Seventeen Tips to Improve American Football – Tip #10

Tip #10 – Eliminate Deep Kickoffs at the Youth and lower levels of High School Football.

This single play requires twenty-one players (only one player receives the ball) to sprint for more than 20 yards, building speed and running as hard as they can into the opposing player to block him, run through the block, or crush the man with the ball. The risk of serious injury—and specifically head injury—on this single play is just not worth it.

Most deep kickoffs at the youth and lower levels of high school are sloppy plays in any case, either because the kicker can’t kick the ball far enough or the player receiving the ball (usually the fastest and best athlete on the team) has so much room that he runs it back for a large gain or touchdown as the other players pointlessly slam into one another. By simply placing the ball on the 30-yard line at the beginning of each half and after scores, we can prevent a number of serious and pointless injuries without any impact on the quality of the game.    

In fact, I believe that the quality of the game would improve in the absence of this play. It would force offenses to be more disciplined and patient as they would need to drive 70 yards for a score more frequently. And, since the coaches wouldn’t have to spend time preparing for this play, they could use that time on better offensive or defensive execution, skill development, safer tackling, and game planning. Many high school teams have already recognized that kicking a deep, floating ball to the other team’s best athlete in the middle of the field isn’t a very good idea, and have resorted to squib kicking it or simply kicking it out of bounds. The next step is fully eliminating the play.

Even the NFL has recognized that the kickoff is responsible for a disproportionate number of injures and has moved up the kickoff line by 5 yards. The result is that now only about half of all kickoffs are actually run back. The rest simply go through the end zone and result in a touchback. Let’s do away with this play, prevent some injuries, and spend our time on more productive and enjoyable aspects of the game.   

For more information and suggestions on how to improve both the sport and culture of American Football, check out our book Tackling Dummies, Playing Amateur Football Smarter!

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