Archives For Punt Kicking

Dear Rugby,

You need to stop coaching the way your dad did when it comes to kicking.

If you were a kicker of sorts, I’m sure you’ll remember (as I do!), how much time went into (over)explaining how you should hold or grip a ball before kicking.

Well, I do love my dad, but geez. And we as players didn’t know any better. We just thought we were learning. lol.

Here’s the thing. Even with so much information around these days, coaches still seem, generally speaking, keen to over coach the grip.

“What about all the different kick types?”, I hear you exclaim.

Let’s not miss the point. Although I acknowledge there are numerous kick variations available, I’ll raise you one, in fact.

Every player finds their own (unique) solution to every kick, and the best players are able to adapt to the dynamic nature of a game of rugby.

Watch the video below as I explain why “holding the ball is less important than the eventual quality of contact” when kicking:

By Stuart Lierich

 

On some level, most coaches and players would know and believe this to be the case.

For me, as a professional skills & kicking coach, it’s still common for me to watch players that have a kicking action dominated by their leg swing.

Kicking (distance, accuracy and control) well is about smoothness and control, not raw swinging power.

To kick effectively, from the tee or general play, requires a framework to achieve this.

Think about your favourite half backs, first fives and fullbacks. What about those players stands out to you?

I bet you’re thinking that good kickers are smooth, fluent and their skill appears somewhat effortless. Along those lines, right?

Even though they would all appear to kick with a different ‘style’, it is below the outer layer that a common thread exists.

These are the players that use all of their body to achieve good outcomes (for all kick types). Yes, the leg swing is important, but only one of many ingredients.

But how do they achieve this?

Whole of Body Movement is like imagining that there are several body parts that need to move and rotate when we kick. The more skilled a kicker, the better they’re able to have those body parts move in the most efficient sequence.

In future articles I will investigate and discuss the key ingredients in more detail, but for today let me explain why your players will kick better if you (coach) work on and understand better this “whole of body movement” concept for now: (video below)


 

There are a variety of ways that teams can exit their own half successfully in rugby.

Generally, I suggest having a framework (not set rules) works best and allows players to make the best decisions ‘in the moment’.

The clip below highlights a deep punt style kick from a flyhalf that came from his team winning their own ball off a lineout.

As you will see, he made a lightning quick assessment that there was space deep behind the defence. Still, with pressure approaching fast, he was able to make the kick.

A great case in point here, that not all kicks need to look pretty to get a result.

The key to this was his ability to ‘load up’ quickly, make reasonable contact, yet carry his weight through the ball to achieve the distance and roll.

It’s amazing how often the good players can get a result from kicking ugly.

It may have appeared to look a little lucky, but I can assure you that players that practice under close oncoming pressure like this will make many more ‘lucky’ kicks than those that kick against fresh air.

It was a great option kick, from around the (defensive) 10m line requiring only a 35-40m flight with roll to achieve a result.

If the defence is up then ball flight only needs to clear opposition players then get good shape on the roll..

Watch the clip (20secs) and observe:

* The kicker’s ability to make best use of very little ‘kicking space’ under pressure

* The distance & speed of the flight, and subsequent roll to touch

* The chase back from the green team unable to stop the ball rolling out

And here’s the response in the very next play from the lineout!

So the green team win a free kick from their lineout after the original kick in focus. Watch the fast reaction, quick tap, amount of player traffic and ensuing punt kick to safety (opposition half!)

A great response indeed, and overall, two very well executed kicking plays!

By Stuart Lierich

When it comes to the underrated subject of kicking for touch, I really want you to think about becoming a kicker in control.

What I mean is, a player that is able to quickly asses field location and make a decent kick that crosses the sideline safely, yet for maximum gain.

Every coach and player I know says they want that, yet when it comes to game day with fatigue, scoreboard pressure, peer pressure etc, many kicks fall short when they don’t have to.

Take your current mindset beyond “just get it out” and a whole new world awaits you. (better field position, less tackles/phases, psychological advantage).

Establishing a system, process or framework is essential for you to be effective, and the clip below will outline the importance of:

* Assessing Field Location To Calculate Required Kick Distance/Range

* Body Alignment & Posture

* Kicking Action/Leg Swing and Body Follow Through

The video below appeared on the Rugby World Magazine Website. It received a level of interest I hoped for, yet didn’t expect. Hence I decided to make it available to you, in the event you’ve not seen it:

 

By Stuart Lierich

For an effective kick to the sideline from a penalty or free kick, players must be smooth, fluent, balanced and compact.

In this clip you will see someone I know well, Juan Martin Hernandez, display all of those traits for his kick to touch.

In particular, pay attention to his alignment and posture before and after the kick, as it has quite a story to tell!

 

By Stuart Lierich

Every rugby coach I have ever met tells me they value the importance of good kicking, but only very few really integrate it into their team’s development.

Good kicking finds you opportunities, field position and points, whilst poor execution will cause you to lose ground, possession and matches.

I have, on (too) many occasions, preached to all that kicking to the sideline requires players to have system and process. A framework, if you will, for making maximal gains for their team.

Below is an example of what happens to players on occasions, when no toolbox exists to focus and execute correctly. Whilst this may be a one-off ‘blooper’ style kick, you will only reduce the risk by building a sound routine of: Position Assessment (Field), Alignment & Set Up, Approach & Contact, Landing & Release…

The Little Things are BIG Things, as demonstrated in this short clip below:

 By Stuart Lierich

Of all the kick options & variations available to players, it is without doubt the Spiral Punt that is considered the most risky, yet rewarding if well executed. It is essentially a potent weapon when delivered by a skilled “operator”. This is a follow up article to a recent contribution of mine on the same subject. I have offered you a video below to provide some explanation of my methodology behind the coaching of the Spiral Punt. There is no “Cookie Cutter” approach to developing any kicker’s expertise as every player has differing needs within the process. Use this as a guideline or framework, if you will. This blogpost will serve to present you with another way that is proving successful over the traditional “how to” of Spiral Punting. My process with this kick is essentially an adaption of the Gridiron (NFL) punter technique that I have observed over a few years and made suitable to the match constraints of rugby. You do have an open mind, don’t you?

I invite you to view the video below for a more in depth explanation and demonstration of my spiral punt technique for rugby…

Let’s face it, of the few spirals that are launched in any given match, how many actually gain a win result? (turn inside out and aerodynamically spin correctly, hang time , distance, hit the target area, cause an opposition error)…

Perhaps it’s the lack of quality coaching or instruction on the topic, or just simply that players don’t make enough time to practice it?

Why don’t we see the Spiral more often?

It appears that in many rugby programs I have been involved, the spiral is not a kick type that is coached, and more often than not is discouraged by coaches looking to minimise risk in their game plan. (Not cool).

When it comes to game plan, I believe we should empower our players with all the tools that allow them to make the best decisions in pressure type match situations. So it is with those sentiments that I encourage more coaches and players to embrace the challenge of developing a killer spiral punt. After all, it is a skill like any other, that will improve with time and purposeful practice.

Ingredients for Success…

It is important to establish (very quickly) a position of control for the body. Namely:

  • A rigidity that comes from locking core and bracing body including activation of kicking leg and balanced approach to kick.
  • An alignment to target of hips and shoulders. The support foot (GPS) will establish the impact line at contact.

The Set phase (grip & hold position) is critical in establishing correct angle and height for the ball. In particular:

  • An approximate 40-45 degree angle across kicking foot, held at end by kicking side hand and supported by the other.
  • Kicking hand to be directly straight out from body and at chest height.

The approach phase (in practice) to be off two steps working to deliver power through the ball at contact.

  • Maintain core and leg activation throughout entire kick and follow through to assist transfer of weight.
  • The ball set height remains in position. The action is more like kicking the ball from the hand (driving up and through), than it is winding the ball up and lowering it to the kicking foot.
  • An upright body position and posture should be a focus.

It is critical that the ball is manipulated into the correct position for contact on the foot. The original set position and angle across foot must remain at contact. (You may be surprised to know that there are gridiron punter drills designed to work on set and drop in isolation!) It is much easier, and less risk, to use good foot speed to drive up though a ball “waiting” to be struck than it is to drop to the foot and hope it maintains its position.

  • As depicted in the video, the ideal contact point on the foot is outside and towards the back.
  • As depicted in the video, the ideal contact point on the ball is central and slightly towards the back.

You must FEEL each kick, the quality of contact, ball flight and spin…go to school and use this for your feedback!

The adjustment of weight (power) and driving angle will determine the trajectory and distance of a spiral. Remember the better the quality of spin, the less resistance will be offered by the air it is traveling through., and will most likely travel “nose” first. As with all skills, the player will need plenty of kick volume to get a feel of the body position, ball set and driving technique. Often this is described as the “Ugly Zone” whereby learning takes place. There is no substitute, but I maintain there are terrific rewards for players using this approach. Namely a more secure process that has the body using an efficient system under pressure.

As always, “Smoother, Not Harder”…..


By Stuart Lierich