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Winning with the kicking game. (Football).

IF MY EXPERIENCE AS kicking game coordinator at Tuscaloosa County HS (1997 6A Alabama State Champions) and Hoover HS (2000 6A Alabama State Champions) convinced me of anything, it was the unquestionable importance of the kicking game.

Hoover HS annexed the state championship with an offense that averaged 37 points a game and a defense that held opponents to under 12 points a game -- with every game coming down to the quality of each team's kicking game.

Only the head coach can create the proper attitude for the kicking game: get the players to believe in it and get the coaching staff to sell it to the players.

The head coach must set goals and objectives, just as he would for the offense and defense. About one out of every five plays will have something to do with the kicking game, and that one play will probably produce the most yardage of any single play in the game.

In fact, the opening kickoff can sometimes set the stage for the rest of the game.

In emphasizing the kicking game, the head coach should screen the entire squad for the selection of the special teams. This will show the younger players that he means business when it comes to special teams.

Practice Time

Kicking practice should never be scheduled last. Head coaches who run the offense tend to do this, and usually wind up short-changing their kicking game. In a two-hour practice, the kicking game should get at least 20 minutes, In a two-and-a-half hour practice, it should get 10 extra minutes.

At least a portion of the kicking game should be practiced every day. We work two specialty teams a day Some days we may work three teams.

Thursday should be used as a substitute day. We put the whole team on the sidelines and call for different teams and their substitutes. We then go over anything special we've put in for them during the week.

Practice also includes a "special team of the day meeting," during which we go over everything we intend to do that week. We may also go over new substitutions or other adjustments. On occasion, we'll show the players a video of the opponent's kicking game.

Coaches who work with the special teams never have enough time. What we do after practice is get our next day's specialty performers to work 15-20 minutes on their skills.

Many coaches schedule a specialty period before practice every day We used to do this, but soon discovered that we were always pushing to get through and always failing to coach the finer points of the kicking game.

One of the best things you can do is have your kickers, snappers, holders, and punters work together in the off-season and in the summer. We even suggest that they go to a kicking camp. We feel that if we can get just one player to go to a camp, it will facilitate our job.

We also make sure to practice our substitutes. It does not matter if we have three or eleven, we make sure they learn what to do in all situations.

It is also wise to have about five snappers -- some who can deep-snap, some who can short-snap, and some who can do both. I have always believed that you can never have too many players who can snap the ball.

The kicking game involves many precision-type skills that require intense concentration while practicing. They have to be practiced in pressure situations (full speed), with a lot of attention to the little things. It can really make a difference in learning how to get the job done in a variety of circumstances.

Have a Coordinator

Organization is essential in the kicking game. It's good to have the head coach's support, but it's also good to have a kicking-game coach (or coordinator). He does not have to have all the answers, but he has to be responsible.

Every staff has a person on the staff looking for more responsibility. As a coordinator, he can do a lot of little things, such as free up the head coach to oversee the kicking game without actually coaching it.

The coordinator has to pay close attention to every opponents' kicking game, making sure to identify the regular kickers, snappers, holders, etc. He must have depth charts of the special teams that are updated every week, and should also help organize the practice into small groups for teaching fundamentals and techniques. This really helps when the parts come together as a whole, just as they do on offense and defense.

Special Team Players

Special teams should, of course, have special players with a good back-up at each position. You will usually need about six or seven backup players, who will require a lot of special-team time until they become starters the next year. Six or seven such players will guarantee several good special teams.

Each special team requires different kind of personnel. You'll usually be looking for about seven different teams. Sometimes you'll have a lot of players for just about all of these teams. Sometimes you won't. That's a good reason to keep everything simple and sound.

Basically, special teams should be tough, have some speed, possibly quickness, and be pretty good tacklers. Size is not a major concern.

It's unusual for a high school team to have totally different personnel for each specialty team. You may have an offensive or defensive starter who really does not belong on a special team, but whom you feel that you cannot do without just now.

That will leave a starting spot open for a young player -- and getting him the playing time and experience needed as a starter.


At Hoover we practiced some part of the kicking game every day. We put in the bulk of the kicking game at our first practice to let the players know how important it was for us.

We had a Sunday through Thursday routine that rarely changed.


View tapes in preparing our kicking game for next week.

We obtain all of our opponents' kicking game formations and coverages so that we can share them with the staff. Other things to be aware of: Do they huddle? How many players do they substitute? What are the numbers of the punter and the snapper? Distance of punts and direction?


Punt protection/punt coverage.

We work on protection vs. the opponents' blocks and overloads. Next, we work on coverage vs. the opponents' return. Our punting game is numbered: 10-spread punt, 20-tight punt, 30-fake punt, and 40-soft punt.

If practice starts at 3:30, our special teams will meet at 3:20 for 20 minutes. During this time each day, I will talk and chalk the "kicking game of the day" and emphasize the points that have to be emphasized. Meeting times Monday through Wednesday are the same.


Punt return/punt block.

We will never (or hardly ever) line tip in the same punt return or punt block alignment two weeks in a row. We will go into every game with one block and one return. This makes adjustments simple.


Kick-off return/kick-off coverage/onside kick.

Our kick-off coverage hardly ever changes. Our kick-off returns will occasionally change, depending upon our opponent.


Mental day/all phases/all substitutions.

After practice I will retain certain special teams in order to watch a portion of the opponents' kicking game.

Point after touchdown and field goals are done on a daily basis in a five-minute period during practice.

Most coaches will tell you that every big game will have about five critical plays. They can come at any time.

It may be on the first kick off, it may be the third play of the second quarter, it may be the last play of the game, which could be a field goal attempt to win a game.

This is why you have to put thought, time, and preparation into your kicking game.
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Article Details
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Author:Hand, Kenneth
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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