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The 7 Deadly Sins of Coaching Long Snappers

by: Michael Parker
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How many big games end with one team winning a nail-biter by only a few measly points? And how many of those games could have gone the other way, if that kicker had just made that one kick or if that punter could’ve gotten a little bit more on that one punt?

Or if that one snap hadn’t been off and yet, how many coaches really know how to teach their specialists so they can make that difference?

Long snapping has often been looked at as a skill that players either have or they don’t. And coaches normally just banish the snappers, along with their kicking comrades, off to the sideline to practice while they focus all their attention on the other members of the team. And in the process these well-meaning coaches likely commit some or all of the seven deadly sins in coaching long snappers.

Ben Fuller has made it his personal mission to teach snappers and their coaches. And as the resident snapping expert of Ray Guy’s famous Kicking Camp and a high school coach, he has seen all the mistakes coaches have made. Fuller has broken the mistakes down to seven main ones that, if fixed, will guarantee better, more consistent snapping for your team this upcoming season.

According to Fuller, the seven deadly sins are:

1. Improperly approaching the ball or not approaching the ball at all.
2. Improperly or inconsistently gripping the ball.
3. Over-rotation of the dominant wrist.
4. Improper guide hand placement.
5. Improperly or inconsistently lining up in a stance.
6. Poor use of legs.
7. Poor follow-through.

In order to fix these seven mistakes, Fuller has outlined seven laws to follow. The first mistake that almost all coaches and snappers make is they don’t approach the ball before each and every practice snap.


“The first mistake is allowing an athlete to snap ‘out of his hand,’” says Fuller. “This just means that the long snapper sets up in his stance with the football in his hand rather than the ball being on the field like the referee would spot it.” This causes problems in the ‘toe to ball’ relationship in the stance and makes the game situation snap approach different from what has been happening in practice. To ensure that your snapper lines up at an appropriate distance from the ball, and is able to do so repeatedly, depends a great deal upon his approach to the football. Always have the snapper break the huddle (even an imaginary one) or start a few yards from the ball and then have him approach to set-up in preparation to snap.”

Anytime your snappers are practicing multiple snaps, make sure that they don’t just stay in their stance and grab a ball and get down with it. After all, they can’t do that in a game.

The second mistake most people make is related to the grip.


“The grip is vital to a good snap,” says Fuller. “Some athletes struggle with putting their hands on the football the same way two times in a row. Others have a natural affinity for it. It is a good idea to have the snapper put his hands on the ball as ‘big’ as he can. If the hands are spread wide each time they are placed on the ball, you eliminate some of the margin for error. It is also important for hands to be spread to get the crisp release and explosive push off of the fingers. Also, the thumbs aid considerably in producing a tight spiral. If a snapper doesn’t place his thumbs in the same way every time, he will experience rotation problems.

“Another plus of spreading the hands wide on the ball is that this placement reduces the amount of palming the ball. If the palms come into contact with the ball, it takes away from the leverage that the fingers can produce on release. If you look at the palm of your hand, the lower half of the palm should not come into contact with the ball.” Like a quarterback, a snapper’s grip is crucial to consistent, clean snaps. It should be treated accordingly.

The third mistake people make comes after thinking that the harder the snapper torques his wrist the faster the ball will get back there.


“Another common mistake relates to wrist position of the dominant hand,” says Fuller. “Many athletes over-rotate the wrist when snapping the ball. There is a misconception that if you really cock the wrist, you will be able to get the ball to spiral better. The dominant hand and wrist should be in a position much like the position in which a quarterback's hand and wrist is when throwing. When the hand is over-rotated, it doesn't allow much movement at the wrist joint. This can cause problems with hitching the ball (the forward upswing before the snap) which will in turn have a negative impact on snap time.”

The fourth mistake is placing the guide hand in the wrong spot.


“Another area of major importance is the correct placement of the guide hand,” says Fuller. “The guide hand should be placed with the vertical seam of the ball, never across the ball. Being comfortable is the key with the guide hand. Some people prefer placing the guide hand middle finger on the back seam; some prefer using the index finger on the back seam. Whatever guide hand placement is comfortable for the individual is fine as long as the guide hand placement does not result in over-rotation of the dominant hand wrist. Start your grip like a QB and then place the guide hand accordingly.”

One of the common mistakes that coaches make when the snaps are high is to tell the snapper to keep his rear end lower upon snapping. BIG MISTAKE. “It is not a good idea to ask the snapper to lower his tail excessively to keep snaps down. With a low tail, the snapper is in a very poor position to execute the motion of the snap and it puts him in a poor fundamental position,” says Fuller.

Fuller has a few telltale signs that can alert the coach/snapper as to what might be wrong with the snap and how they can fix it by changing the guide hand instead. “If the snapper is delivering high snaps, try working the guide hand down the ball slightly,” says Fuller. “If the snaps are low, try working the guide hand up the ball slightly. There are other considerations such as release point and tilt of the ball from the stance position, but the snapper should experience more control of snap height this way.”

The fifth most common mistake made is having an arbitrary stance, based solely on comfort.

Fuller’s Fifth Law: KEEP YOUR BACK FLAT

“The stance is another area where snappers experience problems,” says Fuller. “The width of the stance can definitely hurt a snapper.”

“If a snapper lines up with his feet too narrow, he will feel cramped and have difficulty getting his arms, shoulder pads and headgear between his legs during the snapping motion. Conversely, if his stance is too wide, he will be in a more straight-legged position and will not be able to utilize his legs for power. In a ‘wide’ position, there is also an increased chance for injury because the legs are typically locked out and the athlete is not very mobile. Another player falling on the locked out leg spells trouble for the snapper’s knee.

“It is also important for the snapper to maintain a flat back when in the stance. The back does not have to be parallel to the ground but it should be flat. If the tail is slightly higher than the head, it is not necessarily a problem; but at all times there should be sufficient bend in the knee in order to get explosive power on the snap. The flat back position helps the snapper to see the target better and also creates a lot of space for him to perform the motion of the snap. If the snapper drops his chest between his knees – or to state it another way, the head is close to the ball or ground – he has limited the use of his torso musculature in the snap delivery.

“Another item to watch for when evaluating a snapper is the distribution of the weight on the feet. The snapper should have his heels in contact with the ground while in the stance. If the snapper has a lot of weight on his toes he will likely fall forward after releasing the snap. If there is too much weight on his heels he may fall backward while releasing the ball. Think of it as forefoot balance.”

Another key about stance to remember is that the snapper doesn’t just snap. He must block at times and also cover punts. That must be considered when teaching a young snapper. “Many long snappers execute the snap and then get down the field immediately to cover,” says Fuller. “All too often, the snapper is in a stance where, from the profile, his knees will go forward past the toes. In this position, you will often see the snapper falling forward after releasing the ball.

“This balance problem is easily corrected by asking the snapper to sit back in his stance. The position of the knees in the snap stance should imitate the knee position of a correctly executed parallel squat. The knees will be even with or slightly behind the toes from the profile viewpoint. By getting the knees back the snapper will be in a much more balanced position.”

The sixth common mistake is that snappers often rely only on their shoulders and upper arms to generate the speed on the snap.

Fuller’s Sixth Law: USE YOUR LEGS

“In a good stance, the long snapper’s legs will provide a lot of speed on the ball,” says Fuller. “As the snapper moves the ball from the ground back between his legs, his arms will contact his legs. When his arms hit his legs, the legs will lock out explosively. That leg drive will cause the snapper’s body to slide backward and put a lot of speed on the snap.

“The snapper is not hopping backward. His toes will remain in contact with the ground, the heels will rise up and he will slide backward. If the snapper’s legs are locked out initially, from a base that is too wide, the legs won’t provide much power. If the knees are out past his toes (which you can see best from a side view), his tail will rise too high and could play havoc on the height of the snap delivery if the release point is not adjusted.”

The seventh mistake happens after the ball is snapped.


“The follow-through is crucial to the delivery of accurate snaps,” says Fuller. “A snapper can be very fast but if he is snapping wildly, the speed doesn’t help much. The snapper’s hands should work in unison. The snapper’s index fingers should point at his target, with the thumbs up and the palms facing outward. Often a snapper will stab at his follow-through. When this occurs, the release point is not likely the same two times in a row. A snapper should practice long, exaggerated follow-throughs in drill work and work at game speed in team unit work.

“This will help them get into the mindset that the snap is their first priority.” As it should be.


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