How To Catch A Football & Improve Your Catching Ability

By Alex Mercer

February 11, 2019

Catching a football requires concentration and soft hands. Catching a football in a game often happens in a chaotic environment. To get better hands, wide receivers should train in a chaotic environment.

Football players must train their hands and fingertip strength, hand-eye coordination, and ball tracking to get better hands. All of these attributes can be done through practice and simulation.

We’re going to break down how to catch a football and improve your concentration.

Improve Your Catching Technique In Football

Before we even get to catching footballs, we need to improve our concentration. 90%~ of the time a ball is dropped, it’s due to a lack of focus on the football. There are two types of catches that we need to identify as we’re trying to catch the football:

  • Catching With Hands
  • Over The Shoulder Catching

Understanding that there are two different ways to catch a football will help you run different routes.

Catching With Your Hands

First and foremost, we want to catch almost every ball with our hands and not our bodies. First, it gives us more distance away from defenders and the football.

The average arm length is 25 inches, which means the defender has to fight through your body and 25 inches worth of flesh to get to the football. For a game of inches, this is the difference between a completion and a broken-up pass.

The second reason is the ability to attack the football at the highest point. On 50/50 balls or balls thrown high by the quarterback, receivers who catch with their bodies limit their chances to 30/70. Increase the catch probability by fully extending your arms.

The third reason is it gives you the best catch radius. Allowing your quarterback to “miss” high, low, or the side will give him the confidence to throw the football your way. Increasing your catch radius by catching with your hands will prove to be beneficial in the big moments.

Over The Shoulder Catching

Not every catch should be caught with our hands. For example, any downfield route, like a go-route where we’re trying to outrun defenders, should be caught over our shoulders.

We do not want to catch with our hands when stretching the field vertically because it will slow us down as we turn our body to the football. As we climb on top of defenders, we need to keep the top speed to get separation.

Improving Your Concentration To Catch Footballs

Now that we know the two ways to catch a football let’s learn when to use each technique. We want to catch the football with our hands when we’re squared up to the quarterback or running horizontally across the field. The routes include:

  • Slants
  • Hitches
  • Digs
  • Bubbles
  • Outs
  • Smoke
  • Posts (Bang 8’s)

These are the routes we want to shield the defender from and catch the ball in stride. The routes we want to catch over our shoulder while running vertically are:

  • Go (9’s)
  • Posts

Similar to how we want to shield the defense with our arms/hands when catching the football horizontally, catching the ball vertically requires shielding the defender with our body.

Drills To Improve Catching Concentration

We want to focus on concentration before we actually get to work on soft hands. We also don’t want to use football when we work on concentration drills. We want to focus on using tennis balls, lacrosse balls, or playing cards.

Tennis Balls / Lacrosse Balls

Here are some great tennis ball drills from the YouTube channel National Football Training. They exemplify the exact drills we want to do with tennis or lacrosse balls. These drills can be performed anywhere.

They require no equipment – all you need is a sturdy wall. If you have a sibling or a parent that can throw you balls, that also works.

Two Handed Catches

Start with simple 2 handed catches to get warmed up. Using the wall or a person, have them throw the balls from left to right. The key in all of these drills is bringing your eyes to the ball.

It’s not so much about how many balls you can catch in a short amount of time. We want to work on our concentration as each ball comes in. Bring both hands and eyes to the ball simultaneously.

See Our Complete List Of Helpful Football Articles Here

One Handed Catches

Now that we’re starting to get the hang of these drills let’s switch to one hand. We’re going to now do with one hand using the same back and forth motion we did with two hands. Having a bucket or any type of ball collector beneath you will help keep the balls’ assortment.

The key is rapid repetition with the one-handed drills. Also, we want to stress that the eyes are going to the ball with each catch once again.

180 Degree Catches

Now facing the wall, have your partner stand directly behind you. Have them say the word “turn” and spin to the left-hand side while catching the football one-handed.

This drill simulates coming out of an “in” or “out” breaking route and getting the eyes around to the football. Increase the difficulty of this drill by rapidly firing the ball back and forth and throwing the ball before saying “turn” to make them find it faster

Blind Spot Catches

Facing the wall still, have your partner throw the football against the wall and catch the ball with two hands to start.

This is the most difficult drill to do, as it requires both concentration and quick reaction time. Start by lobbing the ball onto the wall so the player can get into a rhythm. Increase the difficulty by throwing the ball harder against the wall.

To increase the difficulty even more, use two balls against the wall at once and have the player try to catch both. These drills should be done every day, at least 100 throws per drill to increase your concentration and hand speed.

It’s great off-season and in-season drill to stay consistent.

Focus Drill With Playing Cards

This is typically a baseball drill, but it’s great for football players as well. Have a person stand across from you, or even on an elevated surface, and throw playing cards in the air.

The card will naturally go back and forth, making it extremely tough to catch. Start with two hands, go through the deck 3-4 times, then switch to one hand.

Improving Hand Skills In Football

Now that we’ve worked on our concentration let’s work on actually catching the football. Here are some great drills that we recommend from Youtuber SD Master Trainer.

Sit Up Catches

Sit-up catches are simple, and they require one other person to complete. They also are a great core and ab workout. Go back and forth between sit-ups and resting positions while catching a football.

This helps track the football, as you need to teach your body to catch the ball while moving. It helps to coordinate both your hand and eyes to catch the football.

Window/Traffic Catches

This drill requires 3 people (including yourself) to do. Put a defender between you and the quarterback with their hands up. To start, stand still and have the defender wave his hands back and forth.

This will train your eyes to focus on the football and catch the ball in traffic. Next, move back and forth with the defender waving his arms to create a real-life scenario.

The key to this drill is to focus on the football coming through the defender pressed against you.

High Point Drills

In the video, this drill is shown by doing an “up-down,” having the player jump as high as possible to catch the football.

This is a great addition to the traditional “jump and catches” drill, as it also helps build stamina. To add a layer of difficulty, have a defender stand in front of you, waving his arms to really focus on the football.

A major component of this drill is making sure the person that’s flipping you the football is getting it as high as they can without overthrowing you. Focus on bringing your eyes to the football with each catch and landing safely.

Field Goal Post/ Soccer Post

This drill is for more experienced players. It teaches you to catch the ball with strictly your hands. This drill should be done with 50-100 reps to really build muscle memory.

Find a field goal or a soccer post and put both of your hands around it. Have someone throw the football at you. This post forces you to catch with your hands and fingertips.

Opening The Catch Radius On Your Hands

There is a technique shown in the video below by hall of fame wide receiver Cris Carter behind the scenes on “Speak For Yourself.”

To have a larger catch radius, as Carter states, it’s important to stretch the webbing of your hand so your thumb can get around the football. Extremely interesting to work and stretch the skin to make your thumb do so.


Getting “better hands” relies on both concentration and soft hands. It’s a skill that can be developed through hours and hours of hard work. Complete all of these drills both during the off-season and even in-season. Consistency is key.

Have a partner (whether a teammate or a friend) to do these drills with; that way, you can hold each other accountable.

Related Q & A

How Do I Catch A Football With One Hand?

Catching a football with one hand requires opening the palm as wide as possible and using the fingers to cradle the football. Catching the football one-handed requires strong fingertips and proper tracking of the football.

How Do I Catch A Football Better?

Repetition of ball drills and focus drills can help improve your football catching skills. These skills need to be worked on every day in season and even in the off-season. Follow us on Instagram @gethypedgamer for more football content!

About the author

Hey There! My Name is Alex and I run Get Hyped Sports. I created this platform to help people find their love for sports and gaming.

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