Playing and coaching football in the northern United States has taught me that our weather is absolutely unpredictable. Any day in February or March can be 60 degrees and sunny followed by a blizzard the next day. For football, we practice and play in all types of weather, but when there is a foot of snow, how can specialists (the position that arguably requires the most room to practice) improve without risking hypothermia, using a dome, or fighting the basketball team for the gym.
While rules won’t let coaches monitor every workout, we work as a team to develop a plan at the end of each season for what we need to improve and reinforce each offseason. Here are some of the drills our kickers, punters and long snappers do both in and out of season. These drills take up as little space as a living room and can be done without a ball.
Indoor Drills For Kicker Specialists
Most of our critical place-kicking fundamental drills focus on balance, weight transition and swing plane/acceleration. Mastering these enable us to stabilize our kicks and get accurate power into every kick.
To work balance, we do single-leg stability drills with both our plant leg and kicking leg. One of our favorite balance drills is to place three cones 1 foot in front of where we stand. While on one leg, we bend at the waist to touch each cone. This develops body control and awareness, trust in our plant leg for stability, and mobility in our joints.
We will also perform slow-motion kicks. We balance on our plant leg while working the full range of the upper- and lower-body segments of our kicking technique. We also focus on our off-arm opening, backswing, eye transition and swing follow-through. Players must not force a final skip-through as this can offset his balance and create a hitch or crunch in his technique.
If our kickers want to work on ball contact and we have enough room, we perform partner pass kicks. These require either a partner or a net to catch the ball at 10 yards and
are done using a jab one-step approach starting with our kicking foot and finishing on our plant foot. The kicking leg does a full-range backswing and come through the ball at roughly half speed with the eyes and foot finishing through our target before transitioning into a walk. There is a small skip-through and the goal is to have smooth contact on the sweet spot of the ball with the sweet spot of our foot. Our kicker specialists are looking for strong ankle-lock causing end-over-end rotation and a straight flight path. If the ball is kicked too hard to be caught, lower power on the swing.
Indoor Drills For Punter Specialists
Most punting fundamental drills work hand speed, footwork and swing plane/acceleration. Mastering these makes punters comfortable catching snaps and sets a consistent drop early in our punting motion. It also generates as much power as possible in our desired punting direction.
For hand speed, we will play catch as often as possible. This helps our hand eye coordination and ensures that we are as quick as possible at matching our drop to the proper height and angle of our swing. When working with a football, we mix up the location of the catch to practice hand transitions on the drop. We also hard-toss a tennis ball, soccer ball, or even send poor tosses to simulate off-aim snaps.
Our punter specialists must master the location of their feet and their direction. The feet control the hips and strides, which affect power, leg swing and direction. The punter’s footwork is a simple, quick jab-one-two-swing (jabbing with the plant foot) to keep our feet powerful under our body. The first step is a powerful 6-12 inches to keep the hips back and drive from the balls of the feet rather than the heels. This helps punters generate power up and through the swing while landing balanced into a walk. After the swing, the eyes and head should follow the foot and the ball, allowing our core and hips to follow through even farther. We work each step one at a time and progress into a full dry swing without the ball. We emphasize back-swing, swing path and follow-through.
To combine drops and swings, we work partner drops. The punter completes his full steps and swing while his partner pulls the ball and steps away on the drop. We also work on dropping the ball on specific targets such as a hat or a towel at the end of our footwork to work directional angles and accommodate the momentum we generate.
As a part of the progression it is important to emphasize the backswing even without a full swing through to ensure the quad is as loaded as possible.
Indoor Drills For Long Snapper Specialists
Long snappers are fortunate that they don’t ever need the full height of a gym to complete positive work. For long snappers, the main fundamental drills focus on hand follow-through, power generation and upper-body timing. They must start and finish balanced and have their eyes and hands finish through the target.
To work hand follow-through, we perform snaps while lying down. The snapper starts the ball from his forehead and works on his arms, generating an even spiral by extending both arms up and finishing with his palms facing away from each other, roughly shoulder width apart.
The long snapper specialists aren’t working to spin the ball, but rather throw the ball with his dominant arm, while his non-throwing arm stabilizes the ball. Both arms should follow through evenly for the smoothest spiral, the straightest snap and the most acceleration.
We also work bent-over upper body snaps where a partner or net is 6-8 yards behind the long snapper, who has his legs and hips straightened and feet firmly planted. This position forces the snapper to use his vision, upper body and arms to whip through — without the aid of his legs — and finish toward the hip of the person or net catching the ball.
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On setup, we want the snapper’s grip balanced and the ball pointing straight down his midline, without being over- extended in front of his body. At the finish of his follow- through, his body should look like the number four from the side view, with our palms facing out and away from the body.
To work on power generation and to speed the upper body follow-through, we work on hip drive. The faster a snapper can drive the hips up and back toward his target, the smoother and more quickly his upper body can finish toward the target. The snapper can do quick hip-pops in succession, simulating the hip drive by setting himself up in the bottom of his snapping position. Without bringing his arms through, he rapidly fires his hips up and back through the target.
To work on matching the upper- and lower-body timing of the entire long-snap, we work a slow-motion, full snap with and without a ball. At the slowest tempo (4 seconds for the whole movement), the snapper’s feet will stay planted and balanced while his hips and upper body extend together. At the finish of his snap, he pauses.
Without a ball, the tempo can be increased all the way to a full snap where the hips drive the upper body through and the feet may slide a few inches.
When using a ball for slow-motion snaps, work on perfecting a clean spiral that gently lands on a partner’s hip 5-6 yards away. There is no power in this snap, but it ensures the ball is pointed straight at the target with a balanced, even release. This prepares the snapper to “let it rip” when he finally gets outside.
This article was written by Michael Famiglietti, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas Wesleyan University.