Editor’s Note: We got our hands on some wooden shafts by Blackfeet Lacrosse a little while back, and a Gear Showcase is coming up soon on the product. But before we talk about the shafts in the hands of men, we’re going to talk about these shafts in the hands of women, and how one college team is going back to the Old School this year with wooden shafts for the program.
We got to interview Michigan State’s (WCLA D1) women’s head coach, Greg Normand, to discuss the sponsorship deal, and why he thinks that wooden shafts are perfect for his college team. MSU went 13-8-1 last year in the WCLA.
How did this arrangement come to pass? How did MSU first come into contact with your shafts?
I had a chance to try the shaft at a high school lacrosse combine near Detroit. As a former box lacrosse player, I appreciate the style of wood, but quite frankly, I never came across a wood shaft that matched my old Iroquois shaft. I wasn’t looking for a new shaft, I have more sticks than I need in the garage, but I tried this shaft at the combine and couldn’t believe how much I liked the shaft’s characteristics.
They had a radar gun demonstration and I gave it try. I couldn’t believe I was 8-10 miles an hour faster with the wooden shaft… and please, understand that I am not an active player or even a decent player in the day… so the reasoning was simple, if this wood shaft can make an old guy better… what will it do for a ‘real lacrosse player.’ It might be in my head, but the radar gun didn’t lie.
Will all the players use them? Is it required?
We are giving our players a chance to use the shafts this fall and winter and we’re going to buy them like any other retail customer. The girls can use them or not, it makes no difference to me. I fell in love with the shaft because it works and I am sure we’ll have a few of our athletes change. But those choices are up to the young ladies.
Will the MSU team test new products that Blackfeet develops? Where can this relationship go?
We would be more than happy to test any new products for Blackfeet. We are making the shaft available to test at clinics and our camps because I really think that much of the shaft. I am not sure we’ll have a business relationship. We are, or more accurately, I am, using the shaft because I think its unbelieveable.
If I can enhance my player’s abilities by even two or three percent, who knows? There’s no business relationship because we’re retail customers and not an endorser… I know the website says that Blackfeet is the official shaft of the MSU women’s lacrosse team, but this is one of those arrangements where we just like the shaft. I won’t promote or say something I don’t believe is true and why would a guy like me say something nice when I am paying for the shafts? I must like the shafts.
Was there any hesitation to go “back to wood”? Or were they all in once they saw the shafts?
Again, I started with wood, but haven’t touched wood in the last 15 years because most of the shafts I tried were below average in performance. The girls have tried the shaft and most really like the feel and performance, but most of them will take time to change over because they have always used the metal counterparts. I suggested to our team that they make the wooden shaft a backup stick… if we do that, we’ll be using the wood shafts in no time.
Do you think wooden shafts can have a place in the modern women’s game? Why does it work better for women than men? Does it?
I love the term ‘modern women’s game.’ Is there a place in the ‘modern game’ for any new innovations? We’re talking PR buzz words here, and any shaft is only as good as the athlete’s belief who is using the equipment. Every year there’s always the biggest and the brightest.
I asked Gary Gait, during the 2006 IFL World Championships in London, Ontario, why he was using a ‘cheap $50 stick during the championships?’ Gary is the best player on the men’s side in the history of the sport and he even has a company named after him and here he was using a cheap stick manufactured by a competitor.
I asked him why he wasn’t showcasing one of his products on this grand stage. He told me he liked the stick he was using and wasn’t going to change and then went out and scored seven goals against the United States to help seal the World Championships using a lacrosse stick that you or I could buy at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I don’t know if the stick is better for men or women… the only thing I know about wood is the forgiveness and softness.
I like the Blackfeet shaft because I had better control using it and catching a ball in a woman’s pocket is more difficult than a men’s. Perception or not, I think the wood shaft is a bit more forgiving and allows for those without soft hands to make catches at full speed. Am I right, now I guess that all depends on your prospective! For me, I love the Blackfoot shaft, period.
That’s a pretty effusive endorsement. Works for us! Want to see another cool product idea from Blackfeet? Check out their beginners stick called the Warpath!