcome of a game in a matter of seconds.
Face-off sticks depend completely upon the player and their technique. There is a stick that fits each player and their style and quickness. In this article e-lacrosse will touch upon a number of sticks, stick features, pockets and techniques.
First, we'll look at the things a face-off player should look into and why when it comes to choosing a stick. Then we'll examine some popular face-off heads and why they work. An analysis of pockets and how they can help or hinder a face-off player will follow. And lastly, we'll show you a state-of-the-art stringing technique used by a few of the game's best.
THE ELEMENTS OF A FACE-OFF HEAD
Long vs. Short Head
Long head: This can be advantageous for both offensive and defensive purposes. A long head is great for moves that go up and down the line. This is because there is simply more area to clamp and push the ball with. This extra area also means that if a player with longer head faces a quicker opponent that they have an advantage in that it is harder to push the ball around a longer head.
Short head: This is advantageous to a face-off player with quick hands and speedy moves. It allows less of a chance of getting caught up on his opponents head when pulling away from the face-off X. It can also work well if a player clamps and rotates the scoop of the head over the ball.
Narrow vs. Wide Head
Narrow head: A narrow throat is a must for a majority of face-off players. The narrower the head, the less time it takes to get the head over the ball and the ball into the back of your pocket. A narrow head gives a great advantage when using most conventional face-off moves such as clamps, pushes, jumps and rakes.
Wide head: While most players see a wide head as a disadvantage some can use a wide head to their benefit. Players that like to use their fingers to grab the opponents head or players that like to jump over the ball with their head or hand and arm can use the wide head as a block to keep their opponent from sneaking under their jam to get the ball.
Flexible vs. Stiff Head
Flexible head: A flexible head can be good if after it flexes it returns to its normal shape. A face-off player does not want his head to flex to the side when taking a draw, only to stand up and have a crooked head that makes picking up the ball difficult. A flexible head allows a player to place the head flush to the ground at the start of the face-off and then to have the stick bend in order to get a slingshot effect when pushing or pulling the ball out and away from his opponents stick.
Stiff head: A stiff head is great for a player that uses his strength on a face-off and does not want to have his head move or bend due to his opponent shoving their stick against his. Many players prefer stiff heads for face-offs that involve lots of stick on stick contact.
Offset vs. Straight Head
Offset head: Offset heads have been so popular lately that it seems everybody uses them, however, not too many people use them for specific face-off purposes. Some players do like the manner in which the offset head brings the throat of the stick further away from the ball while the side-wall can be millimeters from the ball. This allows a player to use their right hand to push their opponents stick off the ball when they first get the clamp because their hand is higher off the ground due to the offset head.
Straight Head: The traditional straight head can still be spotted upon sticks of pure face-off specialists. It allows the player to get his right hand as closer to the ball when compared with an offset head. This allows the player to get his hand into the action of a draw just as quickly as his stick is involved.
2 inch sidewall vs. smaller sidewall
2 inch sidewall: This has become the standard for most sticks on the market today. The large sidewall adds to a stick's stiffness and durability. Both are important qualities in a good face-off stick.
Smaller sidewall: A smaller sidewall means that the inside of the stick is a little closer the ball on a draw. This may give an advantage to a player with quick hands and a quick jump or clamp.
Thick throat and collar vs. thin throat and collar.
Thick throat and collar: This adds to the strength of a head and allows the player to use that to his advantage when taking draws. However, a thick collar means that the player cannot as comfortably sneak their right hand onto the plastic of the throat before a face-off.
Thin throat and collar: This allows the player to put their right hand onto the plastic before the whistle blows. The player can then better feel the flex of the throat of the stick after clamping onto the ball or his opponents stick.
These are the elements of a plastic head that are taken into consideration when studying a face-off head. Now we'll look at some popular heads, who uses them, and what advantages they hold at the face-off X. You can do the math and figure out what combination of elements are important to you and your style of play.
THE HEAD BREAKDOWN
This head was used by NCAA face-off specialists such as Jamie Hanford (Loyola) and David Jenkins (UVA).
The facts: Stiff, narrow throat and collar, long in length, and 2 inch sidewall. This stick is available in an offset and non-offset model called the Aftershock.
Mohawk Thunder and Lightning sticks:
These heads can be seen on some of the NLL's premier face-off men.
The facts: Stiff, large sidewall and long head, similar in shape to the shock wave except for the fact that the sidewalls have a lower profile and the scoop is squared off. Also has a thin and narrow throat.
A classic head still used by face-off enthusiasts. Can still be spotted in the NCAA (Duke's face-off specialist) as well as in club and box lacrosse at the X.
The facts: Stiff, large 2 inch sidewalls, short in length, wide throat and collar, non-offset.
A new favorite amongst STX equipped face-off men. Was used last season by Hopkins' face-off All American Eric Wedin. Also a new favorite of Excalibur fans.
The facts: Stiff, large 2 inch sidewalls, short in length, wide throat and collar, offset head.
Another great classic redone for the 2000's. Used by old school face-off players at every level.
The facts: Flexible head, small sidewalls, long in length, narrow throat and collar, offset (one of the only changes from the original SL).
This stick is a must have for many players. It could be seen on the shaft of Towson's face-off man Justin Berry.
The facts: Short head, 2 inch sidewall, fairly narrow throat and collar, fairly stiff, offset.
A secret weapon of the NCAA's best face-off man Chris Cercey.
The facts: Similar in shape to the Brine Edge without the offset. Later we'll give you details on how to make your Edge or Oz tough to beat at the X.
A new favorite amongst the MLL face-off men who had to convert to a Warrior stick for the Summer.
The facts: Flexible, short head, 2 inch sidewall (with curves), narrow throat and collar, offset.
Warrior Evolution and Revolution:
Can be found on the shafts of Baltimore Bayhawks face-off unit of Paul Cantebene and Rob Doerr. A favorite amongst many players.
The facts: Stiff, short Head, 2 inch sidewall, narrow throat and collar.
Learn to string these great E-Lacrosse Pockets!
Can there be such a thing as an ideal face-off pocket? E-lacrosse has found that you can alter your pocket in ways to help or hinder your face-off ability. We'll give you some tips on how you can change your pocket or use an opponents pocket to your advantage.
Using the plastic to your benefit:
Do you like to clamp the ball and flip it out to yourself or wing men? If so, you can use the plastic of the back of your stick to your advantage. In other words, some players like to loosen up parts of the pocket in order to create a lip under the plastic of the back of the scoop or under one of the top shooters. This can often greatly compromise one's ability to throw or shoot in a normal fashion if they are not used to the feeling. If a player can get used to the ball hitting the scoop on the way out of the stick then you've got no problem giving your stick a little lip. It's like this. If you want a lip, deal with the whip.
Thicken up the sides of the stick:
By lacing the sidewalls on the inside of the stick or doubling up on the sidewalls, you can create a throat that when a ball is placed in the back of the stick it will become lodged in because of the strings acting as a narrow throat. This often happens in narrow throated sticks with dura-mesh already in them.
Or one can simply weave nylon in and out of the holes in the mesh from top to bottom, pull them tight and you've got a new channel on the inside of the stick and a fierce clamp from the back of the stick. Players will also use a tightly strung V in the stick in order to give some grip to the ball when they have it clamped.
Use the traditional against them:
You can use the diamonds of your opponent's traditional pocket against them. How? Those diamonds make easy finger holes for you right index and middle fingers. Many players will just wait for their opponents to clamp and let them do so onto their fingers! Then, simply hold on and lift your opponents stick by the pocket off the ball. Think it's a dirty move? You might be surprised how often it happens in big NCAA games, that's right, it even happens in national championships!
THE MAKING OF A MONSTER
Ever wonder what kind of strangely shapes head is on the pole of some of the countries premier face-off men? It might be the same head that you have, just twisted into a stick of different proportions! We'll show you how to give your stick a new advantage!
You'll need to start with your unstrung head. We used the Brine Oz, the weapon of choice for Syracuse face-off man Chris Cercy. This stick is ideal for a face-off specialist due to its already narrow collar. What this means is that it is easy to slip your right hand up the plastic onto the throat of the stick and still have a comfortable grip that can allow you to get a good clamp.
Shaping the head
The first step is going to be to alter the shape of the stick in a few dimensions. Using the directions from the article on baking a stick, you will need to secure the top at the legal limit before doing anything else.
Next, we are going alter the throat of the stick by baking to the point where it is only as wide as the ball from the throat to more than half the way up the head. This will allow you to get closer to the ball when you lay the stick onto the ground for a draw.
Then, we placed the head onto the shaft and heated up the throat again. When the plastic of the throat was hot and a bit more pliable the top of the head was pushed forward, creating a bend at the throat that tilts the scoop of the head up when looking at the stick from the side.
This means that when the formerly straight head lies on its side, it will now naturally and easily roll over onto the ball during a face-off. The player can quickly push the stick to roll over the ball.
The "FO Specialist" Pocket
Now for the pocket. We used a broken-in piece of dura mesh in the stick in order to give the pocket a softer, well used feel. The side walls were strung normally. But, because the head is now so narrow as soon as the sidewall string touches the ball, you've got it stuck right in there! The only thing to worry about is that it does not get stuck in the back of your stick. This is where having the softer mesh helps.
Then we placed shooting strings half-way down the stick. This created a healthy lip under the back of the stick between the top shooting string and the back of the scoop. We have almost made a second pocket from this. It's now possible to Indian scoop up the ball with the back of the stick. Not only is this a great trick to show your friends, it's also a great way to fling the ball in the air to a wing man on a draw. The only down side is that the stick has a very unnatural feeling toss. This was something that we needed to adjust, so we decided to place one loose shooting string half-way up the second pocket for a little better feel.
Now see if you can wow your friends with a stick made for winning at the face off X