Lacrosse is an ancient sport, of course, originating as a tribal game to entertain the Creator. The first sticks looked like large spoons made of hickory with netting made of animal products and leather ties.
European colonists adopted the sport in the 19th century. Lacrosse grew most popular in Canada, becoming the national sport in the 1860s after Canadian dentist William George Beers codified the game with rules.
While the shape of the lacrosse stick evolved as the sport spread to clubs and universities in the U.S., the materials remained mostly the same until the 1970s, which started an era of innovation that leveraged modern advances in engineering and understanding of kinematics.
STX developed the first plastic head in August 1970. For the first time, this split a lacrosse stick into two pieces, mounting a plastic head onto a wooden shaft. Because the head was symmetrical, lefties or righties could play with the same stick.
The aluminum shaft came along in the early 1980s, coinciding with innovations in hockey stick design. Hollow aluminum shafts were significantly lighter than wood, which led to faster stick speed, shots and passes.
Also during the ’80s, synthetic mesh began to replace traditional leather as the material comprising the pocket. Mesh was lighter, performed better and was more resilient in inclement weather.
In 1992, Dave Morrow, an All-American defenseman at Princeton whose father owned a metal tubing business in Detroit, started using a titanium handle. It did not dent or snap as easily as aluminum. Warrior Lacrosse was born, and titanium soon became the standard.
The triangular shape of the plastic head first introduced in 1970 mostly remained that way until Brine developed and patented the offset head in 1995. The offset technology lowered the face of the head slightly below the base of the head and shaft, thus lowering the center of gravity of the stick and giving players a better feel for which way the stick was facing and how it was handling the ball.
Emerging technology in material science has led to several new manufacturers joining the lacrosse landscape in the 21st century. Modern shafts are made from carbon fiber composites that are lighter, more durable and more flexible than titanium or other alloy metals.
Hard mesh vs. soft mesh was the prevailing choice for players in the ’80s and ‘90s. Today, they can choose from a variety of pocket materials with different diamond sizes and shapes. Most innovations have centered on solutions, like wax coating, that keep mesh from stretching and pockets intact despite inclement weather or use.