CHOOSING THE STICK THAT BEST SUITS YOU
When choosing the model of stick that suits you best, consider the following:
By power we mean the ball speed a stick can generate when hitting or slapping the ball given a constant swing speed.
Ball speed is obviously important in many aspects of the game and particularly crucial when shooting at goal or passing over longer distances. There is a direct correlation between the power a stick can generate when hitting or slapping and the shaft stiffness of the stick. The stiffer the shaft of the stick the more direct transfer of energy there is onto the ball and the faster the ball will travel. The shaft stiffness of the stick is dependent on a number of factors:
- the materials that are used to make the stick. No metallic substances are allowed in the production of hockey stick and so the materials used are composite materials ranging from fibre glass to various aramids and carbon. Carbon is generally the most effective material to stiffen a stick. It is very light and has a very high tensile strength. It does however significantly harden the feel of the stick as it is not as absorbent as other composite materials and also relatively brittle when subjected to impact. It therefore has to be combined carefully with other materials in order not to negatively impact the feel and durability of the stick.
- The second main factor influencing shaft stiffness is the lay-up of the stick. By lay-up we mean where and how the different materials are placed in the shaft of the stick during production. As a stick is not a uniform shape the there are different torsional stresses in different areas of the stick on impact with the ball. The placement and fibre direction of the different composites materials is critical to get the maximum possible transfer of energy onto the ball.
- Thirdly the shaft stiffness also affects the quality of the bond between the different materials. This is in turn impacted by the quality of the resins used and process used to impregnate the fibre and also the moulding process.
The power a hockey stick can generate when hitting or slapping the ball is directly dependent on the shaft stiffness of the stick. Shaft stiffness is in turn dependent on the materials used to make to make the stick as well as a number of factors in the production process. Sticks with high shaft stiffness will have more carbon as this is the most effect material to achieve stiffness. The carbon percentage of a stick is will give an indication of shaft stiffness within a range of sticks but is not useful for comparing across brands as the shaft stiffness is also dependent on a number of other factors - stick lay-up (positioning of materials in the shaft, quality of materials, and how well the materials are bonded during production)
If carbon is not used effectively it can negatively impact on the feel and durability of a stick. When choosing a stick, players who prioritise power for hitting and slapping will place a big emphasis on the shaft stiffness of the stick. Improved shaft stiffness is the main feature you are paying for when you move up in the range.
One of the most important considerations when choosing a new hockey stick is the feel of the stick.
What is meant by the feel is the sensation felt when the stick makes contact with the ball when executing skills like hitting, slapping, trapping, dribbling, etc. While to some extent the feel is subjective, different stick models will have their own distinctive feels. Some may be softer and more forgiving while others could be harder but more precise. The feel is dependent on a mix of materials used to make the stick, as well as the manufacturing process. Top end sticks have a stiffer shaft in order to improve power but as the materials used to stiffen the shaft (such as Carbon) are not very pliable, they tend to have a harder feel. The real art in the manufacture of a top-end hockey stick is to produce a stiff shaft for high power, but at the same time creates a feel which allows for easy execution of skills. Different manufacturers use a variety of technologies to try to soften the feel of a top end but inevitably there is some trade off between power and softer feel, so make sure you choose the model that suites you best.
3. SHAFT CURVE
When deciding on the hockey stick that best suites you, one of the most important things to consider is the shape of the stick. Often hockey brands will offer several different shapes in the same model of stick.
Probably the most import point to consider is the position and size of the apex of the curve in the shaft. The maximum allowable curve in the shaft is 25mm and most stick shapes have a curve pretty close to this. However, the further down the shaft the apex of the curve is, the more suited the stick will be for aerial skills (in particular drag flicking and overheads). These extra low bow sticks do however require the player to make adjustments to his/her game for the basic skills (hitting and stopping) so are not recommend for more beginner players. Players who do not prioritise areal skills and are looking for a more all-round stick, are better suited to use a low bow shape which has the apex of the curve slightly higher up the shaft. These sticks still aid areal skills but also suited for the basic skills. The last category of shaft shape would be mid bow sticks which the apex of the curve even higher up the shaft. These best suited for the basic skills but make aerial skills more difficult. This shaft shape is suited to players who prefer a more traditional stick or players with a less developed skill level.
4. HEAD SHAPE
Most sticks use a midi head shape while the Gryphon Classic Curve and the Deuce shapes have an oversize head (extended toe) and thin head profile which improves control, especially on the reverse stick side.
The length of the stick is also personal preference and dependant on the player’s height and playing style. For juniors, a rough guide is that the handle should ideally be level with the lower part of the pocket (just below the hip joint). On the whole women tend more to use a 36 and a half inch stick and men a 37 and a half inch stick. The odd player may sometimes use a 38.5 inch stick.
6. WEIGHT and BALANCE
The weight and balance of the should also suite the player concerned. With the advent of synthetic sticks the trend has been to lighter weights, as the weight has a negligible influence on the power. The balance point on the stick is an indication of the weight distribution - the longer the balance point, the lighter the head. Younger players, forwards and women tend to go for sticks that are a bit lighter in the head. Defenders tend to go for slightly heavier sticks with more weight lower down the shaft.
It is important that the stick be well constructed in order to provide maximum durability. In order to improve durability sticks are sometimes wrapped with an aramide weave around the head and lower shaft of the stick. These pliable fibres help protect the stick against impact and abrasion at the bottom. If a stick is well constructed one does not buy up in the range for durability but rather for performance.