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How to Do a Cradle in Cheerleading

Learning how to dismount out of a cheerleading stunt is just as important as the stunt itself—which is why the cradle, the foundation for all other dismounts, is an essential skill. This guide focuses specifically on how to cradle out of an elevator, one of cheerleading’s most basic stunts, but it can eventually be converted into more difficult dismounts like full downs and double downs.

What is a Cradle?

The cradle is a clean, safe way to exit out of a stunt. Once in a stable position, the side bases dip with their knees and boost the flyer into the air. The flyer rides the pop as high as possible and is caught by the side and back bases once he or she starts to descend.

The Dip

Once your team has put up a stable elevator, which is also known as a prep, you can prepare to cradle.

Back Base

  • To initiate the cradle, you must say “cradle ready” and then begin to call out the stunt.
  • Start by grabbing the flyer’s ankles. On the call of “down,” dip with your legs, but do not pull down on the flyer.
  • On the count of “up,” boost him or her into the air by straightening your legs while simultaneously lifting upward on the flyer’s ankles. Once you push upward on the flyer, continue with the motion until your arms are fully extended.

Side Bases

  • On the call of “down,” you and your opposing side base must dip with your knees while keeping your hands at shoulder level. Remember to keep your back straight during the dip to avoid injury.
  • On “up,” straighten back up from the dip position and drive your arms upwards. You want to push up through the shoulders and follow through with your arms to give the flyer a powerful pop into the air.
  • Release the flyer’s foot as you push upwards, allowing him or her to become airborne.

Flyer

  • Before the cradle begins, your arms should be in a high V position. Your body should be tight with your legs locked out.
  • Keep your own legs straight when your bases bend at the knees on the call of “down.” You cannot be boosted into the air unless your legs are locked out.
  • Once the back base calls out “up,” you should feel the push from your bases. As they begin to release your feet, pull up through your shoulders and hollow out your body by sucking in through your mid section and shrugging your arms forward.

Hot Tip: Timing is Everything

To execute a flawless cradle, your stunt group must be completely in-synch. The side bases have to dip down and boost the flyer at the exact same time or else he or she will be shot into the air at the wrong angle. To perfect your team’s timing, go through the motions of the cradle without actually lifting the flyer into the air.

Airborne

Once the flyer is in the air, the bases must keep their arms up and be ready to catch. At this point, it is up to the flyer to follow the proper steps to complete the cradle.

Flyer

  • Once you lose contact with your bases in the air, pull up through your chest, arms and shoulders. Keep your legs squeezed together during the entire cradle.
  • At the peak of the pop, right before you start to descend, pull your arms down from the high V position to your sides and arch your back. The more powerfully you execute this motion, the faster you will descend to meet the cradle.
  • Stay in this position until you make contact again with your bases.

The Catch

The bases must be prepared to catch the flyer once he or she begins their descent.

Back Base

  • The back base is in charge of supporting the flyer’s head and upper back, so it is important to catch him or her as high as possible.
  • To make the catch, put your own arms under those of the flyer’s. You will need to push through the flyer’s arms, while keeping your hands in a fisted position.
  • Bend your knees as you catch to help absorb the weight.

Side Bases

  • As a side base you must catch the flyer’s lower back and legs. You will want to have one hand on the small of the back and one underneath the thigh to ensure that the flyer’s core is being supported.
  • Bend your knees as you catch the flyer to help absorb the weight.
  • Pull the flyer close to your body, creating a tight cradle.

Flyer

  • As you are being caught, allow the back base to put his or her arms underneath yours.
  • Help the catch by grabbing the shoulders of the side bases.
  • Keep your chest up.
  • Keep your legs up and off of the ground.

Hot Tip: The Cradle Drill

Although the bases catch the flyer, he or she must also help support some of their own weight. This drill is designed to help the flyer get the feel for catching themselves in a cradle:

  1. To start, the side bases should hold the flyer in a cradle position. A back base is not needed.
  2. Next, the bases release the flyer’s legs, so that they are only supporting his or her lower back. It is up to the flyer to hold up their own legs without the help of the bases.
  3. The flyer should lift his or her legs straight up, while keeping them locked out for at least 30 seconds.

If the flyer cannot support their own legs, they probably aren’t ready to start cradling out of stunts.

The Release

Once the flyer has been cradled and caught, the team can begin the release. To do this, the back base should lean forward, forcing the flyer to stand up. The side bases should also tilt forward and let go of the flyer’s legs. All cheerleaders should then stand up straight to cleanly end the cradle and the stunt.

A Foundation to Build From

This guide teaches the cradle in conjunction with an elevator because they are two of the most basic stunting skills. Once you have mastered the technique, this catch can be used in every routine as the foundation for more intricate cradles.

The cradle is the foundation for all other dismounts. This guide focuses specifically on how to cradle out of an elevator, one of cheerleading's most basic stunts.
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