Cradle is an iconic Trampoline maneuver. It is also a trick that is frequently performed by Flying Trapeze artists when rebounding in the net. Typically, a cradle is described as a Back Drop, followed by a quarter rotation forwards, and then a half-twist into another Back Drop. It’s a handy move for Trampolinist and Flyers alike. The best feature of the Cradle is that It teaches you how to bail out of a trick properly when you are in danger. Most of the time, when you are in danger on the Trampoline or the Trapeze, you are heading towards your face or head. Repeated practice of Cradles on the Trampoline will ensure that when you do face danger one day, which is sometimes inevitable, that your body will remember the right thing to do. In the face of danger, your Cradle-training will kick-in like an automatic piloting system by twisting you to safety. When this happens, you won’t even realize it until the danger is over. This is the beauty and importance of the Cradle.
The pre-requisite to learning a cradle is a solid back-drop, back-drop to front-drop (no twist), half-twist to back-drop, and seat-drop cradle (or half-cradle) as shown above.
There are two types of cradles: a “Regular/Basic Cradle” and an “Early-Twisting Cradle”. Both Cradles are important to learn, so we will be discussing both in this article. The first cradle that should be learned is a Basic Cradle. In this version, the rotation happens BEFORE the twist. Figure 1 shows that following the Back Drop, the athlete will kick his toes backwards as his chest leans forwards and downwards in a tucked position. Only after his head is pointing downwards towards the mat, as seen in Figure 1E, will the athlete begin to open and twist as seen in Figures 1F and 1G.
As shown in Figure 1G, it is important to open and twist with the arms overhead. Once a tucked cradle has been mastered, the athlete can try to attempt a piked or straight cradle, as shown in Figure 2. Staying piked or straight often requires more height and a more aggressive downward drive of the toes/hips in order to complete the forward rotation in time.
Figure 3 shows the most common error when attempting to learn a cradle. In this figure, the athlete has placed more emphasis on twisting and less emphasis on flipping/tucking. Thus, the athlete in Figure 3 has started to twist too soon. Twisting is the easy part. Getting to the correct amount of forwards-rotation is the difficult part in learning a Cradle. In Figure 3, the athlete is opening and twisting too early OR she was not aggressively rotating forwards enough. Either way, the outcome shown in Figure 3G will be the same. The athlete here will land in a very low Back Drop, or Butt Drop, resulting in a painful whiplash unless a Crash Mat is being utilized.
The Basic Cradle should be the first one taught to all students. It is the most practical Cradle for learning how to get out of bad situations. It is also safer and less difficult to teach than the Early-Twisting Cradle since visual contact with the bed is kept for almost the entirety of the trick. However, an Early-Twisting Cradle also has its benefits; the main benefit being that it acts as a good progression in advancing towards other complicated tricks, such as the Corkscrew, Cradle-in Back-out, Jonah, and many more. Figure 4 shows the schematic for an Early-Twisting Cradle.
In order to learn this, this variation of the cradle requires a slightly higher bounce. The difficult part in learning the early-twisting cradle is the lack of visual contact with the floor or trampoline bed. Instead, the athlete should attempt to look for the wall behind them immediately after the back-drop as shown in Figure 4C. Without pausing, the athlete will tuck through to finish the rotation and land onto their back. Thus, in a Regular Cradle, the athlete will be flipping forwards for the majority of the trick. For an Early-Twisting Cradle, the athlete will be flipping backwards for the majority of the trick. It has a distinct and unfamiliar feeling from the Regular/Basic version of the Cradle. Either way, both are important to learn in your Trampolining and Flying Trapeze career.