A lot of what makes for an effective stick for a defenseman in lacrosse is simply the length of the shaft itself. That extra length does a lot of work on its own, making it easier to disrupt and knock down the opposition’s passes and making it harder for opposing offensive players to get by you. But the head you choose will help to add a bit more specialization to your game.
This guide is primarily intended to be for advanced lacrosse players. If you are looking for more basic information about lacrosse heads or the attackman position, check out our other guides on those topics:
Overview of lacrosse heads
Beginner’s complete lacrosse stick guide
Overview of lacrosse positions
Table of Contents
What Should You Look for in Lacrosse Defense Heads?
Lacrosse defensemen have a fairly wide range of responsibilities on the field. As with defenders in any sport, defensemen in lacrosse are primarily concerned with disrupting offensive players on the opposing team and protecting the goal. But they also contribute to their team’s own offensive efforts in big ways.
Strength is perhaps the most important attribute of a lacrosse head for defense, as it allows defenders to inflict tougher stick checks on opposing players, while also maintaining the shape of the head over time.
The shape of a lacrosse head for defense can contribute to a defenseman’s ability to bat the ball out of the air when disrupting passes. It also contributes to the ability of defensemen to send accurate passes of their own up the field to their teammates on offense. Some defensemen may even take the ball up the field on their own, where face shape would further contribute to the accuracy and velocity of shots on the opposing goal.
Generally speaking, lighter heads are preferable for most players, since it can marginally improve running and dodging speed, as well as quickness of release on shots. Manufacturers of elite defense heads strive to keep their heads as light as possible, while still maintaining enough strength for defensemen to be able to throw hard checks at opposing players.
Stiffness and Strength
Stiffness is usually a matter of personal preference, but many elite defense heads are made stiff (as opposed to flexible) so that they can throw more powerful checks without worrying about their head warping from the damage of these impacts.
The optimal pocket location on a head is important to consider when picking a head because different pocket locations each come with their own pros and cons.
A low pocket makes it easier to hold onto the ball and provides more “feel” of the ball, which can be helpful for dodging and stickhandling, but low pockets will also generate less shot power.
Defensemen typically prefer higher pockets, not just for the extra shot power but also for the quicker release they offer on shots and passes. A high pocket also offers some extra quickness on ground ball pickups since the resting place of the ball is so close to the scoop.
The design of a head’s scoop can affect two main components of gameplay on the field: ground ball pickups and passing the ball.
A wider scoop provides a larger surface, and therefore wider margin of error, for picking up groundballs and catching passes. A narrower scoop may help to shave off a bit of weight on the head and may help a bit with accuracy in passing and shooting, but will make it harder to catch passes and pick up groundballs.
A lot of defensemen will prefer the former, but more offensive-minded and highly skilled defensemen will prefer the latter.
In addition to the scoop width, the width of the main body of the head (known as the pinch) is important to consider. As with the scoop, a wider pinch offers more surface area to catch the ball, but many players prefer a narrow pinch, which can help keep the ball in the pocket and offer a smoother, more accurate release when passing and shooting.
Best Lacrosse Heads for Defensemen
STX X20 Defense Head
STX is known for prioritizing strength and toughness in their heads and these are, of course, essential features for any defenseman’s toolkit. What takes this to the next level in the STX X20 is the “strike plate”–essentially, an extra little ridge resting on top of the scoop that adds more power to stick checks.
The other important aspect of the scoop on this head is how wide it is. The wide scoop, along with the overall wide face shape is great not just for ground ball pickups, but also for disrupting passing lanes. All you have to do is keep your stick in the air and you’ll be swatting down and intercepting passes from the opposing team almost effortlessly.
STX Hammer Omega
Like the STX X20, the STX Hammer Omega is also built tough. But whereas the X20 is optimized for the stay-at-home defenseman, the Hammer Omega is designed with all the little details in mind that cater to the more offensive-minded defenseman.
The high bottom rail rewards high-placed pockets, which will give you a quicker release and more velocity on shots. It’s also going to be easier to craft a precise pocket that holds its shape over time with the “InnerLock technology” that helps to really anchor in knots to the sidewall.
Meanwhile, the narrow face shape–as opposed to the wide shape of the X20–is going to compensate for the handling challenges of a high pocket, keeping the ball in your stick more easily while also ensuring a more accurate shot.
Having a narrow design also means less weight, which is why this head is described as having “the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any STX head in history.”
Again, this is great for offensive defenseman who want a lighter overall stick that will allow for a little bit of extra speed in handling the ball, without sacrificing on the strength that enables effective stick checks on the defensive end. You’ll pay a little extra for this head, but it does offer a lot of great attributes.
ECD Rebel Defense
East Coast Dyes began as a small one-man operation selling wax mesh and stringing materials, but now designs and sells a number of high-quality and affordable heads.
Generally speaking, ECD tends to make shooter-friendly heads. Like the STX Hammer Omega, the ECD Rebel head has a narrow face shape for improved ball handling, lighter weight, and shot accuracy.
It is also described as an “ultra stiff” head, which will allow the head to maintain its shape over time. This, again, helps to ensure consistent and accurate shots, but is also a feature that allows the head to endure the stress of frequently dishing out hard stick checks.
It’s also great that the head is available straight from the manufacturer in unstrung, fully strung, and complete stick options. Unlike some other factory-strung heads, you can trust the quality of the stringing job you’ll get through ECD since that’s what they originally specialized in anyway.
Maverik tends to make well-balanced heads that also offer superior feel and control. Perhaps in competition with the STX Hammer Omega, the Maverik Havok claims to feature “the best in class strength to weight ratio.”
It would be splitting hairs to debate over which head is more justified in this claim, but the point is that you’ll find a nice balance between durability and maneuverability with this head. Additionally, the Havok is designed with materials that are meant to hold up especially well in inclement weather, which further enhances the durability.
The bottom rail is designed to fit a mid-high pocket, which is great for an all-around balance of options with the ball in your stick: easy handling and good hold, while still allowing for quick release passes and shots with a solid amount of power behind them.
Warrior Regulator MAX
Like the Maverik Havok, the Warrior Regulator Max is designed for a mid-high pocket, which provides a good balance of ball handling and shooting strengths.
But perhaps the main strength of this head in particular, and Warrior heads in general, is the attention to all the little details that promote sturdiness and consistency over time.
If you’ve ever had to play with a stick that suffered from having a fairly substantial rattle to it, you know how annoying that can be. The “Loc-Throat” feature that Warrior installs into most of its heads at this point is designed to combat stick rattle by establishing a better fit between head and shaft (but keep in mind that heads with this feature may only be compatible with hollow shafts). Minimizing rattling means you’ll be able to focus on feeling the ball, not the head itself.
The “Tilt-Tech” stringing hole design further enhances that overall feel of stability by helping to anchor knots more firmly and in a slightly downward direction which will keep your pocket tighter and more consistent over time.
With this head, you won’t have to worry about changes in the way your stick feels and throws midway through a season. It’s also a great budget option with its affordable price tag.
Lacrosse heads are ultimately a matter of personal preference, but typically the best lacrosse heads for defense are those that are strong, stiff, and durable for harder stick checks and better head shape retention over time. Some of the best lacrosse heads for defensemen are the STX X20, the STX Hammer Omega, the ECD Rebel D, the Maverik Havok, and the Warrior Regulator MAX.
A good lacrosse defenseman should be strong, smart, and skilled enough to handle the extra length of a long pole stick, with a versatile skillset for fulfilling defensive responsibilities while also contributing to offense with accurate passing and good control with ground ball pickups.
Unfortunately, the Gait D Lacrosse Head has been deemed illegal for use in the 2022-23 lacrosse season and therefore would not be a good product to purchase for competitive play at this time.