Field goal steps are arguably the most important factors in our technical repertoire. They are also arguably the most overlooked. We can do everything right in our entire field goal approach, but if our steps are lazy and inconsistent, we are going to have a heck of time being accurate. Kicker will undoubtedly develop different steps throughout their careers, but for the most part, the most common steps are 3 steps back, 2 steps over.
One thing that we need to make sure that we do is start our steps back from the same spot every time. This way, when we take our steps we are more likely to end up in the same spot every time. We then take our 3 steps back and use our kicking foot to draw an imaginary line from our toe to the ball and then to the middle of the uprights. We bring both feet together and in a controlled manner, we take our 2 steps over at a perfect 90 degrees. Never take this part for granted as an 85 or 95 degree angle can mean the difference between a 5-10 foot ball flight to the right or left.
Once we have completed our steps, it is recommended to look up at the uprights so we can visualize our target and adjust our body accordingly. We want to make sure that our plant foot is pointed in the direction of where we want it to end up. . Our stance should be athletic and comfortable. If somebody were to give you a slight shove, you should be able to keep your balance. I call this being “grounded” We then return our eyes to the spot that our holder has marked off. When the ball is snapped-start your Catch Step.
(Right Foot Kicker)
It is important to know that the #1 rule is that a ball should never be leaned past straight up towards the Kicker. When kicking properly, the ball should match the angle of the kicking foot, granted that the body and torso has an angle during contact. We generally want the ball leaned away from the Kicker. This way the Kicker can achieve contact closer to a 90 degree angle for best contact off the metatarsal bone.
We always want to match the angle of the ball with the angle of our foot and if the ball is angled towards us, you will more than likely pull the ball every time. Any time that we are tilting the ball away from us or backwards, we are closing off the amount of surface area of what we call the sweet spot of the ball (roughly 1/3 of the way up the ball). When kickers begin to kick off the ground, they will understand just how important it is to get as much of the sweet spot as possible.
You might be able to get away with a little bit more with the ball tilted away, but the rotation of your kick will not always be ideal. Lastly, we come to the straight-up ball tilt. This is my personal favorite and is considered by many to be the standard tilt for field goal kickers. It optimizes the sweet spot of the ball and forces us to have the proper foot and leg positioning to make solid contact. It also allows for better 12 to 6 ball rotation, increasing accuracy. It is also much easier for your holder to get the angle right each time as opposed to a specific tilt.
Hash and Crown
The hash marks vary according to one’s playing level. High school has the widest hashes at 53′ 4″ followed by college which has 40′ wide hashes, and finally the NFL which has hashes the same width as the uprights (18′ 6″). Needless to say, short field goals on the hash in high school can have some fairly drastic angles to deal with. So how do we approach these hard-angled kicks? We would treat them the same way that we would any other kick.
Regardless of angle of FG, the steps NEVER change. Line up aiming right down the middle with 90 degree steps over no matter where the kick is at. One last point to discuss in this regard is the crown of the field. You’ll notice that every field has a slope going from the center to the sidelines that help with water drainage. These slopes vary depending on the field (some you won’t even notice), but they can affect where we end up in our stances in relation to the football. As an example, if we line up on the right hash of the field and we take our steps over on an uphill slant, our steps will be slightly shorter, thus landing us a few inches closer to the football when we’re in our stance. Those few inches can have drastic effects on where our ball ends up. The opposite is also true on the left hash. Our steps over on a downhill slant will cause us to be further from the football when we’re in our stance and we will more than likely pull the ball left.
If all other conditional factors are removed, the distance should not change how we kick the ball. This holds true as long as we are kicking within our range. Our range will only be determined through practice and repetition. We will begin to understand the physical limits that we currently have until we can grow bigger and stronger. Once our range is determined, we must realize that we need to approach every kick within it the same way.
In other words, we should hit a PAT the same way that we would a 45 yard field goal. Also, many of us try to kick further than our bodies will allow. As a byproduct, we may develop poor habits by trying to make a 55 yard field goal over and over again. Try to stay away from this trap. However, there is a slight grey area to this point and that is if we are just outside of our comfortable range, but are given the opportunity to attempt the long field goal. We might need to muster up a little more power and leg speed while only minimally sacrificing technique. We still need it to go down the middle, so allow your athleticism and muscle memory take over while still remembering the basics.