This past Saturday, I was reminded that athletes in various sports can improve their ability to catch bad passes by actually practicing catching bad passes. I attended a high-level college football game and in warm-up practice, one of the team’s assistants was drilling the receivers by throwing low, outside passes to them while they were on the run. Granted, it was a drill and the players KNEW it was going to be a poor pass and even where it was headed. But, no matter- each player had to go down and “look the ball into his hands”. At the very least, each player would retain some muscle memory of that particular catch.
We used to have “bad pass” drills in which players would pair off and throw passes to each other which would test all the variables- high and outside, low and outside, low-middle, high, middle, bad-bounce passes etc. You get the picture.
Other variations of “bad pass” drills include having players on the move (like the football example, or 5-6 players in a wide circle, trying to catch one of the others off-guard. This can progress to making a bad pass to a player (in a line with other players as options) with his back turned to the passer. The passer hollers the receiver’s name as the ball is the air to minimize the reaction time.
No matter the drill, the key is having players have experience in catching a wide variety of bad passes so that when the unrehearsed bad pass comes their way, they’re better prepared. A by-product of bad pass drills is players have to have exceptional focus on looking the ball into their hands. There is invariably carry-over to catching ALL passes.