Football is a complex sport with various positions that contribute to the success of a team. One such position is the kicker, who plays a critical role in determining the outcome of a game.
While often overlooked, kickers are responsible for scoring points through field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.
Below we look at the role of the kicker in football, their responsibilities, techniques, and the impact they have on the game.
The Role of the Kicker
The kicker in football is primarily responsible for kicking the ball during field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.
Their main objective is to score points for their team by accurately kicking the ball through the goalposts or deep into the opponent’s territory.
Kickers are often considered specialists due to their unique skill set and the specific role they play within the team.
One of the most critical roles of the kicker is to attempt field goals.
A field goal is a scoring opportunity that occurs when a team is within range to kick the ball through the opponent’s goalposts.
The kicker must accurately judge the distance and angle required to successfully kick the ball between the uprights.
Field goals are worth three points and can significantly impact the outcome of a game.
After a touchdown, the team has the option to attempt an extra point.
The kicker is responsible for kicking the ball through the goalposts from a shorter distance than a field goal.
Successful extra point attempts earn the team one point.
While seemingly straightforward, extra points can be crucial in close games, as they can determine whether a team wins or loses.
Another important responsibility of the kicker is to perform kickoffs.
Kickoffs occur at the beginning of each half, after a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and after the opposing team scores.
The kicker must kick the ball as far as possible into the opponent’s territory, aiming to minimize the return yardage.
A well-executed kickoff can force the opposing team to start their offensive drive from a less advantageous position on the field.
Techniques and Skills
Being a successful kicker requires a combination of technical skills, mental focus, and physical strength.
Here are some key techniques and skills that kickers must possess:
One of the most critical skills for a kicker is accuracy.
They must be able to consistently kick the ball with precision, ensuring it travels in the desired direction and clears the goalposts.
Accuracy is particularly important during field goals and extra points, where every point counts.
Kickers need to have strong legs to generate enough power to kick the ball long distances.
The ability to kick the ball with force is essential for successful kickoffs and long-range field goals.
Leg strength also contributes to the height and distance the ball can travel, making it more challenging for opponents to block or return the kick.
Timing and Rhythm
Timing and rhythm play a significant role in a kicker’s success.
They must have a consistent approach and timing in their kicking motion to ensure proper contact with the ball.
Maintaining a steady rhythm helps kickers develop muscle memory, allowing them to execute kicks accurately and with confidence.
Kickers often face immense pressure, especially during critical moments of a game.
Mental focus is crucial for maintaining composure and executing kicks accurately under pressure.
Kickers must possess the ability to block out distractions, stay calm, and concentrate on their technique to deliver successful kicks.
The Impact of the Kicker
While kickers may not receive as much attention as other positions in football, their impact on the game should not be underestimated.
Here are some ways in which kickers can influence the outcome of a match:
Kickers are responsible for scoring points for their team.
Successful field goals and extra points contribute directly to the team’s overall score.
In close games, a well-executed kick can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Through kickoffs, kickers can significantly impact field position.
By kicking the ball deep into the opponent’s territory, kickers force the opposing team to start their offensive drive from a less advantageous position.
This can make it more challenging for the opposing team to score and gives the kicker’s team a defensive advantage.
A successful field goal or kickoff can create momentum shifts in a game.
Scoring points or pinning the opposing team deep in their territory can energize the kicker’s team and demoralize their opponents.
These momentum shifts can have a psychological impact on both teams and influence the overall flow of the game.
How To Kick a Football With Great Contact
How Far Can an NFL Kicker Kick a Ball?
NFL kickers have shown remarkable skill and the ability to kick the football over impressive distances.
The longest field goal ever recorded in an NFL game is 66 yards, a record set by Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens on September 26, 2021, a game-winning kick that lifted them to a 17-16 win agains the Detroit Lions.
(Video of Tucker’s 66-yard kick is available on YouTube.)
This means that, under optimal conditions and with a skilled kicker, it’s possible to kick a football over 65 yards and successfully make a field goal.
However, note that this is an exceptional feat and not representative of the average kicking distance in NFL games.
The majority of successful field goals in the NFL typically fall within the range of 30 to 50 yards, with 40 to 49 yards being a common distance for successful attempts. Kicks of 50+ become more difficult to execute.
Factors such as weather conditions, stadium elevation, wind speed and direction, and the skill and technique of the kicker can all affect the maximum distance a kicker can achieve.
It’s worth mentioning that kicking a ball accurately over long distances requires not only leg strength but also precision and technique.
Kicking a football at extreme distances requires a near-perfect combination of power, timing, and accuracy, which is why such long field goals are relatively rare in the NFL.
How Long Can an NFL Kicker Kick a Kickoff?
NFL kickers are known for their ability to deliver long and high kickoffs to maximize field position for their team.
The distance of a kickoff can vary depending on several factors, including the kicker’s leg strength, technique, weather conditions, and game strategy.
On average, an NFL kickoff travels around 60 to 65 yards in the air, reaching the opposing team’s end zone.
However, exceptional kickers have been able to achieve even longer distances.
Some kickers have recorded kickoffs that have traveled as far as 70 yards or more, reaching deep into the end zone or even resulting in touchbacks (when the receiving team chooses not to return the ball and instead starts their offensive drive from the 25-yard line).
It’s important to note that while distance is essential in a kickoff, hang time is also vital.
Kickers aim to achieve a balance between distance and hang time to allow their coverage team enough time to run down the field and tackle the opposing team’s returner.
The distance of an NFL kickoff is influenced by various factors, including the kicker’s skill, playing conditions, and team strategy.
What Kind of Training Do Kickers Do?
NFL kickers undergo specialized training to develop their skills and maintain their performance.
Their training programs typically focus on several key areas:
Leg Strength and Power
Kickers engage in strength training exercises that target their legs, including squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
Building leg strength is essential for generating power in their kicks.
Kickers work on honing their kicking technique, including proper foot placement, swing mechanics, and follow-through.
They often work with kicking coaches who provide guidance and help refine their form.
Accuracy and Consistency
Kickers practice aiming for specific targets, such as goalposts or designated areas on the field.
They focus on maintaining consistent form and developing muscle memory to improve accuracy.
Endurance and Stamina
Kickers need to maintain their energy and performance throughout a game or practice session.
Conditioning exercises, such as running and cardiovascular training, help improve their endurance.
Flexibility and Mobility
Kickers require flexibility and mobility in their hips, legs, and core to execute powerful and precise kicks.
Stretching exercises and yoga can aid in maintaining and improving their range of motion.
Mental Focus and Visualization
Kicking is as much a mental game as it is physical.
Kickers often practice mental exercises, such as visualization, to enhance their concentration, focus, and confidence.
Game Situations and Pressure Training
Kickers simulate game situations during practice to prepare for the pressure they will face in actual games.
They practice kicking with time constraints, under pressure, and with varying field conditions to replicate real-game scenarios.
Strength Training For Kickers (American Football)
Do Kickers Have a Special Ball and Shoes?
Yes, kickers in the NFL often use specialized balls and shoes to enhance their kicking performance.
NFL kickers typically use a specific type of football called a “kicking ball” or a “kicker’s ball” for field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.
These balls have a slightly different shape and construction compared to regular game balls.
Kicking balls have a narrower profile, which allows for better aerodynamics and increased distance when kicked.
They are often smoother and have less grip than regular balls, making them easier to control during kicks.
Kickers wear specialized kicking shoes that are designed to provide optimal traction and stability during their kicks.
These shoes have a different sole pattern compared to regular football cleats.
The sole of a kicking shoe typically has a flatter design with a larger surface area to provide a more stable base for the plant foot during the kicking motion.
The absence of studs or cleats on the front of the shoe allows for a cleaner strike on the ball.
Kickers may have personal preferences when it comes to the brand, model, and specific characteristics of the balls and shoes they use.
They often work closely with equipment managers and manufacturers to ensure they have the right equipment that suits their style and maximizes their performance on the field.
FAQs – What Does the Kicker Do in Football?
1. What is the role of the kicker in football?
The kicker is responsible for kicking the ball during field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.
2. How many points is a field goal worth?
A successful field goal is worth three points.
3. What is an extra point?
An extra point is an opportunity to score one additional point after a touchdown.
4. What is the purpose of a kickoff?
Kickoffs occur at the beginning of each half, after a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and after the opposing team scores.
The purpose is to kick the ball deep into the opponent’s territory and start the game or the opponent’s offensive drive.
5. What skills do kickers need?
Kickers need accuracy, leg strength, timing and rhythm, and mental focus to be successful.
6. How does a kicker impact the outcome of a game?
Kickers can score points, influence field position, and create momentum shifts that can impact the outcome of a game.
7. Can kickers also play other positions?
While some kickers may have the ability to play other positions, they often specialize in kicking due to the unique skill set required.
8. How do kickers practice their skills?
Kickers practice their skills through regular training sessions, focusing on accuracy, leg strength, and technique.
They often work closely with special teams coaches to refine their abilities.
9. Who holds the ball for the kicker during field goals and extra points?
A designated player, known as the holder, holds the ball in place for the kicker during field goals and extra points.
10. Can kickers be substituted during a game?
Yes, kickers can be substituted during a game if a team has multiple kickers on their roster.
However, substitutions are limited and must adhere to the rules set by the league.
11. Are there any famous kickers in football history?
Yes, there have been many famous kickers in football history, such as Adam Vinatieri, Morten Andersen, and Jan Stenerud, who have achieved remarkable success and left a lasting impact on the sport.
12. Can kickers also punt the ball?
While some kickers may have the ability to punt the ball, punting is typically performed by a specialized punter.
13. How far can kickers kick the ball?
The distance a kicker can kick the ball varies depending on their leg strength and technique.
Professional kickers can often kick the ball over 50 yards during field goals and achieve touchbacks on kickoffs.
14. Are there any specific rules for kickers?
Kickers must adhere to the rules set by the league, such as the distance they must kick the ball during kickoffs and the position from which they kick during field goals and extra points.
15. How do kickers handle pressure situations?
Kickers handle pressure situations through mental preparation, focusing on their technique, and maintaining confidence in their abilities.
They often develop routines and strategies to stay calm and composed during critical moments of a game.
The kicker in football plays a vital role in scoring points, influencing field position, and creating momentum shifts.
Their accuracy, leg strength, timing and rhythm, and mental focus are essential for success.
Kickers impact the outcome of a game through field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.
Understanding the role and skills of kickers enhances our appreciation for their contribution to the sport of football.