Traditional Stringing is seen less and less often on lacrosse fields these days. When I was in high school, we had 2-3 kids (one of who was my brother) that could string traditional… these days, you’ll be lucky to find 2-3 high schoolers in each state who can string traditional well. But it’s not too late to learn! For your stringing, viewing and inspecting pleasure, I’m going to show you how to do a Pita Pocket. UPDATE: we have additional, new photos of another way to do the Pita Pocket at the end of this post!
The Pita Pocket, or Dog Track, has a long, storied history in the game of lacrosse. Many people credit Tim Whitely (St. Paul’s in MD, UVa) of inventing the design by stringing his traditional sticks with very tight side leathers. This created a tight channel for the ball to sit in and allowed for confident ball carrying and more importantly, an absolute cannon of a shot when one really wound up.
Then the pocket made it’s way to Loyola, and for a while it seemed like every Greyhound on the field was rocking one, even defenders. High schools like Mt. Lebanon (412′s hometown school!) took to the trend like wildfire, and when Middlebury won all those national championships, All-American players like Dave Seeley could be seen rocking the Pita Pocket. It worked for all those teams, and it will work for you too… as long as you follow these directions!
So without further ado, let’s get to the “how to” portion of this post!
Put in the sidewalls first. You’ll want 7 or 8 loops on each sidewall. I leave one sidewall hole up top and one sidewall hole down low open to tie off other crosslace strings when I finish. The Nike Elite 10 I used had 14 sidewall holes, and I used 8 of them, which gave me 7 sidewall loops to use. The number of sidewall loops you create dictates how many crosslace triangles you have. I like to 7 crosslace triangles running from top to bottom between each row of leathers, so I need 7 sidewall loops. Very simple math, but it will help you with your planning.
Next I put in the side leathers, and connect them to the sidewalls. This is done the same way that you would attach regular traditional sidewalls. I started out at the top sidewall hole, went over the leather, around the leather and then back over the crosslace and back to the sidewall. Then I would go over the sidewall, around and back over the crosslace.
After that was done, and the sidewalls were connected TIGHTLY (very important!) to the side leathers, I put in the middle leathers, and then pulled them down tight.
The next step is to put in the dog track portion that runs down the middle of the stick. The middle crosslace is one LONG piece of string. I run both sides of the string under the two middle leathers and then pull both strings around the leathers, coming around them, then over the string that connects the two, which I originally ran under the two leathers. It’s a very simple knot, even if it looks complicated.
I then work my way down the middle leathers by twisting the crosslace together 3 times, then taking each side over the leathers, around, and finally back over the crosslace, making sure to keep the twists tight, and the leathers close together. I could only fit in about 5-6 sets of twists while the leathers are tight, so at this point I tied the crosslace down to keep it tight and in place, and then get to work attaching the middle leathers to the outside leathers.
After about 4-5 connections from middle to side on the right side, I switch over to the left. At this point, the middle leathers are still pulled tight. Once I finish up another 4-5 connections on the left side, I let the middle leathers out and start to form a small pocket. Then I finished up the middle leathers. After letting the leathers out, I had more room to work with. I added on another 2 sets of twists, making for a total of 7 sets of twists running down the middle of the leathers.
After my dog track was set, I finished putting in the rest of the crosslace between the side leathers and the middle leathers. The crosslace used in that portion eventually gets sent through the sidewall and tied off. The crosslace used for the middle portion of the leathers gets tied down onto the leathers themselves by using two simple knots back to back. Remember when you went over the leather, around and then back over the crosslace? Well do that again, but do it twice and keep it really tight. Then tie a knot in the crosslace and it won’t slip at all.
I spend a good deal of time shifting, tightening and loosening strings to make sure my pocket was even and balanced. I pounded the pocket a little bit, saw no areas where the strings were too slack or too tight and decided it was shooting string time.
The first shooter I put in was a stiff nylon, and I attached it to both sidewalls. Then I put in 3 flat hockey lace shooting strings, and tied off each of those to the sidewall as well. The bottom shooter is quite loose, while the top nylon is quite tight. The other two graduate in tightness down the stick.
Joe Barile, of Warhawk Lacrosse, still uses a Pita Pocket and he does his dog track a little differently. He uses two separate pieces of crosslace and runs them from the sidewall, through the leathers and then together. He says it keeps the stick from developing a lip and keeps the pocket tighter. Might have to try that next time!
Hints and Tips:
- When I string tradtional, I stretch the crap out of my leathers. Pita is no different. Do it at least twice. Put the leathers in hot water, let them sit for 10 minutes. Stretch them by hand. HARD. If a leather breaks during stretching it would break during play. Better to know that earlier, right? Stretch your leathers.
- A pita pocket should be perfectly symmetrical. Make sure your sidewalls, leathers, etc are all EXACTLY the same on both sides. Nothing is worse than a lopsided pita.
- If it doesn’t come out right, try it agian by starting over. There’s no better way to learn and improve your stringing than by doing it more often. I forgot to take pics of this stick (seriously!) the first time I did it, so I had to take it out and repeat the process. It came out better the second time. No surprise there.
- Give yourself a small pocket at first. Then break it in. Some guys string traditional around a ball (I have done it before) but I would never do that with a Pita Pocket. Why you ask? The idea with a Pita Pocket is that you don’t need a bag to get GREAT hold, and some nice whip on your shot. So start small and let your pocket stretch normally. It will take longer to break in, but when it does break in, you’ll thank me for the consistency your stick now has.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things! This is only ONE way to do a Pita Pocket. There are tons of variations you could throw in here and there, and I’ve kept it reasonably simple in this example. But that doesn’t mean this is the end all, be all of Pita Pockets.
Got Tips for us? Want to show us how YOU string? Well hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org!