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Making a textbook pass

This is an excerpt from Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Football by Jim Dougherty & Brandon Castel.

The first time your players attempt to make a pass, the ball's chances of going backward, sideways, or straight up in the air are just as good as its chances of actually going forward. Most kids have no idea when to release the ball or how to get it going in the direction they want. As a quarterback reaches his plant step on the drop back, the football should be at ear level and both hands should still be on the ball (see figure 3.8a). The player should then step forward with the opposite foot—if he's right-handed he should plant with his right foot and step with his left—in the direction he would like to throw the ball (figure 3.8b). It's important that the stepping foot is pointed at the target. The quarterback should propel the ball forward by applying pressure just behind the center point of the ball (figure 3.9c), moving the ball up over his head and then releasing it. Coaches should watch for elbow elevation and make sure players are pronating their wrists (a counterclockwise twist for the right forearm and a clockwise twist for the left). Quarterbacks should be rotating their shoulders on every throw.

Figure 3.8

As the ball is released from the hand, it should come off the pinkie finger first and then the ring finger and so on until finally it separates itself from the index finger. An easy—and funny—way to coach this technique is by telling the kids to “flick a booger” off their finger as they finish the throw. This might sound a little gross, but it will get a lot of laughs, and more important, it will teach the kids to let the ball go with the index finger and flip the wrist down as they finish their throws.

Whether it be intangibles such as leadership and poise or physical abilities such as throwing on the run or moving in the pocket, much more goes into being a great quarterback than just knowing how to pass. This, however, will lay the proper foundation for any players who go on to play quarterback at a higher level. Take your time; don't be in a hurry to teach them everything about passing all at once. Kids learn slowly, but what they come to understand at this age will last them a lifetime.

Learn more about Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Football.