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How To Run With a Football

How To Run With a Football

You’ll need to learn how to run with a football in several different techniques, depending on which part of the field you’re carrying the ball. When you run “in between the tackles”, you’ll need to carry the ball more securely, because there will be more defenders around you and they can come at your from many different angles. When you run outside, there are other techniques for carrying the ball, which keep the ball firmly in your arms, while maximizing your speed and quickness.

So we’ll discuss running with the football on dives and sweeps, while also discussing when and how to switch the football from one position to another. Nothing drives a football coach crazier on any level than a running back who fumbles the football all the time. If you are a fumbler, the coach will eventually sit you on the bench, because turnovers are huge momentum plays in football, because field position, time of possession and emotional swings are all factors that change due to a turnover.

1. Running with a Football Inside

“Inside” in football tends to be “between the tackles”; that is, the middle of the field occupied by the offensive and defensive lines, or the spot of the field from endzone to endzone in between where the two offensive tackles line up. This is where you’ll find the big, strong football players: offensive linemen, nose tackles, defensive ends, linebackers and safeties. If you don’t carry the ball in your “bread basket”, one of these guys is likely to strip the ball or put a helmet on it.

Carrying the ball in your bread basket means carrying it with both hands. Rest the ball on one of your forearms held tightly against your gut. Your second forearm should also cover the ball, slightly higher on your body than where the other arm is resting. When you perform this move, the ball should be resting on your solar plexus and your arms should be clutching the ball in such a way that no defender can place his hand onto the ball in a leveraged position, allowing him to rip the ball out (called “stripping the ball”).

This type of ball carrying is natural, given this is how you receive the ball from the quarterback. While carrying the ball with both arms is not the fastest way to run with it, it is the safest way. Since you’re running inside, you’ll need to slow up for a split second or two anyway, to pick your hole and plow forward. Running inside requires power and breaking tackles, even if you’re a speedy or elusive back, so you’ll need to wrap up the ball and dive into the hole, worrying about getting positive yards and not fumbling, before you can think about breaking into the secondary.

2. Running with a Football Outside

Running outside the tackles to either side is called a “sweep”, while running just to the outside of one tackle is called “running off-tackle”. In either case, you’ll want to carry the ball in a different position than normal, though the off-tackle runs still require close to maximum effort to protect the ball, because of its proximity to the line (and therefore swarming defenders).

When you carrying the ball on a sweep, you need to carry the football in your outside arm, where tacklers will need to come through or across your body to grab at the ball. So if you run a left sweep, you need to carry the ball in your left arm. When you run a right sweep, you’ll need to carry the ball in your right arm.

Running with the ball in one arm lets you swing your arms as you run, allowing you to run faster. (Note: If you ever see sprinters run, you’ll realize how big of a role arm movement plays in running speed. You simply run faster moving your arms.) If you are running left and carrying the ball in your left arm, most of the defensive players will be coming from your right, and therefore your body will shield them from the ball. Also, carrying the ball this way lets you use your offside arm to stiff arm opponents, which can be a devastating weapon for ball carriers in evading tackles and punishing defenders.

3. Cover the Tips of the Football

When running with the ball in one hand, you’ll need to fit the ball from the palm of your hand to the elbow. The point of the ball needs to be tucked into your elbow, while laying flat on the length of your inner forearm. The palm of your hand needs to be over the other tip of the ball.

If either tip of the football is exposed when you run, that gives tacklers a target to place their hands on the ball and rip at it. If a defender can get his hand on the tip of the ball, he has added leverage for forcing it out of your hands. One tear with his hands and the ball is likely to fly out of your grip.

Also, keep in mind that cornerbacks are likely to remain on the ball side of your body when you run a sweep. A blitzing cornerback will be running down the line and have a chance to strip, while if a non-blitzing cornerback maintains containment and forces you to turn upfield, he’ll be on the ball side of your body. Since corners are traditionally the smallest defenders on the field, you should be strong enough that this doesn’t become a factor, but a sneaky corner can run up and strip the ball, if you’re not careful.

4. Running with the Ball in One Hand

Certain NFL runners felt more comfortable running with the ball in one hand instead of another. Emmitt Smith preferred to run with the ball in his left arm always, even when he ran right. While Emmitt was a secure ball carrier throughout his storied NFL career, there were a couple of times that this idiosyncrasy hurt him, as he was needlessly exposing the ball to defenders. Also, running in this way takes out the runner’s ability to use a stiff arm on defenders moving up for the tackle. For that reason, despite his record-setting career, Emmitt Smith always looked a little awkward running the ball to his right. Luckily, Emmitt Smith spent his best years running left behind Larry Allen, Mark Tuineau and Nate Newton.

In either case, I would not recommend using this technique. Most NFL running backs you can name have switched the ball from one hand to another, depending on the situation. This gives them better ball security and more options.

5. Switching the Ball From One Hand to the Next

No matter what, though, don’t switch the football from one hand to another when “in traffic”. If potential tacklers are in your vicinity, it’s best to run with the ball securely in whichever hand you have it in, regardless of the position of defenders. Switching the football from one hand to another in traffic creates a golden opportunity for the defense. Wait until you’re out of traffic to switch the ball on long runs and concentrate on holding both ends of the football securely against your hand and body.

6. Running Technique

Finally, when running with the football, remember to keep your legs moving at all times, which helps you break through arm tackles to your legs and maintain forward momentum at all times. Also maintain a low center of gravity by hunching a little while your run. Don’t stand straight up to run with the football. This exposes the ball more than otherwise, heightens your center of gravity (making you easier to knock off your feet, while decreasing your evasiveness and cutting ability) and increases the chances you will be hit in your chest or stomach area. It is better you take shots on your shoulder pads on your shoulders than it is in your chest, where you wear down quicker (gamewise and career-wise) and are more likely to take a big hit that dislodges the football.

Good running technique goes beyond carrying the football the right way, to how you carry your body. But when you learn how to run the football properly in football, you will be faster, quicker, have a better sense of balance and more evasiveness; you’ll be less likely to get hurt, more likely to knock a defender off a tackle with a stiff arm and less likely to fumble the ball away. So knowing how to run with a football transforms you into a potentially devestating runner.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010 at 4:19 pmand is filed under Football, Youth Football. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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