By Coach Tom Yashinsky - @tyash42
Head Football Coach
Onalaska High School (WI)
Editor’s Note: Tom Yashinsky is the head coach at Onalaska High School in Onalaska WI. He has just completed his 2nd year as head coach. He was an offensive assistant on staff for four years prior to being named head coach. He coached at University of Wisconsin La Crosse as a student assistant and at Ben Eielson Jr.-Sr. High in Alaska before moving to Onalaska.
As coaches we are always looking to find an advantage in some facet of the game. We try to find a spot that our opponent doesn’t spend as much time and take advantage of that. For us, that advantage has come on special teams. We haven’t consistently had as much talent as other teams in our conference so we need to find a way to steal points and possessions whenever we can. One way we do that is pressuring and blocking kicks.
I am fortunate enough to have a coach on my staff that is as passionate about Special Teams as I am. Lewie Parish is my defensive backs coach and between the two of us we are always finding ways to take advantage of special teams mismatches. We probably scout special teams more than most teams do. I haven’t been coaching for as long as most, but in my six years at Onalaska we have never lost a game in which we have blocked a kick. Usually a blocked kick is a huge turning point in a game for us. I don’t have the statistics of what percentage of teams blocking a kick win games but I will tell you that if you look at some major upsets in college football history you will see that the winning team blocked a kick.
The first thing that we do is teach our kids the rules of the kicking game.
- There is no roughing the kicker on a deflected ball.
- Any deflected ball that goes past the line of scrimmage is the same as a normal punt- STAY AWAY!
- You cannot hit the snapper on any kicking play.
- NEVER fall on a blocked kick behind the line of scrimmage. This is a free opportunity to score. They have at least 7 guys running away from the ball and it is 10 yards in their backfield, scoop and score. Only time you will fall on a blocked kick is in the end zone.
Philosophy of Blocking Kicks
- Get a block or alter a kick. If they know you are bringing pressure they will rush their snap and kick. Force errors by applying pressure, or the image of pressure.
- There is not enough time in the week to work on both blocking kicks and returning kicks, and be good at both of them. We choose to go after kicks because in our conference we don’t consistently see punts that we can set up returns on.
- The most we can bring is 8 guys. 1 Return man, 2 guys covering gunners. We will line up all 8 guys with hands down and show pressure. Even if we don’t bring all 8 give the illusion that we are. Don’t tip hand.
- Our fastest, most aggressive fearless guys will be the front 8. We do not use any Offensive or Defensive lineman on special teams (outside of PAT teams). We want our most athletic kids on the field.
- We rep our “Thump thump drill” once a week. If a kid won’t block a punt in that drill they won’t in a game and won’t be on this team. . Find out who your fearless kids are.