Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Perform a Kickoff in 7 Steps

The first step is a pretty obvious one; you need to place the ball on the kickoff tee. Easy enough, right? When you set it up on the tee, you want to make sure that the ball is relatively straight up and down; you do not want much of an incline. If you have the ball straight up, there is a better chance that you will get height on your kick as well as distance. If you set the ball down with an incline, you may get more power behind the kick, but the kick will end up being a line drive, which may be fine for a field goal, but on a kickoff you want more of a loft. There should not be much of a problem getting the ball to stay unless there is a strong wind.

The second step is to take your steps, which you should have prepared before you go to do the actual kickoff. Starting with your plant foot next to the ball, take a certain amount of steps back and to a side so that you can feel comfortable and build up power approaching the ball. Personally, being a lefty I choose to take nine steps back and 5 steps to the right. A righty should obviously be taking their steps to the left after the steps back. The steps you will be taking are not normal walking steps; you want to extend your strides for the steps a little because when you approach the ball you will almost be at a run, which are longer strides than walking. Once you think you have the right steps for you, make sure that you can approach the ball with your steps intact. Meaning you can approach the ball fluidly and have your steps end with your plant foot right beside the ball.

Once you have your steps ready and you are back waiting to kick, you become the coach of the field. It is your responsibility to look around at your teammates on the field and address anything that needs to be corrected. The third step of a kickoff is to make sure everyone is in the right place and your team is ready for the kick. Examples of this could be making sure that everyone on your kick off team is onsides, making sure you have the correct amount of people on the field, and making sure everyone is on the side of the field that they are supposed to be on (to the left and right of you). Failing to recognize any of these could lead to a penalty against your team, and needless to say this is not the goal. The final part of this process is somewhat optional, some teams do it and some do not, but when everyone is lined up and appears to be ready, you will look to your right and scream "ready on the right?" and then look to your left and scream "ready on the left?", this lets them know that it is show time.

The fourth step is the shortest and possibly most important, becoming mentally prepared. This will make or break your kick. Once your steps have been taken, you only have a couple of seconds before the ref signals that it is your time to kick, and then you have no choice but to go. If you are nervous or panic during those seconds, you are going to ruin your kick. You need to be confident that your kick is going to go well, as corny as it sounds, think positive thoughts. Those few seconds will feel like an hour, take advantage of it. I have found that taking a nice deep breath is a great way to become centered in and relaxed right before starting the approach to the ball. The deep inhale in a way just blocks out all the outside noise and clears your mind, which prevents you from overthinking your situation. When you become zoned in and mentally prepared, you will be ready to kick.

The fifth step in the kickoff is the approach to the ball. When you are back ready to kick the ball and have made sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be, you can finally begin the kick process. When you start the approach, you want to start slowly at a slow jogging pace, some people actually prefer walking steps; choose whichever is more comfortable for you. You will maintain this slow pace for the first couple steps, but once you get closer to the ball, you will have to increase your speed, therefore building the momentum. The more momentum you can build while approaching the ball, the farther your kick will go. Make sure your steps are in nice fluid movement so you are not caught stutter stepping to try to fix your steps and losing all kicking momentum.

The sixth step is definitely the one that sounds the easiest out of all seven steps, but really is not, and that step is to just kick the ball. You have already done everything leading up to the kick and now it is time to finally make contact with the ball. This is the step that a majority of people will encounter trouble with. There is a specific spot on the ball that you need to kick and a specific spot on the foot you should be using to kick it with. On the ball, you want to make contact slightly under the halfway point of the ball, basically a few inches up from the bottom. Hitting the ball in that spot will ensure the perfect amount of height and power for your kick. When you kick the ball, you want to be kicking with your laces, not your toes. People often think that be kicking it with their toes they will get more power and it is completely inaccurate. Just like kicking a soccer ball, the power kick will come from using your laces. Finally, as you strike the ball, make sure that your plant foot is placed to the proper side of the ball depending on which leg you kick with and just slightly behind it.

The final step to our kickoff process is the follow through on your kick. The follow through are quick and simple techniques to make sure that your kick ends up going how you would like it to go. As you strike the ball, keep your head down. If you pull your head up during the follow through to watch your kick, you will end up pulling your whole body away from the kick, which will result in you kicking too far under the ball and slicing it to a side. The second piece is to make sure you swing your leg right through the ball and extend it with force. This portion of the follow through if done correctly will somewhat project you into the air and make you land a few yards past the spot of the kickoff. The direction your leg goes in on the follow through depends on where you are trying to place the ball. If you want to kick straight then swing your leg straight through the ball, but if you are trying to get it to a side, then swing your leg through angled a bit at your intended side.

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