Last week I went on about cradling (some would say I went on a tad too long), and how important it is to keep the lacrosse ball in your stick. Well, how did the ball get in your stick in the first place? There are two primary ways of getting the ball in your stick. The first being, you picked it up off the ground. The other, much easier way, that doesn’t involve bending over, is catching it when it is thrown to you. Truthfully, catching is not easier than picking up a ball off the ground — initially. But once you learn how to do it and master the skill, it requires much less effort than picking up a ground ball.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Same way you learn how to catch. Practice, practice, practice. Catching does require hand-eye coordination, but proper technique and practice will develop that. My favorite lacrosse drill for teaching young players to catch is Flipz. Don’t worry, this is not some gymnastic maneuver requiring mats and a spotter. It is actually a very simple exercise they can do by themselves.
Catching— It’s All About the Flipz!
Players start with the ball in their stick. Tell them to toss the ball up in the air, about 4–5 feet above their head. Now have them raise the head of the stick above the shoulder and look the ball into the stick. A light soft cradle will nestle it in there. Repeat 10,000 times. Then switch hands and do it another 10,000 times. You might want to let them take a break every 50–100 reps. 😀
I love this simple little lacrosse drill for a number of reasons:
- It is fairly easy and lets young players experience success pretty quickly.
- It involves a little bit of personal responsibility. The player can’t blame you, his coach, or his teammates for a bad throw. It’s all on them. You can coach them up as they are doing it without being the excuse.
- It’s progressive. You can make it more challenging as your children get better at it. Do it one handed, do it with their left hand. Catch on the back of their stick, or the sidewall. And finally, it’s the basis for wall ball/rebounder work, which is the key to mastering stick skills.
Things to Remember
Keep the stick vertical
The initial tendency is to catch the ball with the stick in a horizontal position. That is fine to start, but have them get the stick up over their shoulder as soon as they are comfortable. In both girls and boys lacrosse this is often referred to as the “triple threat position” (shoulder, shoulder stick).
Give with the ball
Soft hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, just like cradling. Don’t use gloves to start — unless it’s really cold.
Watch the ball
You’ve all heard this since your children were in Little League and you’d still hear it on the tee box if you were a golfer. Same concept. Look the ball all the way into the stick.
Common Mistakes and Corrections
Stabbing or punching at the ball
Get the stick out, away from the body and bring it back into your body, close to your ear.
Catching below the shoulder
Reach up to catch it as high as you can.
Cradling too hard
Be efficient, just enough to control the ball in the pocket. Eventually catch it without a cradle.
The Swax Lax Ball
What the heck does this have to do with Swax Lax balls? Why can’t I do this drill with a regulation lacrosse ball, or a tennis ball, or a pinkie? You can. But it’s harder.
Swax Lax balls are the same weight and size as a regulation lacrosse ball and were designed to make learning to catch easier for young players. Regulation balls are hard and can be a little scary and intimidating for young players. Swax Lax balls are softer and give young players more confidence. Swax Lax balls also don’t bounce and roll like regulation lacrosse balls, tennis balls, or pinkies do. So, when your little laxers drop the ball, and they will, they can pick it up and start the drill again much faster when they aren’t chasing it across the driveway, yard, or down the street.
Tennis balls and pinkies are softer and lighter, why not use them? They are actually too light. They tend to bounce out of sticks and take a much more sensitive hand to control in the stick. And the bouncing and rolling thing is an issue as well. Swax Lax balls are ideal for teaching young players the basics. They allow young players to play with confidence and less fear, leading to more success.
Flipz seems like a simple little drill that most experienced players would consider kind of juvenile. But watch what even the best lacrosse player does when you hand them a new stick and put a ball in it. Bet it looks a lot like Flipz.