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Gripping the Ball in Football Explained

Oct 31, 2007
I shall discuss the art of gripping a football under three main headings: the overhand grip, the thumb grip and the palm grip. Grip and delivery are the mechanics of actually throwing the ball - of getting it up into the air.

The mechanics of throwing the ball must obviously become second nature to the passer if he is going to develop any skill in throwing the ball. No amount of instruction on my part can do that for him - only practice, practice, and yet more practice in throwing countless passes of all kinds will enable him to master the art, regardless of whatever natural ability he may have.


To pass, you have to hold the ball, and it is no secret that the forward pass has to start with the passer's grip. Although there probably are many methods of gripping the ball, I will discuss only three of the more popular grips. They are the three types of grip that I have observed to be the most widely used in analyzing the different techniques employed by passers on all levels of play - high school, college, and professional. These three types are the overhand grip, the thumb grip, and the palm grip. Each has its particular features which may be preferable for one reason or another. If you can master the one that is most suitable for you, then you won't have to bother much about the others.

THE OVERHAND GRIP. The first grip to be considered, and the big favorite among passers, is the overhand grip .The hand should grip the ball in the following manner: The little finger is placed on the third horizontal lacing with the middle finger approximately an inch directly above the ring finger. The index finger takes a wider spread than the other fingers and at more of an angle so that it almost touches the point of the ball. The thumb almost makes a right angle to the index finger and rests on the underside of the ball.
The hand needs to grasp the ball well at the top. It has been my experience that this grip offers the best control, accuracy, and distance. The index finger is the controlling factor and should be the last finger to "feel" leather as the ball is released.

Palming the ball tightly with all four fingers is not as necessary as some people may believe. Beginners use this method extensively and should be discouraged by their instructors because wrapping all fingers around the ball will add nothing to the development of a novice into a genuine passer.

THE THUMB GRIP. The second method of holding the ball to be considered is the thumb grip. Although not as popular as the overhand grip, it has been used successfully by many top-notch passers. This grip finds the thumb resting about an inch above the laces toward the top of the ball. The index is at a right angle to the thumb, and the other fingers are about an inch apart from each other.

THE PALM GRIP. The third method of holding the ball is known as the palm grip. The reason it is being given extensive consideration here is due to its antiquity and widespread use, particularly by high school passers, beginners, and young men with small hands who have to employ it because of a lack of finger-spread. Also, it is the easiest way and the laziest way.

Actually, it isn't even a grip, and almost any other method of throwing is recommended because the palm grip affords little, if any, control over the direction, arc, distance, or accuracy of the ball. Passers using the palm "hold" have been observed to release the ball in a more horizontal, or side-arm, movement to generate the centrifugal force necessary to create a spiral flight.

A final note of warning should still be given. The palm ball can also be knocked out easily from the hand and on a rainy or snowy day, it can be about as tough to handle as a greased eel.

Choose one of these grips and then practice until you have perfected it.
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