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!
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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!
Moving over to the punting side, the first thing I ask trainees when we begin punting training is "What grip do you use on the football?" The drop may be the major factor in a good punt vs a bad punt, but the key to a good drop is having a solid and consistent grip on the football.
Keys to a great grip:
How do I decide which grip is best for me?
There are multiple ways punters from high school to the pros grip the football, and they all can be effective. Anywhere from on top of the ball, underneath (the "trap door" drop) or on the side (the "handshake" drop). Just be sure that your grip is the following:
Which grip do you recommend?
I recommend the handshake drop (pictured above) to the specialists I train. It is a natural position for your wrist to get to, just like you are going to shake someones hand. The middle finger on the seam also provides a great landmark and can guide you quickly to the correct position. Next, it is very easy to obtain a firm grip on the football (eliminate extra space between ball and your hand), in comparison to the on top of the ball grip where it can easily slip out of your hand. Finally when you transition to the drop, you only have to worry about getting your pinky out of the way, vs the trap door drop (underneath) you have to get most of your hand out of the way of the ball coming down.
Try out different grips and find one that follows the major points I listed above, but most importantly is comfortable for you! These tips will help you have a more consistent drop, and become a more consistent punter if followed correctly! Any questions or comments feel free to reach out! Let see some pigs fly!