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Aerial Perfection: How to Become a Serial Thrower

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By: Doug Heslip

I have heard it time after time.  “My kid can throw the football a country mile.”  “He has got a cannon for an arm.” “He throws a great deep ball.”  That is all good, BUT is he accurate?

It means nothing if he cannot hit his intended target on the run and squeeze the football through a window the size of a bar room dart board .  Not only that, but can you be accurate while speed freaks are trying to vaporize you while you are looking downfield for an ally.  Defensive pressure is a truth teller on accuracy.

Yeah.  This is where the herd of cannon arms starts playing a different position.

So, the question is how do you obtain serial perfection throwing the football.  Answer: throw the ball over and over again.

Remember there are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  There are billions of people on the planet.  The odds are not good if you are mentally fragile.  You need superhuman mental toughness and patience, to go along with serial perfection.

In this article I will describe some of my favorite accuracy and quarterback throwing drills.  Remember a proper drop back is also key to being accurate.  As I like to say, Be Complete to Compete.

 

PARTNER DRILLS

Partner drills are a great way to work on proper mechanics and to warm up the arm.  I use these drills as do many coaches around the country.  There are also a couple of drills I’ll explain that emphasize using the upper body and getting shoulder rotation.

There are a variety of quarterback throwing drills and cues that can be used to help improve accuracy. First, I will show you a drill that will teach young quarterbacks to keep their elbow up, at shoulder level.  Many young quarterbacks drop their elbow below shoulder level.  This will hinder accuracy and ball speed and contribute to a bad muscle engram.  Let us correct this as soon as possible.

Quarterback Throwing Drills 1

Elbow High – Correct

Quarterback Throwing Drills 2

Elbow Low – Incorrect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOOSE ELBOW DRILL

This is a fantastic way to help your quarterback get his elbow up.

Have each quarterback at least 5 yards away facing each other on one knee.  You can perform this drill standing too.  You may have to break this drill down segment by segment.

Quarterback Throwing Drills 3

Loose Elbow Drill

  • With the football in the throwing hand, bring the football just above the opposite shoulder, behind the head, elbow up. (See photo.)
  • Bring the arm around from the opposite shoulder.
  • Have a good throwing platform.
  • Have the football up high and elbow at shoulder level.
  • Release the football high and follow through.

I found this drill to be excellent for the “loose elbow”.

 

SHOULDER ROTATION

Have each quarterback sit on the ground 5 yards away, facing each other.  Great drill for the upper body and getting a feel for shoulder rotation.

Quarterback Throwing Drills 4

Shoulder Rotation Drill

Shoulder Rotation Drill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sit down, legs extended out in front of them. (This drill can also be done while kneeling.)
  • Rotate shoulders so the non-throwing shoulder is pointed at target.
  • Throwing shoulder will now be loaded. Elbow up!
  • Rotate shoulders. Throwing shoulder will replace non-throwing shoulder.
  • Release the ball high and follow through.

I like to name the shoulders.  The non-throwing shoulder is called MIKE and the throwing shoulder is called IKE.

I will tell them to get MIKE on the target and let IKE replace MIKE as shoulder rotation is completed.

 

THE BIG EASY DRILL

I take a garbage can and place it in the corner of the end zone.  I have my quarterback take a three-step drop and try to throw the football into the garbage can.  Make sure you hit each side of the end zone.  I tell them to error long because if it is short it is an interception.

This is a nice drill to teach what type of trajectory you need to get on the football to get it into the garbage can.  I will practice this at a variety of distances from the goal line.  I will also use a five-step drop and of course throwing on the run.

 

HITCH IT AND RIP IT

For some quarterback throwing drills, I use a net with pockets.  I have different colored squares of felt, I found at the local craft store, lining the pockets of the net.  I have my quarterback drop back.  As he is gliding into his drop back I yell out a color.  He will then hitch-up and throw the football into the pocket of the colored picked by coach.   The pockets are at different locations on the net.  The quarterback will get a feel for trajectory when he is trying to hit a pocket.

This should also be done on the run.  You can put bags on the ground and have your quarterback snake in and out of them.  Also, you can have your quarterback step over the bags (one-ins) and throw the ball to the color called out as they are stepping over the bags.

When throwing on the run have them decelerate a few steps after the throw.  If they stop immediately after the throw this can lead to inaccuracy, have them follow through with the entire body.

I will have him hitch-up on the five and seven-step drops but not on the three-step drop.  On the three-step drop I have him plant on the last step and throw the football.  I do not want a hitch because it will bring him too close to the line of scrimmage.  This is a good way to work on the quick passing game by using the three-step drop.

 

WINDOWS

When doing quarterback throwing drills for accuracy, often bags or other targets can take the place of athletes. If you do not have enough athletes around, for example, you can use stand up bags.  Line up the bags to represent defensive backs.  Make the window in between the bags large at first but close the windows as the athlete gets better.

Quarterback Throwing Drills 6

Windows Drill

Quarterback Throwing Drills 7

Windows Drill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I line up four bags or players in the end zone.  Sometimes I zigzag the bags and sometimes I line them up parallel to the line of scrimmage in a straight line.

I like my wide receivers to run their designated route.  So, you will have to place the bags where the receiver breaks into a window to receive the football.

I have a wide receiver run behind the bags and the quarterback has to hit the wide receiver as he comes into a window.  This teaches throwing the ball on the money before the receiver hits the window.  If you are late or too early with the football you may hit a standing pad which is an interception.

 

 

About the Author:

Coach Doug Heslip is a sports performance and football coach in Negaunee, Michigan and trainer at Heslip Elite Sports Performance Training. He has been coaching football and training athletes for 20 years. Coach Heslip is an instructor at the USA Football/Green Bay Packer coaching clinics at Lambeau Field and has been for nearly 10 years, rated the number 1 station as polled by coaches after instruction. He is also a Team USA football coach. Coach Heslip has written several articles published through American Football Monthly and has a Running Back DVD through American Football Monthly, peer reviewed and labeled outstanding. He also received the Governor’s Service Award for the State of Michigan for coaching football. 

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