Got Punt/Golf? How Football Kickers and Punters can make it in the PGA!

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In my last blog I posted why PGA golfers could not make it as a kicker, and as we are in the midst of the current PGA “tour”, and winding down the “tour” of Summer kicking/punting camps and combines I thought you might enjoy this blog, as to how how all you great high great punters can make it in the PGA!

OK, let me be clear; before rushing out and spending a couple of thousand dollars on the latest golf clubs, and those stylish pants and shirts I don’t mean The Professional Golf Association of America but in fact The Punt/Golf AssociationTM!

The Punt/Golf AssociationTM was formed one brisk autumn day back in 1993 with some of the local kickers and punters I was working with while I coaching at our local high school (Blessed Trinity, HS Roswell GA). We were all working on the proper way to ensure we had a good “drop table” for our football drills, and we decided to make a game of this. Now 19 years later I am sharing this “game” with all of you and the reasons behind it (and yes- I still play against my fellow P/GA guys from time to time when we train).

The concept of the game is very similar to regular golf where you are hitting to a pre-determined area on a golf course with the goal of putting the little round ball in the hole with less “strokes” than your competitor, all the while ensuring that each shot you make has consequences’ for ones actions.

In Punt/Golf, the goal is the same, except the ball does not go in a hole, but rather you either hit a certain target, or put the ball through a certain area (say the goalposts) with the goal being you build a consistent drop table along the way, or be able to gauge wind conditions just like Tiger, Phil, and Bubba do on the golf course; while understanding that you don’t need a driver, when you are only 25-30 yards from the target (HINT: this is for all you big punters who love to put the ball into the end zone-thus losing yardage on your punting average, when instead of placing it inside the 10 yard line) .

So how is it played? First, this game is ONLY played AFTER they have warmed-up and at least punted for 30-45 minutes. Then you simply make a game of golf out of it. For instance, the first hole can be an easy par four (that even I at 57 years of age still manage to “birdie” a few times). Start at the end zone line (BTW-if you go over the line it’s a foul like in golf and there is a penalty stroke associated with it) and try and punt the ball down field and THROUGH the football goal posts and make it a “par 4”. Have the other punters/kickers on your team also participate and see how many “strokes’ (punts) it takes you to put it through the posts. Want to make it a bit harder? OK, add one stroke to this par4 to a par 5, by having each player hit either the left or right goal post in the air.

If you would like to make it a par three hole- have it where you are kicking from your end zone out the center of the field where your football team’s logo is placed- where you need to hit the ball in the air IN the logo area. Want something a bit more challenging? Add some cones to either side of a hash mark, or in the middle of the field around the opposing goal posts, hitting the ball from the 45 yard line and have it drop in the cone area in the air- so as a to help you with your directional/coffin corner punts.

Can kickers also participate? Sure. In this game, you might want to start at the 5 yard line on the sideline and try to hit through the goal posts, and each “hole” move the ball closer the goal line, and if you want to make it more challenging, have the kick hit the left or right goal post.

Is this fun? Yes, it can be unless of course you are the countless punters over the years I have “beaten” who are normally full of bantering of how they are going to beat ol Coach Nolan only to find out after the 18 or so “holes” have been completed that they cannot. Heck, I have trained three kids (who will remain nameless that will be kicking in the SEC this year and next who have NEVER beaten me-but don’t want to embarrass them in case their coach reads this) and boy is it fun to gig them!

All kidding aside, as a coach we always focus on what we call “teachable moments”. As I punt alongside them, my focus for them (outside of trying to get into their heads) is for them to realize that as a 57 year old “punter” the drop table I have developed since I was 15 years of age, has helped ensure I don’t “shank” the ball, and even though the days of me hitting 45/4.5’s may be gone, my molding and drop table are usually consistent focus for me as I approach my next “shot”.

Secondly, I look to ensure they are stepping properly, with consistent strides, and not crossing over with their legs after releasing the punt.

Thirdly, understanding the type of touch they need to have (again not having to use a driver when all one needs is a 9 iron) when hitting a certain punt is far more effective then the “ahhhs” from the crowd when seeing a 50/5.0 sail into the end zone for a touchback, or properly ensuring how to turn their hips on a coffin corner ball, thus pinning the opponent inside the ten yard line. Those “ahhhs” come from the true kicking coach, and the “groans” come from the opposing offensive coach who now has to change some of his plays, since that they are backed up.

The “ahhhs” that come from the kids then help them understand that at the current and next level they are trying to get to it’s about their perceptions vs. reality as to how they need to strike a football, manage wind/field conditions and how to hit a consistent “A” ball every time off the “tee” or from their release with the proper hand takeaway drills. They at times will also have their own “groans” as they punt, but its far better for them to have the groan on the practice field than in the real game!

The biggest teachable lesson I take away from this is that from all these great young men who have played the game against “the ol man” (and there are a lot of Dad’s who son’s I have coached that I know are reading this and have seen this) is they love to compete- and hate to lose!

Lastly, after a long punting/kicking workout, no matter how tired they are (and no matter how many times I have beaten them) always wants to stay around and play Punt/Golf with the “ol man”. Hopefully years later when they too become kicking coaches can help and train young men and enjoy a few “rounds” of Punt/Golf in my memory, all the while being called “the ol man” by the young men they will teach!

Coach Nolan++++

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