Now you strung your head and are ready to rock and roll. Before you use it in an actual game, however, you want to soften the mesh so that the pocket is able to grab the ball and hold it nicely following a catch.
Over the years, players have come up with different ways that can help laxers like you soften your lacrosse mesh.
In this article, I’ll show you 5 easy-to-apply techniques, or as I prefer to call them ‘tricks’, that will make the process more sufficient and less painful. Depending on what type of mesh you strung your head with, you might need not soften the mesh.
Make sure to test catching, cradling and passing to check if your mesh actually needs to be softened. If you are comfortable and the ball doesn’t slip out of control, you can be sure of the softening level is just fine.
Why Bother to Soften Lacrosse Mesh?
The standard mesh on the market today has tough threads that are born stiff and bouncy, which makes it hard to catch and retain the ball while cradling or sprinting up and down the field.
Essentially, there are three types of mesh, hard, soft and traditional.
Hard mesh is the most popular type of mesh that allows good ball control and catchability. It’s very consistent and reliable. Yet, it requires a serious effort to break in before it achieves consistency in performance.
Soft mesh is more flexible. Due to its easier catchability, soft mesh is popular among beginners and inexperienced players.
Traditional mesh is made of nylon and leather strings. And due to the nature of the materials, traditional mesh requires a good deal of patience and time to break in to achieve great ball control and handling.
Hence, based on these qualities, it’s important to recognize the enormous benefits to break in and soften your mesh to make a good pocket.
Don’t forget to check out my lacrosse mesh buying guide
5 Easy Techniques To Soften Lacrosse Mesh
Here are the 5 easy and effective techniques that will help you soften your lacrosse mesh.
Trick # 1 – Fabric Softener
Applying quality fabric softener to your mesh can do wonders. It also happens to be the fastest way of softening the mesh.
Step 1: Take a bucket that has sufficient surface area to hold the entire lacrosse mesh and also is deep enough to submerge the mesh to ensure complete rinsing.
Step 2: Pour hot water that is between 70 and 80 degrees into the bucket. Note that higher temperatures than 80 degrees may damage the fibers and lower temperatures than 70 degrees could lead to insufficient softening.
Step 3: Add the cup filled with fabric softener to the water. You may also add a few drops of liquid fragrant as you wish.
Step 4: Soak the mesh in the solution for 20 to 30 minutes. Take it out, wash it in running water, let it dry and string a pocket to test out the catchability and ball control.
If it’s not yet at your desired level in terms of softness, put the mesh back in the solution for another 10-15 minutes. Repeat 2 or 3 times until you are finally satisfied with the results.
If this is your first time softening a mesh, recommend taking this route as it involves the least risk and is fairly easy to execute.
Trick # 2 – Pressing and Pounding
The classic and standard method of softening lacrosse mesh is to use a lacrosse ball and press it against the mesh fibers. Start from one end and proceed to cover the entire inner surface area. Since you will be using your hand to soften the mesh, it will be a slow process that could take several days to fully achieve the desired level of softness.
Another way to do it is to use a lacrosse ball for pounding instead of pressing. Similar to pressing, this approach will need patience and persistence on your part. The probability of change in pressure and force may vary during a pounding session. Hence, you need to concentrate on the task with diligence and accuracy.
Alternately you can use a handy tool called pocket pounder that is made of a ball fitted onto an aluminum handle. You can pound the mesh at modest force from one end to cover the entire inner surface. It is a faster and more efficient procedure compared to using a lacrosse ball.
After pounding the mesh on both sides for some time, you can test out the softness of your mesh by doing catching, retaining and controlling the ball with your pocket.
To expedite the process even further, pour some warm water on the threads while pounding the mesh.
What’s more, selecting the pounder with the right steel ball is the most important aspect of lacrosse mesh softening. The recommended practice is to choose a branded product rather than opting for a cheaper version or DIY method.
Lastly, make sure you place the mesh on a hard, clean and smooth surface to avoid rough particles from damaging the mesh fibers.
Trick # 3 – Wall Rebound and Catch
If you don’t mind some additional practices and wall ball training to improve your skills in the meantime, another great way to break in your mesh is to practice with it.
Try to play wall ball for about 20 to 30 minutes per session 2 to 3 times a day. Although using this method alone could take a while, your pocket will form the best shape possible that matches perfectly with your playing and catching style.
To speed up the process, you can also practice and do mini-training with teammates, again coupling with hitting the lacrosse ball against the wall.
At the beginning of the task, you may find it hard to control the rebound from the ball. You may also feel the stick going out of your control. However, as the mesh starts to soften, you will be gradually getting a perfect pocket on your stick.
Trick # 4 – Spray Starch
Spray starch consists of softening liquid that can soften your mesh entirely within a day or two of consistent spraying. The ingredients of the liquid can get absorbed by the mesh fibers.
You need to soak the mesh for about 10 to 15 minutes with hot water every time before you spray. Then you can wash it with warm water. Test the softness factor by practicing the wall rebound exercise. If the ball control is fine, retention is longer, and passing is easy, consider this method to be the most effective and fastest approach to softening your mesh.
You can choose to buy a spray starch either off the shelf or prepare it at your home. Take 3 or 4 corns and take out the seeds. Soak them in hot water and grind finely to make a paste. You can control the thickness factor according to your specific requirements. Cool it and store it in a bottle.
Trick # 5 – Use another Lacrosse Stick
All the methods mentioned above are proven to be effective. That said, many of them can be quite time and energy-consuming. One unconventional method I found to be efficient and simple is to use another lacrosse stick handle to rub the fibers gently but firmly.
Take your time and slowly press the lacrosse stick handle onto the fiber starting from one place and then gradually rolling it to the entire surface.
What Is The Best Trick to Soften Lacrosse Mesh?
The short answer is, there’s no official or best way to soften the lacrosse mesh. These methods simply serve as suggestions for you to consider. As you level up your skill and gameplay, you are very likely to come up with your own solution and find it to be a better method than all other popular solutions. Therefore, don’t feel restricted from trying different things.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that I don’t recommend doing anything crazy to achieve fast but unreliable results. Stick to the old fashion ways for the first or second time when you are doing it. Also, it’s smart to ask how your teammates are softening their mesh.
From my own experience, the fastest way to soften the mesh isn’t always the best way. Hence, oftentimes there’s no way around simply being patient by picking a method and doing it consistently to soften the mesh.
A helpful walkthrough of how to break in your pocket: