How to Cradle a Lacrosse Ball: 9 Tips

men's lacrosse ball and lacrosse stick in youth sports

Are you lacrosse beginner ready to improve your skills? One of the most important techniques to learn is how to cradle the ball. This allows you to maintain possession and keep the ball away from defenders. Cradling can feel awkward at first, but in this article will we walk you through 9 easy steps on how to cradle a lacrosse ball.

What is Lacrosse Cradling?

Cradling is a back and forth motion that uses centrifugal force to keep the ball in your lacrosse pocket as you run. Running with a lacrosse ball may seem easy at first, but you’ll soon discover that the ball can easily pop out. Cradling is also helpful when dodging and absorbing checks from defenders.

a few balls used for cradling with non dominant hand
Credit: Hartford Courant

There are two main types of cradles: the two-handed cradle and the one-handed cradle. The two-handed cradle is excellent for maintaining control and being able to pass, throw, and shoot at the ready. The one-handed cradle is beneficial when protecting your stick from defenders in tight situations.

Most beginners start with a two-handed cradle because it is simpler and feels more natural. As you get more comfortable with cradling, you can try out the one-handed cradle. Now that you know the basics, let’s get into how to cradle a lacrosse ball step by step:

How to Cradle a Lacrosse Ball (Step by Step)

dominant hand placement on lacrosse stick with plastic rim

Step One: Bottom Hand Placement

Start by placing your bottom hand near the butt end of the lacrosse shaft. When you wrap your fingers around the bottom of the shaft it is important to keep your fingers loose. Many beginners tend to grip the bottom of the shaft tightly. You actually want to maintain a loose grip and allow the shaft to spin within your fingers as you begin cradling.

One helpful trick is to make an okay sign 👌 with your bottom hand. This trains you to keep you to hold the bottom of the stick loosely.

Step Two: Top Hand Placement

dominant hand and non dominant hand in lacrosse

Next, place your top hand near the top of the lacrosse shaft. As you become better at cradling, you can move your top hand a few inches down from the very top. Your bottom palm should be facing down and your top palm should be facing up

Step Three: Place a ball in your stick

It’s difficult to practice cradling without a lacrosse ball. The weight and inertia of the ball in your lacrosse pocket make it easier to cradle.

Step Four: Begin rocking your wrist back and forth.

Start rocking your top hand wrist back and forth. This half-circle motion is similar to a dumbbell curl, except you are using less arm motion and more wrist motion. Your wrists should be loose, not stiff, as you move the ball from one side of the pocket to the other. Keep your bottom hand steady.

Step Five: Cradle at a relaxed pace

There’s no need to rush here. Keep your arms relaxed as you feel the ball at the center of your pocket. This is the sweet spot for cradling. From here, you can easily pass, shoot, or run with the ball.

Step Six: Practice this motion until it feels natural.

It may take some time to get used to cradling, but keep practicing and you’ll get the hang of it. After a while, coaches even recommend practicing cradling in front of the TV while you watch Netflix to further build up muscle memory!

Step Seven: Try cradling with your opposite hand

Once you’re comfortable cradling, try cradling with your opposite hand. Simply switch your top and bottom hand placement and practice cradling again. Even though you may not be able to catch and throw with your opposite hand, it is incredibly helpful to be able to switch hands in a game and cradle your way out of a crowd of defenders.

Step Eight: Try cradling with one hand

Once you’re comfortable with the two-handed cradle, try cradling with just one hand. This is a bit more challenging, but it’s great for protecting your stick when defenders are checking your bottom hand.

lacrosse players cradling ball close with stick parallel

Simply start cradling as you normally would, and slowly release your bottom hand from the stick. Now, hold the stick vertically (perpendicular to the ground) and continue cradling so the ball doesn’t fall out. Lacrosse sticks with deeper pockets will have an easier time with one handed cradling.

Step Nine: Use training aids!

opposing player full speed stick checks while lacrosse ball in pocket

The best way to improve your cradling is to get out on the field and play. Grab a bucket of lacrosse balls and start cradling while you run, dodge, and make passes. If you’re concerned with using a regular, concrete lacrosse ball, try practicing with soft lacrosse balls. These are great for youth players or anyone looking to practice their cradling in the house. There are plenty of other fantastic training aids for improving your game as well.


Now that you know how to cradle a lacrosse ball, it’s time to put these tips into practice! Practice 3-5 times a week for about 20 minutes a day. In a few days your muscle memory will build up, and cradling will feel like second nature.

lacrosse players dominant hand picking up ground balls

Once you feel confident, head out onto the field and start cradling while you run, dodge, and make passes. It’s excellent to even practice picking up the ball from the ground and bringing your stick up into a cradling motion. Once you’ve got the hang of cradling, it’s time to check out our step by step on how to throw a lacrosse ball!

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