KICKING GAME INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
Schemes are nice, but execution is about what your players know and can do! Considerations include staff and organization of practice. These factors are difficult to balance, and special teams get moved off the priority. We begin with telling our staffs and players about the importance of special teams, but as the season moves forward, less and less is said and done in this area. Ultimately, at some point during the season, it is team only, with no individual fundamental or group technique work. Worse yet, base schemes are being run week after week, with no adjustments or game plan to take advantage of the opponent’s schemes or players.
As coaches, we must evaluate, modify and adjust schemes each year. We must school ourselves to become better and more efficient teachers of the fundamentals and techniques required for the players to have success. Then, and only then are we prepared to install effective and efficient special teams schemes that will give you the field position advantage.
ALL COACHES HAVE A STAKE
All coaches and all players equal one team. The coaches’ level of involvement and enthusiasm on the practice field will send a message to the players. Therefore, it is important to breakdown the special teams into individual components and then assign responsibilities to the coaches. The coach is responsible for design and execution, specially the technique work. This includes a specific skills worksheet that each coach must prepare for his areas of responsibilities. This will ensure the overall operation of special team’s preparation. There should be one coach assigned to work with the individual specialist to assist them in their specific needs, including, both the placekickers and the punters. The remaining position players can be grouped into similar types. We breakdown the special teams as follows:
SPECIAL TEAMS RESPONSIBILITIES
• Long Snappers
• Alley Players
• Bullet Players
• Contain Players
• Wedge Players
• Hands – Front line
• Hands – Back line
• Interior Line
| FIELD GOAL
• Interior Line
|PRIDE AND JOY TEAM
• Front & Short
• Middle & Backs
• Interior Rush, inside four
• Perimeter Rush, outside two or three
| PRIDE TEAM
• Interior Rush, inside five
• Perimeter Rush, outside three
USE PRACTICE TIME EFFICIENTLY
We will cover the special team(s) to be worked on in the days practice during a pre-practice meeting. We will always talk about the rules, basic, as well as some of the more obscure ones as well during the pre-practice meetings. If you have a bulletin board, posting the special teams practice schedule, and depth charts will help prepare your players. We break our special team’s preparation into spring, summer, fall and season. The focus during the spring and summer is primarily technique, however the base schemes are installed. During the fall (or hell week(s)), we begin to refine the base schemes preparing for the unusual circumstances and add the schemes for the week one game plan.
Coaching Point: Coaches take for granted and assume that our players know things that are obvious. Do not find out game night that they did know something! Cover the obvious to the obscure rules in meetings, reinforce them in practice and remind them game night. Teach your players the game. They are not accountable until you teach them – repeatedly!
The special teams portion of practice should be no different that the offensive and defensive practices. As such, we always have fundamental period, which early in the year is the longest segment. The group work is designed to work on both individual and group techniques necessary to execute the various schemes. Finally, the team segment, which begins as the shortest segment, but will have equal time with fundamentals and group as the season progresses.
During the spring practice (15 days), we will incorporate thirty minutes of specials teams work. This is typically broken down:
• Fundamentals – 15 minutes
We will work on the basic fundamentals of blocking, coverage (includes tackling) and turnovers within the framework of special teams play. This period is handled in a circuit, and all players participate.
When it comes to coverage, the speed in which we can get our coverage players to a specific spot, the techniques they used to get their, and then their ability to throttle down and make a one-on-one tackle are the determining factors to great coverage. As such, we will spend most of our drill time in these areas.
• Group – 10 minutes
We will have group work based upon the area of special teams play that we are working on. For example, SWAT Team, the Alley, Bullet, Wedge and Contain players may be working on coverage, net drills or get-offs, individually or within a smaller group. All players participate.
• Team – 5 minutes
We will have a short team session, if we are installing one of the base schemes, otherwise the five minutes is added to group work. All players participate.
Coaching Point: If our placekickers and punters are also position starters, then the group work is when they do their drill work. See Chapter VIII, Coaching the Kickers.
The installation will change from year-to-year, but here is a sample of the spring installation.
Get to the Party Day
Open Field Tackling
(Punch, Release, Wall)
(Punch, Wheel, Shadow)
Open Field Blocking
Blocking Field Goals
Scoop and Score
Dingo Style Punt
Fire (mishandled snap)
Dell (Protect and cover)
|PRIDE & JOY TEAM
Safe Jesse James
Defending the Gate
During the summer, our focus is primarily on conditioning. As such, we only practice on the field one day, typically Wednesday. The special teams session, twenty minutes is all group work. The specialists, (placekickers, punters, long snappers, holders, returners, quarterbacks and running backs) will work on their skills, while the remaining players will work on fundamentals and techniques, specially blocking and tackling.
When we begin fall practice (hell week), we will have a mid-afternoon practice, between the morning and afternoon sessions to work solely on special teams. These sessions, usually eight of them, are typically in shells, and will last one hour. There will be a thirty minute meeting prior to the practice to discuss the details, and specific rules that apply to the areas being practiced. The sixty minutes is allocated to a fundamental circuit (15 minutes), individual and group technique period (30 minutes) and team (15 minutes). The first six days are unit specific, and the last two days are used to cover those areas that were missed, or need additional time. Also, during the morning and afternoon practices, a “Surprise Special Team’s Drill” may be called, or a special teams session will be added to the practice schedule. Every practice will have some element of special teams play.
Coaching Point: We like half-line situations for our special teams work because it allows us to focus, and get more repetitions in because we are waiting for fewer players. Also, something we call the “magic finger drill” is when special teams are lined up (full team) but we only send couple of players, or half. However, the team we are drilling will take their first step at full speed because they do not know who is coming.
We will create a checklist of the schemes, and corresponding techniques required to execute them at a pre-season coaches’ meeting. We will then work off of this checklist to install our special teams. We have found that checklists are an excellent way to confirm that all the nuisances of special teams play are covered.
About the Author of this post:
Jerry Campbell has over 30 years of high school and college coaching experience. He has experience as a head coach, offensive coordinator, and various position coaches. He has written numerous football coaching articles in various publications, is the author of over 30 books on coaching football, and has produced 12 coaching video series. Additionally, he is a nationally sought after speaker on the coaching clinic circuit.