Why use a wooden lacrosse shaft?
When most of us think about wooden shafts we think of old school rigs including heads that look impossibly elderly. We remember stories told by our dads and uncles about wooden shafts splintering with the impact of a solid check. Maybe we are even reminded about the history of our sport, and the progress our equipment has made since the early days.
Few of us ever seriously consider wooden shafts for regular game use. That’s misguided. The primary objection to a wooden shaft is a question of their durability. A shaft cut from hickory or properly aged oak can easily handle face offs and defensive roles. As a matter of fact, contemporary wooden shafts, when well made, are able to withstand 300 to 650 lbs of stress. That’s WAY more than a lax player who has evolved beyond the school of berserker lacrosse will ever exert on his shaft. Back when woodies broke all the time, shafts were mass produced from the cheapest stock available. These days, craftsmen make lifelong shafts from superior stock. Small volume has it’s privileges.
There is certain majesty in a wooden shaft. Since beginners and hackers will never comprehend the poignancy of a wooden shaft, the simple adoption of one is a clear identifier that you are among the cognoscenti. Wooden shafts are beautiful works of craftsmanship, but this will never impress the beginner comparing weights and prices online. You can be confident that when you encounter a player with a woodie, he has a mature perspective on the lacrosse game.
The other objection is weight. Sure, a titanium shaft is going to weigh less, but unless you’re 11 years old and 85 pounds, or a confessed noodle arm, a few ounces of partially rotational weight is utterly insignificant. The strengths of a home made wooden shaft are in the grip and feel. I like the traditional grip, but when feeling the shaft barehanded, it’s so smooth, hand sanded down to perfection, smoother than a baby’s bottom. Over time the wood shaft keeps it’s grip, and a gloved hand begins to adopt a comfortable relationship with the surface that somehow never materializes with a metal shaft.
Most important is feel. The shock wave from a caught pass travels down a wooden shaft with a more velvety feel than is possible with any metal shaft. Perhaps it’s our species’ 100,000 year relationship with wood, but a wooden shaft feels more ‘natural’ as an interface between us and a caught ball. The throwing feel that advocates of traditional pockets praise is amplified with a professionally made woodie. This tactile advantage is generally addressed by the same knowing shrug that explains why violins and cellos and harps are still made of wood. It’s a feel thing. It’s all about resonance and touch. It’s too subtle for you bean counters to grasp.
Let me reiterate that wooden shafts are not for everybody. A beginner will never notice nor appreciate the difference. A hacker will never appreciate the feel and will treat an heirloom like a cudgel. A top performer on the rise and looking for every calculable advantage should invest in titanium. However, a player with mature skills who perceives the game as a joy rather than an obstacle will swoon over the hand feel of wood versus metal, and find his or her game elevated to another level. A woodie should be everybody’s last shaft, be that one acquired in high school, or after they retire from the MLL. It denotes where love of the game passes conquest of the game.