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Six Tips to Improve Your Place-Kicking

My philosophy is to adopt a simplest kicking swing possible. The following drills/tips will help you start to develop a “kicking system” and add distance and height to your kicks.

Six Tips To Improve Your Place-Kicking

By John Matich, M.A., The Kicking System, LLC

My philosophy is to adopt a simplest kicking swing possible. The following drills/tips will help you start to develop a “kicking system” and add distance and height to your kicks.

Tip 1: Perfect Starting Position

Whether you are kicking an extra point or a 45-yard field goal, you should start from the same starting position. I normally measure (with a tape measure) exactly where a kicker starts making good contact. The measurement should be from the toe of your front foot to the kicking tee. The distance, measured in inches, can be easily marked with a golf tee or a piece of tape, or simply by making a divot into the ground.

Most kickers take three normal steps back and two steps over. If you are beginner, this may be the best option to get a consistent starting position. Remember there is no right way; some kickers take two steps back and two and half steps over.

These steps help produce your perfect plant foot. By having the same starting position, you don’t change your kicking swing for any of your kicks and you’ll become more consistent. Take your steps daily!!

Tip 2: Kicking & Skipping: Sweep Drill

Getting the rest of your body involved in a placekick is essential for you to kick and then skip after kicking the football. This skip varies from kicker to kicker. Some kick and skip a couple of inches while others skip for about 6-8 inches. The reason for this movement is to get your hips and body involved.

From a biomechanical standpoint, if you kick and keep you plant foot stationary, you are predominantly using your leg speed to kick the ball. A good drill to use to train yourself to skip is the sweep drill. If you kick right footed, start with your left foot in front and your left hand in front about chest height. Your right foot should be just behind your body, with your foot open and toe down. Sweep up and kick your left hand and see if you skip. If you don’t, start to force yourself until it happens. Repeat 10 times.

Tip 3:  Ball / Foot Contact: Bag Drill

This could be the most important drill/tip in this article; it’s a most-know drill among kickers. To get a good hit on the ball, you need to have consistent ball/foot contact.  When you make contact with the ball, your ankle and knee should be locked on impact.  The angle of your foot is about a ¾ turn. Don’t turn your foot and have it parallel to the field goal, and don’t turn your foot so your laces are facing the field goal. You want to expose the big bone of your foot (located just on top inside part) to the to ball. A simple exercise is to find a soft blocking bag, pillow or cushion and practice locking your leg in the right position when you make contact with it. Repeat 40-50 times before you go out to kick.

Tip 4: Follow-Through: Hand Drill

Another important part of any kicking swing is your follow-through. Most of the time, kickers don’t have enough of it. Allowing your leg to kick through the ball will help make you swing more consistent. When you watch golfers, you don’t see them take a swing and pull away after contact, unless they are in the rough or a bunker; they swing through on the ball and their club ends up behind them. For a kicker, you want to swing toward your target and achieve as much follow-through as possible. A great drill for this is to find a partner and ask him to kneel down just to the side of where you ball is placed on the holder. Have that person place his hand out in front of the ball about waist height.  Then tell him to leave his hand there, until right before you make contact with the ball. (The hand should be removed as your strike the ball.) You should follow-through and try to kick his hand. This will help you kick through the ball and achieve greater follow-through.

Tip 5: Kicking High: Height Drill

Sometimes kickers have trouble kicking with high loft, which is necessary to eliminate blocks. A great drill that I have used with my kickers is having them place the ball about 5-7 yards behind the field goal posts and try to kick it over the bottom bar. If you’re brand new to kicking, I would recommend starting farther back and making your way closer are you get comfortable. Coaches love to see great height on a kick and the quicker the ball gets in the air, the less chance of getting it blocked. I would caution you not to “scoop” the ball or completely change your approach to it. Kick as you normally would and make small adjustments to get it over the post. Repeat two sets of 10.

 Tip 6: Kicking Shoes: Equipment Issues

I often see kickers and punters wearing kicking shoes that are too big for them. As a kicker, your contact on the ball is vital to your overall kicking swing. By having the tightest possible shoe, you can make better contact on the ball.  I prefer my own kicking shoes skin-tight and buy new shoes every couple of months to make sure they feel snug.  If you’re kicking the ground when using a tee, you might want to check your shoes to see if they are snug. Please don’t try and kick in your high tops! You may have to go a half size to a whole size smaller then your normal sneakers. Contact is everything. My recommendation: a soccer shoe, specifically the Wizard Kicking T3 shoe.

There are innumerable other aspects of kicking that could be included in this article that are important enough to have a considerable influence on your kicking game. I will go so far as to say that if you have these six essentials well embedded in your system and if you have developed some control in your kicking swing, you might find yourself an all-state selection.

About the Author 

*  Current kicker for the San Diego Shockwave (NIFL Arena Football)
*  Free agent signee of the Minnesota Vikings (2001)
*  M.A. in sports management from the University of San Francisco
*  Four-year starter at Boston College (1995-1999)
*  2nd place All-Time Scoring at Boston College
*  Camp Director for the SDSU Kicking Camp
*  Kicking Coach at Mesa Community College, Oceanside High School, La Jolla Country Day School
*  Native San Diegan and former kicking standout from Mira Mesa High School (1995)
*  AFCA member since 2006
*  Coach for the NFL Youth Program, Junior Player Development
*  Speaker for the Frank Glazer Clinics
*  Speaker for Irvine Sports Clinic - National Football Foundation (scheduled in 2008)
*  Coach for the Champion Sports Academy (San Diego Hall of Champions) and USA Football Coach School