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How to Kick a Football

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 3

In the game of American football, kicking a football can take two completely different and separate forms: kicking the football from a man-made 'tee', as in the case of kicking off or kicking a field goal (although, in certain leagues, a designated person to place hold the football is typically used instead for field goals), and punting the football. While the actual act of kicking in these two forms may be similar, the execution, approach, and purpose for each, in context of the overall football game strategy, are really quite different.

While kicking a football is a critical skill that oftentimes takes a backseat in priority to other skills such as blocking and ball handling, it isn't until the situations arise where it is needed the most that people begin to see the value in sharpening and honing this skill. In clinch situations, where the score is very close or tied, the impact of a 3 point field goal or an effective onside kick may mean the difference between victory or defeat on the gridiron.

Whether you are a punter, a field goal kicker, or both, read this Info Barrel article in order to learn how you can best kick a football.

*Note: Steps #1-#7, in this Info Barrel article, refer to the execution of a proper kick off and/or field goal kick, from start to finish. Steps #8-#11 refer to the execution of a proper football punt. Because each action of kicking has different purposes in the context of a football game, it is important to separate and delineate one from the other.


Things You Will Need

  • a Field (With Goal Uprights, for field goal kicking)
  • a Football
  • a Football Tee (or another individual to hold the football for you, in the case of kicking off or field goal kicking)

Step 1

Football Kicker
In order to either kick a football off to your opponent, or kick a field goal, you will have to have either a football tee or an individual who can hold the ball steadily for you. Once you have acquired these things, you will begin by placing your football tee on the ground, and placing your football on it in a near perpendicular manner to the ground. Instead of being completely perpendicular, however, it will be important to lean the football back slightly, towards you, in order for your foot to capture maximum surface area upon impact. When you have the proper approach, and kick follow through, you will want for your foot to get up "under" the ball, especially when attempting a long field goal or a kick off.

Variations in your football placement, on your tee, will depend upon the situation. For example, if you must perform an onsides kickoff, you may very well consider placing your football on the tee in a manner where the top 'point' of the football actually points towards your opponents. Placing your football, in this manner, with the right approach and foot strike placement, will cause the ball to stay closer to the ground while encouraging an hopeful leap into the air that can greatly increase your chances of a player on your team actually recovering the onside kick off.

Step 2

Football Holder
While a touchdown is obviously more preferable than a field goal because of the sheer amount of points difference allocated between the two actions, sometimes you team may have no other choice but to kick a field goal. In football, outside of kicking off a football, a tee typically isn't used. Instead, when you are setting up for a field goal or extra point attempt, you will have to have another player position himself to hold the football on the opposite side as you will be approaching to kick.

In the absence of a tee, whichever player is charged with holding the football will have to be skilled at performing his duties in a fast, fluid, and error less motion. Not only will your football field goal holder have to perform quickly, but, when placing the football, he must do so so that the white football laces are facing forward while the ball is leaned backwards. In exactly the same way as a football is placed on a tee, so also will your football holder have to place the ball on the ground manually. With defenders who will all be trying to block the field goal attempt, once again, it is absolutely imperative that your holder know what he is doing and can perform under a high degree of pressure.

Step 3

Football Field Goal Attempt
In order to achieve maximum transfer of power and strength in your kick, you will want to begin your approach backed up at least 3 feet from the tee or holder and 2 and 1/2 steps to the side. If you will be performing the field goal kick with your right foot, you will need to step back three feet and move 2 and 1/2 steps to your left. If you will be performing the field goal kick with your left foot, you will need to step back three feet and move 2 and 1/2 steps to your right.

These approach distances have been tested for decades to be the most optimal. If your approach distance is too long, you will take longer to actually get to the ball, and you will greatly increase the likelihood of an opponent reaching you in time to block your field goal or extra point attempt. If your approach distance is too short, you may not be able to achieve the momentum and workload transfer that will make your field goal attempt a success.

Step 4

When performing a field goal or extra point, once you have positioned yourself correctly, at the snap of the ball you will want to begin your approach by stepping first with the foot that you won't be kicking with. Had you began your approach with the foot you will be kicking with, you would need yet another step in order to correctly transfer your weight and power to the ball.

Step 5

As you begin to kick with your foot, be sure that your non kicking foot is placed around 1 to 2 feet to the side of the football. Planting your foot firmly, in this manner, will provide you with the proper support and balance in order to drive your kicking leg furiously through the ball. In this situation, it is also important that you wear optimal spikes in order for your feet to maintain a sturdy, reliable, hold on the ground. In rainy or inclement weather conditions, in the absence of spikes or kleats, your reliable leg support may falter causing you to hit the ball in the wrong place or miss it completely altogether.

Step 6

With your non kicking leg planted, in this step, you will want to power through the football as hard and as accurately as possible. In this case, your supporting leg is just one portion of the equation around a successful field goal or extra point attempt. If you have great support, yet little power, your result may be similar to having little support, and great power. In order to build up your leg strength, it is important that you continually practice in repetition and conduct powerful leg exercises throughout the off season.

Step 7

If your field goal or extra point attempt is a success, celebrate in moderation. Excessive celebration can incur your team a penalty that will be applied on the next kick off to the opposing team. Rather than dance wildly in the end zone, you may want to consider just tapping helmets or giving a 'high-five' to your teammates.

Step 8

The need for a team to punt a football typically occurs when the team has exhausted all it's 'downs' to achieve a first down. As a football punter, you will position yourself approximately 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Bear in mind, if you drop the ball or are blocked by a defender, your team can and will loose a significant amount of yardage even if you personally recover the football. Because it will typically be 4th down, even if you recover the ball yourself, your team will be relinquishing control to the other team in the same location that you recovered it.

Step 9

On the designated count, your center will have the dual role of both snapping you the ball and blocking or shielding your from other defenders on the line of scrimmage. You will want to take receipt of the ball, in a cool and collected, error less, manner.

Step 10

When you receive the ball, similar fluidity in ball handling will need to occur as in kicking a field or an extra point attempt. You will want to quickly step forward 2-3 steps, while simultaneously turning the white laces upwards towards the sky. Doing this will expose maximum surface area on the underside of the football, and will allow for maximum height, speed, and accuracy with your punt kick.

Step 11

As you drop the football, you will simultaneously drive through it with your dominant kicking foot. In order to achieve maximum distance and benefit from your punt, you will have to rely on the flexibility that you have developed and fostered throughout the pre-season and onto the season itself. Appropriate flexibility exercises should be done in order for your leg to reach as high as it possibly can. In order to get the most out of your punt, you should train yourself to at least be able to touch your face mask with your knee.

Whether you are performing a kick off, a field goal or extra point attempt, or are simply punting, the art of kicking is a critical skill that needs to be learned and mastered by a player (or group of players) that are specialized in this skill. While football kickers, by the nature of the game, are utilized not nearly as frequently as quarterbacks or linemen, their value is usually seen in clinch situations. Because of this, crowd noise and the general flow of the game, can lead to a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on a football kicker. Kick-offs and onside kicks are among two of the quickest unfolding, yet pivotal and game altering, plays in a football game, therefore, it is imperative that a football kicker refine his/her skills through continual practice and repetition.


Tips & Warnings

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Comments

Oct 21, 2010 4:09pm
weianow
Nice article. Easy to understand and it makes sense!
Oct 23, 2010 2:34pm
vetochemicals
Very thorough look at how to kick a football and a well deserved feature for you, congrats!
Nov 22, 2010 5:48pm
zeroveritas
Sounds so easy but punters get paid millions to do it right :)
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