Hand Positioning

My rule is pretty simple; when moving across the field or towards the QB, any ball below the waist should be caught with the pinkies together, any ball above the waist should be caught with the thumbs and index fingers together. Balls thrown over the shoulder are caught with the pinkies together. The hands should form a cup around the front end of the ball and all of the focus needs to be on the point of the ball. We catch the front portion of the ball (point), not the fat of the ball! (See graphic below) Ideally, your thumbs and index fingers should form a diamond and the front of the ball will enter the center of that diamond.  The fingers should always be spread and relaxed. This is where the term ‘soft hands’ comes into play. A receiver should cushion the football and absorb the ball with partially bent elbows.

The catch should be made with the fingers and not the palms. A good catch is quiet. If you hear a slap when you catch the ball you are using too much of your palms. A novice player will also tend to pin the ball to his chest with a basket catch.  More often than not, this technique results in balls bouncing off the receiver’s body. By catching the ball away from your body you increase the distance between the defender and the ball, which helps prevent the defender from breaking up the pass. The space also allows the receiver to use his most valuable asset–his hands.

Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Fame receiver, always emphasizes “catching the ball with your eyes.” He says, “Your eyes will locate and take you to the football and then your hands will take over from there.” Larry also emphasizes having ‘late hands’ which means waiting until the very last second to reach your hands out to catch the ball. Late hands make it more difficult for defenders to make a play on the ball because they are often reading your hands.

I love the photo below because it displays why Steve Largent, who was not particularly fast, was extremely sure-handed. Notice his catching technique in pre-game warm up where he brings both hands together to catch the ball. His rock-solid technique earned him seven trips to the NFL Pro Bowl, and his bust proudly displayed at the  NFL Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio.  To see a video sample on catching techniques click here.

Hands Together

A very important fundamental in regards to catching is to bring the hands to the ball while TOGETHER!  I can’t emphasize this point enough! Too often I see players bring their hands together at the last second. The problem here is that if they happen to miss-time bringing their hands together the ball will go right through them. Work your hands to the ball together almost as if your wearing wrist cuffs tied together.

Some of my players have even tied their wrists together with shoe laces to break the bad habit of the ‘Gator Chomp’ catch.  Give it a try, tie your wrists giving no more than six inches between them (use velcro for a quick release) and then go practice catching!

Another great catching drill (a great daily drill) is to have the receiver put his palms together in a prayer position when he is playing catch. We call it the ‘monk drill.’  As the receiver is waiting for the ball to arrive, his hands are in prayer position in front of his chest. As the ball approaches he keeps his hands together to the ball, and at the last moment opens his hands and catches the ball.  This forces him to take his hands to the ball together and not open his hands until the ball arrives. See video example below…

This excerpt comes from the book, “The Art of Playing Wide Receiver” by Eric Van Tassel.

 

Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Fame receiver, always emphasizes “catching the ball with your eyes.” He says, “Your eyes will locate and take you to the football and then your hands will take over from there.” Larry also emphasizes having ‘late hands’ which means waiting until the very last second to reach your hands out to catch the ball. Late hands make it more difficult for defenders to make a play on the ball because they are often reading your hands.

1. Stance and Position:

2. The Route Tree:

3. Press Coverage:

4. Catch The Ball With Your Eyes:

5. Run Blocking:

7. Confidence:

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