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Catching the football is one of the most important aspects of playing receiver in an offense. You can be the fastest player on the team and run the best routes, and also have the innate ability to create a big play after the catch with a great run, but if you don’t catch the football, the play is wasted, and the clock stops…period. Here are 10 – simple “general” rules: 1. Reach out to catch the pass (don’t try to catch it against your body), 2. Watch the ball into your hands, 3. Catch the football with your fingertips, 4. Catch the football with “palms up” when running away from the quarterback (unless the ball is thrown behind you – then come back and get it at it’s highest point with “palms out.”) 5. When catching a pass in stride, always wait until the last second before reaching out for the football, 6. Catch the football with “palms out” when running towards the quarterback (except if the ball is at stomach level or below), 7. Use your body as a shield when going up for the ball in traffic, 8. Catch the pass first, and then make the run,
9. When the ball is in the air, go get it. Rather than waiting for it – come back to the football whenever possible, 10. Catch the ball with two hands: It is rare that receivers
make one-handed catches consistently. The ability to catch the football is predominantly mental, which means that anyone can become a better pass catcher with the proper technique, lots of repetitions, and the ability to focus on the football when the ball is in the air. This is accomplished in team practice sessions, and lots of individual work.
The most important thing to be aware of is that the ability to make all the catches in game-situations, starts with thinking about, and planning how to catch each given pass in practice, and then getting lots of repetitions catching the ball the proper way. This will produce muscle memory, and then making those catches in game situations comes automatically. If you have to think about how to catch a given pass when it’s happening in a game, the chances of catching that pass goes down dramatically.
One of the fundamentals of catching the football is to catch the football away from your body, so you can see the football make contact with your hands. When a receiver lets the football hit his body, he has less control over the catch because he never sees the ball get to the body, 3
and now the football can easily bounce off the body, or slip through the arms.
It is also important to come back to the football whenever possible. This creates immediate separation from the defender, if you don’t already have it. The receiver is reaching out for the football and catching it with “palms out”. He is also coming back to the football.
Another important thing to remember is that when we say, “catch the football with your hands”, we are actually telling you to “catch the football with your fingertips”. This allows a certain amount of ‘give’ that keeps the ball from bouncing off the palm of the hands. The catch is made with the fingertips, which allows the “give” necessary to prevent the ball from bouncing off the palms of the hand. There is a space between the ball and the palm of the hand.
As a general rule, when running away from the quarterback, have the hands open so the palms are facing the sky. These types of routes are 4
corner routes, streaks and posts. The reason for this is because as you run away from the quarterback, you want to keep your momentum going in the same direction of the football. Placing your hands any other way forces you to turn your body and reduces your speed. In addition, having your hands “palms up” increases your reach. The receiver is catching the pass with “palms up”. He is running his route away from the quarterback. Another important aspect of catching the ball with “palms out” is that your reach increases. He is watching the football all the way into his hands.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, there are times when you are running a streak or deep post route downfield and the ball is thrown behind you when there are defenders in the area: now, you must catch the ball at it’s highest point by turning your body towards the quarterback, opening your palms to the football, and assertively making the catch. This will obviously slow you down, but is necessary given the circumstances.
The receiver is running a deep route, but the ball was thrown behind him. Now the receiver has to come back to the football and catch it at its highest point with “palms out.”
When catching any pass, especially passes where you are running full speed downfield, such as when you are running a streak route, it is critical that you don’t reach for the ball too early. This slows you down considerably, and throws off your balance. There is no way a person can run at top speed with his arms stretched out for the pass. Wait until the last second before reaching for the football. The receiver is running a deep route. It’s very important to remember to wait until the last possible second to reach out and catch the football. This allows the receiver keep his speed and run through the football. Catching the ball with “palms up” increases your reach. Putting your hands out too soon will slow you down considerably.
When you are running a curl route, or any route when you are coming towards the quarterback, most of the time you will reach for the pass with your hands “palms out” (except when the pass is going to be caught at or below stomach level). You will reach out for the football and catch it with your hands. Many times, if it hits your body, it can bounce off your pads, because you can’t watch the ball make contact with your body, and your pads don’t have any “give”.
The receiver is running a curl route. He has his “palms out” because the ball is above his mid-section.
This receiver is is running a The receiver running aacross the middle route curl route. the field. Since the of The ball is thrown below his midball is above his mid-sectionwill catch the section, he andpass with “palms out”. he will catch the ball with “palms up”.
There will be times when a receiver has to catch the ball in traffic. Maybe you’re running a crossing route over the middle of the field and one (or both) of the safeties is coming up to make the play. In this
case you will use your body to act as a barrier between the football and the defender. Then you will reach out and make the catch away from your body, and prevent the defender from getting his hands on or near the football. The receiver is using his body here to shield the defender from the football. There is no chance the defender can get to the football.
Many times, receivers will be in a hurry to make a play and start running before they make the catch and secure the football, resulting in a dropped pass. It is critical that you make the catch first before trying to run with the football. This requires discipline in practice, so it becomes automatic during games. Make the catch first, before making any attempt to run downfield with the football.
Also remember that any ball in the air is intended for an offensive receiver. In other words, if the ball is in the air, it’s yours – go get it! Come back to the football whenever possible. Too many times the ball is in the air and the receiver decides to wait for it to come to him, rather that going after the football. The defender then has an 8
opportunity to either knock down the pass before it gets to the receiver, or worse, the defender has an opportunity to make an interception. Receivers should always try to make the catch, and never allow the defender to intercept the pass.
There are other times when a receiver will look back for the pass, and automatically think he can’t get to the football, so he gives up on the ball right away. This is one of the worst things a receiver can do. The fact is, many times the receiver is wrong in his assessment, and can actually get to the football. All receivers should run through all passes. If a receiver accelerates to the football every time he looks back for the pass, he will get to many of the balls he thought he could not get to. This acceleration will also help the receiver separate from the defender, which will allow the receiver room to make the catch.
One last thing to remember is always attempt to make the catch with two hands. It is rare that receivers make one-handed catches. It does happen, but if you can’t do it consistently in practice, the chances of doing it in a game are not great. Always make catches with two hands. This is a habit that will be engrained in muscle-memory, and will transfer to game situations.