Dear Coach, Your Kicker Is Like a Pitcher!

The most common question/concern that I have heard so far this season is regarding the number of repetitions a kicker/punter should take per day and how this relates to injury.  After 16 years of coaching and mentoring kickers and punters on all levels across the world, I have learned how important it is to TRAIN SMART!

Dear Coach,

Your kicker/punter is just like your starting pitcher in baseball.  There is a reason why pitchers only get called on to start every 4 to 5 days.  There is a reason why a pitcher is on a pitch count and is monitored very closely each time they do make a start.  Keeping a pitcher strong, effective and most importantly healthy is the key to success.  If a pitcher takes the mound on short rest, odds are they will not be on their “A” game and generally get hammered by their opposition. A prime example is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past several years (NL MVP in 2014). Yet, he has failed miserably versus the St. Louis Cardinals each of the past two seasons in the playoffs.  Both years the Dodgers have asked him to start on short rest during the most important time of the season.  The results were not pretty.  A pitcher simply cannot perform to the best of their abilities without the proper rest.

Not only can a pitcher not perform to the best of their abilities on short rest, but a pitcher is also very susceptible to injury without the proper rest (shoulder, elbow, etc.)  Ever heard of “Tommy John” surgery? Pitchers only have so many pitches in the tank.  Once that tank runs dry, they become injury prone.  Pitching is a repetitive motion.  The body can only handle so much wear and tear.  Yes, conditioning and proper stretching can prevent injury, but only to a certain extent.  At some point in time, as a pitcher’s career goes along, a shoulder, elbow, bicep injury/surgery is inevitable. It is a managers and training staff’s job to keep their pitchers healthy and prolong their career.  Championships depend on it.
A kicker/punter is just like a starting pitcher in baseball.  The ability to be effective come Game 1 is a direct reflection of the off-season and camp training leading up to that game.  The ability to be effective in the 8th, 9th, 10th games of the season and into the playoffs is a direct reflection of the game week training leading up to those games.  The number of days you kick/punt per week and the number of reps you kick/punt per day must be monitored.  It is important that a kicker/punter is fresh and healthy at the start of Game 1.  It is important that a kicker/punter is fresh and healthy at the end of Game 1 during the most crucial stage of the game.  Is is important that a kicker/punter is fresh and healthy accordingly at the start and end of every game during the season.  It is important that a kicker/punter is fresh and healthy for next year, and the year after, and the year after, etc.

Advice for youth, high school, college & professional coaches:

– Kickers/Punters should kick/punt 3-4 days in the off-season (every other day)

– Kickers/Punters should NEVER kick twice per day (double days)

– All Kicking/Punting should be done during ONE time period during practice (preference is at the beginning of practice).  Do not have your kicker warm up, sit down, warm up, sit down etc. (Think of Clayton Kershaw coming back in the game in relief in the 9th inning after starting the game and pitching the first 6 innings)

– Kickers/Punters should always be on a kick/punt count each day they kick/punt (each kicker/punter is different, quality over quantity)

– Kickers/Punters should never kick/punt the day before a game

Advice for Kickers/Punters:

– Train Smart (Stretch, Warm Up, Muscle Memory Drills, know your Kick/Punt Count,  Film Study)

– Quality over Quantity

THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT COACHES MAKE!!!

“The rest of the team is out here practicing for 3 hours, so you should to.  Don’t be lazy.  Go kick/punt on your own.”

*Solution: After going through the team special teams period, Kickers/Punters should spend that extra time working on muscle memory drills (form drills) & watching film of themselves. Kickers/Punters should be filmed for instructional purposes every practice. Allow your kickers and punters to go watch film during practice to perfect their skill.

Kickers/Punters are crucial to the success of a football team.  Special Teams is 1/3 of a football game.  If coaches and Kickers/Punters work together the odds of winning a championship are that much better!  Coaches, follow this advice and you will have a healthy and effective Kicker/Punter for years to come.

(1587)

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