The most important skill for wide receivers to possess aside from confidence is knowing how to catch a football. Don’t not be mistaken, catching a football is not as easy as it may seem. If it were, there would be less defensive backs out there in the world of football – trust me.
Imagine, a bullet pass being thrown to you by Michael Vick at just a few yards out; Something «simple» suddenly becomes a bit more challenging and requires ample focus. If you aim to be an electrifying wide receivers with the ability to snag any ball out of the air on command, here are the fundamentals to catching a football you must first learn:
- Hand eye coordination
- Hand strength
- Proper hand placement
- Tuck the ball in and protect it
Hand eye coordination is the foundation to learning how to catch a football and is simply the coordinated control of eye movement with hand movement, and the processing of visual input to guide reaching and grasping. In this case we’re working on hand eye coordination to reach and successfully catch a football. The better a wide receiver is at looking-in the football with hand eye coordination, the better their chances are to catch a football thrown to them.
Improving your hand eye coordination isn’t a complex task to conquer, but it does require ample focus which is the second key component to catching footballs. As we look back at the example of the bullet pass being thrown to you from a few yards out by Michael Vick, you should consider how focus will allow you to control your body and mind to focus on the football and see it into your hands. Your objective as a top wide receiver is to focus and lock your eyes on the football, take a deep breath and see the football into your hands. This step should be a constant with every ball thrown your way. Keep in mind you don’t want to attack the football. You want to absorb the football into your hands and away from your body followed by a tight squeeze, which leads me to the next important aspect of a wide receivers ability to catch a football; hand strength.
In organized football the velocity on the ball is much more intense than it would be as you play catch with friends. Moreover, defenses are much more aggressive. In order to compensate for this, you need strong hands. This can be the difference between catching a football to make an important completion and not. You won’t always be wide open on a route and you’ll rarely ever have a ball thrown to you half speed so you need to be prepared to squeeze the football after any and all passes you catch. This will increase your stats and avoid big drops when a defender lays a hit on you or swipes at your arms and hands after a catch.
Proper hand placement is another important factor in knowing how to catch a football. Luckily this is one of the easiest aspects to adapt to due to natural limb positioning. When a football is thrown directly at you at or above your chest, you want to form your hands into a diamond. When a ball is thrown directly at you anywhere below your chest, you want to position your hands with your thumbs facing up and your fingers angled low towards the ground. Another important hand positioning for a wide receiver where you’ll make the big game changing catches is when you’re catching the deep ball.
You’ll definitely want to incorporate every aspect of how to catch a football when the deep ball is thrown. When a deep ball is thrown over your shoulders you want to position your hands with your fingers spread wide open and the tips of your pinky-fingers overlapping. For the best grip on the ball when catching, aim to grab the end of the ball before the laces. This type of catch requires, strong hands, focus, and proper hand positioning even more so. Big plays equal big focus.
The last key to successfully catching a football is to tuck the football and protect it. After you have completed the steps mentioned above, the final step is to reel in the football and protect it. You don’t want to take all of the proper steps and forget this one. This step is the difference between a thirty yard gain and a fumble. So ALWAYS, always, always, tuck and protect the football after every football catch.
To get you started at improving your football catching ability, I’ve listed a couple good exercises for hand eye coordination and hand strength below. Once you have mastered all of the key components mentioned above, you are sure to be on your way to being a top wide receiver.
Tennis Ball Drill For Hand Eye Coordination:
With a tennis ball you can do several wide receiver drills to improve your hand eye coordination as a wide receiver. This is a great drill that has helped me improve my hand eye coordination substantially.
For beginners, lightly bounce the ball on the ground. As the ball bounces up, look the ball into your hands and squeeze it. Make sure to focus on the ball all the way from its decent to its rise into your hands. Make sure to practice this drill with both hands. One you’ve gotten the hang of this exercise, increase the level of difficulty by bounce the ball harder and at different angles. Also, try throwing the ball off of a wall, challenging yourself to catch the ball at different points in the air and before it hits the ground all while focusing on the ball from the time of your release all the way back into your hands. After successfully mastering this drill alone, I’m certain that you will have more than 80% of what it takes to know how to catch a football.
Tennis Ball Drill For Hand Strength:
The Tennis Ball Squeeze – Using a tennis ball, simply squeeze and hold for up to 90-seconds. Train both hands with three sets each. This movement heavily targets the forearms. This drill is important because after you catch a football you will be squeezing it so it doesn’t get away from you.