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July 30, 2009

Straight Shooters: New Ways to Conquer Cradling?

by Lindsey Biles | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Biles Archive

Got a question for Lindsey Biles? Follow the link at the bottom of this page for more information on how to submit to "Straight Shooters."

Jessica Taylor, Columbus, Ohio:

I coach middle school, and every year we have an issue instructing our girls on cradling. Some get the concept seamlessly, and others find it more difficult. We teach the "open and close the gate" technique that I was raised on. I've been trying to find alternative ways of teaching cradling, and the only thing I can find online are male coaches describing the gate technique as archaic, but giving no solutions. How would you teach a girl who has never held a stick how to cradle?

Lindsey Biles:

Even though it has been around for a while, I think that the “open the door, close the door” method is still the best for teaching the cradling concept for the first time. Whatever the terminology, it’s all about teaching the same motion. Some players will naturally pick it up more easily, and that’s OK. You just have to emphasize the importance of it and find as many ways as possible to incorporate cradling into your practice drills.

I would start off, much as you’ve probably done, by teaching your players how to hold the stick upright, placing their dominant hand around six inches from the top and their non-dominant hand at the bottom. (Depending on how long their sticks are, this may create too much distance between their hands and be too awkward -- you may need to show them how to cut their sticks so that they can better manage them.) Have each player start with her stick upright in a vertical position with the stick head by her dominant ear in front of her dominant shoulder.

Then have her “open the door/close the door” as you mentioned, bringing her entire stick in a semicircle from her dominant ear to her non-dominant ear and back, using her arms and wrists to keep the ball facing her face throughout the entire motion.

The key is to help your players understand the concept -- that the semicircular motion is important, because it creates centrifugal force that keeps the ball in the stick head.

This full motion from one ear to the other can be difficult to do while running and playing, so once the concept is understood, it’s easier to use an abbreviated version. I would still have each player begin with the stick by her dominant ear, in front of her shoulder, but would instead have each end the cradle motion halfway in front of her face rather than executing a full 180 degree semicircle.  Make sure the stick is kept upright.

To practice, build cradling into as many drills as possible.  One of the best involves setting up cones in a line with about 6-10 feet in between each cone. Players cradle through the cones in an “S” motion. Each cone represents a “defender,” so when a player passes by a cone, she has to pull her stick and her cradle to the side of her body opposite the cone to protect the ball while still maintaining good form. This will help all of your players to become more fluid and to feel more comfortable cradling on both sides of their body.

Throughout all of your drills, it is important to demonstrate how critical cradling is to the game -- show them what a good cradle looks like and how it is used to protect the ball and to enhance ball handling when in motion.

If they understand the importance, hopefully they will practice!


We get questions all the time to which, frankly, we don't have the answers. Luckily, we've got four pros on hand.

Matt Zash, a former Duke All-American, currently plays for the NLL's New York Titans and MLL's Long Island Lizards. Lindsey Biles a former Princeton All-American and Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, ranks second all-time among scorers there. Rashad Devoe is a lacrosse-specific strength and conditioning coach that has worked with some of the best players in the country for over 13 years. Nathaniel Badder is the officials training and education manager for US Lacrosse.

Need advice? Click here to submit questions to our "Straight Shooters."


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