How to Throw a Spiral

By Ryan Wood

Quarterback is the most popular position on the football field, full of glory and always in the middle of the action.

It comes with a lot of responsibility. The most basic one is to be able to throw the ball.

Sounds easy—anyone can throw a football, right? Maybe, but the oblong shape of the pigskin makes throwing it well a bit tougher.

Specifically, how do you throw a tight spiral?

“If people have proper instruction, they can be shown and taught how to hold and load it,” said Jeff Trickey, who runs Jeff Trickey Quarterback Camps. “If they step directly at the point of reception, it’s a natural movement.”

But the bad habits we’re forced to get into as small, weak children can carry into our bigger and stronger years. Some grown-ups still throw wobbly passes, mainly because they never adjusted when they became strong enough to throw a football properly.

The good news is, the adjustment isn’t a particularly hard one. To be a good quarterback, it’s a tweak every gunslinger must make.

“The ball will fly truer if it’s a tighter spiral,” Trickey said. “You can certainly throw an effective pass that doesn’t have a tight spiral. But I think the truer the spiral is, the ball aerodynamically will fly better.”

The wounded-duck syndrome starts when kids first start gripping a football that’s too big for them. Young players will move their thumb toward the point of the ball to get the best grip possible, then let it fly.

“As he gets older,” Trickey said, “if nobody redirects that thumb placement, he just grips it the way he always has.”

The key is to make sure the middle finger and the thumb are placed right below the white ring on the football, almost even with one another. The smaller fingers then grip the seams and the index finger gives the hand some stability behind the ball.

Once the grip is sound, the art of throwing a good football is a total body experience. There are a number of different parts to keep in mind, but getting the hang of it is a quick process for those around the game of football.

“Your front shoulder and upper torso should be just slightly open so you can see the back side of the defense,” Trickey said. “Your front shoulder leads, and the front foot has to drive to the point of reception.”

The point of reception is not necessarily where the receiver is, but rather where he’s going to be. In a game situation, the two often are different. But if you’re just playing catch with someone to get the hang of throwing a spiral, step toward your partner and fling it.

Keep the hand on the outside of the ball as you’re going through the throwing motion. Releasing the ball properly is tough for a rookie, but keep in mind the follow through: rotate the thumb toward the opposite thigh, and make sure the inside of the index finger is the last piece of you touching the ball as you release it. Emphasize your whole body working together smoothly.

The end result, with the right technique and some hard work, is a beautiful spiral you’ve been pursuing for a long time.


Ryan Wood is an editor for He enjoys a good ride and loves participating in endurance events throughout the year.

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