3 Tips to Create Special Teams Buy-In

Oct 7, 2012 | Special Teams

by Abe Mikell

Assistant Football Coach

Stuarts Draft High School (VA)

A while back, I was talking with a fellow special teams coach about his team and he mentioned that he was having trouble getting buy in from his kids and his fellow coaches.  The more I thought about it and the more gamefilm I watched, I realized that this problem is probably much more common than many of us "special teams nuts" might want to admit.  With that in mind, I compiled a few tips to help you super charge your special teams by increasing "buy in."

Tip #1:  Involve All Coaches

First and foremost, your head coach needs to take an active role in coaching special teams. He sets the tone for the team so his involvement and energy are a must and show his support for what you are teaching.  Our head coach runs most of the scout teams, except for scout kick off, because he has a position to coach on kick off return. Our scout teams work well. It may be that he can motivate them to try hard simply because he is the head coach.

With the head coach on board, you can now delegate position coaching responsibilities to each additional coach.  During the preseason, they are responsible for teaching the technique that their position will use to execute their assignment. During preseason camp we work 1-2 phases a day and the coach will get 5-7 minutes with their positions. We will also do circuits to work on specific phases and skills, and the coaches are responsible for stations in the circuit. We have 6 coaches on staff, and 4 are used on each special teams except for kickoff, and then everyone is used except to head coach. He has scout kick off return.

I am the coordinator, which means that I design and teach the schemes to the players and coaches. I am also responsible for creating the scouting report during the season and planning how to use the time for special teams during the practice day. I also adjust the depth charts during the games and for the upcoming week based on input from the "position" coaches.

Tip #2:  Manage Your Player/Personnel

Many teams treat special teams far differently than their offense and defense.  They post depth for O and D and give detailed scouting reports but then give the bare minimum when it comes to special teams.  By using this method, you are creating the perception that special teams are not that important and that they don't deserve that much time and focus.

We counter this perception intentionally through the way we communicate and manage our players/ST personnel.  We usually have a relatively small squad, but one of the most beneficial things that we have done is to create a special teams practice squad. We use this much more in the early part of the year and in preseason. For each team, I have a 2 deep depth chart and a scout team. Ideally, it would work like this: The starters on punt would be your scout team punt, unless they are on the 2 deep for punt return. Your starters on punt return and your scout punt return unless they are on the 2 deep.

The guys that are left over go with the coaches who don’t have a position responsibility. They can work on whatever they want, football skills, whatever. Most of the time these guys will be your offensive line. The only special teams most of them will be on is PAT/FG.  By working them during special teams time, we are making sure that players don't see special teams reps as an opportunity for a long break on the sidelines.  This encourages participation across the board.

If your personnel are not getting it done, fire them. I feel like I prep our kids well. This year, I post the weekly scouting report and depth charts for the team to read on a board in the locker room. It is their responsibility to see and read it, especially the depth/personnel. I still go over and communicate any changes, but this way they get it more than once.

By the way most of our subs this late in the season have played on that special teams at some point in the year, they made a shift up or down the depth for one reason or another, usually injury.

Tip #3:  Practice Plan for Success

I think you need 15-20 min a day, period. Early in the year, our head coach was forgetting to give any time on Mondays to special teams. It showed in our production. We sucked the 1st couple of games, and he knew it. He gave the time back. Be organized in your time. Try to get as much done in your time as you can, but still be clear in your communication, don’t rush too much. During the season, here is our schedule.

Monday: 10 min punt/10 min punt return. On each, I go over the game plan and adjustments for 3-5 min then 5 min or so of team reps. Half are live and ½ are 15 yd cover or punt blocks. I try to get subs in, but it doesn’t happen much. Punt Block time is diminishing due to a small, but helpful adjustment I made. The defense is our punt return, but we will sub in 3 defensive line to get speed/fresh legs on the field.

Here is how we manage our time to ensure we are prepared for gameday:

Tuesday: 4 reps punt, 8-10 min KO, 7-8 min KO Return. Punt reps and fast and rapid. This week we had to work on getting on the field and executing a punt in under 17 secs including shifts and motion. KO: 3-4 min review and scout then ½ the reps are to15 yard coverage, then ½ are full speed. KO Return: 3-4 min review and scout then ½ the reps are to contact, then ½ are full speed.