Fundamental Skills Analysis
Cradling & Ball Protection
- Generally, two hands are at opposite ends of the stick (one at the “butt-end,” the other just below the stick “head” at the "throat"), at approximately waist height, while "cradling" the lacrosse ball on the floor. In the offensive zone, players will often times move their hands above their head and closer together (shoulder-width) into what's known as the triple threat position, while threatening to shoot, "shopping" to pass, or setting up a dodge.
When teaching someone how to cradle for the first time it may be advantageous to first teach them to "one-handed" cradle, using their top hand only at the "throat" of the stick (stick "head" facing their body - vertical) moving the stick from mid-line (perpendicular) to outside of the body (parallel) with a straight arm. This gives players a chance to experience the momentum involved in cradling.
Next, have them turn their stick into a horizontal position (head facing up), with the biceps of the player's top hand at a 90 degree angle. Have them move only their top hand to manipulate the stick in an up and down (wrist flexion & extension); then add the wrist in open and closed type motion involving the biceps.
The upper arm (humerus) should have very little movement the majority of the time and the cradling action is actually a slight (relaxed grip) wrist and hand motion (similar to a biceps curl exercise). As the wrist is cradling up, ones hand/fingers should be curling in (flexion) and as the wrist is cradling down ones hand/fingers should be curling back (extension - see picture above).
Next add on the bottom hand to act as a guide (forming a hollow circle "doughnut" around the butt-end of the stick), it should move very little (if at all) other than to clench the stick handle when required (i.e. passing, shooting, sustaining defensive pressure, etc.).
This motion also needs to be timed appropriately with the stride and movements of the player (in sync) when it comes to game play (i.e. when running); build the skill up from stationary to dynamic.
Lastly, players should learn to use their body position and arms to “protect the ball,” keeping their “stick tight” to their body and away from any defenders.
- From a 2-handed cradle, the bottom hand can easily be removed, using this arm instead to protect the ball and stick, usually in the “open floor.” Players must beware not to push-off with their “free-arm” which is a form of “minor interference” and a loss of possession. This is an intermediate skill that should be discouraged to beginners.
One hand, or the other, is on the stick just below the stick head (it is a bad habit to one-handed cradle with a hand halfway down the shaft or lower; an easy strip). The hand to be used is determined as follows: the player with the ball attempts to keep themselves between the defender and the ball (i.e. protecting the ball).
From a vertical position, the action of the hand is then to move the stick back and forth between the mid-line and the outside of the body.
Keep in mind that it usually takes “two-hands” to score a goal. Thus, this technique is generally used only as a means of creating space for oneself, most often in transition, otherwise two-handed cradling is predominantly used.
- Categories: Drillbook / Cradling