By Coach Nick Fleming
Height, power, and accuracy; all of these are important when it comes to kicking a football, and all are affected by where a kicker plants his foot when kicking. Here are some tips to ensure you have a proper plant no matter which tee you use.
There are two important factors that affect a kick. The first factor is how close a kicker’s foot is to the ball on the X-axis (close or far from the ball). It is difficult to make proper contact if a kicker plants too close to the ball and are unable to open and expose the proper spot on the foot. The distance from the ball, as well as the appropriate amount of body lean, have to be altered to make good contact. When a new kicker is starting out, I recommend planting either a football length or a shoe length away from the ball. This will allow enough room for the foot to open up and expose the proper spot on a kicker’s foot to make contact with the ball. It will also be close enough for the kicker to maintain good momentum through the football. This length is a general guideline but can be an inch or two closer or farther away based on the kicker’s comfort level.
The second and more important factor affecting a kick is where a kicker plants on the Y-axis (close or further from the upright). This axis has greater impact on power and height, but depending on whether the kicker uses a block or kicks off the ground, the plant spot will change.
If a kicker is using a 2” block, the plant should be knuckle of foot even with the football. This allows contact with the ball to occur when the leg is on its upswing and the ball will get over the line of scrimmage more easily. This is the main purpose for using a block. If a kicker is using a 1” block, the plant spot will need to move closer towards the uprights, so that the laces are even with the ball. This will create contact with the ball during the upswing portion of the kick, allowing for better height at the line of scrimmage. The benefit of using a 1” block rather than to a 2” block is that it allows the kicker to plant further up the Y-axis, with contact on the ball happening closer to leg lock (the point of the swing when the knee locks out), which can generate more power. A kicker using a 1” tee will need to rely on better mechanics to get the ball over the line of scrimmage versus using a 2” block.
When kicking off the ground without the aid of a block, the plant spot should be back of the heel and even with the ball. Obviously, a kicker no longer has the aid of raising the ball off the ground to make contact on the upswing, so he will need to rely on great mechanics to get the ball over the line of scrimmage and downfield with good distance. A benefit to kicking off the ground is the ability to make contact at leg-lock which will create more power.
New kickers should be aware that using a tee also creates more breathing room for erratic plant spots or swings; so don't jump right into kicking off the ground because it might give a kicker an extra yard or two of distance. Without proper mechanics, the extra power gained from making contact at leg-lock isn’t noticeable because poor technique won’t allow it to happen. A kicker should practice off a tee until the mechanics are perfected.
As a recap, here are the important tips to keep in mind about Plant Spot:
· A football length or foot length away from the ball is a good guideline for plant spot on the X-axis
· When using a 2” block, the knuckle of the foot should be even with the ball on the Y-axis
· When using a 1” block, the top of the laces should be even with the ball on the Y-axis
· When kicking off the ground, the plant spot should be back of the heel and even with the ball