Lacrosse Cradling is a technique for maintaining the lacrosse ball in the pocket of the lacrosse stick. The design of the stick head is such that the ball does not want to stay in the pocket and will fall out very easily. Imagine trying to run while holding an egg in a table spoon. It is a similar kind of thing when players are learning to run with a lacrosse ball. The technique that is used to keep the ball in the pocket is called a cradle.
Cradling the ball is where a player twists his wrists and flexes his forearm back & forth as a way to cause the ball to stay in the pocket by the addition of centrifugal force. This is one of the most fundamental and important skills a player will need to master.
Without the use of the cradle players will have an extremely frustrating time trying to maintain possession of the ball, but when mastered the ball will sit happily in the pocket as the player twists back and forth cradling the ball down the field. If done well a strong cradle can defeat very good stick checks. Cradling can be performed both with one hand or with two hands. Beginning players should learn how to cradle with two hands first as the foundation to good fundamental lacrosse technique, and as they gain in their stick skills the one handed cradle can be added as an additional skill.
The two handed cradle can be done with the stick in an upright or vertical position, or a more relaxed horizontal position. The upright position is the more important of the two lacrosse cradling techniques to master because it offers the most protection of the ball. It can also be performed with the cradle hand on top or on the bottom. The top handed cradle is best to master because it offers the most protection.
The Vertical top handed cradle is lacrosse cradling technique that is done with the lacrosse stick in an upright ready position. Lacrosse head about even with the players head about ear height. The palm of the top hand facing the player and fingers gripped around the shaft of the stick. The player uses the bottom hand as guide to keep the stick upright but only very loosely so that the stick can freely twist back and forth inside the bottom hand. With the top hand firmly grasping the shaft the player rotates their wrist back and forth in a steady not to quick pace. They will add to that the movement of their forearm in and out as their wrist moves in and out in concert with each other in order to increase the centrifugal force. This will be awkward at first, but with practice the player will be able to confidently move and run down the field while protecting the ball from the opponent. As the player improves they will actually be able to feel the ball gain weight in the pocket as they increase the force. When attacked the player can increase the force utilizing what is known as a power cradle and defeat even very well placed checks.
The horizontal cradle is lacrosse cradling technique basically done in exactly the same manner but the head of the stick is allowed to drop down toward the players waist. This is a much more vulnerable position and should only be done when the player is in the open field and does not need the added protection of the vertical cradle.
The bottom handed cradle is similar to the horizontal cradle in that it is best performed in the open field. It allows the player to relax the dominant hand and can be performed either upright or horizontally.
The single handed cradle is performed upright with a single hand grasped near the head of the stick. The technique is the same in regards to the wrist and arm motion. It is used to allow a player to increase their running speed and ability to quickly change direction. It is much more vulnerable than the two handed cradle. Be carefully to teach the kids not to push away with the free hand or they will be penalized for Warding. The free hand should be held against the body.