When you think of football players, you often think of famous quarterbacks, like Tom Brady, Payton Manning, and Joe Montana who have all made important impacts on the game. This position is essential in football because quarterbacks are not only calling the plays, but they’re also executing them—throw after throw after throw—for first downs, touchdowns and (sometimes) a Super Bowl ring, or two.
But being a successful quarterback is more than just having a great arm. You need to be incredibly analytical and strategic, constantly scanning the field to spot weaknesses and openings within the defensive line. You also need quick feet—dipping, dodging, and avoiding rushing defensive players.
That’s why we’ve prepared a set of QB drills to teach you the ins and outs of playing this position. From key fundamentals—like form, release, and grip—to more intensive quarterback footwork drills, we’ve got you covered. You’ll be ready to call “Hike!” in no time flat.
Note: Double-check with your youth flag football league’s rules about defensive rushing and consider this impact on all QB training.
As you start your QB training, it’s important to first focus on fundamentals. Even the most experienced players can benefit from the basics, as advanced skills and drills require a solid foundation.
Quarterbacks work hand-in-hand with the center, who delivers the ball to the QB to kick off the play. We recommend you view the NFL FLAG “How To Snap a Football” Guide for more information on different types of snaps. This will help keep you and your center aligned on language and technique.
We also recommend all quarterbacks review the NFL FLAG guide on “How to throw a football”. This guide is perfect for QB training, as it provides detailed outlines for QB hand placement, throwing motions, and how to throw the perfect spiral. Additionally, this guide has many youth QB drills to build your accuracy and endurance.
First, let’s focus on becoming comfortable receiving a snap from the center and perfecting your throwing form. By practicing these drills ahead of time, quarterbacks and centers can find the right snapping rhythm for each play.
For this QB drill, the quarterback should be lined up directly behind the center, with knees bent and hands open. Upon hike, the center carries the ball through their legs and firmly places the ball within the quarterback’s waiting hands. There should be no tossing between the center and quarterback—just a strong ball placement.
The shotgun snap is a little more advanced for both the center and quarterback. For this youth QB drill, the quarterback is positioned around five yards directly behind the center, with their knees bent and hands open ready to receive the ball. Upon hike, the center looks between their legs at the quarterback and strongly shoots the ball, like a shotgun, back. This technique can take some time to perfect, so practice ahead of time to determine the strength of snap needed for various distances.
Your throwing form should slightly alter depending on the type of throw you’re performing. Need to make a quick pass to an open receiver at a short distance? Your form needs more of a follow-through to increase speed and solidify its direction.
Throwing a Hail Mary into the end zone? Release the ball a little farther back behind your head, giving it the arch it needs to go a long distance.
Take some time to feel out where the proper release point is for each kind of throw. As you complete these youth QB drills and gain more experience, these various release points will become second nature to your gameplay.
The center snaps the ball and it’s in your hands—now what? Do you run three steps to the right and throw it? Or is the defense coming in hot and you need a quick release?
Here are a few different techniques and strategies quarterbacks can utilize and adapt during gameplay. We recommend practicing these QB throwing drills ahead of time, so you feel more confident no matter what situation you’re thrown into. (Pun intended.)
Setup: To set up for this QB drill, the quarterback lines up directly behind the center, with their knees bent and their hands positioned correctly underneath.
Directions: After the center hands off the ball, take one step backward to survey the field and find an open receiver. Once you find a receiver, open up, point your shoulders, take a step, and release the ball.
Tips: Practice running this youth quarterback drill quickly, with several balls back-to-back. This will help you make game-time decisions quicker and more confidently during a game.
Setup: To do this drill properly, the quarterback is positioned right behind the center, with their knees bent and hands open directly underneath.
Direction: After receiving the ball upon hike, quickly shuffle backward or at a slight angle, distancing yourself from the line of scrimmage. Determine your intended receiver, correctly open and line up your shoulders, and step into a throw. When running this quarterback drill, take a special focus on shuffling at different angles. This movement needs to be quick and second-natured.
Tips: Use this quarterback drill to practice different types of fake outs. For example, try locking eyes with one receiver, but then quickly shifting your eyeline and throwing to another receiver. Also, we recommend using various levels of pump fakes. To do a pump fake, motion that you are throwing the ball to one receiver, but then throw to another. Various techniques like these can help you catch the defense off guard, leading to more openings for throws—and more touchdowns!
Setup: To set up for this QB training, the quarterback is positioned directly behind the center, with knees bent and hands placed underneath, anticipating the snap.
Directions: After calling hike and firmly receiving the ball from the center, briskly shuffle back five paces, either straight backward or on a slight angle. This shuffle provides additional distance between you and the incoming defense, allowing you more time to find an open receiver and complete a throw. Once you locate an open receiver, square your shoulders in the correct direction, step into and release a throw. Make sure that your shuffling is quick during this quarterback footwork drill, as it will be essential during gameplay.
Tips: This distanced shuffling will give you more time to connect with a receiver, but it can also give the defense more time to cover the complete offensive line. To combat this, practice doing different kinds of pump fakes. From near full-arm extensions to simply bobbing the ball in the opposite direction, these movements can fake out the defense, making it easier to complete a throw.
Setup: For this setup, the quarterback should be located close behind the center, with knees bent and hands wide open underneath ready for the football.
Directions: Upon hike, take a three-step shuffle on a rounded angle backward and to a side, creating the roll out. Continue shuffling sideways until you locate an open receiver, then square off your shoulders and throw the ball. Make sure to practice this quarterback drill by rolling out to both sides. When shuffling in the opposite direction of your throwing arm, focus on shifting your hips and squaring your shoulders in the direction of the receiver. This motion may feel unnatural at first, but it makes it easier to complete these more difficult throws quickly.
Tips: Continuing to run to the side after rolling out can buy you extra time to find a receiver or accentuate a strong side of your offensive line.
Setup: To set up this quarterback drill, the quarterback should be standing about three to five yards directly behind the center, with both arms prepped to receive the snap.
Directions: After the center performs a shotgun snap, shuffle back on a rounded angle to distance yourself from the line of scrimmage and the defense. If you’re being pressured by a defensive rusher, you can continue to run or shuffle to the side until you complete the throw.
Tips: While shotgun snaps can provide you more time to complete the throw, they are trickier to master. Make sure to link up with your center ahead of time and practice all types of snaps. You’ll thank us in your next game when you have no fumbles, we promise.
Playing quarterback can be a demanding role—you’re involved in every offensive play and you have to successfully throw the football to open receivers, all while avoiding rushing defensive players. However, there are some things you can do when you’re not on the field to build your stamina and conditioning:
Cardio is key: Like we said, quarterbacks are involved with every offensive play, and that can be super taxing. Building up your stamina through various cardio workouts will greatly help you, especially in the last few minutes of the game. Try incorporating running, biking, or even long walks into your regular QB training. While it may be tiring, sweaty work, cardio is a life-saver when playing long games.
Agility drills: There will likely be a defensive rusher charging your way when you’re trying to complete a pass. These rushers are some of the quickest on the field, so you’re going to want to make sure your reflexes and agility are top notch. Check out our agility drills for several exercises that will help keep you on your toes.
Strength training: Throwing a football play after play is no joke, and it can be really tiring on your throwing arm. To make this easier, try incorporating upper body strength training into your workouts. Doing things like pushups or pumping free weights is a great way to build up a little more muscle on your throwing arm. (Bonus: you’ll probably be able to throw farther too!)
Stretching: Safety is paramount in all flag football drills and gameplay. When practicing or playing, make sure to properly warm up ahead of time. This includes a lot of stretching and calisthenics. Make sure to incorporate these into your QB training so you’re loose and pain-free during a game. Above all: always listen to your body and do what’s right for you.