Find out what makes 49ers kicker Joe Nedney so good at his job in these Tips From A Pro!*
To start out with, it's important to understand differences in kicks. Here are a few definitions to help out!
Onside kick: A short intentional kick by the kicking team that is designed to recover the ball quickly for the offense. The kick occurs on kickoffs which open the first and second half, and after every score. The kick must travel 10 yards before it can be recovered, and no player can touch the ball until it travels 10 yards.
Field Goal: a place kick that passes above the crossbar and between the uprights of the goalpost, earning the team that kicked it 3 points.
Kickoff: when a player kicks a ball from a tee at his own 30-yard line (35 in college) to the opposing team, whose player tries to advance it the other way; used to start the game, the second half and overtime, and to restart play after each score.
Extra Point: an additional point scored by kicking a field goal after it has scored a touchdown
Approaching the Ball
You have to be consistent in everything you do, so your steps and approach should look the same every time! The holder is positioned eight yards from the line of scrimmage, also behind the snapper. I take three steps backwards and three steps to the right. I start to move when the ball is snapped, so when I see movement I go. It takes about 1.3 seconds from snap to kick. Any longer than that, you are risking getting the kick blocked.
Striking the Ball
When striking the ball, the sweet spotof your foot needs to meet the sweet spot of the ball. If you look at the ball top to bottom, the sweet spot of the ball is about a third of the way up from the bottom. The sweet spot of your foot is the bone that basically runs into your big toe on the top of your foot. This is considered a soccer style kick because you get more body torque. Kicking with the toe, which is called a conventional kicker (I call it EXTINCT) is not used as often now because it is not as accurate and there is more margin for error with your toe, AND IT HURTS. Even If you look at the side of your foot versus the tip of your toe, obviously you have a better chance at making better contact with the inside of your foot versus the toe because it's bigger, there is less room for error. Every kicker is different, some kickers punch the ball and don't have a lot of follow through, but because I have long legs, I use more of a sweeping motion and get a lot of follow through. Whatever technique you have, consistency is really the key. Keep your head down, hips square, and follow through towards your target. That's a kicker credo.
Adjusting for Distance
Some people adjust their kicks for distance, but I don't believe in that. I just try to kick the same kick every time regardless of whether I'm 25 yards out or 50. You do sometimes have to adjust for strong wind conditions by adjusting your aiming point either to the left or the right.
Field Goals vs Kickoffs**
One of the main differences between a field goal and a kickoff is that usually on kickoffs you use a tee instead of another player to hold the ball. Kickoffs you get a running start so you have a lot more power in your kick. I take a seven step approach which puts me at about 10 yards back. The main thing is to have controlled aggression. You have to be under control but you have to utilize as much power as you can. Compare it to a golf swing, if you swing too hard, you'll miss the ball. You've got to be smooth.
The key to successful field goals is hugely reliant on a good snap and a good hold. You won't make a field goal if it's not in the right place when you go to kick it. The mental aspect of our game is really big. The confidence that you can make a kick from anywhere on the field helps out a lot.
My routine for practicing throughout the week is to work from every distance, from an extra point to 50 yard field goals. I just try to cover every distance from both hashes, and I don't really have a set amount. If I hit the ball well, I might not kick as many, but if I'm not hitting them the way I want, then I am more likely to take additional reps.
I think the biggest thing is that as you have success, your confidence will improve. Throughout my career, I've made kicks at just about every distance so if you've done it once, then you know you can do it again.