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Catching Basics

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Lacrosse catching is a basic lacrosse skill that is not as easy as it is made to look by accomplished players. It is a skill that takes regular practice and is one of the fundamental stick-handling skills to master first.

Great Lacrosse programs up to and including professional lacrosse teams spend plenty of time with repetitive throwing and catching drills. Almost all teams spend time during every practice day and pregame throwing and catching. And players should also work on these skills alone on the wall as much as possible.

The Foundation

To catch a lacrosse ball takes concentration. You need to focus on the ball as it comes in and watch it all the way into the pocket. Once the ball hits the net, there has to be give in the stick so that the ball doesn’t bounce out. To do this, you have to relax your grip on the stick and allow it to move in the direction of the ball so that you cushion the ball into the pocket. This is also known as having “Soft Hands.” If you keep your stick stiff and do not allow it to move with the ball as you catch it, the chances are good that it will bounce out. If you are a player who is struggling with keeping the ball in your pocket when you catch it, make sure that you are not holding your stick rigidly when the ball impacts.

Imagine trying to catch a water balloon or an egg without it breaking. By catching it softly and trying not to let the balloon burst when it hits the net, players will find much more success. You can use water balloons to teach this by gently tossing small water balloons into the kids’ nets and telling them not to let them break. This is both fun for the players and effective in demonstrating the concept as long as the weather allows it, although I have to warn you that your drill may break down pretty quickly as it generally turns into a water balloon fight. But that’s OK, this is supposed to be about having fun, so make it fun.

Get Ready

Many people teach kids lacrosse catching from the ready position with the stick held at the ear in an area known as “the box,” facing the passer. If catching with the right hand their left foot should be forward and vice-versa. This is fine for the first week or two catching, but the common thought is that it seldom happens like that in a game. Players are in motion. Stationary targets get checked, so unless you are dealing with very young players, I recommend quickly moving them to catch while in motion. This allows them a better opportunity to adjust to the ball as it flies in and helps them avoid their opponents.

Stick-side Catch

Lacrosse catching to the stick side is the side where the top hand is near the head of the stick. The bottom hand will be on the off-stick side. When lacrosse catching, ideally the ball is thrown to a high stick just to the stick side of the player’s face in front of the player’s ear, but slightly forward. The receiving player should start by facing the passing player and moving slightly toward him with their stick open almost vertically to the ground. As the ball is thrown, the receiving player should adjust their motion toward the ball to receive it as close to the ideal location as possible. Slightly in front of their ear, but always trying to keep the ball forward of their body to protect it. As the ball enters the pocket and the player begins to cushion the impact, they should also relax their shoulders and twist slightly in the direction of the ball.

By catching the ball in this position, the player is ideally positioned to make their next move, whether a cradle, pass, or shot. Except for taking a quick stick shot or pass, you should coach your kids to immediately cradle the ball as they move into position to run, dodge, pass, or shoot. By emphasizing the cradle first, you will eliminate many loose ball situations caused by stick or body checking from your opponent.

Off-Side Catch

The off-stick side is the side away from the head of the stick. When catching a ball that is thrown to the off-stick side, they should bring the head of the stick across their face, but still with the open net facing toward the ball. Watch the ball into the net and then begin to cradle the ball immediately as they bring it back across their face and in position to make their next move, run, pass, or shoot.

Over the Shoulder Catch

Over-the-shoulder lacrosse catching is typically done as a player breaks in transition to a fast break opportunity. It is very similar to a wide receiver’s post pattern in football, or a breakaway basketball player catching the pass in stride. It is a much more difficult catch to make, but when done correctly can lead to quick, explosive attacks as the player does not have to slow down to catch the ball. The key here is to watch the ball into the pocket. As the ball comes the player will reach out with their stick and pluck the ball out of the air as it is trying to fly by. Again, holding the stick softly helps to cushion the impact. The ball should then be brought back to the body and cradled so that the player can continue to run.


  1. Try to position your body in a way that blocks your opponent from the ball. I relate it to boxing out in basketball. By using your body to shield your opponent you will have more success and keep more balls thrown to you.
  2. Start Position: soft hands, stick extended with the stick face open to the passer
  3. Never take your eye off the ball (until it is in your stick)
  4. Give with the pass as the ball makes contact with your pocket
  5. Bad Habit Warning: attacking or snatching at the ball; makes the player vulnerable to stick checks, takes too long to reach the ready position, cannot be done under pressure
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice

Never stab at the ball when you are trying to catch it. Some new players like to slap their stick at the ball as it comes in. This will create a loose ball, as the ball often bounces out. Always remember to relax the stick just before the ball makes contact with the pocket, and let the momentum of the ball carry the stick back a few inches. Remember – Soft Hands.

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