By Marc Feuerbach, Director, Premier Kicking (Calhoun, Ga.)
Every coach is familiar with the old adage that field goals and field position win football games. In order for this to come to fruition, kickers and punters must develop a strong training regiment and be held accountable for their actions every day – week-in and week-out. Unfortunately, and perhaps oddly, the kicking game is often the least-coached position in a program. Coaches cannot expect specialists to be consistent if they are not training properly, yet many kickers and punters are left to figure out their training needs for themselves. Very few colleges and high schools employ a coach to work specifically with kickers and punters. If this is the case with your program, the following are five broad but important keys to help you coach your kicker and/or punter.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
Fundamentally, it is true that kicking and punting are very different from any other position on the field. Many well-versed coaches feel confident working with any position on either side of the ball until they come face-to-face with a kicker. Fumbling or faking it is not a valid option; do not try to teach something you are unfamiliar with. Be honest with yourself about your ability to coach a kicker or punter. If you feel confident in your knowledge of the kicking game, go for it and train your kickers/ punters to the best of your ability. However, being honest might help you realize that although you had an All-American kicker on the roster; it may not have technically been your coaching that got him there. Do not force a player to adopt a technique you think might work or to adopt a dated technique that someone taught you that you, in turn, are passing on down the line.
Bottom line: Be honest. What do you know about the kicking/punting game? What can you provide to your players that are both fair and beneficial?
2. Consult The Expertise Of A Kicking Coach/Consultant
Following your moment of honesty, you may realize that coaching the kicking and punting games is currently not your forté. The off-season is the perfect time to bring in a kicking consultant. Personal kicking consultants are easy to locate, but identifying one who fits your personal needs is vital. Many will give you free advice over the phone or via email; there is no need to spend a fortune. Ask around and get others’ opinions about consultants. Do not choose your coach based solely on the website aesthetics or a phone call; instead treat this like a job interview. Using an outside consultant is a great way to improve your personal coaching staff. A kicking consultant is a wise and worthy investment because it develops the fundamentals of the kicking and punting game in your entire staff. A consultant also offers advice and solves issues. A kicking consultant can help you break film down, frame-by-frame, and show you the most important issues to look for when breaking down technique.
Bottom Line: Find a consultant that fits your needs and keep his phone number on speed dial. The more understanding you and your staff have, the more consistent kickers and punters you have in your program.
3. Do Your Research And Encourage Your Kickers/Punters To Attend Camp Or Private Lessons During The Summer
Instructional camps are offered throughout the summer and are very beneficial to kickers and punters. Many kicking instructors offer camps specifically for college athletes; there are many great camps out there. Similar to the process of choosing a consultant, ask around and get other people’s opinions and comments before you recommend a camp to your players. When weighing camp options, look for camps with a low player-to-coach ratio. Benefits to kicking camps include personal one-on-one and small-group lessons. A good kicking instructor will help your player eliminate bad habits, learn more about their specific position, ingrain good fundamentals that will help them develop their muscle memory, and the opportunity to kick in the company of similar specialists.
Bottom Line: Help your kicking and punting specialists by suggesting private lessons or attendance at summer kicking/ punting camps specifically for college players.
4. Do Not Let Your Kickers And Punters Be Outsiders On Your Team
Kickers and punters are sometimes looked at as players who “do their own thing.” Many times they are free to do what they please after their special teams period is over. At any given time, you may find them on another field juggling a football, playing some sort of made up kicking game with the other specialists, or wearing their leg out trying to kick 70-yard field goals for 30 minutes straight. They may be having a blast, but are they properly training? Are they working just as hard as everyone else? Are they getting better, day-in and day-out? Expect more from them. Expect them to train appropriately throughout practice. Have a set schedule for them each day. Some activities that are essential to improved performance include kicking and charting, video analysis, stretching, and fundamental drill work. If your kickers or punters do not have a set routine, one can be easily designed for them.
Additionally, kickers and punters need to earn and maintain respect from their teammates. If they are the best player on your special teams unit, a respected peer, and a leader on and off the field, make them a captain. Do not show leniency or expect less in terms of training, attitude, leadership, etc., because he is “just a kicker.” Similarly, if he’s a member of your team, he should follow the same rules that the rest of the team follows.
Bottom line: Don’t ever use the fact that “he’s just a kicker” to diminish the leadership potential or work ethic of your kickers and punters.
You’ve heard it a million times, but here it is once more: we should always encourage all of our players. Everyone benefits from encouragement. Great players are developed in a supportive environment; kickers and punters are no different. Repeatedly, I have heard stories of coaches who completely ignore kickers and punters throughout the week of practice, only to yell at them on Saturday afternoon when a kick is missed. How is that fair to either the athlete or the team? Kickers and punters who do not receive encouragement or instruction during a week’s worth of practice are not ready mentally for their game.
Bottom line: Regardless of your kicking coaching expertise, encouragement can make a world of difference. Staying positive and working with these athletes during the week can build the confidence needed for game-time situations.
So what is truly the bottom line? Treat your kickers and punters in the same manner and with the same intensity as every other position on the field. Once you put these into practice, you should begin to see better results from your kickers and punters and you may find yourself studying the fundamentals of kicking more and more each day.
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