Here are the best quarterback passing drills and techniques for youth football. Quarterback is probably the most difficult position to coach, as kids often struggle to throw the football. With that said, here are some great drills and techniques that will help develop youth football quarterbacks.
Teaching Quarterbacks how to throw has become a very debated issue. In coaching clinics across the country coaches debate the merit of changing a Quarterback’s throwing motion. Some argue that the throwing motion is so complex that if you change even a small part of it the Quarterback’s biomechanics will be thrown off. Others say that a Quarterback is just like any other position and changing the throwing motion is no different than changing a Wide Receiver’s route running.
Regardless if you are going to make wholesale changes to a Quarterback’s throwing technique there are a few key points that all throwing motions need. We break these down into four groups. First is the pre-throwing position, or the Cradle. In the Cradle the Quarterback must be able to get the ball quickly into his throwing motion while still being secure with the ball. The next is the Swing, this is the movement the arm makes while throwing the ball. The final section is the Follow Through.
In the Cradle there are a few key coaching points. The first one is the grip the Quarterback is using on the ball. He needs to have the ball on his fingertips and not sitting in the palm of his hand. The best way for him to check this is by holding the ball up to a light, if he can see light between his palm and the ball then he is holding the ball with his finger tips.
I have moved away from coaching the grip. I used to make sure they had two fingers on the laces but now I believe in giving Quarterbacks the ability to experiment and find what fits them best. While I don’t encourage players to grip the ball without the laces, I have had a few Quarterbacks that really didn’t need the laces to throw a great ball. Now these Quarterbacks had massive hands so I encourage all QBs to grip the laces, but I don’t require it.
The second part of the Cradle is the body position of the QB. He needs to be holding the ball with both hands under his chin. This means that the ball isn’t tight up against his shoulder pads but it’s also not thrust out in front of him. In an ideal world it would be about 6 inches in front of his chest, but again this can vary with Quarterback comfort. The last item that is talked about in the Cradle is the angle the ball is carried. The ball should be held vertical. This, combined with holding the ball 6 inches from the chest, helps to stop any defenders being able to swipe at the ball and create a fumble.
The Swing is without a doubt the most debated section of the Quarterback’s throwing motion. In the Swing the Quarterback is going to take the ball from the Cradle to the release. While there are a million debatable points, there are a few things that are widely agreed upon. The first point is that when the Quarterback decides where he will be throwing the ball he wants to step slightly to the left of the target (for a Right Handed QB). By stepping slightly to the left it allows the Quarterbacks hip to come through and get on track to propel the ball to the target. As the Quarterback goes through his throwing motion he must ensure that the ball always stays above the elbow. While there are a variety of other coaching points in the Swing, they can vary in importance depending on the throwing motion of the QB.
The final section of the throw is the Follow Through. A lot of times the Follow Through is the key to determining the issue in the throwing motion. While the actual throwing motion is a very quick movement, the Follow Through has a finishing point and will reflect a lot of potential problems that arise during the throwing motion.
There are a couple of key factors that you can look for in the Follow Through. First the Quarterback needs to come down through the throw and bring his throwing hand to his opposite hip. If he is coming down somewhere other than his opposite hip there is more than likely an issue in the ball angle during the Swing part of the throw. He should end up with his feet almost square to the target. If he is not finishing with his feet square there is a problem with his weight transferring from the back foot to the front foot during the throw. In addition to this the Quarterback should be able to hold his Follow Through position. If he can’t hold the Follow Through position there is normally something wrong in his stride length.
The key to coaching Quarterbacks is consistency. Each player has a throwing motion that is unique to their biomechanics and while we can’t make wholesale changes to the throwing motion, we can make subtle corrections to make them more efficient so that they can consistently hit their target.
One of the critical components to being an effective passing team is getting enough reps of a youth Quarterback throwing to the Wide Receivers. This can be difficult to achieve in any practice structure but if your team is only practicing twice a week it is very difficult to develop the timing needed to have an effective passing game. The solution for this is to have a few highly efficient quarterback passing drills that gets the players a large amount of reps in a short period of time.
The best drills to achieve this are Pat and Go and Settle and Noose.
The Pat and Go is an Air Raid staple drill that guarantees a huge number of reps for both the receivers and the QBs throwing vertical passes. The traditional youth football drill is spaced out about 30 yards but this distance can be adjusted to match the arm strength of the Quarterbacks. Two Quarterbacks will line up 30 yards apart facing each other with a line of receivers to their right. When the QB moves the ball the WR will run a fade route. It’s important that the QB does not call Go as there will be two QBs doing it and eventually one of the receivers will go at the wrong time. This is also a great time to put an emphasis on the WRs that they do not listen to the cadence and instead go when the ball moves. As the receiver runs his fade route the QB will throw the ball to him. The exact type of throw can vary but it should be high enough that the receiver can work on running under the ball and adjusting to it in the air. When the receiver has caught the ball he will hand it to the opposite QB and get in that QB’s receiver line.
Settle and Noose is another Air Raid staple, youth football quarterback passing drill that allows the QBs and Receivers to work on their essential skills during pre-practice. In this drill a Receiver will start on the line with two cones around 7-8 yards apart on that line. The wide receiver is looking to run his route, break on each cone and then square up the QB to catch the pass (see diagram below). The key coaching points for the receiver are to really emphasis sticking his toe into the ground when he is making his cut and to settle in between the cones with his hands to the QB in a diamond. Once he does catch the ball he should drop step with the same leg as the direction he is going and burst downfield for five yards. By using a drop step he guarantees that he is gaining yards right after the catch and is not moving sideways. When receivers move sideways they create a much easier tackle for the defender who is guarding him.
The Quarterback can be working on a variety of different things during the Settle and Noose Drill. He will have time to work on footwork while the Wide Receiver is working on his plants and cuts. This can be done through a variety of different ways. My favorite is to have a Coach working with the QBs using a wave drill and throwing the ball when the Coach claps. The QB should be focused on the accuracy of his throw. He needs to put the ball on the shoulder that is furthest away from a defender. By throwing the ball to the shoulder that is away from the defender the QB allows his receiver more time to get out of the break and accelerate.
(See Also) Approaching QB Training
(See Also) Teaching the QB to Read Coverages