It’s probably the first thing you worked on as a young football player. It’s a skill that’s needed for many positions on the offense and defense. I’m referring to catching the football. In the heat of a game, no one cares about the technique that was used to catch the ball as long it gets caught. However, here are some methods that will help you catch more passes over time.
Catch With Your Hands
When you’re hitting a baseball, people say “keep your eye on the ball.” In football you will hear people say, “Catch the ball with your hands.” This is probably the most important fundamental to learn at a young age, and there are a few reasons. First, you have a better chance of actually catching it, as the ball is less likely to bounce off your pads or helmet. You don’t want to be the guy chasing down the defender after the ball vaulted off of you and went into the other guy’s hands. Second, when the ball is secured in your hands, you can quickly tuck it away. This will prevent it from being stripped out by an opponent. Finally, learning to catch with your hands will allow you to be able to jump for the ball, over a defender, instead of waiting for it to get to your body.
If the ball is above your waist, make your hands into the shape of a triangle, with your thumbs together. If the ball is below your waist, place the tips of your pinky fingers together (see image above). Your fingers need to be flexible, bent slightly, and ready to absorb the speed of the ball. Your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms will all act as a shock absorber to slow the ball down, and bring it under control.
See the Tip, Catch the Fat
When the ball is thrown your way, find the tip and focus on it. As you reach up to catch the ball, you need to see the tip, but grab the “fat” part of the ball. A great way to practice this is to color the tips of 2 or 3 footballs different colors. Have someone throw the ball to you, and you call out the color before it hits your hands. This will get you in the habit of focusing on that tip. Once you make contact, let the ball sink into your hands.
Look It In
Make sure you stay focused on the ball until you have it tucked away. This is called “looking the ball in.” We’ve all seen receivers drop perfect passes because they put their eyes on something else before they had the ball secured. Don’t let that be you!
A good receiver has great feet as well as great hands. Once you have secured the ball, get ready to make a move. Keep the ball tucked away and use your feet to gain some ground. The best receivers in the game can not only can catch well, but make good yardage after the catch.
Now Start Practicing
It’s well known that when Jerry Rice was young, he worked with his dad as a bricklayer. His dad would throw him brick after brick after brick, which inadvertently developed the strong, flexible hands that made Jerry Rice a lot of money in the NFL. There are many different ways to strengthen your hands, but the key to being able to catch the ball well is to practice. Set a goal to catch a certain number of passes per day. Just get your eyes, hands, and fingers used to catching over and over again. Then, when you’re in the intensity of a game situation, and the ball comes your way, it will be automatic.