Importance of Ball Security
Receiving the ball is one thing but holding on to the ball is another. Some even consider ball security statistics second in importance only to the score of the game. Stats such as interceptions, fumbles, and turnover margin are often used to explain outcomes of games. As every running back and wide receiver knows, ball security = job security.
How Is Ball Security Evaluated?
Luckily, ball security is a skill that can be taught and refined. It helps, however, to have some good raw material to work with. When evaluating potential running backs or wide receivers, this is an easy skill to scout.
First, take a look at the stats on fumbles. Then, if available, look at film of those games where a fumble occurred and watch the play. Or go to a few games to evaluate ball security. Does the back or receiver have the ball too far away from the body? Was the ball handed off poorly by the quarterback?
Going beyond the stats and reviewing the plays to see why a fumble occurred is key. This lets you know the cause and lets you know what skills to focus on for improvement.
How to Carry a Football Securely
Holding the ball the proper way makes all the difference for ball security. First, the ball should never be carried away from the body. It should be snugly against the solar plexus, just below the ribs. The inside of the ball should be tightly secured against your chest. This high and tight position makes it extremely difficult for defenders to strip the ball.
In addition to ensuring that the ball is carried high and tight, it is important that the ball carrier establish a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 4 points of contact.
First point: The front tip of the ball should be covered completely by the fingers or the palm. The ball carriers physical build will determine which grip is used.
Second point: The outside panel of the ball should press against the ball player’s forearm and the fingers of the carrying arm should be pointed at the body. The forearm should never touch the body.
Third point: The inside panel of the ball should press against the ribs and rest slightly forward on the abdomen. The elbow should be as close to the body as possible to prevent exposure of the backside area and protect against punch-outs.
Fourth point: Placing the off-hand on top of the ball makes a fourth point of contact. This is used when the ball carrier encounters or anticipates encountering contact that prevents him from becoming the aggressor when executing a stiff arm or flipper lift with the off arm.
Carrying the Ball with Two Hands
Running inside takes the ball carrier into the territory of offensive linemen, defensive ends, and linebackers who are continuously looking for chances to strip the ball. Running inside often requires carrying the ball with both hands. This means gripping the football with fingers over the tip and the other end of the ball in the crease of the arm, and the arm held close to the body. Then bring the other hand over to cover the ball. The ball should be resting on the solar plexus and the arms are clutching the ball in such a way that no defender can get a grip on the ball and rip it out of the ball carrier’s grip.
Switching Hands While Carrying the Ball
Carrying the ball with both hands is more secure but makes running slower, while carrying it with one hand is less secure but makes running faster. There will be a time when the ball carrier needs to run fast. In general, the ball is carried on the side that is the farthest from the defense so your body can act as a shield against the ball being stripped. Since ball carriers are often running from one side of the field to the other, switching the ball to the outside is crucial.
Note: All the drills below should be done while carrying the ball.
Drills to Improve Ball Security
There are two things to focus on to improve a player’s ball security. Drill the fundamentals on how to carry/run with the football. And train reactions so that the athlete is better able to protect the ball from being jeopardized. Below are 5 drills that can improve ball security on all fronts.
- Chant Drill
- Monkey Rolls
- Ball Harness
- Rip/Strip Drill
- Ball Catching Drill
- Gauntlet Drill
This is an excellent set of drills for warming up running backs and wide receivers. The drill is done in three parts.
Chant Drill Part 1
Measure a length of 10 yards. The players can go all at once or in twos and threes, depending on how many there are.
When you blow the whistle, the athletes head to toward the end of the 10 yards, pumping their arms and pulling the knees toward their chests, while gradually increasing speed. Once they reach the end of the 10-yard mark, they come back doing the same movements – except backward.
Chant Drill Part 2
This cross-stepping drill is called the carioca drill. It improves lateral movement, footwork, and agility. It’s basically moving laterally, crossing one foot over the other, first landing behind and then landing in front on the next step. Sometimes you see this done with an agility ladder.
Chant Drill Part 3
This drill emphasizes closing in on a defender. It requires the athletes to lower their profiles while moving fast, placing their foot in the ground by the defender ground (or cone for training purposes), and moving laterally towards the defender’s up-field arm. Using a lateral step in place of a crossover helps athletes learn to handle contact and maintain balance.
Most people’s natural instinct is to try to break a fall with their hands. This is also a major cause of fumbling. If a player does so, not only can the ball be bumped loose, he may also injure or break his arm. This drill helps players get used to hanging onto the ball when falling and also teaches players to protect the ball when they fall. Practiced enough, it becomes second nature.
Three players line up side by side with about 2 yards apart. The middle player (Player B) rolls to his right. The player on Player B’s right (Player A) rolls over Player B, who then gets up so that he can roll back the other way. Player A keeps rolling until he gets to left outside player (Player C), who then rolls over. Player A rolls back the other way, again rolling over Player B, and so forth. Repeat a few rounds. This drill also teaches players to hold onto the ball when they fall.
Ball Harness Drill
Place a harness with an elastic strap attached to it over the ball. Pair up your running backs and have one of them tuck the ball away. The second running back will hold the strap and, while running at 4/3 speed, try to pull the ball out from his partner for approximately 20 yards. Have him switch arms on the way back.
This drill helps prevent fumbling. Protecting the football is a matter of pride but with this drill, it also becomes second nature. This is a competitive drill that helps you train your athletes to prevent fumbles. In this drill, one athlete is the ball carrier. The second athlete tries to make him fumble and really fight to keep the ball. The ball carrier may twist but he is not allowed to run away or deliberately go to the ground. Give them a 10-15 second time limit.
In this drill, the ball carrier runs between columns of people who are trying to strip the ball from him. Line up players across from each other to form a gauntlet. The players attempt to prod, poke, punch, and pull the ball free as the ball carrier travels through the gauntlet. Make sure the players are not grabbing the ball carrier or slowing him down too much. They should be just be trying to strip the ball. The ball carrier is trying to travel through the gauntlet with knees and eyes up, keeping the ball high and tight.
Additional Ways to Improve Ball Security
Many coaches have their skill players hold a ball at all times during practice that don’t require them to use their hands or involve live play. This increases their familiarity with proper handling since coaches will surprise them by trying to strip the ball at unexpected times during practice. If they manage to strip the ball, a pushup penalty is incurred.
Many athletes wear compression sleeves for arm protection and improved performance. The Battle Ultra-Stick Full Arm Sleeve is engineered to improve ball security and assist the ball carrier in keeping a solid grip on the ball. The ultra-stick gripping material on the inside of the compression sleeve helps keep the ball secure, giving carriers the edge while also protecting from turf burn and keeping them in the game longer. Combine this sleeve with a pair of Battle Sports gloves and you’ll have the best grip possible on the ball.