Thoughts for Quarterbacks - Part 4
This is the third in a series of articles that comprise Thoughts for Quarterbacks, a short booklet written by Coach and Author Larry Beckish.
Over the years of coaching young quarterbacks in football camps at several universities I developed the following thoughts on the following fundamentals as an appropriate starting point for teaching a youngster to throw a football.
1. The Grip: Gripping a football basically begins by placing the forefinger and thumb on the stripe on the ball. Youngsters with smaller hands often have to slide the forefinger and thumb towards the tip of the ball. The middle finger is usually between the stripe and the laces, or just on the edge of the laces. The small finger comes to rest near the middle of the ball. The grip should hold half the ball. The ball is gripped with the first two joints of the fingers. It is critical that the ball not be pressed flat against the palm. When the ball is gripped properly a finger can be placed between the ball and palm.
2. The Wrist: The position of the wrist is a critical factor in throwing a football. The wrist position allows the fingers to release the ball properly. The wrist should be in line with the arm. If the wrist is cocked inward it makes a spiral very difficult to throw. When the wrist is cocked outward the ball is basically pushed, much like a shot putter throws a shot. It is important that the fingertips are slightly on top of the ball and not under the ball.
3. Scratch the Back: A portion ofthe mechanics of throwing a football is using the arm as a lever. Young quarterbacks who are in the process of developing a sound, consistent throwing motion must understand this concept. Teaching a youngster to scratch his back is the first step in teaching him the concept of the arm as a lever. It also teaches him a critical aspect of throwing a football that the elbow of the throwing arm must be higher than the shoulder. To scratch the back the quarterback holds the ball with the proper grip in front ofhis chest and simply raises the ball straight up over his head until the tip of the ball touches the back of his neck. The off hand should stay on the ball until it naturally falls away. This move also stretches the muscles of the shoulders and back. The motion is similar to throwing a dart or throwing pebbles in a bucket. The scratch the back motion also keeps the arm close to the head and helps develop a high release.
4. Weight Shift: Throwing a football requires a weight shift to initiate the motion. The weight shift is made by stepping (striding) with the foot opposite the throwing arm. The stride allows the hips to open towards the target. The hips instigate a rotation of the shoulders. The shoulder rotation pulls the arm forward in a centrifugal force type action (it whips the arm around) basically slinging the football from the grip. The weight shift allows the quarterback to use the entire body to the throw the ball. He needs that power to throw a 10-15 yard curl or out because that's about a 25 yard throw from the LOS factoring in the angle to the receiver. A drill to test a quarterback's natural stride is to have him hold the ball next to his head as ifhe is going to throw it and bounce on his back foot three times and the stride towards the target.
5. Arm Extension: Extending the arm is essential to make maximum use of the arm
as a lever. A long lever is more forceful than a short one. The arm extends as the football is brought from the scratch the back position and moves towards the
target. The ball should be released from the hand with the arm fully extended. If the ball is released with a bend at the elbow the ball will quickly lose velocity.
6. The Release: The release is critical to get the ball to tightly spiral. Basically the thumb and the forefinger push the ball from the hand. Again it is a great deal like throwing a dart. The forefinger should be the last to leave the ball. With the thumb and forefinger pushing the ball, the thumb should naturally rotate towards the ground. As the quarterback gets arm extension and releases the ball he should get the feeling that he is throwing his hand at the facemask of the receiver.
7. Follow Through: It is essential to complete the throw with a follow through. Once the ball is released the arm should naturally fall across the body. It is important that the follow through leave the quarterback in an upright position as opposed to the follow through of a baseball pitcher. That style follow through will cause low throws which will be off target.
Additional articles in this series include:
- MENTAL FUNDAMENTALS
- PASSING FACTORS
- QUARTERBACK MUSTS AND PASS ROUTE COACHING POINTS
Coach Beckish has been a long-time contributor to CompuSports web sites and has appeared on Coaches Corner - a talk radio show delivered in podcast format
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