Before you move on to other fundamental skills in lacrosse, the ability to catch a lacrosse ball is by far the most important. For beginners, catching is the first big challenge to overcome as mastering catching requires a consistent period of training and backyard practice. So if you are frustrated with dropping passes and seeing opponents regain possession, make sure to read this post carefully as I walk through step by step how to catch a lacrosse ball.
What I realized is that early on in your career, learning how to catch a lacrosse ball correctly saves you a lot of time and energy later on. After you get a good hang of it you just need to relentlessly practice to develop muscle memory. For any elite player, catching a lacrosse ball should become second nature even then they need to constantly practice to stay competitive.
A Few Key Components To Catching A Lacrosse Ball
Body Posturing / Hand Placement
Regardless of whether you are practicing with friends or for a real match, you should never be standing straight or still. You want to always be in an athletic stance and ready to move your body to take action.
First, turn your head and front shoulder to the direction of the person passing the ball; as the ball travels toward you, move your feet so you lean into it.
Your dominant hand will be placed near the top of the shaft and your non-dominant hand will be placed near the end of the shaft. This means your hands need to be more separated when catching a ball than when throwing or shooting a lacrosse ball.
Keep your shaft parallel to your body (beginners tend to catch the ball with the stick in a horizontal position, but gradually you need to get comfortable with keeping your shaft straight) and keep your stick near your helmet for an easy target when a teammate tries to pass it to you.
Soft Hand When Receiving Pass
As soon as the ball leaves your teammate’s stick, you want to point the top of your head to the ball and slowly pull the stick backward a.k.a soft hands and “give” a little as it enters the pocket of your stick.
Not just soft hands, you want to have soft wrists, elbows and shoulders as well.
Eyes On The Ball
Your eyes have to be fixed on the ball as it travels from your teammate’s stick until it lands in your lacrosse pocket.
This is it. This is the entire breakdown of how you catch a lacrosse ball correctly. Like I said before, it’s not hard to learn it, but to master and get really good at catching takes continuous and constant practice.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Stab at the ball
Don’t get the stick out when trying to receive, which will most likely result in the lacrosse ball hitting the head or bouncing off the head. Always give a little and bring it close to your body
Eyes not on the ball
Beginner players need to train themselves to be comfortable with watching the ball at all times until it lands in their pocket. It’s challenging at first but try to keep your eyes on the ball as long as possible
Technically catching is the first half; next, you need to make sure you can keep the ball in the pocket, which is why after receiving the ball you should do a minimal amount of cradling to keep the possession
Helpful Catching Drills
Toss the ball up in the air
When I was still a rookie, I used to do this at least 5,000 times for both hands every day. Very simple and basic: throw the ball up with your hand and try to catch it with your stick. Although it doesn’t emulate the exact situation in a real match, it hones your techniques and soft hands.
A slightly more advanced version is to both throw the ball and catch it with your stick. Once you get comfortable with both drills, let’s move on to the next one.
Note: Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right away. This will not be easy. Be patient with yourself. I understand when watching professional matches, elite players make catching seem simple, but this will take some time to get good at.
First, congratulations! If you have graduated from being comfortable with tossing the ball up in the air and being able to catch it. This is already a great milestone because catching a lacrosse ball is simply not easy.
Similar to the first drill, here you want to toss the ball against the wall or rebounder, and try to catch it. First toss it with your hands and then switch to throwing the ball with your stick.
Stationary catching with a teammate
Now it’s time to add more complexity and challenges to the training. Do basic passing and catching with a stationary partner to continue working on your form and catching ability.
Running while passing back and forth
Your teammate and you will run down the field while trying to catch and pass. This is the highest level of drill you can do to keep your catchability competitive at a high level. Also focus on getting more comfortable using your non-dominant hand to catch while running.
That’s it! You now know everything that is needed to become an elite catcher, but to be a really great catcher on the field, you have to practice constantly everyday. This will not be easy, but if you are committed to lacrosse, catching is the skill you have to master.
To summarize, the two most important things are proper athletic posture and good form and motion. You want to catch the ball and also maintain possession of the ball.