wikiHow to Catch a Football

Two Parts:Catching a Football with Two HandsCatching a Football with One Hand

Catching a football is something a lot of people can do, but only a few people can do well. In order to catch a football consistently, you have to use your hand eye coordination correctly and efficiently. People make it seem easy, but in actual reality, it's not. You have to visualise success from the moment the ball leaves the quarterback's hands to the moment it hits yours. Let's get started!

Part 1
Catching a Football with Two Hands

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    Keep your eyes on the ball at all times. A good way to stay zeroed on the ball is to watch the tip of the ball all the way from the quarterback's hand to yours, especially as you practice. This increases the eye part of hand eye coordination. Every time you take your eyes off the ball you increase your chances of dropping it or the other team getting it. If you aren't focused on the ball when it hits you in the hands, catching it becomes pure luck.
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    Extend your arms toward the ball as the ball approaches, so your hands meet it at the furthest possible point. This makes sure that if the ball isn't thrown directly at your hands, you have more chance of catching it. Extend your arms right before the ball reaches you. Never leave your hands flat.
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    Cup your hands. You want to cup your hand so there is a slight space between them, so one cupped hand circles the right side of the ball, whilst the other one encompasses the left.
    • If the ball is below the waist, your palms should still face out, but put your pinkies together. If you are running and the ball is thrown high, similarly try to put your pinkies together.
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    Catch the ball, letting it get about halfway between your hands before clamping down on it with all your fingers. Keep your eyes on the ball the whole time. You should feel a slight pressure and you might even let out a small 'oomph' depending on how well your counterpart throws the ball. This is the hand part of hand eye coordination. If you try to run before you've caught the ball, chances are you'll drop it.
    • If the pass is below the waist, let the ball slide through the inside of your palms about halfway and then clamp down on it.
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    Tuck the ball away. After you have clamped down on the ball, tuck it under your arm on the opposite side of any defenders. If you want, you can also clutch the football with both hands right near your belly button if you don't need the other hand to keep your balance or stiff-arm a defender.
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    Visualize the catch and visualize success. Make sure that you see in your mind catching the pass. Under no circumstances think "I'm not going to catch this football" or "I hope the defender doesn't tackle me." Think positively and visualize a successful catch from start to finish.
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Part 2
Catching a Football with One Hand

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    Only attempt the one-handed catch when it's impossible to catch the ball with two hands. In a game, when success is on the line, you should be trying to catch the ball two-handed every single time. Sometimes, however, you won't be able to — maybe the cornerback's arm will be grabbing yours, or maybe the ball will be overthrown. Whatever the situation, think two hands first, one hand second.
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    Put your outstretched palm in a position to catch the ball. If you can, take your dominant hand, open your palm completely, and begin to follow the movement of the ball with your hand. With just enough hand-eye-coordination, you can begin to do with just by looking at the ball, not looking at your hand at all.
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    Anticipate the ball by moving your hand back slightly. Right before the ball flies into your hand, move your hand back slightly. This will cushion the impact. By doing this, you're effectively making the ball travel slower as it hits your hand because your hand is traveling backwards as well.
    • Think about it: If you don't move your hand back at impact, the ball is going to bounce off your hand like a tennis ball off of a brick wall. If you do move your hand back, the ball will nestle into your hand like a head onto a pillow. Or at least that's the hope!
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    Aim to catch the ball with your fingers as much as your palm. Catching the ball only with your palm will make the tucking much harder when you're trying to control the catch. If you catch the ball with both your strong fingers and your palm, it'll be much easier to hold onto the ball as you bring it away from your body towards it.
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    Quickly bring your hand — and the ball — into a tucked position beside your body. Try to use your body as a stabilizer by quickly tucking the ball against it.
    • Practice makes perfect, especially with one-handed catches. Be sure to practice one-handed catches with a friend by throwing each other the ball. Start off slow and gradually throw the ball faster. It'll be easier to catch slower passes than quicker ones. Once you've mastered the soft-toss, practice with quicker throws. Enjoy!


  • Have confidence in your ability to catch the ball. If you are thinking, "I can't catch from this angle" or just think about how difficult it is going to be to make the catch, then the chances are you won't catch it. It all starts with believing in your ability to catch the ball no matter what the circumstance.
  • Ignore the rest of the world and focus on the ball. There is no sky, no ground, nobody else even exists. The only thing is that ball and your hands.
  • Keep your eyes on the ball at all times. Some people think they are keeping their eyes on the ball and they really aren't. The more focused you are on the ball, the better job you will do of catching it with your hands.
  • Not all throws are going to be perfect. You need to learn to catch bad passes.
  • Practice catching the ball on the run.
  • Practice, practice, practice. You can't master anything by reading it in a book (or online). You need to get out there and practice.
  • Watch the rotation of the ball. The rotation velocity affects your ability to catch it. The faster the spiral the harder you will have to grip it. If the pass is a wounded duck (the rotation is all over the place because it is an ugly pass) then you will have to adjust your hands to get a good grip when you catch it.
  • DO NOT catch with your body. That is wrong. It can hurt, it increases your chances of fumbling it, and if you're wearing pads you will drop it a lot. I don't care what you saw Joe Pro doing on TV, because Joe Pro runs a 4.2 40 yard dash and people are more concerned with what he does after he catches the ball. Even so, his coach probably still tells him to catch with his hands.
  • And don't push at the ball, let it come to you.
  • Try practicing with a basic football instead of an official one.
  • Watch football games to see how the pros do it. Try using the techniques you see.
  • Put your hands up two to three seconds before the ball would hit your hand.
  • A drill to encourage catching the ball in your hands: lie on your back and toss the ball in the air 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) above you. Watch the ball all the way into your hands, catch it away from your body and squeeze it for two seconds before you throw it again. For increased dexterity, catch it one handed with each hand.
  • Keep your hands cupped.
  • Try letting someone guard you.
  • If you're no good at catching a football, start off with a Nerf football. That way if you miss a catch and the ball hits your head, it doesn't hurt nearly as much.


  • Like Jerry Rice adjusting to balls thrown by Joe Montana (right-handed) and Steve Young (lefty). Due to the opposing spin on the ball and other effects, you'll have to adjust accordingly.
  • Unlike the days of Fred Biletnikoff, Stick-Em's or anything that helps you grip and catch the ball better are outlawed. You can use gloves though.

Things You'll Need

  • football
  • a glove with good grip (optional)

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