The Onside Kick in Youth Football

In 2006 when I started coaching tackle youth football again, the leagues coaching coordinator was very big on kicking onside kicks.  That was his thing.  To be honest, onside kicking every kick did not work out for us.  Sure we picked a few turnovers, but the majority of time we gave the other team 7 to 12 yards on our kick off.

In 2007 we started kicking just over the head of the 1st line of the kick return team and try to have the ball bounce before the second line of returners.  This short kick off worked better for us.  We recovered about the same number of kicks and most of the time, the returner at the second line just fell on the ball.  We would pick up about 7 yards a kick vs our old onside kick.  I cringed a few times when our kicker kicked the ball a little hard and it drifted into the “real” returners hands. 

This year, I am going to continue with the short kick focused on the second line of returners.  What have you had success with on youth football kickoffs?

Good Luck this season.  Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!

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10 Comments

Filed under Special Teams

10 responses to “The Onside Kick in Youth Football

  1. Dan Szepesi

    Interesting to see your post. Just about every Bantam team that we played over the last year did onside kicks. I thought it was somewhat unsportsmanlike and really wasnt teaching the boys anything. Isnt it better to kick it longer and have your boys learn to cover kickoff returns instead of going for the cheap turnover?

  2. I don’t know if a turnover from an onside kick is cheap or unsportsman like. It is part of football, especially at the youth level. I’ll take cheap, lucky or skill driven turnovers anytime.

    Kicking the ball deep is very dangerous in youth football. I do not recommend kicking the ball deep unless you have a great kick return team with great open field tacklers. At the youth level, I don’t see the skill or talent.

    I love when the opposing team kicks deep, we usually get a big return.

  3. Dan Szepesi

    Well, deep is relative – this is bantam that I am talking about.

    I hear what you are saying, it just felt cheap to me.

  4. JUAN TURCIOS

    FOR THE LAST 6 SEASONS WE HAVE KICKED IT ONSIDES AND HAVE HAD GOOD RESULTS ESPECIALLY WHEN SCORING A TOUCHDOWN THE TEAM HASN’T REALLY GATHERED THEMSELVES AND NOW TO RECOVER THE ONSIDES WILL REALLY GET TO THEM, WE AS COACHES DO WANT TO WIN RIGHT??

  5. Ben Staley

    We have been kicking off from the hash, the targeted landing spot is just behind or even with the second line of returners and close to the sideline. We try to have 2 kickers, one for the short side and one for the long side. We call the side with a hand signal determined by the alignment of the receive teams
    personnel. We put our speed players evenly divided per side on the outsides.
    We recover more of these kicks then most teams that onside kick every time.
    In 31 seasons we have given up 2 kick off TD’s. Have used this kick off tech
    in all youth league age groups. Coach Ben

  6. Coach Chris

    We have actually tried all three approached, and went in an opposite direction. We have our speed players lined up on each side of the kicker. The kicker kicks the ball VERY HARD, at the top of the ball, in a straight line. It will normally come to hard for the first line to handle, bouncing between the front and second lines. Our kickoff team aligns 10 yards deep from the ball, the kicker 4 yards deep. They leave at a full sprint on the kickers forward motion. We are recovering at roughly a 60% clip in this formation.

  7. Pat

    Some coaches would rather “teach” their kids a bastardized form of the game because it is too hard to COACH their players in the proper fundamentals of special teams. I have seen teams up by 30 points continually onside kicking. To me, this is unsportsmanlike. It is more about the coaches ego than anything else.

    • Unfortunately you are wrong about the onside kick or shirt kick. Many youth football coached have limited practice time, so special teams does not get the focus it probably deserves but that’s just how it is. We spend most of our time on offense and defense blocking and tackling not running kick off lanes and zones, since kick off maybe 2/75 plays a game. Plus kicking deep in youth football to a few stud running backs opens up the field. Open field tackling is very difficult for youth football players so the risk to kick deep and a return for a TD is pretty big. A kick return for a TD is a big momentum change in a game similar to a pick 6. Kicking short or onside allows your team to control ball position on the field. Usually when you see a youth football team kick deep the return is back to the 40 or 50 yard line which is very close to an onside kick field position anyway without the risk. The bastardization of the game is the opponent that does not know a team onside kicks and lets us get the onside kick the majority of times. We have a hands team for onside kicks and a triple trap blocking scheme for long kicks. Just my two cents, but I have been coaching youth football under 7th grade level for almost 20 years. How long have you coached youth football?

      • Coach'De Terry

        I’ve been coaching youth football under 7th grade for 14 years now. And I must say, the excessive onside kick is pretty terrible and cheesy when you as a head coach bank on the fact that you are capitalizing on the inadequacies of the age group.That’s my personal opinion. For coaches that do, more power to you. Do what you have to do. For coaches that don’t like it, I say better prepare for it. Last season my squad played a championship game against an opponent that kicked the onside kick EVERY TIME they kicked. Even after retrieving it consecutively and scoring. Yea, I felt like it was a pretty cheesy but in the end, my boys should have executed a bit better. I’ll never resort to such tactics myself. Come on coach…COACH.

      • Ya, I thought it was cheesy at first many years ago but most of the winning teams do it, so I went to using it too. We pretty much only kick onsides now. That’s youth football. Youre not coaching in college or the NFL. You must adjust your coaching to your age group. Its just like Little League baseball were teams steal a ton of bases. We have 2 days of practice a week to coach not five so we coach what we can that works for our team. Give me 5 days and a Select team and I can coach Kick Off and Kick Return Teams. Look you can be stubborn or learn to coach youth football. I am coaching youth football not HS or the NFL. Thanks for your comments.

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