Winning football games is hard. If you have coached for more than a week you realize how difficult it can be to build a championship program. One of the most overlooked areas of winning programs is special teams. Special teams often go unnoticed until you lose a game because of a special teams mistake.
In many programs special teams are viewed as an inconvenience. Teams have to stop practicing offense and defense to work on special teams. Coaches sit in the office trying to figure out how much time they need to dedicate to special teams each week. They work their special teams hoping to simply survive when they call each unit onto the field.
We have evolved greatly over the last several years. We went from spending very little time on special teams to spending a great deal of time on special teams. As restrictions were placed on practice time, we found we had to be much more efficient with our approach to special teams. We found that we could be very effective dedicating 10 minutes a day to special teams during the season, and 20 minutes a day during camp.
Over the years we have been very successful on special teams, and found there were five keys to being explosive on special teams.
1. Keep Things Simple
The more complex we are, the more time we need to dedicate to special teams. By simplifying our schematics, we are able to be more efficient with our time. Over the years I have also found the more simple we are on special teams, the more explosive we are. We have less busts and more big plays. Our coverage is better on kicks, and our returns our better when our opponent kicks to us. By keeping things simple it is much easier to keep our coaches on the same page.
One example of simplifying things was with our punt team. For years we had four different punt formations. Each formation had different protection calls we had to communicate. This required a lot of practice time. And, we found that we had more busts and it was harder to prepare our two's if we had an injury. When we went to one punt scheme we were able to get more efficient with our practice time, while getting our 1's and 2's plenty of reps.
The numbers showed we were more successful. We improved our net punt average from 31.5 yards to 37 yards, and our punter wasn't as good. The same proved true with each of our units. We found that we were more explosive on our returns, and better in our coverage.
2. Play To Your Strengths
This was vital as early in my career we were stubborn with some things. If we have punter who is not very good, we are going to rugby kick away from the returner. If we have a coverage unit that lacks speed and the ability to tackle in space, we are going to pooch our kickoffs. This shrinks the amount of field we have to cover. If we have a great punt block guy, we are going to feature him in our block calls. We are not going to call a block to a player that is not effective at blocking kicks. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you be more explosive on special teams.
3. Great Preparation
We want to be very well-prepared each week for special teams and what our opponent will do. We break our preparation into two parts. First, we look at their schematics. Second, we look at their personnel. We want to look at how to attack the schemes, and figure out who their best and worst players are. We want to know who they are hiding. Everyone is hiding someone, and we want to find who that player is.
To prepare each week we divide up our responsibilities among our coaching staff. We spend 15 minutes watching opponent special teams film, and then we meet for 15 to 30 minutes talking about what we saw and building our plan for the week. The more coaches we have, the more targeted each coach can be. If have 5 coaches, we might assign each coach one special team to scout. If we have 10 coaches, we might put two coaches on each special team. One coach might look at every punt fake our opponent ran, while a second coach looks at their protection and coverage.
4. Build A Mentality
Building a mentality starts with each coach being all-in on special teams. Coaches must coach special teams with the same detail and enthusiasm that they coach offense and defense. Coaches must know the responsibility of the position they are coaching and the technical details. If everyone on your coaching staff values special teams, your players will as well. If one or two coaches don't coach special teams with enthusiasm, your players will not value special teams.
To build a mentality you must live what you are teaching. We talk about special teams changing games, and we reward great special teams plays. At a couple of programs we called our special teams "special forces," and we equated each unit to military units. We brought in soldiers and veterans to talk about the brotherhood of the military and the value of special forces.
If you want your players to value special teams, you have to value special teams as coaches.
5. Great Tempo
Special teams cannot drag. We want special teams to have great tempo, just like we would on offense and defense. We want to maximize our reps and make sure the 1's and 2's get quality reps. Again, this comes back to coaching. Our coaches must have great passion and enthusiasm and keeps things moving. We want to keep our coaching points to 8 seconds or less between reps.
These five keys have helped us to build explosive special teams that helped us win more games. There is nothing better than being able to change a game with a big special teams play.
To help you with your special teams, I put together an AWESOME special teams download that has EVERYTHING you need to be explosive on special teams and win more games. Here is a screenshot of everything included:
Coaches tell me this is EXACTLY what they have been looking for to improve their special teams. This has everything from video cut-ups to practice footage, to scouting packets, to teaching presentations. If you want to be more explosive on special teams, this is what you need! For a limited time you can use the checkout code "SPECIALS" to get this compete resource for under $15! Click here to order yours today! Special Teams Resource
Here are a couple of additional screenshots!