How Important Is The Kicking and Field Position Game? Very. Another Example

Stanford Placekicker Conrad Ukropina: Image by paloaltoonline (www.paloaltoonline.com)

Stanford Placekicker Conrad Ukropina: Image by paloaltoonline (www.paloaltoonline.com)

How important is the kicking and field position game?  How important are kickers?  Very.  Although we see countless examples throughout the NFL, collegiate, and high school ball, some games provide especially pointed reminders about the importance of the kicking game.  Here is another:

Saturday, October 31st, 2015.  Stanford's 30-28 Halloween win over Washington State in Pullman featured a "kicking duel" between each respective team's field goal units.  Of course, countless games have been won or lost by a field goal or two, that is nothing new.  What makes this game particularly impactful is the importance the kicking game played for the DURATION of the game, especially when each team's offense wasn't getting the production needed to convert touchdowns.  

--Washington State Placekicker Erik Powell tied a school record by connecting on 5/6 field goals with a long of 47 and added a PAT for a total of 16 points.  

57% of Washington State's points came from the field goal unit.  

--Stanford and Kicking1on1 Placekicker Conrad Ukropina connected on 3/3 field goals and added 3 PATs for a total of 12 points, including a final 19 yard field goal that put Stanford ahead, 30-28.

40% of Stanford's points came from the field goal unit. 

8 field goals, 4 PATs made in this game for a total of 12 field goal unit conversions that accounted for 48% of the points scored.  

Washington State Placekicker Erik Powell: Image by College Football AP (www.collegefootball.ap.org)

Washington State Placekicker Erik Powell: Image by College Football AP (www.collegefootball.ap.org)

Yet another example of why the kicking and field position game is so important, and we would submit that it represents 1/3 of the game, along with offense and defense.  The kicking game's importance becomes more prominent in games where team's offenses are stalling and rely on the kicking game to put needed points on the board, but it also subtly contributes to countless wins in a multitude of ways: one cannot underestimate the impact of a blocked punt, a booming punt that shifts field position, or a punt or kickoff return that gives a significant field position advantage.  

Collegiate coaches and special teams coordinators must commit the necessary time and effort needed in the development of their respective special teams units.  They must also devote the appropriate time and resources to the recruitment of top kickers, punters, snappers, and punt and kick returners.  Varsity high school coaches can gain significant advantages by focusing on their special teams development.  

Whether the kicking and field position game manifests itself through singular events or permeates the game, such as the aforementioned Stanford vs. Washington State game, its importance is undeniable.

Have a great practice week!  See you on the field,

Kicking1on1

Coach Mike

 

Photo credit, Erik Powell: College Football AP (www.collegefootball.ap.org)

Photo credit, Conrad Ukropina: PaloAltoOnline (www.paloaltoonline.com)

Game Week and Game Management Tips for Kickers and Punters

High School Football

It's finally that time of year.  Finally time for ball.  Nothing gets us more excited than our first game week of the season.  After a grueling "hell week" and fall camp,  the anticipation is over and we finally get a chance to showcase what we can do, hear the roar of the crowd, and beat that first team on our schedule.  I can't wait to watch you all.  

Kickers and punters:  many of you had your first game last weekend, or you will have your first game this weekend.  As we begin the 2015 season, I would like to give you a few tips regarding game management:

1.  Avoid over-kicking during warm-ups.  I've been there, and I know this can sometimes be difficult.  The anticipation of the game and your eagerness to showcase your skills right away in the stadium is tempting.  Yet, your pre-game warm-up is just that, a warm-up.  It is important to keep your leg fresh and healthy so you can perform optimally during the game.  After your team stretch and your individual dynamic and static stretching, kick and/or punt only as many balls as you need to feel a rhythm; 3 field goals, 3 punts, and 2-3 kickoffs should suffice.  You may need a few more, but don't overdo it.  

2.  Pay attention to wind movement during warm-ups.  While you are warming up, be mindful of wind conditions.  Look at the flags on the field goal posts or other land marks that can give you an idea of how the wind is moving.  Depending on the situation, you may need to adjust your field goal and kickoff right shoulder lines or your punt drop.  Remember, in stadiums wind often swirls, so wind movement may be different on either side of the field.  Wind can also change direction during the course of the evening, so always be mindful and aware of your wind conditions.  

3.  Keep your game time focus.  It is important to stay mentally focused, emotionally stable, and physically ready during the ENTIRE course of the game.  As fast a game as football is, you never know when you will be called on to produce - an interception or fumble returned for a touchdown, and you are up.  Nothing disappoints me more than when I see kickers/punters standing around watching the game on the sideline as a spectator.  They are doing themselves a disservice, both physically and mentally.  To make the most impact, we need to be prepared at all times.    

Here is what I recommend: every 15 minutes (real time, not game clock time), whether you have a net set up or can find a spot at the end of the sideline, go get a quick stretch and go through your steps a few times while swinging through (at Kicking1on1 we call these "dry runs").  If you have a net set up, hit a few kicks and/or punts into the net - but do this every 15 minutes throughout the game.  This will not only keep you physically stretched and warm, but it will help keep you mentally focused and prepared, when the time comes.  

Punters: although it is easier to gauge when we will be needed, we don't want to be "getting warm" in the net or on the sideline on 3rd down. Make sure you are already warm and on the sideline by your punt team on 3rd down, as this will help your focus.  Further, your coaches may want to call a specific type of punt or change the punt block scheme for that particular play.  You need to be there with your punt team to hear that.  Of course, as discussed above, staying warm and focused throughout the game will ensure you are prepared.     

4.  Kickers, keep track of your own gear.  Whether you are using your school's blocks and tees or your own, make sure they are in a specific location so you know exactly where they are during the game.  It is too mentally distracting, after a field goal for example, to not be able to find your kickoff tee while everyone is waiting on you.  Always put your tees and blocks back in the same place; the best place is right under the net, or if you don't have a net, somewhere down the sideline where they can be kept separate from the team's gear.  If you have a student manager you trust, talk with them before the game or during practice week.  Student managers can be a huge asset, and they can help you keep track of your gear and even have the tees and blocks ready to hand off to you prior to your field goal or kickoff.  

4.  Half-time preparation.  During the practice week, (NOT during the game) speak with your special teams coordinator or head coach ahead of time to ask permission to leave the locker room 5 minutes earlier than the team at half so you can warm-up before the second half.  Stretch a little and stay loose while you are in the locker room.  When you head out to the field, as with pre-game warm up, grab a short dynamic/static stretch and hit a few field goals, punts, and kickoffs on the field before the second half starts.  If you need help shagging the balls, ask a student manager to help you.  While you are out during half, be mindful of the wind conditions, as they may have changed.  Make any necessary adjustments as needed so that you are well prepared for the second half.  

5.  Keep your emotions stable during the game.  Obviously, if we hit a long field goal, a great punt, or a booming kickoff, we should get fired up and a little excited right after the moment.  You did well and should be excited!  But try to even out your emotions after that.  Be confident, but stay even.  We also need to keep our emotions even if we hit a ball that does NOT go our way.  If this happens, don't show frustration, and don't get on yourself for hitting a bad ball.  Sure, your coaches may have words with you, but don't let it affect you mentally or emotionally.  Understand, it is impossible to hit every ball perfectly throughout the season.  We will have those hits that just don't go our way.  Don't dwell on them!  It is important that we not get too high or too low during a game.  Neither bodes well for us.  Every kick/punt is a separate event, and we need to be focused and mentally prepared for each one.  Of course, if you have a fantastic game, allow yourself to celebrate that night.  If we have a game that doesn't go our way, don't get down.  Rather, look forward to watching film and analyzing what happened so you can make a plan to address any fundamental or technical issues during practice week.  

As always, if there is anything I can do for you, or if you want to talk about your game experience with me, please email me at mike@kicking1on1.com or give me a call at (626) 380-8700.

Kicking1on1 Gatorade

Have a great game week!  Go get 'em!

See you on the field,

Coach Mike

 

Tips For Fall Camp and "Hell Week"

Kicking1on1 Mini Camp

Kickers and punters,

It's finally that time of year!  For many of you, fall camp and "hell week" begins either this week or next.  After all the hard work you put in during off-season training, you can finally showcase your improved skills, line yourselves up for a tremendous season, help your team win, and maybe even get to that championship game.  Believe me, we can't wait to watch you!

 CAPITALIZE ON FALL CAMP.  There is much we can accomplish during this period to improve our craft and get ready for the season.  Many of us will have "2-A-Days," long days out on the field where we need to both continue to improve our craft but also manage our leg's health so it stays healthy and fresh.  A few tips as we head into fall camp:

1.  Managing "2-A-Days:"  Do not fall into the trap of over-kicking at both practices.  Make your morning practice a drill practice by working your steps, drops, shoulder-line, foot position, follow through, etc....Get extra stretching in during your morning practice and ask a trainer to help, if one is available.  Relegate your afternoon practice to an actual kicking practice, but go easy during camp.  By drilling during your morning practice, you will have a great warm-up and review of fundamentals that will help you during the afternoon.  The last thing you need is to over-kick and develop nagging injuries that will prevent you from having an optimal season.

2.  Ice, Ice, Ice:  After EVERY practice, ice your legs by either jumping in an ice bath or by wrapping bags of ice around your legs - both legs, 25 minutes each.  Make sure you are icing your quad, hamstring, and hip flexor.  Icing will help your legs come back, and it will help prevent injury.  

3.  BE PART OF THE TEAM:  Do not be the guy that spends half of practice in the training room.  There is no excuse for that.  You have the opportunity to get work done on the field; the best kickers and punters capitalize on that opportunity.  None of us have the luxury of wasting time in the training room or hanging around on the sideline.  Use the practice time to work!  At the end of practice, during team, head over to the sideline to support your teammates.

4.  Engage Your Snappers And Holders:  Engage your snappers and holders early in camp.  Work with them before or after practice.  The three of you are a team, and the more you practice together, the more cohesive and efficient you will be when the season starts.  Don't wait for your position coaches to plan your workouts.  Take the initiative, grab your snapper and holder, and start working.

5.  Stay the course:  Camp is NOT the time to make major changes in your technique or with your equipment.  That is done in January or February at the start of the off-season.  Stay sound and committed, especially fundamentally, with what you have been doing during the off-season.  Of course, small tweaks are ok and will be needed throughout the season but avoid making major fundamental and technical changes during camp.  Rather than revert to something new, focus on improving your current technique.  Kickers, if you have been on a 1" block, do not try to switch to the ground, etc...Punters, do not revert to a new drop during camp.  Stay the course, fellas.

I am extremely excited about this year's football season, and I cannot wait to watch you all!  As always, please contact me directly with any questions at mike@kicking1on1.com.  Our staff at Kicking1on1 is here to support you through the season, and we look forward to helping you put together a tremendous year, anyway we can!

KIcking1on1 Gatorade

See you on the field,

Coach Mike


Welcome to Kicking1on1's Blog!

Welcome to Kicking1on1's Blog!  This is Coach Mike, and I will be writing all of Kicking1on1's blog entries.  My goal here is to clarify, answer, and field questions regarding the kicking game, in addition to posting relevant information pertinent to our students, parents, and supporters.  Please look for a blog post each week, as we will touch on various topics.

Please also bear with me as I navigate around the semantics of keeping a blog, which is new to Kicking1on1.  My motivation for starting this blog stems from countless conversations I have had with parents, players, and supporters, as they try to navigate through the intricacies of the kicking game and the recruiting process.  

I will do my best to answer any and all questions, and I will do my best to post blog entries that are relevant and pertinent to our students, families, and supporters. 

As always, players, parents, and friends, thank you for supporting us.  Players, our goal is to help you succeed in the hopes that you might follow our path, a path that has the potential to change your life.  Parents - we very much appreciate the opportunity you have graciously given us, entrusting us with your sons in the hopes we can help them achieve their goals on and off the field.  We will do all we can to make their dreams come true.

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I would like to end our first blog post with this: players, parents, friends, please email me directly with any questions at mike@kicking1on1.com.  It would be a pleasure to hear from you and a privilege to answer your questions.

See you on the field,

Coach Mike