Lacrosse is a complex sport with many little details and intricacies. To understand the sport as a whole, it is first necessary to grasp the basic concepts of the game, such as whether or not you can run with the ball.
Lacrosse players are legally allowed to run with the ball as long as they carry the ball with their lacrosse stick. There is no set limit to how many steps a player can take with the ball. Players commonly use the fundamental technique of cradling to retain possession of the ball while running.
Running with the ball is a fundamental aspect of lacrosse. Some of the first things lacrosse players and fans should learn is how running with the ball influences the way the game is played. They should also take the time to learn about the details of cradling, which is the method that players use to keep possession of the ball.
How Running with the Ball Impacts the Game of Lacrosse
The entire game of lacrosse is based around the premise of players running with the ball. It is ingrained into the very fabric of the game.
There are two primary ways that players move the ball in the game of lacrosse. One way is by players passing the ball to one another. The other way is through players physically carrying the ball in their lacrosse sticks and running around the field.
An Essential Part of Offensive Strategy
The object of the game of lacrosse is to score more goals than the opponent. Players use these two methods of movement (passing and running) to strategically move closer to the opposing net and score goals.
Running with the ball provides offensive players with the opportunity to dodge past defenders and create space for the act of shooting. Without the ability to run with the ball, players would have a much more challenging time scoring points. This is because offensive strategy is founded on the idea that players can sprint around the field with possession.
If players were restricted to a stationary position when in possession of the ball, defenses would have a field day. Running with the ball just adds another variable to the game that makes lacrosse much more dynamic and exciting to watch.
Increases the Tempo of the Game
Lacrosse is known for its fast-paced nature. In fact, it has earned the nickname of the “Fastest Game on Two Feet” because of how fast paced it is. The ability of players to run with the ball plays a substantial role in how lacrosse came to earn this nickname.
It is rather easy for players to move around the field when they have the ball in their lacrosse stick. The ball does not restrict their movements all that much, especially when compared to sports like basketball or soccer. Players can essentially run at terminal velocity without having to constantly think about where the ball is.
For this reason, players can move from one end of the field to the other at a lightning quick speed. Players are able to utilize their quickness and acceleration to their advantage to sneak past defenders and score at a rapid rate. This is why the sport of lacrosse is such a back and forth game.
If players were not legally allowed to run with the ball, this would be a completely different story.
How Players Run with the Ball in Lacrosse
If you have ever watched a lacrosse game, you have probably noticed players doing what seems like a “twirling motion” with their sticks whenever they have the ball. Contrary to popular opinion, this movement is not a twirl motion at all. It is called cradling.
The General Premise Behind Cradling
Cradling is what prevents the ball from slipping out of the lacrosse stick when players run around on the field.
The general principle of cradling is based on the theory of centripetal force. As players curl their lacrosse stick up and down in a semicircular path, the ball is able to better withstand the jolts and bumps that go along with running.
The centripetal force negates the effect of these external forces that are trying to get the ball to fly out of the lacrosse stick. This is why the ball remains nestled in the pocket of the lacrosse stick even when a player is sprinting wildly down the field.
The Proper Way to Cradle the Ball While Running
If players do not adhere to proper cradling technique, the chances that the ball flies out of the lacrosse stick goes up exponentially. For this reason, it is imperative that lacrosse players follow a few core principles when it comes to cradling.
A step-by-step guide to the process of cradling is listed below:
- Position your dominant hand at the top of the handle just under (but not touching) the plastic of the lacrosse head. The handle should lie at the base of your fingers (not your palm).
- With your dominant hand, lightly clutch the handle with an underhand grip.
- Position your non-dominant hand at the very bottom of the handle.
- With your non-dominant hand, lightly clutch the handle with an overhand grip.
- Angle your lacrosse stick about 45 degrees to the ground.
- Keep the bottom end of your lacrosse stick fixed in space with your non-dominant hand.
- With your dominant hand, curl the lacrosse stick back and forth by hinging at the elbow.
- Curl the lacrosse stick with your wrist back and forth in sync with the curling of your arm. To do this, it is crucial that you loosen up your wrists.
Practice these steps and you will learn how to run around with the ball in no time!
Predominant Reasons Why Players Run and Cradle the Ball
There are several reasons as to why players elect to cradle the ball while they run. The most prominent of these reasons will be investigated next.
Reduces the Likelihood of Unforced Turnovers
One of the main reasons that players cradle the ball while they move around is because it minimizes the chances of an unforced turnover.
Often times, novice lacrosse players turn the ball back over to the opposition involuntarily because they have yet to grasp the technique of cradling. Obviously, this can have significant repercussions on the outcome of the game. There is never really any good that comes out of unforced turnovers.
Not to mention that turnover prone players will probably not receive very much playing time. It is to their benefit to learn how to cradle effectively in order to run around the field in a smooth fashion.
Maximizes Stick Protection
The technique of cradling also maximizes protection of the ball. Defenders are looking to exploit any opportunity that they can to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s stick. One of the first things they look for is whether or not a ball carrier knows how to cradle.
Players that do not know how to cradle are left extremely vulnerable to defensive stick checks. This is because there is no centripetal force present to counteract the powerful checks coming from defenders.
If a player knows how to cradle effectively, they can retain possession even under heavy defensive pressure. Light stick checks are rendered useless if the ball carrier cradles with solid technique.
This obviously benefits the intentions of the ball carrier since they do not want to give up possession of the ball, whether they are running or not.
Keeps Concentration on the Game Instead of the Ball
Another benefit to cradling is that it keeps the player focused on their surroundings instead of the whereabouts of the ball.
It is crucial that lacrosse players keep their eyes up during the game, both for performance purposes and safety purposes.
A ball carrier that is constantly concentrating on whether they still have the ball in their lacrosse stick is likely unaware of what is happening around them. In order to make plays, lacrosse players need to have solid field awareness. This field awareness can only come when a player can sprint and cradle without a second thought.
In addition, a player that is frequently concerned over the location of the ball is susceptible to hard stick checks and body checks from defenders.
Defenders have no remorse over dishing out a couple bruises if it means getting the ball back to their team. Ball carriers need to focus on the game around them in order to evade defenders and keep themselves out of harm’s way.
Do You Have to Cradle When You Run with the Ball?
So now that you know all about cradling, you are probably asking yourself, “Do you have to cradle when you run with the ball?”
The short answer is no, you do not have to cradle. However, it is to your benefit to cradle the ball whenever possible.
The only time that top level lacrosse players ever stop cradling the ball while on the move is when no defenders are nearby. They do not have to worry about a potential stick check or body check.
It also must be mentioned that top level lacrosse players are extremely in tune with their stick. They do not even have to look at their stick to determine whether or not they have the ball. They know exactly at which times they need to cradle as well as the other times where cradling is not really necessary.
For novice lacrosse players, it is recommended that they cradle the ball every time it is in their possession. It is imperative that they develop the habit of cradling early so they can move around the field fluently, even when they have the ball in their stick.
A lacrosse player should only consider holding back from cradling when it has become second nature to them. Otherwise, they need to keep practicing!