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How to Catch a Football – 5 Steps

Learning how to get better at catching a football is a critical part of the sport. You may be assuming that your favorite player has it easy when catching everything thrown at him, but there is a science to catching the ball accurately and efficiently.

Catching a football is a skill that ensures you don’t fumble when the ball is thrown at you and that you’re comfortable when running, passing or evading players with the ball firmly in your grasp.

Here are some surefire tips on how to catch a football:

How to get better at catching a football by yourself

1. Catch with your hands

In football, a common expression often yelled on the field is “catch the ball with your hands.” And while this sounds intuitive, there are a lot of factors that come into play when trying to accomplish this feat.[1]

If you catch the ball thrown by the quarterback with your hands, you stand a greater chance of keeping the ball, minimizing the possibility of it bouncing off your pads or helmet. You don’t want a situation where you’re chasing down a defender that caught a ball that skidded off you!


The basic NFL catch rules involve making a diamond-shaped window (some coaches prefer triangle-shaped) by putting the thumb and index finger of both hands together with the finger spread out slightly. This hand position is used when a football is coming waist high (the torso), and straight to the receiver.[2]

To catch the ball on the field, your fingers must be flexible, slightly bent, and ready to absorb the velocity of the ball and bring it under control.

3. Hand-eye coordination

The eyes are the most important aspect of catching the football. It is important to have good hand-eye coordination. When the football is thrown at you, fixate on it and maintain focus until you have properly caught it.

Watch the ball all the way to the end until it falls into your hands.

3. Stretch out your arms

Receivers catch the ball with their arms outstretched, not with or against their bodies. If a ball in flight makes contact with a receiver’s body, it may rebound off his shoulder pads and render the pass incomplete.

Another reason to reach out and catch the football with the arms is that outstretched arms increase the distance between the defender who is behind the receiver and the football. If the receiver waits on search ball too long to catch it against his body, the defender has a greater chance of making an interception.

4. Tuck the ball

Tuck the ball away or “look the ball in” – make sure that you remain focused until you have tucked it away. So many wide receivers have fumbled and dropped perfect passes because they looked away from the ball to something else before they secured it.

Secure the ball by using the fingers, thumbs, hands, forearms, and/or elbows to squeeze the ball into the body. A catch is not complete until the ball is tucked away.

5. Practice until you’re perfect

When Jerry Rice was young, he worked with his dad as a bricklayer. His father would throw him brick after brick, which helped him develop flexible hands that would make him mathematically the most productive wide receiver in NFL history.

There are many tips to strengthen your fingers, thumbs, and hands to catch the football, yet nothing beats practice.

Be devoted to catching a certain number of passes a day. Get your eyes, hands, fingers, chest, shoulders, and feet used to the process until it becomes second nature.

After lots of practice, the intensity of a game situation will matter less as you’ll automatically get to see the tip, catch the fat, look it in, and go score. These are vital tips with which you can play with your A-game on.

How to Catch a Football while running


It is important to know that it’s better to run ahead of the ball than behind it. This will help you get into a good position before the ball has arrived so that you catch it accurately.


Once you’re in a decent position to catch the ball with your fingers, move your waist slightly in the direction of the ball, turning your torso towards it.


Set your hand position as earlier discussed – in a diamond or triangular position, with the fingers spread out and the thumbs against each other at the tip. When the ball comes close enough, extend your arms toward the ball and try to grab it around its midsection (catch the fat), with a hand on each side. Hold it tight.


After catching, tuck it under one of your arms or against your ribcage and run. Maintain a tight grip on the football so that you don’t drop it while you run.

Step 5

Go score. A good receiver has great hands, chest, and feet. Once you’ve locked the football in, get a move on. The best wide receivers catch well but make a good yardage afterwards. Gaining yards is the fastest way to score TDs (touchdowns), and winning the game.

How to catch a football over the shoulder (catching downfield)

The over-the-shoulder- catch is another level of catching that requires great adeptness and concentration. Here, the quarterback will search and throw further, and the wide receiver must place their hands in a different spot to catch the ball.

The football usually goes over the shoulder. With the hands outstretched away from the body, join your pinky fingers to form a net. This type of catch is necessary when the receiver is further downfield.

How to catch a football below the knee (low balls)

At times, passes may wobble and go lower than intended.

When this happens, the hands must be crossed pinky to pinky, so it looks like a net below the knees and allowing an easier catch. Running backs are most likely to execute these catches as they’re the ones that require more concentration.[3]

How to catch a football with one hand

You need to learn all the tips above. Hand-eye coordination and focus must be fully improved before learning this showboating skill.


With eyes focused on the ball until the last moment, run ahead of the ball to get in a good position and catch it away from your body. Ensure that the hand is not lying flat. It should be curved a little, otherwise, a fastball may bounce on and away from your palm.


Don’t try to stop the ball’s trajectory at once. Align with its path in order to slow it down, before clutching to it. You should be able to grab the ball with four fingers on one side and the thumb on the other, with the football’s front face set in the middle.

Hold it tightly, and tuck it underneath either of your arms after catching it.

Hold it tightly, and tuck it underneath either of your arms after catching it.

Loved the article? Discover our top recommendation on footballs for practice and football training equipment.


  1. Keys to Catching a Football. Retrieved from
  2. How to Get Good at Catching a Football. Retrieved from
  3. How to Get Good at Catching a Football. Retrieved from
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