What’s cradling in lacrosse? Important Cradling Drills


In lacrosse, cradling is a technique that we use to protect the ball from falling out of our net. There are seven major skills we need to learn to play lacrosse: scooping, throwing, catching, shooting, checking, dodging, and cradling.

Cradling is my best lacrosse skill and I love to talk about it. If you want to get smart about how cradling works in lacrosse, or how you can improve your cradling skills, let me show you. It’s important to learn this because cradling is an essential part of a good lacrosse defence. 

What is the purpose of cradling in lacrosse?

The purpose of cradling is to make sure that the ball doesn’t fall out of our net when we have possession. Cradling is a fundamental skill because our defence relies on it, and it reduces our chance of dropping the ball while we’re moving.

It doesn’t matter what our position is, turnovers cost games and strong cradling skills will help make us great lacrosse players.

What are some lacrosse cradling drills?

There are plenty of drills to practice that will improve our cradling skills. My favourites are the Traffic Light Game, Pick Up, Catch; Cradle, and Marching Cradle.

Traffic Light Game

You’ve probably played versions of the Traffic Light Game somewhere else, but this version can help improve both our cradling technique and our lacrosse discipline. In this drill, players line up and move to the other side of the field, as commanded by their coach.

When the coach shouts “red light”, the players walk. “Yellow light” means that players should run. When the coach gives the “Green Light” order, players sprint as fast as they can. Players are cradling the ball for the entire duration of this drill.

The point of this exercise is to build discipline by improving our control of the stick and ball while running at different speeds.

Pick Up

The cradling drill starts with the ball resting on the ground. We take a step with our dominant foot and swing our stick down. Then we scoop the ball into our net, then bring it up to our neck. From here we should immediately start cradling the ball.

To make the drill harder and hone our cradling skills even further, we should start running immediately after we scoop the ball and begin cradling it.

Rehearsing this drill will improve our coordination and reflexes. We’ll instinctively be able to scoop balls that have fallen on the field and our cradling technique will become second nature to us.

Catch and Cradle

In the heat of a lacrosse game, we need to move on to muscle memory. Our actions must be instinct. This is why we should practice catching the ball and then cradling it.

This is a simple drill to perform. We simply have a partner pass the ball to us and immediately start cradling the ball once we catch it. This is an important drill to practice so that we can keep pass plays moving.

Marching Cradle

The Marching Cradle Drill begins with the whole team assembling into a horseshoe shape. This allows the coach to observe all players at once. Before the players are given our balls, we practice the cradling motion with empty nets.

Once the coach is satisfied that each of us can execute the cradling motion, we are given our balls and we start marching. Our march should be in sync with the movement of our lacrosse stick.

When we swing the stick to the left, we should take a step with our left foot. When we swing the stick to the right, we should step with the right foot. It can be helpful to create a rhyme or cadence to help us keep the proper rhythm of motion during this exercise.

How can I explain cradling?

When we cradle, we grip our sticks differently than we do when we pass and shoot. Instead of holding our hands close together, we keep our hands far apart when we cradle. Keeping a wide grip on the stick gives us more stability and control when we’re running, and defenders are stick checking us.

We keep our dominant hand near the top of our stick and our non-dominant hand down by the bottom of our lacrosse stick. With our top hand, we grip the stick like it’s a dumbbell, with our palm facing up.

Our bottom hand should have an overhand grip on the end of the stick. To cradle the ball, we move our dominant hand in curling back and forth motion. This allows our elbow, wrist, and fingers to move naturally. This keeps the ball safe.

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Is there anything similar to cradling on other sports?

When we’re cradling the ball in lacrosse, our grips are similar to basic exercise grips. Our dominant hand is gripping the top of the stick the way that we would grip a dumbbell or a pull-up bar while doing chin-ups.

Our bottom hand is gripping the other end of the lacrosse stick the way we would grip the pull up bar while doing an actual pull up.

If we’re having trouble understanding how cradling keeps the ball safe, it helps to visualize a bucket of water. If we hold the bucket and swing it in circles, we won’t lose any water from the bucket, as long as we do this fast enough.

This is called centrifugal force. Just like it keeps water from falling from a swinging bucket, it keeps our ball falling out of our net.

What is an illegal cradle in lacrosse?

To keep the game safe, there are rules governing the cradling motion. An illegal cradle is when we make a cradling motion that brings the stick too close to our head or body. The reason this is a penalty is because it can make an otherwise legal check impossible to perform safely.

What does “covering” mean?

Covering is an illegal way that players sometimes try to protect the ball. This is when we use our foot or their stick to shield the ball from other players. The only acceptable way for us to protect the ball from their opponent is by cradling. This is why cradling is such an important skill for lacrosse players to learn.

What does “warding off” mean?

Another illegal way that players sometimes try to protect the ball is by cradling with only one hand. They use their other arm to try to “ward off” the defender by hitting, slapping, pushing, or blocking them. This is against the rules because it is an obvious safety hazard and we are not allowed to punch other players.

In addition to being against the rules, this manoeuvre is also reckless because it makes it harder for us to control the stick. If we are trying to cradle with only one hand, it’s easy for the ball to fall out of our net. This defeats the entire purpose of cradling to begin with.

What is the three second rule in lacrosse?

Lacrosse is meant to be a fast paced game. One of the rules that keep the game moving is the three second rule. The three second rule says that once we come into possession of the ball, we have three seconds to do one of two things: we can either pass the ball, or we can begin cradling it.

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