There are three options available when preparing to catch a football with your hands. The first option, move your hands toward the football. This is the worst of the three options. When you move your hands toward a fast-moving football, you turn your hands into a virtual baseball bat. More than likely you will, at contact, repel the oncoming football and miss the catch.
The second option is to keep your hands still. It is not quite as bad as option one, but it still sets up a situation where your hands act like a backboard that could easily repel the football. Most football players catch this way. Teaching them to use their fingertips help, but it is not the best solution to the problem.
The third option, the one I recommend and seems to be instinctively used by most successful wide receivers who have been deemed to have “soft hands”. It is to move your hands slightly backwards, about a thumb to a middle fingers length, right before the ball makes contact with your hands. You create a basket like effect. For a short period of time your hands match the velocity of the football, in the same direction of course, and then slow down to secure the catch. It creates less chance for repelling the football and missing catches.
The motion is similar to those of a tennis player when an errant ball comes his way. He simply reaches out with his racket and catches the ball. It seems like the ball just sticks, almost magnetically, to the racket. However, it is the rapid acceleration and then deceleration of the hands that makes it work.