What Is an Illegal Pocket in Lacrosse?

Lacrosse is a fast-paced and exciting sport that requires a combination of skill, strategy, and precision. One essential aspect of the game is the lacrosse stick, a tool that players use to handle the ball. Within the realm of lacrosse sticks, the pocket plays a crucial role. It determines how well a player can control and release the ball. However, not all pockets are created equal, and there are rules governing the design of lacrosse pockets, with some considered illegal. In this blog, we’ll explore what constitutes an illegal pocket in lacrosse and why it’s important for players to understand these regulations.

The Significance of the Lacrosse Pocket

The pocket of a lacrosse stick is the woven or strung section of the head where the ball is held. It is arguably the most critical part of the stick because it directly affects a player’s ability to catch, cradle, pass, and shoot the ball. The design and depth of the pocket can significantly impact a player’s performance on the field.

Illegal Pockets in Lacrosse

In the world of lacrosse, an illegal pocket refers to a pocket that does not conform to the rules and regulations set by the sport’s governing bodies, such as US Lacrosse and the NCAA. Understanding these rules is essential for players, as using an illegal pocket can result in penalties, such as a turnover or suspension from play.

Here are some common characteristics that can render a pocket illegal:

  • Depth: Lacrosse pockets must meet specific depth requirements. For men’s lacrosse, the depth limit is typically 4 inches, while women’s lacrosse has a more shallow pocket, with a depth limit of 1.25 inches. Exceeding these limits can result in a pocket being deemed illegal.
  • Width: The width of a lacrosse pocket is also regulated. In men’s lacrosse, the ball must be able to roll out of the pocket freely, and no part of the pocket should be wider than 3 inches. In women’s lacrosse, the pocket’s width should be no more than 7 inches. Any deviation from these specifications can lead to penalties.
  • Whip: “Whip” refers to the degree of downward slope in the pocket. An illegal pocket may have excessive whip, causing the ball to be released at an unfair angle, which can be an advantage for the player using it. Whip regulations vary by league and can be challenging to enforce.
  • Shooting Strings: There are rules regarding the number and placement of shooting strings in a lacrosse pocket. For example, men’s lacrosse typically allows one or two shooting strings, while women’s lacrosse limits the number of shooting strings to two and places restrictions on their placement.
  • Ball Movement: A pocket should allow the ball to move freely without any undue restrictions or “pinching” that could result in an unfair advantage.

Why Do We Regulate Pockets in Lacrosse?

Regulating lacrosse pockets is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the game and ensuring a level playing field for all participants. By enforcing rules on pocket depth, width, whip, and other characteristics, the sport’s governing bodies aim to prevent unfair advantages and promote fair competition. A consistent set of regulations ensures that players can develop their skills based on a standardized equipment setup.


In the world of lacrosse, an illegal pocket is one that does not meet the established rules and regulations for pocket design. Understanding these regulations is essential for players to avoid penalties and maintain the integrity of the game. The pocket is a fundamental aspect of a lacrosse stick, and its design can significantly affect a player’s ability to perform on the field. By adhering to these regulations, players can focus on developing their skills and competing fairly in the sport of lacrosse.

Read More: What are the different types of lacrosse shots?

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