The Art of Cradling in Lacrosse The Pros Love
For a young player just starting out in the game of lacrosse, there will probably be nothing more frustrating to them then learning the art of cradling with a lacrosse stick. Without mastering this technique, a player will be doing a whole lot of running, only to find that the ball has decided to stay behind, either via falling out of the stick, or being dislodged by a defensive player. However, with good equipment, and most importantly, practice and repetition, this technique can be easily mastered and lead to years of playing enjoyment. Let us then look at the basics of cradling, and then examine some of the different techniques for doing so.
In the opening paragraph, I mentioned how equipment plays a factor, and it is one of the most important ones in trying to perfect this art. With a lacrosse stick, and more generally, the crosse in particular, it is of the utmost importance that you create a good pocket for the ball to rest in. Without it, the ball has nowhere to rest and will just fly out when you start to run or attempt to cradle. To create this pocket, it becomes necessary to do pound the net continually so as to have a nice, deep pocket form. For those of you who have played baseball, it is the same type of thing as breaking in a new mitt. The more you get the ball to form in the web of the mitt, the better the pocket will be for securing the ball. The same holds true in lacrosse. I remember breaking in my first stick, and having rocketed the ball in the webbing what seemed like thousands of time until I had a pocket I was comfortable with.
Now that you have a pocket formed, the next thing that has to be worked on is to learn how to properly handle your stick. First, hand positioning is very important. First you want to take your primary hand (what I mean is the hand that you do most everything with per say), and place that towards the top of the stick, but do so from underneath the stick. Now take your free hand and place it loosely on the bottom of the stick, stabilizing with your fingers and thumb in a circle.
You at this point have your hands correctly situated on the stick. Next, get your lacrosse ball and put it in your net. Take your stick and raise it up, bringing it up to anywhere between your chest to your face level. With the stick located at this point, start to turn your hand that is located on the upper part of the stick at the wrist. What you should sense now is the motion going back and forth, while nothing that the ball stays securely in the pocket.
Finally, bring the stick down to waist level now, while keeping the basket in an upright position. With the ball inside the basket, rotate your upper hand back and forth. You can see how the ball moves around at this point, and for the most part stays in the basket. Obviously, if your someone just learning the basics, you are going to have your share of drops and such as any person would have, but much like any repetitive task in sports, the more you practice it, the more second nature it will become. At some point, you will look back and laugh trying to remember when you could not cradle a lacrosse ball.
As mentioned earlier, once you have the basics down, there are some various cradling techniques that can be used to make you even that much more versatile out on the lacrosse pitch. Any little extra that a player can learn can mean the difference between a good player and a great one. Here is a quick blurb on each of these cradling techniques:
Vertical Top Handed Cradle – this is a technique where you will find the stick in an upright ready position, around head height. The inner part of the upper hand is towards the player, with the fingers being wrapped around the stick. The player then keeps a loose grip with the other hand, so as to be able to guide the stick, but not tight to a point that it would restrict the stick from moving back and forth inside the hand. From there, the player turns their wrist back and forth in regular, but steady pace. At this point, forearm movement in and out is added to the earlier combination, thereby increasing the force of the ball in the net, making it feel more weighted down within the net. This can be a very important technique when the player gets use to it because it will instill more confidence that he or she will be able to keep the ball secure and away from the defender while running down the field. It is probably the most secure of all the cradling techniques.
The Horizontal cradle is very similar to the vertical cradle except when it comes to the positioning on the stick. In the horizontal technique the stick in carried differently, with the crosse of the stick being down around waist level. Mostly, you will only see this cradle used when a player is alone, running in an open area of the field, and does not need the extra ball security afforded by the vertical cradle mentioned above.
The Single Handed Cradle is another risky cradle technique, but one that can help a player out by giving him the ability to increase his speed down the field, as well as giving him greater flexibility for making cuts while doing so. It is considered a riskier technique because its leaves the ball that must more vulnerable to attack by a defending player, while also leaving the player more susceptible to penalties caused by that now freehand trying to push off a rival defender.
Lastly, there is the bottom handled cradle which is kind of like the horizontal cradle in that it is usually again only used in the open field setting. What it is used for is to let the player’s dominant hand get a chance to relax and leave some of the stress off his or her hand.
Well there you have it. The how to in the use of the cradling technique in lacrosse, and the various types of cradle techniques available to a player. If you’re a budding lacrosse addict, hopefully this will give you some ideas of what to try and perfect next.