A Specialists Approach To Training Camp
Taylor Mehlhaff was a 2007 first team All-American Kicker at the University of Wisconsin. He was a sixth round selection by the New Orleans Saints in the 2008 draft. Taylor has previously coached at The University of Tennessee, Pittsburgh and is currently working with the Special Teams at his alma mater.
Training camp is a unique time for kickers and punters. Many times we’re asked by coaches to kick nearly EVERY single day. They believe that kickers should have to kick every day because the other position players practice every single day. If you want to have a leg when the season starts, this simply is not feasible. You have to learn to be smart and to pay attention to your body. Through my experiences, I’m going to share with you some tips on how to get through the grind of training camp.
Limit how many kicks you’re taking daily
Every team and coach is different, but try to sit down with him and come up with a plan of how often you will be kicking during camp. You need to schedule a day off here and there to help get your leg back. One thing I found that worked for me was to only get a handful of warm up kicks in and save it for the kicks during team periods. Make sure as many kicks as possible are taken with a snap and hold. Remember QUALITY over QUANTITY! You don’t need to hit a ton of footballs if you focus in and make every single one count. Also, make sure you’re getting some kickoff work in, but don’t overdue it. That is the fastest way to wear out your leg. Your leg is like a pitcher’s arm in baseball. You need to have a kick count…just like a pitcher has a pitch count.
Take care of your body…and more importantly, your leg
Nothing is worse than over doing it and tweaking a quad or hamstring. If you’re injured, you’re no good to the team. Even worse, you have to sit on the sideline and watch someone else take your kicking repetitions. Do everything you can to recover and take care of your body. Stay off of your feet when practice is over, get in the ice tubs, eat correctly, stay hydrated, get treatment if something is sore, and get some sleep!
Don’t just sit around at practice
When I went off to college as just a kicker, it took me awhile to get used to not doing anything during the long practices. As a quarterback and linebacker, I was used to playing every down in high school. Typically the nature of our position is to go out early for practice and get our kicking done, and then we’re finished for the day. Don’t just sit around. Spend time working on operations with your snapper and holder, work on your kickoff steps, go on the uprights and work on your field goal steps on each hash, work on your drop, do visualization drills on the uprights. Everybody always says kicking is 80% mental…well then that means we need to practice not just physically, but mentally too.
Don’t get discouraged
For those of you that are incoming Freshman in college, don’t get discouraged if you’re struggling a little bit during training camp. Almost all kickers and punters go through this. You’re in a totally new environment with new teammates and coaches. You have all camp to show what you can do. Don’t base your performance off of one bad day or kick. You’ll slowly get better each day and begin feeling more confident and comfortable out there with the team.
Watch film and take notes
I always found it valuable to go back and watch my film following practice. Take notes of what you did wrong, what you did well, what you can focus on during the next practice, etc. If you take notes and even chart your kicks, sometimes you are able to see a correlation of why you are struggling or having success.
Remember that if you’re working hard, good things will happen! You’ve put in the time and effort all off-season…now it’s time to reap the rewards of that training!
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