Bill Webb
Sports1 Connection

There is so much more to being a receiver in football than just being able to catch the ball. Effective release off the line of scrimmage. Precise routes. Acceleration out of the cut to create separation. The list goes on and on. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how fast you are, how good your routes are, or how open you get, if you don’t catch the ball when it is thrown to you, you can’t be an effective receiver.


Like many skills, reps will make you better. But when it comes to receiving, quality reps can make you great. Following are four simple drills you can work on practically anywhere — from your front yard to a football field — to improve your catching skills. Regardless of your age or skill level, work these drills on a regular basis and you will get better!


Running Through the Catch

This drill can be done with a tennis ball or a football. It can be done with tennis balls with one person against a wall or two people with a football. The goal here is to learn to run through the catch, not slowing down at the point of the catch. With another person, stand facing the person with the ball 15-20 feet away. Run at ¾ speed towards the person with the ball. The person with the ball throws the tennis ball or football at the athlete running towards him and the idea is to catch the ball and tuck it without slowing down. This drill helps maintain the separation needed to be and stay open in a route. Many younger receivers slow down as they catch the ball. The idea is to learn to avoid this unless the throw is short. Move through the catch!

Tennis Ball Against the Wall

For this, you’ll want to have at least two people and several tennis balls. The receiver stands with one hand behind their back about 8-10 feet away from and facing the wall. A second person stands behind the receiver (the distance from the wall can vary) and throws the tennis balls at varying speeds speed at wall. The receiver catches the ball on the bounce back with one hand and then drops the ball prior to the next ball being thrown. The person behind the receiver continues to throw the balls until they are gone, speeding up the pace and velocity of the throws as improvement warrants. After a round of tennis balls, the receiver switches hands and repeats the drill.

Hands Drill

This drill can be performed with a tennis ball or a football. It can involve one person throwing to the other or catching the ball off the wall if alone. The goal is to get the receiver accustomed to extending their hands and catching the ball without their chest or pads. Start with the hands in the diamond position well in front of the face and keep hands extended until the ball arrives. Avoid separating the hands. Keep them close together and keep your eyes on the ball. As the ball is caught, pull the ball in and secure it. However, don’t let the ball hit your chest or other body parts first. Learn to catch with your hands. Repeat the drill. Then repeat it more. This is a great drill to get better, no matter your experience level. This is a drill that even NFL receivers do on a daily basis.


Over the Shoulder Catch

This drill can be accomplished with a tennis ball or a football. It requires at least two people. Start with the receiver in directly front of the thrower, both aimed in the same direction and 5 five feet apart. The receiver then takes off on a jog and the thrower throws the wall with arch over the head of the receiver.

The idea is for the receiver to catch the ball over their head/shoulder without turning to catch it. The over the shoulder catch is one of the toughest catches in football. By practicing this drill consistently, the receiver will significantly improve fade catch.

Challenge yourself, and your training partners, on every round. Work to catch EVERY ball. Reps make you better. Quality reps can make you great.

Learn to catch first with your eyes (see everything you are catching), then with your hands (don’t let the ball get into your body), and then secure the ball tightly as soon as you have possession.

No matter your age or skill level, these drills will help. You can’t do too many!


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