How to Do a Handoff

It’s a bread basket for the win.


| 3 min read

After the snap, it’s decision time. The quarterback needs to either throw the ball or hand the ball off to another player. When a run play is called, the goal is to have a clear exchange between the quarterback and the intended ball carrier. That is the handoff.

A handoff how-to

Learning how to do a handoff well is crucial for running plays in youth flag football. 

To start a handoff, the quarterback holds the football with two hands — as kids grow, they’ll be able to use one hand. A handoff can be in front, behind or to the side. The quarterback holds the ball to the stomach of the receiving player, most likely a running back. 

The receiving player uses both arms and hands to cover and take the ball. Proper hand position looks like this: one arm is across the chest, hand facing down. The other arm is across the stomach, hand facing up. Coaches call this the “bread basket.” 

The ball should fit securely between the receiving players hands, close to their body. The arm closest to the quarterback is always on top so the QB’s hand won’t get hit by the wrong leading arm. 

Mind the rules

Per NFL FLAG rules, only direct handoffs are allowed behind the line of scrimmage. An underhand toss to another player — known as pitching the ball — is illegal. 

Fun fact: A player who receives a handoff can then throw the ball from behind the line of scrimmage. 

Safety first

Coaches should make sure the quarterback is waiting for the running back to take the ball but caution the running backs not to snatch at the ball. Watch out for quarterbacks using momentum to swing the ball into a receiving player’s chest. Not only can this hurt young players, it often ends with a dropped ball. Once the ball hits the ground in flag football, it’s dead. Unlike tackle football, there are no fumbles. 

A word to the defense

Once the ball has been handed off, the 7-second passing clock is done and defensive players can rush the player with the ball. So keep a lookout for that handoff! This is also true for a fake handoff but be aware of the play action pass!

Practice makes perfect

Use flag football drills like The Handoff and Handoff Relay to help young players get comfortable with the handoff motion. Start slow and then speed up as players clamp the ball with ease. A good handoff to a speedy, nimble, elusive player is a great way to gain yardage while limiting the risk of losing possession.

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