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Every football play, other than a kickoff or a free kick, begins with a center snap, so executing the snap is a key fundamental. An errant shotgun snap typically causes a broken play at best. At worst, a poor snap might result in a lost fumble or a serious loss of yardage, so it's important that every football team that employs a shotgun formation practices proper shotgun snap technique.
The shotgun formation, with the quarterback taking the snap approximately 5 to 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, was once common, particularly in college football. Its popularity waned for several decades but returned in the latter part of the 20th century, used mainly on passing downs. In the 21st century, the formation is common at every level of football, with many youth and college teams running many of their plays from the shotgun.
To execute a shotgun snap, the center must take a well-balanced stance and place his dominant hand on the ball. While long snaps to a punter or placekicker may be performed with two hands, the center uses one hand for a shotgun snap. The opposite arm may rest on the knee, or the non-snapping hand may be placed on the ground.
Typically the center grips the middle of the ball, with his fingers spread over the laces, similar to the manner in which you'd hold the ball if you were throwing it. Gripping the ball on the laces helps you throw a spiral, which makes the snap more accurate. If you have small hands, however, you may be more comfortable gripping the ball more toward its tip. When you grip the ball, the front tip should point upward at about a 45-degree angle relative to the ground.
Snapping the Ball
When you're learning the shotgun snap you can look back between your legs while snapping to observe your accuracy. Bring your arm straight back and aim for the quarterback's waist, then adjust your release point as needed. If the snaps are consistently low, then you're releasing the ball too early, and vice-versa for high snaps. As you become more comfortable snapping the ball, begin practicing with your head up.
A good shotgun snap also relies on the quarterback to be in the proper position. During practice, make sure each of the team's quarterbacks lines up the same distance behind the center. Even a half a yard can make the difference between a catchable snap and a fumble.