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!