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Win the Opener: Preseason

Preparation for Special

I t’s a great honor to represent Grand
Forks Central High School and a plea-
sure to share some thoughts in regard to
As coaches, we must sell the attitude that
we expect to block kicks, to score, and to
make big plays on special teams. Although
Teams preseason preparation for special teams. we would literally like to spend one-third of
The AFCA has been a big part of my pro- our practice time on the kicking game, for
fessional life, and I appreciate all of the us that’s unrealistic. Our philosophy is that
positive changes that have taken place it’s more than just time — it’s staff prepara-
within the organization in recent years. tion, it’s meeting time, it’s QUALITY prac-
By North Dakota standards, Grand tice time, and it’s leaving no stone
Forks Central, with an enrollment of 1,300 unturned.
students is a large school. Even though we
typically have 120-130 players involved in Special Teams Staff Organization
the program, it’s always a challenge to find Our staff consists of nine contracted and
quality players for our special teams. two or three volunteer positions for the
Fielding not only the specialists themselves freshman through varsity teams. Individual
(i.e. kickers, punters, long snappers, specialty time is provided during our
returners), but also the players who fill the “Victory Period,” when four of the five var-
other positions on special teams, is at the sity coaches work with specialists in all
top of our priority list. Like many high grades. Victory Period is scheduled early in
schools, we have been forced to occasion - practice, primarily to set the tone and
ally share placekickers with the soccer stress the importance of the kicking game.
team, which leads to creative practice It also gives the varsity coaches a chance
schedules for those kids. With no spring to work with the younger players, if even for
practice, we stress kicking game prepara- a short period of time. The period ends by
tion beginning with the first day on the field bringing the field goal team together for
in the fall. Our feeling is that if it’s a major one attempt with no time outs remaining.
concern and potential problem for us, it has We set the ball down at a spot on the field
to be for our early season opponents as and start a verbal countdown while the
Mike Berg well. It seems that everyone is ready to go team members hustle to get the kick off
offensively and defensively when the sea- before time expires.
Head Coach son begins, and rightfully so with summer
team camps, passing leagues, tourna- Victory Period Assignments
Central High School ments, etc. If there’s an “edge” to be had, Specialists
special teams can be the difference maker Long Snappers: Landry
Grand Forks, N.D. in the opener. As I look back on a long list Punters: Schramm
of openers, I know that too many of them Kickers/Holders: Berg
were lost early in my career due to poor Returners: Bergh
special teams play on our part. We are
determined to have our special teams fully Non-Specialists
prepared for the first kickoff of the year. Frosh/Soph Line: Baker
Varsity Line: Strande
Special Teams Philosophy Backs: Philpot
There is no debate within our staff, the Receivers: Solberg
best players must be on the field for ALL Quarterbacks: Nelson
special teams. This is not the place to give Just as with offensive and defensive
a kid a chance to play. There are very few team periods, varsity kicking game team
situations in football where the ball travels periods are directed by a coordinator. We
as far or the potential for a big play exists have tried other methods, but have found in
as on special teams, and we take no our situation that having a single coordina-
chances in that regard. We make a big deal tor is more effective than assigning certain
about the kicking game, and over the years special teams to various coaches. The
intense competition has developed in order coordinator is responsible for the design
to be on the field for special teams. As one and schemes of the entire kicking game, as
example, the greatest honor on our team is well as goal charts, scouting reports, cut
to be a member of “The Chargers,” our ups, etc.
kickoff unit. Tryouts are held after practice,
competition is fierce, and lightning bolt Varsity Special Teams Position
decals are placed on the back of the hel- Assignments
mets of the 11 players who earn the honor. Coordinator: Landry

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

Kickoff Thursday, August 10 - Day 1 6:30: Field goal/PAT team
Kicker: Landry Morning 6:45: Punt drills
#1 & 3: Bergh Helmets & Shoulder Pads 6:55: Punt team
#2 & 4: Nelson 7:30 a.m.: Meeting: Practice procedures 7:10: Offensive drills
#5: Berg 8:00: Form run - stretch/cal 7:30: Offensive team
Scout Team: Schramm 8:20: Victory Period 7:50: Defensive drills
8:35: Offensive drills 8:00: Defensive team
Kickoff Return 8:55: Defensive drills 8:20: Conditioning
Front: Landry 9:15: Team pursuit drill 8:30: Strength make up
Wings: Schramm 9:25: Break
Backs: Nelson 9:55: Form run - stretch/cal Monday, August 14 - Day 4
Return: Bergh 10:15: Offensive team Full Gear
Scout Team: Berg 10:30: Defensive team 7:30: Meeting
10:45 : Punt team 8:00: Form run - stretch/cal
Field Goal/PAT 11:00: Test: 40 yd dash, 8:20: Tackle circuit
Line: Landry pro agility, bench press 8:30: Victory Period
Wings: Bergh 11:50 : Charger try out 8:40: Kickoff return drills
Ends: Schramm 12:00 : Strength make up 8:50: Kickoff return team
Kicker/Holder: Berg 9:05: Offensive drills
Scout Team: Nelson Afternoon 9:15: Offensive group/team
Helmets & Shoulder Pads 9:55: Break
Punt 5:30 p.m.: Meeting 10:20: Form run/agility
Line: Landry 6:00: Form run- stretch/cal- 10:25: Defensive drills
Arrows: Berg Victory Period 10:35: Defensive group/team
Backs: Nelson 6:30: Field goal/PAT team 11:15: Mini football
Punter: Schramm 6:40: Kick block team 11:35: Conditioning
Scout Team: Bergh 6:50: Offensive drills 11:45: Team strength: manual resistance
7:00: Offensive team 12:00: Charger try out
Punt Return 7:35: Defensive drills
Front: Landry 7:45: Defensive team Afternoon
Ends: Nelson 8:20: Conditioning Helmets & Shoulder Pads
Cornerbacks: Schramm 8:30: Strength make up 5:30 p.m.: Meeting
Return: Bergh 6:00: Form run-stretch/cal-
Scout Team: Berg Friday, August 11 - Day 2 Victory Period
Morning 6:00: Form run-stretch/cal-
Special Teams Preseason Helmets & Shoulder Pads Victory Period
Practice Organization 7:30 a.m.: Meeting 6:30: Field goal/PAT team
Our preseason schedule consists of 8:00: Form run - stretch/cal 6:40: Punt team
three days of helmets and shoulder pads, 8:20: Introduce tackle circuit 6:55: Defensive drills
generally followed by two weeks of practice 8:35: Victory Period 7:10: Defensive team
before the first game. Depending upon 8:50: Defensive drills 7:35: Offensive drills
school orientation, class starting date, etc., 9:05: Defensive group/team 7:50: Offensive team
the varsity practice schedule looks like this: 9:40: Break 8:15: Conditioning
Day 1-5: 8 a.m.-noon and 6-8:30 p.m. 10:05: Form run/agility 8:25: Strength make up
Day 6-9: 8 am - noon 10:10: Offensive drills
Day 10-13: 6 - 8:30 pm 10:25: Offensive group/team Pre-Season Checklist
We are able to devote more time to 11:00: Punt return drills Is there a more important game than the
special teams during preseason than once 11:10: Punt return opener, particularly in high school football?
school begins, and we make every effort 11:25: Conditioning Considering the off-season demands made
to do so. Listed below are schedules for 11:35: Team strength — on football players, and the relatively small
the first two days of practice, as well as Manual resistance number of games compared to other
the first day in full gear. The coaches work 11:50: Charger try out sports, the opener often sets the tone for
on both sides of the ball, as do most play- 12:00: Test make up the entire season. Because we are not
ers, so we are forced to make time for allowed to scrimmage other schools, the
offense, defense, and special teams daily. Afternoon first time we step on the field, it’s for real.
Note the time devoted to special teams — Helmets & Shoulder Pads We can’t afford to leave anything to
every day of preseason practice will 5:30 p.m.: Meeting chance, and if we are going to lose the first
include similar amounts of time for the 6:00: Form run- stretch/cal — game, it won’t be due to lack of prepara-
kicking game. Victory Period tion. The worst thing that could happen

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

would be to let one get away because of a Special Situations We spend considerable time practicing our
situation which we were unprepared for. I ___ kick block - edge edge and middle blocks. Although simple in
once spoke at a clinic about preseason ___ kick block - middle design, they have been quite successful.
preparation and was told by a coach that ___ questionable kick
Diagram 1: Edge Block Right
there was no way they could prepare ___ special formation adjust
everything for the opening game. My ___ substitution procedure
response was, “How can you not?” The fol- ___ time out procedure
lowing chart is our pre-season checklist for ___ pre game
special teams, and is very similar to our ___ halftime warm up
offensive and defensive charts. It is the ___ sideline procedure
coordinator’s responsibility to see that we ___ net procedure
are adequately prepared for every situation
which appears. Punt Return
___ hammer Edge Block Right
Kickoff ___ 10 up middle Right C: Align on line of scrimmage,
___ deep middle ___ twins middle attack one yard in front of holder, you are
___ deep corner ___ inside 10 yd line the block man.
___ squib ___ short punt Left C: Align on line of scrimmage, man
___ pooch ___ fair catch coverage on up-back.
___ onside - shift ___ defend fake S: Align three yards deep, head up on
___ onside - angle ___ bad snap up-back, man coverage.
___ onside - middle ___ 10 up block F: Align three yards deep on tight end,
___ after safety ___ special block head up, man coverage.
___ last chance block Right E: Align head up on tight end,
Kickoff Return drive him down into C gap.
___ wedge We’ve been at this long enough to know Left E: Align on outside shoulder of tight
___ vertical better, but still take for granted that kids end, you are the recovery man.
___ wall know things which we think are obvious — Rip: Align head up on up-back, attack
___ cross and find out that they don’t know them at his inside shoulder.
___ hashmark kick all! As an answer, we have developed a list Liz: Align in C gap on block side, attack
___ unbalanced kick of critical reminders and coaching points for the holder.
___ onside each special team. Although the list is post- ST: Align in B gap on block side, attack
___ squib ed along with other kicking game informa- the holder.
___ pooch tion, it is important to cover the “obvious” T & N: Align in A gaps, attack the holder.
___ protect things in meetings. Fair catch rules, live
Diagram 2: Middle Block
___ after safety ball/dead ball, when to handle punts, block-
ing behind a play, etc., are typical of the
Punt kinds of things that can end up getting you
___ spread beat because they simply weren’t covered.
___ tight The bottom line is that we can’t expect kids
___ uncovered to know anything unless it’s been taught.
___ Fire call
___ react to block Regular Season Practice Schedule
___ react to fair catch Although the focus of this article is on
___ freeze preseason special teams preparation, Middle Block
___ from end zone emphasis on the kicking game remains Right C: Align on line of scrimmage,
___ take penalty high during the regular season as well. outside shoulder of upback, you are block
___ all fakes Time devoted to the special teams during a man.
___ take safety typical week would look like this: Left C: Align on line of scrimmage, out-
___ Gopher punt Monday: 20 min. of special teams drills. side shoulder of upback, you are recovery
Tues./Wed.: 15 min. of Victory Period man.
Field Goal/PAT and 20 min. of team period. S & F: Align head up on upbacks, man
___ normal kick Thursday: 20 min. of special teams coverage.
___ no time outs script. Defensive Ends: Align head up on tight
___ take penalty ends, man coverage.
___ Fire call Kick Blocks Rip & Liz: Align in A gaps, attack the
___ react to block Between extra point and field goal holder.
___ all fakes attempts, the kick block team will likely have Tackles: Align head up on guards and
___ free kick a number of opportunities to get on the field. drive them to B gap.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •

Nose: Align head up on center, let him 4. Staff size. updated depth charts and scout teams
snap and get his head up, drive straight back. These issues can be adequately dealt daily.
with if the staff places special teams at the 4. Use a checklist that contains every
Conclusion top of the priority list. We certainly don’t situation your team is likely to face.
Preparing special teams in high school have all of the answers, but feel that the fol- 5. Create an environment where there is
requires coaches to deal with situations not lowing points are essential in preparing competition to be on special teams.
always associated with college football. special teams to be the difference maker: 6. Make special teams special.
1. The time element. 1. Keep the best players on the field — I would like to thank the AFCA for the
2. The necessity of organizing practices find another place to be a nice guy. opportunity to contribute to the Summer
for two-way players. 2. Practice must include special team M a n u a l, and hope that I’ve provided
3. Sharing specialists with other sports position drills, not just team periods. information that can be useful to some
during the season. 3. Avoid wasting practice time, post degree.

Tentative Schedule of Major Events

79th AFCA Convention • January 6-9, 2002
San Antonio Texas
8 a.m.: Registration/Exhibit Hall opens
8 a.m.: Junior College Program
8 a.m.: High School Program
9 a.m.: Football Operations Meeting
10 a.m.: College Assistant Coaches Enrichment Session
11:30 a.m.: AFCA Kickoff Luncheon
2:30 p.m.: Grant Teaff, Director’s Report to Membership
3:15 p.m.: Coach TBA
4:30 p.m.: The Master Coach
6 p.m.: Assistant Coaches Business Sessions
7:30 p.m.: AFCA Tailgate Party

Tuesday, January 8
7 a.m.: Club 35 Breakfast & Meeting
8 a.m.: Registration/Exhibit Hall opens
8 a.m.: Coach TBA
8 a.m.: Coach TBA
8 a.m.: PDS Breakout Sessions
9:10 a.m.: Coach TBA
9:10 a.m.: Coach TBA
9:10 a.m.: PDS Breakout Sessions
10:20 a.m.: Coach TBA
Noon: Sears/AFCA Awards Luncheon
3 p.m.: Coach TBA
4:10 p.m.: Coach T B AT B A
Sunday, January 6 6:15 p.m.: AFCA Coach of the Year Reception
All Day: Committee Meetings 7:30 p.m.: AFCA Coach of the Year Banquet
9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Registration
Non-NCAA Coaches only Wednesday, January 9
2 p.m.: NAIA Business Meetings 7 a.m.: FCA Breakfast
4 p.m.: NCAA Division Business Meetings 8 a.m.: Registration/Exhibit Hall opens
4 p.m.: High School and JUCO Forums 8:45 a.m.: Chalk Talks (Off., Def., ST)
6 p.m.: “Buzz Sessions” 10:15 a.m.: Chalk Talks (Off., Def., ST)
7:30 p.m.: Assistant Coach of the Year Technique Clinic Noon: Division I Recruiting Seminar & Luncheon
9:30 p.m.: BCA Meeting Noon: I-A Legislative Committee Meeting
1 p.m.: All-Division Head Coaches Meeting
Monday, January 7 3 p.m.: I-A Head Coaches’ Meeting
7 a.m.: President’s Breakfast

Make Plans Now to Attend the 2002 A F C A C o n v e n t i o n

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •
American Football Coaches Association
Code of Ethics Summary
“The ultimate success of the principles and
standards of this Code depends on those for
whom it has been established — the football coaches.”
Ever since the AFCA adopted its first formal Code of “PURPOSE: The Code of Ethics has been devel-
Ethics in 1952, the organization has had a keen oped to protect and promote the best interests of the
awareness of its importance and has done all in its game and the coaching profession. Its primary pur-
power to keep the public aware of the AFCA’s con- pose is to clarify and distinguish ethical and
cern with morality and integrity. approved professional practices from those consid-
ered detrimental.
A complete copy of the Code of Ethics is sent to
every member.Vital tenets include: “Its secondary purpose is to emphasize the purpose
and value of football and to stress the proper func-
“PREAMBLE: The distinguishing characteristic of a tions of coaches in relation to schools, players and
profession is its dedication to the service of humanity. the public.”

“Those who select football coaching must under- The AFCA Code of Ethics deals at length with the
stand that the justification for football lies in its spiri- following subject areas:
tual and physical values and that the game belongs,
essentially, to the players. Article One: Responsibilities to players

“The welfare of the game depends on how the Article Two: Responsibilities to the institution
coaches live up to the spirit and letter of ethical con-
duct and how the coaches remain ever mindful of Article Three: Rules of the game
the high trust and confidence placed in them by their
players and the public. Article Four: Officials

“Coaches unwilling or unable to comply with the princi- Article Five: Public Relations
ples of the Code have no place in the profession...
Article Six: Scouting
“The Code should be studied regularly by all coach-
es and its principles should always be followed. Article Seven: Recruiting
Violations of the Code should be reported to the
Ethics Committee.” Article Eight: Game day and other responsibilities

Article Nine: Acceptance of all-star assignments and

other all-star coaching honors

Be A Responsible Member Of
The Football Coaching Profession
Follow The AFCA Code Of Ethics

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2001 •