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Football Basics: Delivering the Ball

Apr 25, 2008
On the assumption that you use either the overhand, or thumb method of holding the ball, the thing to consider is the delivery. For a start, the arm and hand are cocked backwards over the shoulder, elbow relatively close to the body, hand well back to where it feels comfortable and natural. Then, fire the ball forward as fast as you can.

The speed in the whip of the arm and hand is in direct proportion to the velocity and distance the ball will travel. Accuracy will come through constant practice. While delivering the ball, exaggerate throwing the elbow out in front of the body so that the point of the ball will stay up and therefore carry farther. This is called "long arm" action. It cannot be over-emphasized.

In releasing the ball, draw the fingers and the hand inward and downward. This should provide the spiral flight so necessary to a well-thrown ball.

In summary, then, the following two actions, in addition to a proper grip, are very important for the execution of the pass. (1) Use an inward and downward pull of the fingers and hand on the ball. (2) Keep the nose of the ball up by throwing the elbow out in front of the body as the ball is released.

Passers usually throw in one of three ways: (1) from behind the ear; (2) with a three-quarter arm motion; and (3) sidearm. This last method, however, is not as much used as the preceding two.

Behind the Ear. I go along with the majority of coaches who, in teaching a young quarterback how to pass, emphasize the behind-the-ear technique. The reason for preferring it is that the ball is cocked and ready to be thrown as with the crack of a whip, thus increasing the speed of the delivery.

I have observed single-wing teams whose center will actually snap the ball to the right of the passer's helmet so that he could make the throw sooner. Both U.C.L.A. and the University of Tennessee were foremost advocates of this technique. But snapping the ball back in this way had its drawback in that often the passer rose to an erect position before the count was completed and tipped off the defense that a pass was in the works.

Three-Quarter Arm Motion. Despite the better release of the ball obtained with the behind-the-ear delivery, the three-quarter arm motion is probably the most widely used method. The explanation is simple: it is the most natural delivery of a ball for most passers, usually because of the common handicap of a lack of flexibility in the shoulder joint.

In contrast to the behind-the-ear type of delivery, it would seem likely that in throwing a ball for any great length, the passer employing the three-quarter motion would give a higher trajectory on the ball. This, in turn, could prove the downfall of such a passer, for this higher trajectory could cause the ball to "hang" in the air longer, thus giving the defenders a greater opportunity to get under it and intercept.

Throwing Sidearm. As for the sidearm delivery, this method is not recommended to young passers learning how to throw the ball. A sidearm release results in a lower trajectory, which in turn, gives the big defensive linemen more of a chance to knock down the pass before it attains its "safety" height.

There is, moreover, a further point to be made about the several methods of delivering the ball. Any great passer, while he may concentrate on one passing method, has to have a working knowledge of all three because of the various situations that may confront him.

For instance, if he gets a tremendous rush up the middle or from the outside, he will have to release the ball while off-balance to a short or an outlet receiver, thus nullifying the rush. If, in this crisis, a passer has to set both feet and cock the ball behind his ear to throw, he is pretty certain to land on his ear.

As in all aspects of football, it is practice which makes perfect. Keep practising!
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