Lacrosse cradling is what keeps the ball in the stick. Art of maintaining possession of the ball in the lacrosse stick while using your arm(s) and wrist(s). Knowing how to cradle is important for moving around the field or box while protecting and handling the ball in confidence. At first cradling can be difficult but it’s one of those things that comes with practice. Just like hockey players don’t have to look at the puck or how soccer players dribble the ball. You will perfect the art of cradling with practice. The goal is to get one’s cradling fluid enough so running and dodging in a game looks effortless.
Lacrosse Cradling – Fundamentals
So the basic cradling technique is to hold your stick, top-hand fingers to the sky and bottom hand fingers to the floor. Have the same motion as if you were doing curls at the gym. Most of the control comes from the top-hand while the lower-hand guides and gives balance. Wrists and arms should be working together to keep the ball in the stick as the stick moves from side to side or up and down.
While this is going on your elbows and wrists also bend during the forward motion and unbend during the downward motion. The goal for any lacrosse player is to have one’s cradling fluid with one’s motion. The smoother, the easier it will be to get around the field. Carry the ball, dodging players and then transition into a pass or shot. Lacrosse has many different cradling techniques, this section is a brief overview.
Lacrosse Cradling – Two Handed Cradle
Cradling with two hands doesn’t offer maximum ball-protection. It allows much more control, one can take strong stick checks with a two-handed cradle and it gives the lacrosse player more options (pass, shot or dodge).
Two-handed cradling starts with holding your dominant hand at the head of the stick and the bottom hand waist height. It is the top hand that does most of the work to retain the ball while the lower hand stabilises the stick in one place. With the stick at waist height, with the open side of the stick facing the sky, lift your arm with the top hand up to neck height. As your arms rise, one’s elbow and wrist should bend so that the head of the stick is around head/helmet height.
At peak cradle the stick head should be facing downward, the upward force of the stick will act with the pocket to keep the ball from falling out. After that bring the stick back down so it’s in the same position you started in with the open end of the stick facing the sky.
Know Your Pocket
The more you practice and familiarise yourself with your pocket, the more you will start to feel the weight of the ball in the pocket and be able to control it. Once you get more comfortable with cradling try matching your footsteps with your cradle. When your off-foot is in front, your stick should be cradling near your head therefore when your dominant foot is in front then your stick should be cradling down your waist.
Two-handed cradling is a very important skill to master. Some of the best players in the world always give the tip to keep both hands on the stick so one can always be ready to pass or shot. With this in mind, keep practising the two-handed cradle so that you can fly up and down the field or box with ease.
Lacrosse Cradling – One Handed
One handed cradle provides maximum stick protection from defenders and allows players to run at higher speeds while maintain possession of the ball. The down side is that it is more difficult to pass or shoot because you have only one hand.
Most of the force in a one arm cradle comes from the wrist and shoulder, while moving the stick from side to side. Grip the stick right below the head; swing the stick towards your back while your stick side foot is in front. Only saying it like this so that you can get the co-ordination right with your arms and legs making it a more fluid motion overall. Just like any other cradling technique, with practice you will start to feel the ball more in the pocket by slightly using your wrist.
The main purpose of the one-arm cradle is to protect your stick from defenders and checks. Remember to always keep your body between the defender and your stick. Also, keep your stick as close to your body as possible. Your stick should always be parallel to your body and if you want to create more protection. Use a stiff free hand to create space between your stick and the defender.
Lacrosse Cradling – Wrap Up
Cradling is just like any other Lacrosse skill; you want to practice so much that it becomes natural. Develop muscle memory so that you can cradle confidently with both hands and that will make you a more effective player. Try different moves, learn what you’re stick can and can’t do. You listen to the pros and most of them say to bring your stick everywhere. When you feel like it is a third arm then you will see a huge difference in your game. Don’t put the wand down, practice, practice, practice!