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Blog Post # 8

I always tell my kickers, that there is no “right” way to kick. However, there are basic principles and fundamentals that all kickers can use to help them be more consistent, efficient, and allow them to hit a higher, longer ball. One of those fundamentals is body positioning. It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing a javelin, hitting a slap-shot in hockey, sitting in the squat rack, or kicking a football…your body positioning is going to have a great effect on the success of your attempt. In sports, we want to always be able to control the things that we can control, because there are a lot of environmental factors that we cannot control. We want to put ourselves in the best position possible to have success.

If you look at different kickers at all levels, no one’s kicking style is the exact same. I attached 2 different pictures of NFL kickers here. Look at the difference in body positioning. In one picture, the kicker is “crunched” over. In the other, the kicker is staying nice and tall throughout contact. Does this guarantee whether or not you’re going to make the kick? Absolutely not, but it can play a large role in the trajectory of the ball flight and distance of the kick. When you “crunch” at contact, you are not able to get up and through the kick as well as you’d like it. This often times results in the ball coming out much lower. The ball has to go “up”, before it goes “out”. We want that initial lift on the ball for a number of reasons.

What he is doing though, is a great job with his eyes. Which is one of the reasons that kicker is known for having great leg strength. He continually makes great contact with the ball because he’s doing a great job of actually watching his foot make contact with the sweet spot of the ball. However, I would like to see him using great eyes while also staying upright to maximize his potential. I often use the analogy of a pitcher in baseball. A good pitcher may have poor mechanics and can throw a fastball 80 MPH using simply his arm strength alone. Or he can learn the proper mechanics by activating his core and using his lower body in the pitch as well…and now he’s able to throw an 88 MPH fastball. This is the same with kicking. You can use poor body positioning, (maybe use 90% or your max potential) go out there and make a bunch of kicks, or you can put yourself in the best position possible to allow your body to have success. This will result in you hitting a longer, higher, straighter ball! Practice staying nice and tall with muscle-memory drills and you will slowly begin to see your ball travel with both greater distance and height!

Taylor Mehlhaff

www.TMKicking.com

Book: “Kicking for Success” (Amazon.com & Smashwords.com)

Blog Post # 7 - Putting Pressure on the Specialists

As a former kicker and punter, I’ve always known how a good punt return unit or

field goal block team can affect a kicker, Now as a coach, I’ve learned how this can

really dictate the game on Special Teams. . Coaches at all levels need to understand

the importance of putting pressure on the opposing team’s specialists.

I’ve always thought that a sign of a great football team is the effort of their field goal

block unit. How you perform on the next play after giving up a score says a lot

about your team. How are you going to respond from giving up that touchdown?

Well it starts with showing the opposing team that you won’t stop playing. Most

importantly, the specialists have a sense and feel for that unit’s effort. If they know

a field goal block unit is bringing it 100% on every play, they have a greater sense of

urgency to get the field goal off. This can result in rushing to get a quicker get-off

time. If the get-off times are too quick, it can make the difficulty of the kick much

greater…resulting in more missed kicks. There’s a fine line between a great get-off

time and being too quick. I always strived to be in the high 1.2 second range.

Anything quicker than 1.2 seconds makes the kicker’s job much more difficult. If

you have a great push and show an all out effort each and every time your field goal

block unit takes the field, you will force the opposing team’s specialists to rush their

kicks.

The same is true each time your punt return unit takes the field. Obviously, you

need to play sound football making sure that you’re in position to defend a fake, but

there’s also a balance between that and putting pressure on the opponents punter.

If he has all day back there to get the punt off, it makes his job much easier. This is

similar to a quarterback sitting in the pocket and having all the time in the world to

throw the ball. In that situation, it’s much easier for him to pick a part a defense and

find an open receiver. For most punters, getting the ball off quickly creates a higher

level of difficulty on the punt. This can result in more miss-hits, which gives your

punt return unit an advantage. If you study the teams who have the most punt

return opportunities at the end of the season, you will most likely see a pattern of

those return units consistently putting their opponents on their heels by pressuring

their punter. You may not get a blocked kick, but you’re still helping yourself in the

long run by putting some pressure on the opposing team’s specialists.


Blog Post # 6

Blog Post # 6 - Blog

What should the Specialists be doing at practice?

I recently saw this online and thought that I’d write a blog post this week on the topic. Being a former specialist myself, I can laugh at this because that is truly what it’s like at many schools! With very little guidance and knowledge of the kicking positions, these guys are left on their own. I’ve worked with Minnesota’s punter over the years (who’s a great kid, works extremely hard, and is having an All-Big Ten type season) so I know he’s done a little more than this to put himself in the position he’s in. I believe keeping your legs fresh and healthy during the season is the most important thing a kicker or punter can do. They must get their work in during the week, but be smart about it. If your legs are tired, your mechanics can suffer, and when your mechanics go in the tank, the results of your kicking reflect that.

In college, I have my guys kicking, punting, & snapping 3 days a week, and then obviously game day. Tuesday and Wednesday are our work days. We will get in roughly 12-15 field goals & 4-6 kickoffs. This is similar for the punters. We will hit roughly 15-20 punts during these days. Remember, this is all quality over quantity. If you take your time and make each rep like it is a game situation, you will be fully prepared during the week. Thursday is our day to polish everything. We will again get 12-20 kicks in for the kickers and punters.

So what should they be doing during the rest of practice? It’s not feasible to be kicking for the entire 2 hours you’re out at practice, so you have to find ways to better yourself without wearing out your legs. I have our guys doing visualization drills. They put themselves in different game situations and visualize themselves having success. Practicing proper muscle memory drills is very beneficial. If you can make proper mechanics a habit, then you don’t have to think about anything when you are out on the field…you just let it happen. In addition, punters work on drops, footwork, holds, fielding snaps (can use jugs machine), Aussie punt drops, etc. Kickers work on onside kicks, surprise onside kicks, mortar kicks, field goal steps, kickoff approaches, mayday FG situations, etc. Snappers can work footwork, downing punts around the goal line, getting off of blocks, different rushes, pressure snaps, etc. The three of them can also work communication for FG’s. When they run onto the field, communicate the yard-line you’re on. Is it a half yard-line? These things are very important…especially if you have a snapper that can give “perfect laces” on each snap. There is much for these guys than just simply punting, kicking or snapping a ball.

Give your specialists some guidance and they will put in the work they need to be successful!


Blog Post # 5

Blog Post # 5 - Blog

WHAT FIELD GOAL BLOCK SHOULD I USE?

Many kickers and their coaches are unsure on what tee they should be using and

when they should be making the transition to a shorter tee or eventually the

ground. Here are few things to remember. A tee allows you to kick the ball higher

and further. Also, a tee often times allows you to make mistakes mechanically with

your kicking, and get away with it by still making the kick. Make no mistake about

it; using a tee is an advantage!

Here are some of the timelines that I would recommend for making the transition:

If you are a youth kicker, take advantage of the two-inch tee for both field goals and

kickoffs. Once you get into high school, the tee you use will depend on your skill

level.

Make the transition to the one-inch tee when you feel it is ready to do so. Many

times you will see yourself consistently hitting slightly under the sweet spot of the

ball, causing it to rotate very quickly. You are losing distance doing this. That is a

good indicator that you are ready for the one inch. If you are already on the one-

inch and you are doing the same thing that is an indicator that you are ready to kick

field goals off of the ground.

If you have aspirations of playing football in college, it is very important to begin

training field goals off of the ground following your junior season of high school at

the very latest. The reason for this is that the college coaches want to see you kick

off of the ground. It is imperative that you begin that training early on off of the

ground so that it is not foreign when you attend summer kicking camps hosted by

colleges and universities. This is the coaches’ opportunity to meet you in person

and see you kick live!

During your senior season, you will need to decide on whether you are going to go

back to the one-inch tee, or kick off of the ground. Because you want to help your

team and put the best possible kicks on film, I would encourage using the field goal

tee. Also, very rarely do you have great field conditions in high school. Take

advantage of everything you can! I would recommend using the one-inch kickoff tee

as a senior as well.

In college and at the pro level you MUST kick field goals off of the ground and

kickoffs off of the one-inch tee.


Blog Post # 4

Teaching young kickers to hit higher, deeper kickoffs!

This week I wanted to touch on kickoffs. In the video attached, I talk about the importance

of finding the perfect kickoff steps. These steps will be slightly different for each and every

kicker. In the end, making great contact on the sweet spot of the ball is what will make that

ball go the furthest. A general rule of thumb: When talking about making that perfect

contact on the ball in relation to the sweet spot, the longer the approach, the more room for

error. The faster the approach, the more room for error. For the guys who consistently

make great contact with the ball, they can challenge themselves a bit more by increasing

their tempo to the ball. For most high school kickers, I typically encourage them to begin

their approaches no further than 8 yards from the ball. Check out the video!

Taylor Mehlhaff

Email: Taylor@TMKicking.com

Website: www.TMKicking.com

Phone: (855) TM-Kicking

Book: “Kicking for Success” (Available for download on Amazon & Smashwords.com)


Blog Post # 3

All of the kickers I’ve ever coached have heard me preach about being good with

their eyes MANY times. To me, this is the key to kicking! THE BETTER YOU ARE

WITH YOUR EYES, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCE OF MAKING THE KICK! You will

make a lot of kicks if you are good with your eyes. Have you ever had a coach tell

you to keep your head down? If you have, he has the right idea; I just don’t like

telling kickers to keep their head down, because putting your head “down”

encourages “crunching”. “Crunching” is the last thing we want to do when we kick.

For one, it limits us kickers as far as height and distance go, and it also limits you

from getting “up and through” your kick. We want to use our body to its fullest.

Ideally, we’d like to stay up as tall as possible. This enables us to use our levers to

their fullest. The goal is to stay nice and tall, while simply focusing our “eyes” on the

back of the ball (more precisely, the “sweet spot”). The better you are at seeing the

“sweet spot” of the ball with your eyes, the better contact you are going to make.

The better contact you make, the higher and further the ball will go. Think about

this…when kicking, do you ever actually see your foot make contact with the ball? I

know I don’t. And nearly every single kicker I’ve ever asked has answered the same

way. So essentially, we’re kicking the ball with our peripheral vision. If you play

golf, the concept is very similar. I know that when I tee off, I DO NOT see my club

head actually make contact with the golf ball. It all happens far too fast. The goal is

to train your eyes to become so focused on the sweet spot of the ball, that you nearly

watch your foot make contact with the ball. If you can do that, you will become a

VERY good kicker!

Not only does being good with your eyes help you to make better contact, resulting

in more distance, but it also helps you to hit a straighter ball. When we kick, we

have two different methods of countering our leg swing. One is our counter arm.

Although I do encourage having a “high” counter arm, which promotes a good

upswing, I never ask a student to focus on his or her counter arm when kicking…this

is something that just naturally happens. The other way to counter your leg swing is

to hold your eyes back behind the ball. Our eyes control EVERYTHING! If we peak

up early to see if we made the field goal attempt, our shoulders start rotating

forward as well as our hips. Many times, this causes kickers to “pull” or even “hook“

the ball. Holding your eyes back keeps you in line to your target!

In the end, there are so many little things that contribute to becoming a great kicker.

Some guys try to focus on too many of those things at once. The best guys in the

world, the guys in the NFL, don’t think about anything when they kick. They have

hit so many footballs in their life and have put themselves in every situation

possible; they just go out there and let it happen. If you have to focus on one thing

when you kick, let that be your eyes and you will have a lot of success!


Blog Post # 2

Blog Post # 2 - Blog

Today I want to share some tips on punting for you. Of the three aspects of kicking;

field goals, kickoffs, and punts, I believe punting is the most challenging for young

athletes to pick up. When hitting a punt, essentially we’re hitting a moving target.

With that being said, it’s easy to see why this can be the most difficult aspect to pick

up on. You see many punters become good when they go off to college and really

start to dive into their technique. When it becomes their job and they get to work on

it each and every day…that’s when they begin to take their game to the next level.

With out getting into all aspects of the punt today, I want to share with you the most

important parts of it.

It all starts with the catch! You hear over and over that the drop is the most

important part of punting, but if you don’t field the ball cleanly from the snapper to

start, the entire operation will be off. This makes many punters panic in an effort to

have a great get-off time, and the result is a poor punt!

Catch & Mold

We want to be an athlete here. Catch the ball out in front of your body with your

HANDS! Do not catch the ball with your body. The whole idea of punting is to be as

efficient as possible. This will help us to develop consistency. After catching the

ball, IMMEDIATELY extend the ball with your arms to about hip level of your

punting leg. While doing so, spin the laces so that they are facing upwards towards

the sky. The ball can be held many ways. The most important thing to remember is

to hold the ball loosely in your fingertips as opposed to having the ball way back in

your hand. This helps us at contact. Right footed punters want to tilt the ball

slightly inside at about 11 o’clock. Left footed punters want to tilt the ball slightly

inside at about 1 o’clock. We do this so that the ball fits our swing. Because

everybody’s swing is slightly different, this tilt of the ball can be slightly different.

Nobody swings perfectly straight up, so we do not leave the ball perfectly straight.

The Drop

This is the single most important aspect of the punt. You MUST give yourself a flat

drop in order to have a chance of hitting a great punt. With the ball extended at hip

level of our punting leg we want to drop the ball perfectly flat in the direct line of

our leg. Remember, our bodies are smart. If you drop the ball inside or outside of

your hip line, your leg will chase that ball. The result will typically be poor because

this means you will more than likely have to swing across your body to try and “save

it”. The key to a great drop is to hold the ball as long as possible before letting go for

the kick. What makes the drop difficult are all the variables that come into play.

Sometimes you have a crosswind blowing the ball “inside” or “outside” of your drop

area. Many times the nose of the ball will dive down. All of these things will

contribute to making the execution of a good punt difficult. I see many high school

punters who drop that ball at chest level. This means that the ball has to travel more

than 3 feet before they make contact with the ball. Most punters make contact with

the ball at knee level. Those three feet provide far too much room for error. Work

on your drop over and over again. Without a doubt, this should be in your warm up

routine. You can make yourself a better punter by simply working on your drop

every single day!


Blog Post # 1

Strength training for Specialists

Kicking power comes from the combination of these 3 things; leg strength, leg speed, and flexibility. We can get bigger and stronger, as long as we maintain that range of motion and flexibility. Strength and conditioning for kickers and punters is often overlooked. I believe that in order to be the best kicker you can be, you also need to be the best athlete you can be. Think of yourself as a total body kicker. The analogy I like to use is that of a baseball pitcher. Take for instance a pitcher with bad throwing mechanics that is utilizing simply his arm to throw the pitch. His fastball might hit 80 mph this way. If he learns to maximize his potential by getting his lower body into the pitch and using it to his advantage, he might hit 87 mph. This same theory holds true for kickers and punters. Kicking and punting power is the combination of leg strength, leg speed, and flexibility. If kicking power was simply leg strength, the NFL defensive lineman who squat 700 pounds would be the kickers!

Here are a few things to think about with your training:

1. Train fast, to play fast

  • Kicking is one explosive movement. Train like an athlete through explosive movements. Weight training, Sprints, Box-Jumps, Agility work, Core exercises, etc. Going for a 3-mile run may be good for your cardiovascular health, but unless you are trying to lose weight, this is not going to make us a more powerful kicker.

2. Athletes should use Dynamic Stretching before they kick, and Static Stretching after they kick.

  • Get in the habit of stretching at least 20 minutes 3-4 times a week.
  • Always stretch following your kicking/punting sessions.
  • This not only aids in recovery, but helps avoid injury, and can make you a stronger athlete with the increased range of motion.

3. Resistance training

  • I have found that doing leg swings and hip mobility exercises in the pool are very beneficial.
  • This not only aids in recovery, but also strengthens the legs through water resistance while helping to improve range of motion and flexibility as well.

4. Do not over-train!

  • This has been my toughest thing to overcome. I always want to do everything I can to put my body in the best kicking shape possible.
  • Listen to your body. If something does not feel right, find out if you’re just sore or if you are injured. There is a big difference!