The team at STX asked themselves one question when designing the new Ultra Power head: How do we make a head that shoots faster? The latest head in the Power family of STX is the product of that one basic question and is the result of a years-long research project to improve the shot of the best players on the planet.
For shooters in Major League Lacrosse, velocity is imperative when you're trying to beat one of the nine best goalies in the world who man the nets in MLL. That is why Troy Becker, brand manager for men's lacrosse at STX, started looking for ways to help players shoot harder. Their research led them to looking at other sports for inspiration and one of those sports was the ancient Spanish sport of Jai Alai, which uses a curved basket to throw a ball up to 200 miles per hour.
"These guys are getting almost double the velocity as a Major League pitcher," said Becker. "This design originated throughout the centuries to just be a flame-throwing device. We took that, threw around some lacrosse balls with it to see what’s going on. It was a long-reach project as well, which luckily, evolved concurrently with the Ultra Power head. Then we started the prototyping stage and started bending existing designs around trying to see if we could copy the overall design with plastic and mesh and see how that works and can we get similar results?"
After several rounds of modifications, they eventually landed on something that they could actually take to a lacrosse field.
"That was a really fun part of the process, talking to hundreds of players with these modified prototypes and we started recording," said Becker. "We recorded their observations, their comments, concerns and recording their shot speed.
"The player plays such an important role with anything that we make. At almost every stage of the process, we were talking to a hundred kids. We were lucky to live in Baltimore, where there’s a lot of access to high school, middle school and collegiate players."
In addition to amateurs, STX had the benefit of receiving feedback from its stable of pros. They are so dialed into their personal preferences, they can offer detailed feedback with just a few shots with a new stick.
"Very early on in the process, Kyle Harrison was able to help us out and looked at some prototypes and 3-D prints," said Becker. "We didn’t want to put it out there in too many places, because it was very unique compared to our other heads and we thought we were on to something. Kyle was very instrumental in helping us with the feel and fine tuning where the tip was elevated."
"We also worked with Davey Emala at the prototyping stage. His father has been with STX for a long time, and we are lucky enough to have him test stuff. We wanted to make sure the release felt playable, with minimal mechanical adjustments. These guys are so good at this level, they can score with anything. Giving them something that they can find a benefit with is very exciting for us. Later on in the process, we worked with Will Manny, Marcus Holman and Sergio Salcido. They were able to help us fine-tune our pocket."
The end result is a head that STX considers their hardest-throwing head to date. It may not look exactly like the cesta that is used in Jai Alai, but some of the design elements are evident in the new Ultra Power. The head has a steeper angle with a thinner throat and a deeper pocket.
"The scoop is upturned, so it’s about 20 millimeters higher than anything else we have in the lines," said Becker. "Players are going to be able to generate more power through our testing, and through our tests, players are generating between two to five miles per hour more with our head."