When US Lacrosse announced the changes to the stick stringing requirements for women’s lacrosse sticks earlier this month, social media was excited and a proliferation of images of women’s sticks with a mesh pocket quickly emerged. Excitement and interest is a great thing for any game, so I was happy to see that many players involved in the game saw the potential of these stringing changes. But honestly, the focus on using a men’s mesh pocket in a women’s stick was not the intent or goal of the changes, but one of the many consequences. 

The true intent of the changes was to simplify the rules for players and officials, and open the door for new innovations and economical options for sticks for girls. Stick checks, and maintaining the legality of sticks, admittedly had grown to be really technical and complicated in the women’s game. Officials and players, both new and experienced alike, were often left measuring and pouring through the rulebook to make sure a stick was legal. The technical minutia of the rules had become an obstacle for both players and officials. At US Lacrosse, we wanted to simplify the rules to make them easier to understand, comply with, and enforce.

Additionally, stringing for girls’ and women’s sticks has traditionally been more expensive than it is on the boys’ and men’s side. Mesh is a cheaper material in some instances, and the belief is that if the aesthetic and material requirements are simplified, then entry-level sticks could be bought for less money and the sticks would potentially require less break-in time.

In order to simplify, US Lacrosse worked in collaboration with manufacturers to pare down the rule to only the bare necessities that would preserve the safe play of the game. Pocket depth and the shooting strings were agreed upon as the necessary parameters for the women’s stick. At that point, all the other details were deemed unnecessary as long as the ball can move freely in the head of the stick and the ball speed is not radically faster.

Changing stringing specifications will not change the play of the game. We took out the prohibition of mesh, but alongside we also took out the number counts for knots and the vertical runners. We felt that if we moved away from the technical and aesthetic and focused on the functional, then manufacturers would be able to be innovate in terms of style and materials on order to provide more affordable and play-ready options for younger players.

So what does this really mean? Honestly, I will still be using my traditionally strung stick. It is amazing and has the handle, feel, and control that I like. I imagine some folks will experiment with mesh pockets, or partial mesh, and then perhaps other folks will go to the drawing board and reimagine the potential of the women’s stick in completely new ways.

Change can be exciting and fun, but in this case, it is also good to remember the change was intended to open the door to more affordable sticks and less stick check headaches on the field. I am looking forward to seeing new options for our players in the future, and for young girls to be able to string their own sticks and fall in love with the game with whatever aesthetic style works for them.

Caitlin Kelley is the senior manager of the women's game for US Lacrosse.