When learning how to catch a football, it is important to remember that a receiver catches the ball with his fingers, not his hands or his body. In order to learn how to catch a football, then, it is crucial to remember to catch the ball with the fingers extended and the hands away from the body.
Every throw is different, so in order to truly know how to catch a football, a receiver must be able to adjust his body in order to get his hands in position to make the catch. There are, though, four main types of pass that a receiver needs to master:
- The first type of catch that a receiver will have to make occurs when the receiver is facing the quarterback and the ball is at or above the chest. The receiver simply hold his hands in front of him in a position similar to that of a volley ball player who is about to set the ball for a teammate: the finger should be extended and thumbs close to each other, if not touching. The receiver then uses the fingers to secure the ball and, once it is secure, brings the ball in to the body.
- The second type of catch is the same as the first, only the ball is below the chest. In this situation the receiver rotates his hands 180 degrees from the previous position, so that they are in the position of someone who is holding a baby-now it is the pinkies that will be close together rather than the thumbs. Again, the receiver should extend his fingers so that they can absorb the impact of the ball when it reaches the hands. It is important to focus on extending the hands away from the body since this type of catch is prone to "short arming" or allowing the ball to hit the body before the fingers have time to secure it.
- The third type of pass is one in which the receiver must catch a pass that is to the side of the receiver. This most common when the receiver is running a crossing route. The ball will moving at a 90 degree angle to the motion of the receiver, so he won't have the time to stop, turn, and catch the pass in the ways that the previous two examples outlined. Instead, he must extend the arms to the side while, once again, keeping the fingers extended. One hand will be higher than the other, though the thumbs should be close to each other, if not touching. When the ball arrives, the receiver uses his fingers in the same manner that he would for the previous types of pass and, once he has used them to secure the pass, he brings the ball to his body.
- The final type of pass is the over-the-shoulder pass. It can be difficult to catch these passes since the receiver must look over his shoulder to locate the ball, and thus can't see where he is running or the position of his hands until right before they catch the ball. The hands should be at about shoulder height and extended about a foot and half away from the body. The receiver should hold his hands with the pinkies close to each other, as in the second example. As with all types of catches, it is crucial that the receiver keeps his eyes on the ball and keeps his fingers extended. If the ball placement is good and the receiver maintains proper form, the ball should drop very easily into the cradle of his hands, and his fingers will be able to secure the ball.
Of course, all of these types of catches assume that the pass is relatively on target. Wild passes will require a receiver to improvise somewhat in order to get in position to make the catch. Nevertheless, the basic skills do not change-athletic receivers are able to make spectacular catches precisely because they know how to bend their bodies in such a way that their hands are in the proper position to make the catch.