See also: How to catch a football

If you've ever tried to throw a football before, you know how tricky this is. You have to master four important factors: spiral, velocity, height, and leading. First I'll explain these:

  • Spiral refers to the amount of spin on the long axis of the ball. A properly thrown ball should not tumble or wobble at all; it should spin perfectly straight around the long axis. A bad throw ALWAYS looks fugly.
  • Velocity should be self-explanatory. Usually, passes should go from you to the receiver ASAP, but sometimes a soft touch is necessary. On a long pass, for example, you can't really missile it the whole way there, so you'll have to lob it in there where your guy can haul it in but the defender has no play on the ball.
  • Height is more important than it first appears. Defenders are taught to jump for the ball and to aim low when they tackle, so if you string your receiver out on an unnecessarily high pass, he's gonna get one in the kidneys, get pissed at you, and be less likely to chase high balls in the future. Always maintain a good rapport with your receivers; they make you look good.
  • Leading is the hardest part of throwing because it isn't natural and only practice develops it. No one ever stands still in football, unless they majorly suck. They're always running. If you throw the ball where your guy is standing -- at the moment you throw the ball -- he'll be long gone by the time the ball gets there. So you have to put it where he's going to be, not where he is. This requires some cool Newtonian calculations of rate, time, and distance. So, he's running 15 mph, I can throw 40 mph, so...*squish*

    That, young grasshopper, was the sound of the linebacker creaming you where you stood. The point is you don't have time to think. You have to learn to do it automatically. You can do it, but only with lots of practice.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's talk about the throwing motion.

  1. Grip the football on the laces with your throwing hand, towards the back of the ball. You want to rest at least one finger on the lace while the other four fingers fall naturally on the rest of the ball, up to but not on the nose. Your thumb goes on the other side of the ball.
  2. Stand feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and springy, body in line with the direction you want to throw, facing toward the side of your body you use to throw. (Confused? Maybe this diagram will help:
                               x (your receiver)
                         ------------- (line of scrimmage)
    Right-handed passer                   Left-handed passer
     left foot                             right foot
         |                                      |
         | hands and ball        hands and ball |
         |                                      |
    right foot                              left foot
  3. Hold the ball in both hands, nose down, with your throwing hand as above and the other hand for balance. The idea is to ensure you don't drop it by accident, because then it's a fumble and you're screwed. You'll wind up throwing it with only one hand, though.
  4. Pull the ball in close to your chest and bend both your elbows; your throwing elbow slightly more than a right angle and your non-throwing slightly less (or whatever feels natural for it).
  5. Look at where you're throwing the ball. Once you do this, you've tipped your hand, so if you're not really going to throw the ball there, look away quick.
  6. Start the throwing motion by rotating your arm through your shoulder. The ball should pass beside your ear. At the same time, extend your non-throwing arm out for balance. Make sure you stay balanced during the whole motion or you'll lose accuracy. Do not move your throwing elbow, hand or shift your grip on the ball. The only movement should be through your shoulder. You should end up in a balanced position with your throwing arm cocked, the ball behind your head, and your other arm outstretched in the general direction you want to throw.
  7. Swing your entire torso at the hips to begin the throw. Make a complete one quarter turn so that your shoulders are square and facing your target.
  8. At the same time, rotate your arm so that your elbow is pointing in the direction you want to throw. Extend your arm quickly and flick your wrist as your arm reaches full extension. (Your arm should be more or less perpendicular to the ground when fully extended if your motion is right.) This is the release point.
  9. As you finish your wrist flick, the ball will start to move of its own inertia. Let your thumb, which I hope is shorter than your fingers, fall away from the ball and, one by one starting with your pinkie, roll the ball off your fingers to give it the spiral. (This is the hardest part to master. You can practice by tossing the ball up in the air and catching it on the way back down.)
  10. Follow the motion through after the ball is gone. Let your arm continue forward in its swing; it should eventually come to rest just in front of your belly. The follow-through is where a throw (or kick, for that matter) gets distance, so practice it and learn the tradeoffs between a quick release and a Hail Mary pass.

At this point the ball should be on its way to your receiver. Watch its spiral and make sure it doesn't start wobbling halfway through; this is a symptom of gripping the ball too tightly, which can actually cause tendinitis in your elbow and wrist.

Now you must practice! Have someone run away, towards, parallel and perpendicular to your pass for leading practice and find a friend to cover your receiver to practice working the ball through coverage.

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