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Timing the kicking game.

In almost every case where a field goal is missed or a punt goes astray--unless it is very obvious that the snap was bad, the hold was bad, or somebody missed a block completely--the kicker or punter will have to take the heat.

It is not always easy to see the things that go wrong with place-kick snaps and holds. Punt snaps are often off target and don't have enough velocity, but can go unnoticed, even by coaches.


The only place where they don't make many mistakes is on the professional level. I see bad snaps and holds for the place kick and bad long snaps even on the Division I level. But on the pro level, they know what the requirements are and try to make sure they do it right.

On the high school level, very few coaches know what the time requirements are and don't make much of an effort to coach snappers and holders. In many cases, they are willing to accept a snapper who can just get the ball back to the holder or punter.

The holder may sometimes get the right kind of instruction, but most often he doesn't. It makes you wonder if they ever watch football games on TV. I work with high school kickers and punters during the week on weekends and in clinics and I am amazed at what they don't know. So I make every effort not only to work on technique but also to make sure they know the time requirements and how important the role of the snapper and holder is.

In order for the place kicker to have the best chance possible to succeed, the snap and hold must be done correctly. The punter must have enough time to do his job. I have seen place kickers have bad seasons because of snap and hold miscues. Games are lost because of mishandled snaps by the holder.

How many balls have you seen snapped over the punter's head or bounced back on the ground? How many wide snaps and slow snaps? If you are like me, too many! That is why I am trying to do something about it.


Whether you are talking about the place kicker or punter, it all starts with the snap. The total operation time is 1.3 seconds for high school and 1.2 seconds for college.

Get one blocked and coaches will want it done even faster. But it shouldn't be done much faster than those times.

Coaches should work on protection that will allow at least that much time for a place kick. But they shouldn't put all the pressure on the snapper, holder, and kicker. In other words, don't just protect. Make sure it holds up for the required time.

Two things are required up front. It has to be on target every time and have enough velocity on it. If the total operation time is 1.3 seconds and the snap is slow and off-target, a lot of pressure will be placed on the holder to get it down in time. When this happens, the kicker has to wait or hesitate, which can result in a blocked kick.

The blockers can't protect, the holder can't hold, and the kicker can't kick if the snapper doesn't do his job. Now, if the operation time is 1.2 or 1.3 seconds, how much time does the snap take? Nobody times that. It happens too fast.

However, it really is extremely important for the snap to have enough velocity and be on target. How much is enough? You can eyeball this and tell if it is enough or not.

You don't want it so hard that your holder can't handle it, but neither do you want it to just float back there.

In Division I and professional football, it does get back there super quick and they have the holders who can handle these kind of snaps. That is the reason you don't see many blocked kicks on that level. If you watch, you will see that their kickers rarely have to hurry a kick.

O.K., so you now have a snapper who can shoot it back with good velocity. What comes next? The holder has to set it down on the block leaned the right way very quickly or set it on the ground in the exact spot selected by the kicker. Again, this happens so quickly it can't be timed. At least by an ordinary stop watch. You just eyeball it.

What part of the 1.2 or 1.3 seconds does this take? It depends on how good the holder is. But it does take a portion of that time. You can easily see there is not much room for error.

Let's say the snap gets to the holder's hands about 12 or 15 inches above the placement in .4 seconds. That gives the kicker .8 or .9 seconds to kick the ball if he starts at exactly the instant the ball touches the holder's hands.

If the kicker is not too far away from the ball, this will allow him to kick it as soon as it is placed on the block or spot. This is the ideal situation, but some kickers are farther back than others, so they sometimes have to use a different cue.

If the snap has great velocity, the kicker can start as soon as he sees the ball in flight. In any case, the kicker has to develop his own cue to get the ball kicked as soon as it is placed on the block or spot.

The whole operation is, "An explosive reaction by the kicker to a set of controlled circumstances" (i.e.) the snap and the hold. They have to be as near perfect as possible and the reaction must happen at the right time for the kicker to have the best possible chance for success.

Coaches should have two good stop watches timing the whole operation, making sure the time is correct. Unfortunately, most high school coaches seldom time the whole operation and most don't know what it is.


The punt is the most important play in football. But I am sorry to say that the snapper situation is not any better here either. It is great on the professional level, good on the college level, and very poor on the high school level.

Again, time is of the utmost importance. On the college and professional levels, the snap time is .7 seconds for 14 or 15 yards. In high school, the snap time for 12, 13, or 14 yards is .8 seconds.

In order for the punter to have enough time to execute, the snap must get back to him on target in that amount of time.

The total operation time for college and professional is around 1.9 seconds. If the snap is .7 seconds, this gives the punter 1.2 seconds to execute the punt.

For high school, the total operation time is 2.2 seconds. So if the snap is .8 seconds, that leaves 1.4 seconds to execute the punt.

Long snappers have to work hard to achieve the level of proficiency needed, but it is a must if you want to give the punter a chance to do his job.

In the last two years, the high school team I work most with has won at least two crucial games because of bad snaps by an opponent. Last year I saw a state championship lost because of a bad snap and it almost happened to us in our state championship game. It takes lots of work to make sure this doesn't happen.

First, you have to have a snapper, or preferably more than one, who is willing to work hard not only in season but also during the off-season. You have to make sure they understand the importance of what they do. And you need coaches who know what the time requirements are and have stop watches at practice to record the snap-time, the off-time, and the total operation-time.

If you are going to do the job right, you should also record the hang-time. It should be 1 second for every 10 yards the ball travels down field, so that the coverage can be there at the same time the ball is caught.

But it all starts with the snap. The snapper has to do it right or the blockers will have trouble protecting long enough and the punter won't have enough time to execute properly. If he does it right, the punter has a chance. He doesn't need excuses.

Have a great kicking game by making sure the specialists are the best they can be!

By Don Osborne, Kicking Specialist, Thomasville, NC
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Title Annotation:football
Author:Osborne, Don
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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