How to properly grip a football

Posted 7/12/2017 By Bill Hewitt

Most kids across the country will probably be taught how to grip and throw football sometime in their lifetimes. It could come during a pick-up game, family gathering or during a simple game of catch with dad.

This is American as apple pie.

Most of the time, the person teaching the skill is unaware of how they are helping develop multiple gross motor skills within the youngster. Any type of movement for a young child – or anyone for that matter – is a good start to the day. Motion is the most important factor in development, and these types of simple skills can lead to a solid foundation of exercise – skills that are needed to continue the learning process throughout life.

This development also includes better hand-eye and foot-eye coordination because repitition is the key to automatic flex action for muscle memory.

So let’s do it right.

When gripping the football, here is where to start.

Make sure the football is age-appropriate

You may have a favorite football from youth high school or college days, but a 6-year-old isn’t really learning anything from a ball that big. So get yourself a ball more his or her size. Here are some rough estimates.

  • Ages 6-9: peewee size
  • Ages 9-12: junior size
  • Ages 12-14: youth size
  • Ages 15 and up: official size

Hands on experience

When first gripping the football, get a feel for it. Spread the four fingers and thumb, and try to put at least two fingers – preferably the last two fingers – on the laces.

Keep the knuckles parallel to the laces.

Keep the middle finger close to the white stripe area. In some cases, the index finger can be moved toward the nose of the football depending on the size of the quarterback’s hand and comfort level.

Put the index finger in between the nose and white stripe. Some young quarterbacks want to put the index finger on the nose of the football so the throwing hand will not slip off, especially in damp cold or hot weather. While this technique occurs in some areas because of this reason, it’s not ideal.

When gripping a football, each finger represents an action on the ball.

  • The thumb helps with grip.
  • The index finger helps with direction and leverage and is the last finger on release.
  • The middle finger represents balance and spin.
  • The last two fingers create spacing and spin.

Do not grip the football too tight. Keep a space so you can see a pocket through the palm of the throwing hand. If the football touches or rests on the palm of the hand, it is likely going to be thrown into the ground.

Slowly raise the football close to the ear. The proper distance can be measured by holding the end of a plastic coat hanger and measuring the distance from behind the ear to the throwing hand. This is called the “L” position.

Upon release in a forward motion, pronate the thumb down to the opposite thigh. Keep the body and shoulders upright.

SEE ALSO: This backup QB was patient, worked hard and didn’t transfer; now he’s a Division I recruit

From the “L” position, keep the elbow of the throwing arm pointing at the target or receiver. It is important to remember that the opposite foot always points to the receiver you are throwing to. This is called a ”turret” motion. Moving and resetting is crucial.

Here are a few facts about the flight of a football:

  • A spiral thrown correctly spins 450 to 600 rpm
  • A perfect spiral has at least three wobbles in flight
  • An average pro quarterback’s hand speed is 82 mph

COACHES' NOTES: Quarterback basics: passing mechanics

Bill Hewitt is a former college football coach, NFL scout and film grader for the Buffalo Bills. He also is a retired physical education teacher.

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