|Learning to Punt and Kick
Bill Renner, a former punter in the NFL for the Green
Bay Packers, is the Athletic Director and Head Football
Coach at West Springfield High School in Springfield,
Virginia. Coach Renner will be writing a column for
NFLHS.com, focusing mainly on special teams.
Second or third chances do not come often for punters or
kickers who fail to execute their skill. Offensive and
defensive players can fumble, throw interceptions, miss
blocks, get knocked down, miss tackles, drop passes,
fall down and jump off-sides, yet, will only be
considered to have had a bad day. Their abilities and
position on the team will not be questioned.
This scrutiny and perform or get cut mentality from the
coaches and fans demands a higher level of skill
performance for punters and kickers. Successfully
combating this condition depends on the degree of
technical knowledge the punter or kicker possesses and
how quickly adjustments can be made after poorly hit
punts or kicks.
The epitome of mastering this mental training is Tiger
Woods. Rick Martino, director of instruction for the PGA
of America, caught a comment Tiger made after shooting
40 on the front nine of his record setting 12 shot
Masters victory in 1997.
I remember him saying that day that when he finished the
front side, he figured out his swing was too long.
Martino said. No one had to tell him that, he knew it
instinctively, and he managed to figure it out on the
fly and make the adjustment. The rest of the week, you
could see the difference.
Just a glance at most professional punters and kickers
biography will produce a litany of teams they have
performed for and been cut from. The ones that reduce
this experience are the ones who have learned to correct
mistakes immediately like Tiger Woods.
To start this learning process you must begin to believe
# the ball only goes where you cause it to go, and
# a knowledge base of how to punt or kick a football
allows me to coach myself to correct my mistakes
Without an understanding of the essential techniques
that make the ball fly where and how you make it, fixing
technique errors, whether on the fly or over a long term
I have witnessed many talented punters and kickers over
the past 24 years as a player, coach, and operating
punting and kicking camps. The ones that could perform
under pressure and on command were the ones with the
greatest understanding and control of the mental aspect
of the skill.
How do you gain this knowledge? Learn from experienced
coaches and players.
You must have discerning questions when learning that
allow you to focus on the essentials that make the ball
travel where you want it to. For punting and kicking, as
you learn the skill from others always filter the
information through the following questions:
Punters: How will it make the ball go farther or higher?
Kickers: How will it make the ball go farther, higher or
If the technique you are being told to do does not
contribute to these results then it does not matter if
you do it that way or not. PERIOD!
There are only certain essentials that must be executed
to be successful at these skills and all the rest do not
matter. In fact, those essentials are similar for both
skills. There are not a lot of techniques to learn to
punt or kick well. But focusing your attention on the
wrong ones will prevent your maximizing your ability.
These questions will help you discern what those are.
1. Watch the ball fly and learn from what it does.
The flight of the ball is the best indicator of
technique errors. An experienced instructor does not
need to see you physically punt or kick the football. He
can watch the ball flight and tell you what you did at
the collision to cause the football to fly the way it
With an understanding that the essential techniques are
limited and what their cause and effect are correcting
technique errors from ball flight is not a difficult
2. Develop a strong desire to master the skill.
Anyone can be taught to punt or kick a football
adequately. Few can be taught to do it on command. The
desire to BE THE BEST is one factor that permits players
to continue to advance to higher levels. The desire must
translate to a strong work ethic.
Woods loves to practiceIf he wants to hit a shot that
cuts 10 feet and only cuts six, hes not happy with it,
(Peter) Kostis, widely regarded CBS analyst and teacher,
said. His tolerance is so small, it drives him to work
My organization, 4th Down Sports, focuses our
instruction on these three points. Our goal is to
develop independent thinkers who can make adjustments
from punt-to-punt or kick-to-kick to prevent the next
one from being poor. The dependence comes from needing
coaching and encouragement during training to raise and
refine the level of performance that can be obtained.
Punters and kickers get cut so often in professional
football because there is a vacuum of coaches with the
knowledge on how to coach them to be successful after
they have failed. This same attribute is what makes the
best coaches, the best coaches, fixing what is broken
quicker and better than others.
For punters and kickers, YOU must be that fix-it man for
yourself. You can bemoan that fact that there is
insufficient coaching or you can learn for yourself. The
reality is telling you to learn for yourself.
In fact, this is really a liberating situation. For,
once you obtain a level of skill competence you will
have total control over your training schedule, unlike
the other positions. Coaches will leave you alone and
allow you to do your own thing. Then you will be able to
tailor your practice to your specific needs!
So, lets review.if I LEARN how to punt or kick a
football I can control the ball flightthe ball flight
goes the way I make or want it to go...and I can control
my destiny by what I know and practice to do right.
Then I can rise to the level where I can exist and
thrive in a football position where second and third
chances for failure with the same team are remote.
I urge all aspiring punters and kickers to make it their
primary goal for every off-season to LEARN how to punt
or kick the football for better command of the skill.
Expand your knowledge of what you did to make the ball
fly the way it did and you will be on your way to
mastering the skill and controlling your football
A good place to start learning the techniques is with my
book, Kicking the Football. It can be purchased through
most bookstores or at www.amazon.com. I also encourage
you to attend a kicking camp or seek individual
instruction and begin learning your strengths and
weaknesses as a punter or kicker.
There are many competent camps for you to choose from.
At www.4thdownsports.com you will see what we offer for
you in the camp, clinic, and individual instruction
areas from high school, to college, to the professional
Make this off-season your best ever by LEARNING to punt
and kick rather that just punting and kicking. The
off-season is where champions are made.
If you have specific special teams questions for Coach
Renner, please email them to NFLAskTheCoach@aol.com and
write "Coach Renner Question" in the subject line. You
can visit Coach Renner's web site,
www.4thdownsports.com, for more information on his