Coaching Football Special Teams

I called a friend of mine who is the Head Coach at a Big East Football team and we talked about how his football team coaches special teams., these are some of the comments made during that interview.

One of the first things they try to do is to let the kids know there are areas where we can achieve certain goals on special teams. Clearly the skilled players want to be on the special teams. They want to touch the football. But the question is how do you draw the interest of the other players on the special team who do not get to touch the football? How do you keep the left tackle on the extra point team interested? We came up with an award for the special team player of the year based on a point system. We went out and got the largest trophy we could find. It is about three-feet high. We wanted to get the biggest and gaudiest trophy we could find. We wanted our players to see the trophy every day. The trophy cost us about $100. The bang for our bucks came from the fact that we saw our kids change their attitude on how they could win the special teams player of the year. If you are going to emphasize something you must give the players a carrot, and we did that with the trophy.

In our team room we have three distinctive goals and the goals are displayed on banners. The banners are 12-feet wide by eight-feet tall. They are prominent in our team room. When you walk into our team room it is unmistakable that we have special team goals, offensive team goals, and defensive team goals.

Let me go over our special team goals

Win

Better than average field position after kickoff than opponent

Better net punt average than opponent

Score or set up a score

Give the offense the ball at least one time on the plus -50-yard line

Never give the opponent the ball on our side of the 50-yard line

Perfect execution on holds, snaps, and ball security

Have at least one game breaker – score, block a punt, block a kick, recover an onside kick, cause a turnover, recover a turnover, down a punt inside the 10-yard line, 60 yards of field position change

No penalties

Win the hidden-yardage game – kickoff – kickoff return – punt – punt return

First is to win. That is our first goal. The reason we try to stay away from numbers on the net punt average is the fact there are so many obstacles that may not allow us to achieve these goals.

If we get someone who kicks the ball in the end zone or there is a penalty after the kick, it can eschew the numbers relative to better kickoffs for the opponents. What we want is the average. The same thing is true with having a better punt return average than our opponents.

If you break down the film, you will find the special teams set up a lot of your scores. And a lot of the times the coaches do not even talk about that point. You do not build the creditability into your special teams. You tend to lose it in its perspective.

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We want to give the ball to our offense at least one time on the plus 50-yard line.

There are several ways to make this happen. It could be by a punt, pressure, or on any of our kickoffs. We want our kids to understand what we want in this respect.

When we had all of the numbers as goals, such as getting the ball on the 25-yard line, or return the ball 25 yards, they do not remember those things.

On the other hand, we do not want to give our opponent the ball on our side of the ball.

We want to have perfect execution on all special team plays.

We want to have at least one game breaker.

The one point here that we think is big is to down a punt inside he 10-yard line. To us, that is a game breaker. If you do the job on defense you will probably set up a score or get into a potential scoring situation.

All of these are great goals. But the one goal that we work on more than any other is the last goal: win the hidden yardage game.

Let me categorize hidden yardage. Here we are talking about the kickoff, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.

We use the 25-yard line on kickoff returns and 35-yards net on punts and calculate the yards. Let me give you an example. If we have a team that kicks the ball out of the end zone on us, it means we would start the ball in play from the 20-yard line. This means we are at a minus 5 yards in hidden yards against our opponents. Conversely, if we had a kickoff that we returned to the 50-yard line, we would have a plus 25 yards on the hidden yardage.

We do the same thing on punts. We use 35 as the magic number.

If we had a punt that netted 50 yards, we would be plus 15 yards in the hidden yardage.

If you keep track of these hidden yards, you will find they make a difference in winning and losing.

Those numbers are going to come back to you better than some of the other numbers you may throw at your players when you put up your goals. You want to make sure when the players leave the meeting that they know what hidden yardage is. If you can get your players to understand hidden yardage, you are going to win a lot of battles.

We want to put some competitive goals into the special teams, so we came up with a point production chart.

On the chart we have team points and individual points. We feel it is important if you are on a particular team to have a chance to get points on the special teams.

Our long snapper came within four points of winning the award this year. Our left guard was in the top three for the special team award. So we have team points that we give out for punt and extra point as well as individual points. If you do not do this the skilled players will run away with the award.

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TEAM POINTS – (10)

Score

Block a punt

Block a kick

Recover an onside kick

Successful fake

TEAM POINTS (3)

Stop a fake

Down a punt inside 10-yard line

TEAM POINTS (2)

Kickoff return of plus 30 yards

Punt return of plus 10 yards

INDIVIDUAL POINTS (10)

Cause a turnover

Recover a turnover

60-yard field position change

INDIVIDUAL POINTS (5)

Game winning field goal

Involved in 15 or more plays

INDIVIDUAL POINTS (3)

De-cleater

Tackle

Key block on return

Exceptional effort

4.0 hang time on kickoff or touchback

4.5 hand time on punt or 40-yards net with fair catch

INDIVIDUAL POINTS (2)

Assisted tackle

INDIVIDUAL POINT (1)

Doing your job on every play on a special team Victory award.

The coach who is responsible for that particular team grades the film. There is some flexibility in the system and we do have minus points. If you get a penalty you get minus 5 points. On any missed assignment you receive minus 5 points. The kids are going to see the chart on Sunday. That is the first thing we talk about in our team meeting.

We have the chart in our team room. You can see how we chart the players each week. On the left-hand side of the chart we have all of the players listed. We grade the film and give the players the points they earn in each area. On the left side of the chart are the team points and on the right side of the chart are the individual points. Also on the right outside of the chart we have the players’ total points for the last game.

I think it is important to have this information displayed in the locker room so the kids can see how they are being graded on the special teams. We are trying to build some ownership in this team. This chart will help you build your case for special teams.

We have another chart where we keep a running total of all the games. Each week the kids can see where they rate on the chart. They can come into our meeting knowing they earned a certain number of points from the last game or knowing they lost a certain number of points. We think the chart is good because the kids can see where they stand game by game.

This system really works for us. It keeps our kids motivated each week about the ranking for winning the special teams trophy!

For more information about coaching football special teams go to the website listed below.

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by Todd Krueger