Are you often confused about the various stick-holding positions of lacrosse players? If you’re interested in this sport, then chances are you’ve watched a game or two in order to get some insight into the different techniques of players. One thing you’ll definitely notice is how the lacrosse stick is held – and how it changes position from time to time.
Why is that? Well, the way you hold the stick depends on how you intend to use it. There’s cradling, there’s catching, there’s passing, and then there’s shooting. How are you supposed to handle the stick each time? Here are the top 10 tips pro-lacrosse players would want you to know:
10 Tips for Holding a Lacrosse Stick Like a Pro
Tip 1: Find the Right Length and Size for You
Choosing a lacrosse stick is a lot like choosing a magic wand – you need to find the right length and size for your hands and arms. The actual length of the stick would obviously be limited by the regulations, but this is often given in a range – allowing you to choose among several possible lengths. This means you can try out different sizes – choosing one that best feels like it is the extension of your own hand.
What about your position? Well, your role in the game also plays a part. For example, defensive players prefer shorter sticks while offensive players prefer longer ones because it lets them execute their shots best. The circumference also matters here – it should be big enough that you can grasp it completely in your hand with zero danger of slipping.
Tip 2: Righty or Lefty?
How you hold the stick also depends on your dominant hand. You see, the default hold of a lacrosse stick would be one hand on the end of the stick and another hand on the top portion. If you are a lefty, your left hand would be on the top while the right one holds the end of the stick. If you’re a righty, then the opposite would be true. Simply put – the non-dominant hand holds the end of the stick.
Now, try holding the lacrosse stick with your non-dominant hand on the end and the dominant one wrapped around the middle portion of the stick. Imagine that you’re passing a ball to someone. How’s the movement? You’ll notice that the dominant hand or the hand at the top primarily controls the force and direction of your imaginary pass. The bottom hand simply holds the stick steady as the dominant hand does most of the work. This is why you need the dominant hand on top.
Tip 3: Open End Out
This seems obvious but unfortunately, many beginners have a hard time perfecting this simple task. Not really surprising since you need a certain level of awareness to make sure that the open end of your head is always facing outwards. Imagine this, you’re ready to catch a ball. The head is positioned perfectly and as the ball moves in seemingly slow motion towards you – it just bounces off the head.
What? Why? Well, you’re holding the stick wrong. The head is flipped so that the ball actually hit the back of the pocket. Frustrating right? You have to always make sure that you’re holding the stick with the head in the right direction. This might seem like a small thing but in the midst of the game, it’s easy to lose track of what side is facing up. As you get better, you’ll get this natural instinct for when the stick is facing the wrong direction.
Tip 4: Divide It Into Four
Okay – now I want you to take a good look at your stick. You’ll notice that there’s the head and then the stick itself which is technically called the “shaft”. One good tip you’ll get from coaches is that you have to divide that stick into four. Imagine four lines: the first one is just below the head, the second is a quarter down, the third is at the halfway point of the stick, and the last one is found at the butt of the stick. Hey, if you have to draw that on the stick – it won’t be a problem!
What do these lines have to do with stick handling? Well, the position of your hand would change depending on the move you’re trying to make and they will change according to those lines. Each line is like your “marker” for where your hand is supposed to be.
One thing though – when we say “hand” – were’ really just talking about the dominant one. However, there are instances when the non-dominant hand will also change positions.
Tip 5: One is for the Box
Now hold your lacrosse stick. The dominant hand is on the first notch and the non-dominant hand is on the second notch. This is one of those rare occasions when the non-dominant hand is NOT on the butt-end of the shaft.
So the head of the stick would practically be on the same level as your head. This is what professional players call “the box”. It’s actually an imaginary line starting from the tip of your forehead, extending about a foot outwards, going back down, hitting the elbow of the dominant hand, and then back to the forehead. The head of the stick sits smack in the middle of that imaginary box.
What is this for though? This is deemed the prime catching position for lacrosse. Basically, when you’re on the field and playing, holding your stick in the box position gives your team mate a perfect aiming space so that there’s a very high chance of actually catching the ball.
You know what else this position is great for? Holding the stick this way lets you easily “give in” when catching a ball. There’s a lot of control around the head area so that you can easily do a little recoil when catching the ball so that it doesn’t just bounce off the mesh.
Tip 6: Two is for Cradle
Cradling is the term used for holding the ball in the pocket during the game and making sure it doesn’t fall off until you’re ready to pass or shoot. It’s actually a skill that’s perfected with practice – but it has to start with the right hand position.
For cradling, your dominant hand should be on the second notch. The non-dominant one falls to the fourth notch too – but make sure this isn’t done at the same time. If you look at how players make the switch, the non-dominant hand actually moves first. Once they caught the ball, the non-dominant hand moves to the fourth notch and then the dominant one follows downward to the second notch. This is the perfect cradling grip.
Tip 7: Three is for Passing
Okay – so you now know how to hold the ball during the game, but you can’t hold that ball forever! The next step is to pass it to someone else – or maybe shoot it to a target? In either case – your hand positioning would now be different. For a pass, the dominant hand makes another move – this time to the third notch of the stick. The non-dominant hand remains on the fourth notch so this is actually a much smoother and quicker motion.
Why the sudden change of hand positioning? Well, moving the dominant hand lower actually gives you more power as you pass. There’s a better chance for the ball to travel greater distances – and you can also better control the accuracy of the ball.
Tip 8: Cradling with One Hand
You should also learn how to properly hold a stick for a one-hand cradle. This is important if you’re a defensive player in the team. One hand cradling usually requires that your hand would be a few inches below the head. This is a matter of personal taste so notching doesn’t always work here. To cradle, gently move your wrist and shoulder in a rocking motion, the goal being to keep the ball moving in a crescent shape in the head. This will prevent it from falling off.
Tip 9: Practice in Motion
One good exercise for stick handling is to throw it sideways and let the other hand catch it, all without moving your head. The goal is for you to instinctively catch the stick from one hand to the next without having to look.
Tip 10: High and Low Flip Exercises
Once you’re comfortable with the grip, it’s now time to practice with the ball. A common exercise would be flipping. Place a lacrosse ball in the net and just start throwing it low and then catching it back again. Repeat this exercise, making sure that you’re not moving from your spot. Got it already? Now, let’s make things more interesting with high flips. This time, you need to throw the ball high up in the sky and then catch it again without moving your feet. This not only helps your accuracy but lets you become more familiar with stick handling.
Holding your lacrosse stick seems like such a simple thing but it actually requires tons of practice. Once you’re comfortable with a stick however, you’ll find that these position switches all come naturally.