Ineffective steps can cause various issues throughout the entire punt. Examples of this could be swinging around the ball rather than up through it, or massive loss of power. Steps are often a quick fix, however the habit is tough to break. So we wanted to cover this topic, just as all the others and break bad habits early!
The Dance Step
I included a video of one of our trainees, Brian Buschini from University of Montana as he provides a great example of what we call the dance step or shuffle. Obviously he is just kicking out of hand, but as he tosses the ball to himself watch his feet, he includes a small shuffle then into his second step, and plant step. This shuffle is very important because it can speed up operation time significantly. It should occur as the snap is coming to you, as a way of getting the operation moving early. It also allows you to quickly move into your second and plant steps rather than waiting until you have the ball to start, potentially causing blocked punts.
Walking The Tightrope
This is by far the most common issue we see with punt steps. I struggled with this myself, but basically it's walking one foot over the other just as you would on a tightrope. I tell the guys I work with, "just walk like you are at school." This concept takes some pressure off the steps as it changes your thought process. Just some normal steps shoulder width apart down the hallway at school. The issue with the tightrope steps is that it opens up your hips instead of keeping them square to your target causing you to have to swing your kicking leg around from behind your plant leg, rather than swinging straight up through the football. If you are a right footed punter who's punts often fall to the left or opposite for a lefty, this may be part of the issue. So as I mentioned to help with this, just work on talking normal walking steps through your punt operation with and without the ball until it becomes muscle memory and your hips can stay square through the target.
Approaching Towards Your Target
This is another common error we see in young punters, not aiming their steps towards their target. Usually when we begin punting, I'll have the athlete punt directly down the middle to gauge this very thing. More often than not, I will see them start stepping to their dominant leg side and then trying to correct back to the middle. This will naturally cause you to have to swing around the ball rather than up through it, preventing you from getting the best hang time and distance possible. So again, toss the ball up to yourself or as you catch the snap incorporate the dance step, and approach towards your target line. In the video above you can see Brian approaching right through his target line.
The final item I wanted to touch on is the size of steps that should be taken. We often see young punters taking very large steps thinking they need to ramp up and give it their all. Taking these very big steps actually hurts you in the long run, decreasing power you could drive into the football because it is being used to create big steps. Once again, back to the concept of "walking at school" your steps should be balanced and comfortable, not too small and not too big. Your goal should be to have the ball gone in 3-3.5 yards giving you space to get the ball off and your protection room to take on blocks and not have to worry about getting back into your area.
These tips will help you become a more consistent and effective punter if used correctly! Take these and work through them one step at a time, pun intended. Excited to see some more moonshots!
Wondering how to get around shoveling snow or closed facilities to get work in? Give the link above a read on how to get the most out of your time indoors! With the current circumstances and the tough weather that we deal with up north we are spending more time indoors. Don't let these factors prevent you from improving your craft and your preparation for gameday!
Once in a while if possible you should get out in the tough conditions just so you know what adjustments to make when or if that kind of weather hits during the season!
Reminders: Wash your hands, follow social distancing protocols and always wear a mask! These little tips will help keep you safe as well as the people around you! Do your part to help stop the pandemic so we can beat it!
With the age groups that we coach, we often get the question, "how or when should I transition to the ground?" This is a very important question because of the obvious, you have to kick off the ground in college. So, at some point this transition has to happen, but we wanted to dive into this question and help you guys out and make the change easier when you feel ready to!
What do I need to change in order to successfully kick off the ground?
In our opinion, only one thing needs to be adjusted to make the transition to the ground, your plant foot. As show in the pictures above, off the block the middle of our foot should be lined up with the seam of the ball (possible slight adjustment depending on the height of the block). But off the ground, our plant foot should be lined up mid ankle to the seam of the ball. This is because off the ground we need to hit the football at a different point than off the block, and adjusting our plant foot adjusts our swing path as it correlates to the football. The deeper plant (farther forward) will allow you to hit the ball earlier, rather than the shallower plant (farther back) where you would hit the ball later and slightly more on your upswing, meeting the ball at a slightly higher point (off the block).
Often High School kickers (including myself when I was making the transition) overthink this transition and make all these other unnecessary adjustments that actually hurt you in the long run. These could be sinking your hips at impact (thinking you need to swing lower) or trying to scoop under the ball to create the height you are losing from not having the block, among others. But as I mentioned before, these don't need to happen. Simply adjust your plant foot and it will take care of the rest. Stay tall, light steps, lock your ankle, discipline your eyes and drive right through that slight inner panel right through the uprights!
When should I make the transition to off the ground?
The answer that we give to young specialists to the second part of the original question is, when you feel comfortable to do so. But, you can consider some other factors to help you make your decision:
When making the transition to the ground, your holder no longer has something to aim at for their placement of the hold. They will have to be more accurate with their spot, because if they place it down away from where you marked, your whole approach and swing will have to be adjusted on the fly, often not creating a great result. So, if you are considering making the switch, have a conversation with your holder and have him and your snapper work with you in the off season to perfect the change so everyone is prepared for game day!
We often do recommend if you are serious about playing college football, that you make it a goal by your senior season to be kicking off the ground. This way you already have a year and game experience doing so, this will be a big factor to college special teams coaches. But, if you aren't ready to at that point don't worry! After your senior season, get rid of your block and make videos of yourself working off the ground to send to college coaches. In your training sessions we can also make recruiting film while you are making your transition so they can see your progression! Hopefully these tips make your transition and success off the ground much easier!
One of the biggest factors to a missed kick and a very common error we see with young kickers is, an inconsistent approach. Inconsistency in this area can cause a variety of mishits, pulling around the ball, toeing the ball, a loss of power among others depending on where your approach takes you. So in this post I wanted to cover a few things that we use in training that will help you become more consistent and an overall more improved kicker!
What is the plant line?
The first tip we use to help kickers become more consistent is to "follow your plant line." Your plant line is an imaginary line from toe of your inside foot (right for right footed kicker and left for left footed kicker) at the back or starting position of your approach through where your plant foot would be at impact (shown in picture above). Your ideal plant foot location is about your foots length away from the football. You can measure this before you take your steps back. This will give your kicking leg enough room for a powerful strike through the football.
How will this make me more consistent?
The key to making this tip successful is keeping your inside foot/leg (again right for right footed kicker and left for left footed kicker) along this line all the way through impact. You notice in the photo above the inside of this line is shaded out, that is a way one street to missed or mishit balls going in there. A couple things could happen if you step inside your plant line:
Okay, I fixed my plant line, why am I still losing power on my kicks?
In addition to your plant line, your steps will make a big difference in the outcome of your kick. Often we see young kickers who start very far away from the ball. This causes you to have to take very large steps to get to where you need to be. With these large steps you are driving your power/momentum into the ground and into your large stride vs into the football. Make sure you aren't having to reach for the football, it should be comfortable and easy for you to reach your plant spot and drive through the football.
You should also be light on your feet. We often see young kickers who take flat footed steps to their spot and through the ball. This is the same idea, taking these steps will again drive your power into the ground and force you to have to recreate momentum rather than building it up throughout your approach. Take a close look at NFL kickers when you are watching a game, they are all light on their feet and hover across the ground so they keep their power/momentum up with them rather than into the ground.
So in review, stay true and follow your plant line, be light on your feet and don't over stride during your approach to the football (adjust your approach length if needed, possibly shorten by half a step at the back end). These tips if used correctly will help you become a more consistent and powerful kicker!