By John Westenhaver
MECHANICS – Part 2
There are four (4) elements that must be considered in this area:
- The Stage
- The Grip
- The Stroke
- The Arm Slot
1. The Stage: The Stage is the position that the ball is held prior to the start of the Passing Stroke. The most efficient Stage position is in front of the numbers with both hands securing the ball. The strong and secure grip is achieved with the opposite hand. The dominant hand is adjusted during the drop to a position which puts the ball in the grip to release mode. The arms held down to the side in a normal and comfortable position. The ball held approximately 2″ in front of the sternum (see Ball Handling section).
Things to look for and their inherent results:
A low Stage Position- a.) A long Stroke b.) Poor ball security c.) Limited ability to move and run with the ball.
A high Stage Position-(near the ear) a.) Poor ball security especially from a back-side rush b.) It could result in a long stroke or the necessity to re-start the passing motion c.) Very difficult to run with the ball in this position which will require an unnecessary re-positioning of the ball.
2. The Grip: Undeniably the essential element regarding ball rotation. To achieve the maximum rotation consistently the ball should be gripped loosely with a visible amount of air or space between the surface of the ball and the palm of the hand. When the ball is finally released there must be one and only one departure point and that point must be the index finger. A tight grip will result in multiple departure points and more often than not cause the ball to wobble at some point in the flight path.
A pass with a tight spiral and high revolutions will fly straighter, further, and faster than a ball with the slightest wobble. There are three (3) physical laws that apply:
a. Centrifugal Force – Represents the effects of inertia that arises in connection with rotation and which is experienced as an outward force away from the center of rotation. This motion is described relative to a rotating reference frame about a fixed axis (the long axis of the ball from point to point). A reactive centrifugal force is the reaction force to a centripetal force. A mass undergoing curved motion (the wrist) such as a circular motion constantly accelerates toward the axis of rotation (point to point). The reactive force is exerted by the body moving in a circular path (arm slot and wrist) onto some other object (the ball).
b. Torque – The tendency of a force to rotate an object around an axis. Torque can be thought of as a twist to an object. Regarding the spiraling of a football, this is produced by the power of the lever and the supination of the wrist from a single point (the index finger).
c. Aerodynamics – Any object in flight can only move in three directions 1) roll- around the long axis, 2) pitch-up or down, and 3) yaw-left or right [see diagram below]. An airplane has the means of controlling these motions (slats, flaps, spoilers, ailerons, vertical stabilizers, rudder, horizontal stabilizers, elevators and trim tabs). Unfortunately footballs have none of these and are dependent on the rotation around the long axis for their stability. An airplane will pitch upward on landing to slow down the approach. This pitching upward produces drag and it is this drag that helps to slow down the plane. This is a good thing for an airplane but not for a football. When the ball loses its forward thrust (produced by the transfer of Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy) and its rotation speed, it will begin to wobble or create drag and the ball will slow down and lose its direct line of flight. The football in flight is less like and airplane and exactly like a rifle shell. It is because of the rifling of the gun barrel that the shell flies straight and goes where it is aimed. Footballs go where they are thrown.
a. Wrist-must be firm. If it is adducted or abducted many problems will become evident.
b. Supination of the Wrist – As the ball is released the wrist is “snapped” down and out so that the palm of the hand is facing the target. These provide the torque and centrifugal force to spin the ball. As the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand the index finger only remains to finalize this process. The remaining fingers and thumb will fall off the ball in order from front to back.
3. Passing Stroke: A key element in passing efficiency is the quarterback’s ability to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. “The Stroke” can be defined as the time and distance from the “Stage Position” to the delivery of the ball.
The shortest time/distance scenario is from the stage (at the numbers) to a launch position near the dominant ear. Any variation from this ideal position will delay the delivery of the ball. This “stroke” also provides the best ball security position with both hands on the ball up to the point of delivery and enables the quarterback to grip the ball in a “C-Cup” (hand on the side of the ball) position. Most all other stroke variations will force the quarterback, at some time during the stroke, to revert to a “U-Cup” (hand under or over the ball) grip. The “U-Cup” requires the quarterback to apply a firmer grip on the ball that will produce a less consistent spiral.
The other factor to consider in determining the stroke time/distance is where the ball is staged and what path it takes to arrive at the launch position. Some quarterbacks will employ a long and circular stroke, or a “wing spread” type of stroke. These will naturally require more time and distance and delay the delivery to say nothing of putting the ball in a less than ideal safe position.
4. Arm Slot: “Arm Slot” can be defined as the path that the throwing arm take from the launch point to the point of ball release. This path can vary from the vertical to the horizontal. It is important here to again state that “Arm Strength” is a misnomer. The arm is, primarily, the means of guiding the ball. All passes need to be thrown on a straight line from the quarterback’s hand to the receiver (the shortest distance between two points).
A low arm slot will cause the ball to horizontally drift from the dominant side to the opposite side in direct proportion to the distance from the vertical. In addition, a low arm slot will put unnecessary stress on the elbow and the rotator cuff. It should be recognized that throwing a football in the antithesis of pitching a baseball.
Some points of emphasis:
The law of the lever: The lever is a movable bar (the arm) that pivots on a fulcrum (the shoulder), attached to the ground (the torso). The lever operates by applying forces at different distances from the fulcrum, or pivot. As the lever pivots on the fulcrum, POINTS FARTHER FROM THIS PIVOT MOVE FASTER THAN POINTS CLOSER TO THE PIVOT up to a factor of 4.
- The dominant bicep should be as close to the ear as possible very similar to chopping wood with an axe or swinging a sledge hammer
- As the trunk is rotated the ball should be lowered to a vertical position behind the dominant shoulder with the elbow in front of the ball and pointed directly at the target
- The chest in front of the chin
Trajectory – A very high percentage of passes requires that the ball travel in a descending trajectory from the quarterback’s hand. This is virtually impossible from a low arm slot as passes from this position tend to ascend to some degree or other. A descending trajectory ball requires a high arm slot. This, in itself, demonstrates the importance of a high release point. Just study the power serve in tennis where this point is clearly obvious.
In an ideal football world, all passes would be thrown as discussed. In reality, a high percentage of passes are thrown from less than ideal positions or circumstances. “Alternative Platforms” then are those passes that require the quarterback to throw from some other “platform” than the ideal.
When considering “alternative platforms”, two things must be understood and applied and these are based on the fact that any pass thrown from an alternative platform has built in limitations. They are:
- The pass can’t be thrown as far
- The pass won’t be as accurate
Two points should be observed:
- Quarterbacks tend, in these situations, to put too much trust in their “arm strength”
- They make poor decisions as to throw or not throw
Examples of Alternative Platforms: But not inclusive
- Feet planted and unable to move them
- Dominant leg forward of the opposite leg
- Feet spread wide apart
- Off balance
- While back peddling to avoid a frontal rush
- While running to the dominant side
- While running to the opposite side
- Unable to complete dominate are follow through
- Under arm or side arm deliveries
Any questions or comments about the MECHANICS post? John will answer your email requests at the address below.