How to Teach Kids to Catch a Football
Coaching youth football comes with a lot of responsibilities -- teaching the fundamentals of the game, the rules, how to be a good sport and most important, the basic skills. For very young kids who have never played a sport, the first must-know skill to teach is how to properly catch the football. A good teaching approach is to demonstrate and discuss the proper football catching mechanics and then conduct a few catching drills.
Demonstrate and Discuss
Show your players how to hold their hands to catch a ball that is waist high or higher. Have them hold their hands up in front of their body and spread their fingers. Ask them to angle their palms inward, point their pinkies forward and put their index fingers and thumbs together to form a diamond shape.
Demonstrate how to catch a low ball. Have the kids hold their hands below their waist and open their hands with their palms facing forward. Instruct them to point their fingers down and form a basket with their pinkies touching each other.
Show the kids how to catch the ball with soft hands, to absorb the force like a cushion. Tell them it helps to relax their fingers, keep them flexible and to bend and give with their elbows. Explain that with stiff fingers and no give, a hard thrown ball will bounce out of their hands.
Discuss the importance of extending their arms to catch the ball instead of catching it against their body. Explain how the ball can bounce off their pads if they try to catch the ball with their body.
Stress the importance of securing the ball against their body after they've caught it. Show the kids how to watch the ball all the way into their hands, quickly lock it between their hand, forearm and elbow and then squeeze it against their bodies.
Improve your players' hand-eye coordination and catching skills with a wall drill. Give the kids tennis balls and have them stand 6 feet away from a wall. Have them gently throw the ball against the wall and catch it with both hands five times, five times with just their right hand and then five times with their left hand.
Perform a back-and-forth catching drill with your players -- this time, with footballs. Have the kids stand in a line, 6 feet away. Instruct the kids to hold their hands up in front of their body and form a diamond with their fingers. Gently throw a chest-high ball to the first player and instruct him to catch, tuck the ball and then throw it back to you. Repeat with each player in the line. As their skills improve, throw the ball at different heights and put more distance between you and your players.
Conduct a blind-catch drill once your players can catch the football with good form and consistency. Have your players stand in a line, 10 feet away, with their backs toward you. Gently throw the ball toward to the first player and say either "left" or "right." Your player must turn in whichever direction you called, catch, tuck the ball and throw it back. Repeat with each player in the line.
To make it easier for small hands to catch the ball, use youth-size footballs.
Leather footballs can be hard on young hands. Avoid finger and hand injuries by using foam footballs.