Long snap a football
As head strength and conditioning coach, Gabriel Harrington designs and administers complete workout programs for all of Colgate’s varsity athletes to improve their performance. Previously, he led the West Point football strength program as well as other strength and conditioning programs. He has a master’s degree in biomechanics from Michigan State University.
Here, Harrington explains the art of long snapping in football. It’s a trick you can teach your child as you toss the pigskin around the yard, as well as a skill that can lead to college scholarships and NFL contracts.
Long snapping — a quick, accurate throw by the center to the holder or punter for punts, field goals, and extra points — is an integral part of the game, yet it often gets overlooked. Here is an introductory breakdown of the science behind the snap.
1. Grip: snap hand. The snap hand is the hand you throw with. Place this hand on the ball with your fingertips at the laces. The number of fingers on the laces depends on the size of your hand. For an average hand size, two fingers should suffice (athletes with large hands may have three fingers; small hands may only get one). The grip should be tight, but not so tight that control is lost.
2. Grip: snap hand and guide hand. The guide hand is the non-dominant hand. Hold the ball in front of you and turn the wrist of the snap hand in until the seam opposite of the laces faces you. Place the middle finger of your guide hand on this seam and spread your fingers. The index finger of the guide hand should just about intersect the thumb of the snap hand. With fingers spread, place even pressure on the ball with both hands. When you’re ready to throw, follow through with your thumbs down, index fingers pointing at your target.
3. Foot placement. Find a natural T on the field, like where the 15 yard line intersects the sideline. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width, with toes pointing straight ahead. Straddle the yard line so that your feet are the same distance on either side of the line.
4. Approach. Once you set your feet, place the ball on the sideline (keeping with the natural T) and practice walking up to it. The distance from the nose of the ball (nearest you) and your toes should be about 12". Make sure you’re comfortable and that your head is behind the ball. Bending your knees and leaning forward from the waist, reach out and grip the ball as you have practiced. Keep your back flat and distribute your weight to the outside of your feet and the balls of your feet, keeping knees apart.
5. Position. Looking between your legs, you should see a headless target. You may have to work on flexibility to be able to see your target from the neck down, but it will pay off in the long run — chances are, you won’t send a snap sailing over your punter’s head from the proper position.
6. Putting it all together. At a distance of 10 yards, snap to a partner (preferably your punter). Keep the ball at a 45-degree-or-less angle to the ground, and use your hips when throwing. Aim for the hip pocket of your partner’s kicking leg. Once you are able to snap 10 perfect spirals in a row at 10 yards, move to 11, then 12, 13, 14, and 15 yards. Make sure you can snap 10 perfect spirals in a row at each distance before moving on to another. You are now only one million reps away from being great!
For Harrington’s complete research-based long snapping system and drills to perfect this skill, visit www.essentialsoflongsnapping.com.
(Photos by Gabriel Harrington)