Youth Football Kickoff Special Teams 3 Proven Onside Kicks

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youth football kickoff special teams

In this Special Teams blog post we will discuss Youth Football Kickoff Special Teams and Coach Parker’s 3 Proven Onside Kicks youth kick plays Opie, Reggie and Mickey Mouse. These onside kick strategies have been very effective over the last 10 youth football seasons. Special Teams is very important in youth football and too many inexperienced coaches ignore the third phase of football; Offense, Defense and Special Teams.

I was talking on the phone to another youth football coach from Florida that had just bought some of my playbooks and we got to talking about football. Special Teams came up and what I do on Kickoffs and Onside Kicking. He said his youth football little league does not onside kick much. I told him we try to average 1 kickoff recovery a game in a season. He was shocked that we could pull this off. He requested a video on what we do on youth football kickoff special teams.

Youth Football Kickoff Special Teams

Let’s get right in my youth football kickoff special teams onside kicking game. The following kickoff / onside kick strategy is how I’ve looked at the onside kicking game for many years now. I’ve been a big proponent of onside kicks at the youth level, especially for pee wee teams 10 years and younger and for recreational little leagues 12U because it’s just very effective at younger age and inexperience levels football.

Onside Kicks

  • Very Effective in Pee Wee Football
    • Especially younger 7,8,9,10 year olds
    • Many coaches hide weak players on Special Teams
    • Find the weakest link, usually a front line linemen with no hands
    • Take advantage first few games of the season with coaches who have not practiced SPTs
  • Try to Average 1 Onside Kick Recovery per Game
    • Reward stickers for the recoveries make it a priority and Goal!
    • Huge advantage and will win many games for you
  • Must Practice Every Practice
    • Kicks – Pre Practice 10 to 20 minutes
    • Full Team – Special Teams Break Outs 15-30 Minutes weekly
    • Dedicated coach that works with Kicker at Pre Practice
  • Formation and Players are keys to the Success
    • Use best starters in key positions to execute the onside kick formation
  • Hardly ever kick deep too risky and results usually around 50 yard line if not a TD return

To be honest onside kicks are safer at most youth football levels; Travel / Select and recreational. Kicking deep usually will end up in disaster unless you have a skilled kicking team with great open field tacklers and a kicker who can hit the end zone. For me, I seldom have all those special teams kick off components.

Youth Football Onside Kicks in Special Teams Video

If you would rather watch the video on onside kicks, watch it below or keep reading.

Why is onside kicking so effective? Many youth football coaches will hide weak players on their Special Teams squads. This is a common practice in recreational leagues with minimum player play rules. Many inexperienced coaches will not focus on special teams or not even practice special teams for maybe the first two games because they are trying to install their offense.

Many rookie Special Team coaches will put flat footed big lineman with the worst hands on their football team on the front line of the kick return team. Unknowing what is about to happen with onside kicks in youth football. Many times, this poor unskilled lineman has never been taught what to do if the football is kick to them in a game.

Many youth football teams with experienced Special Teams play can usually average one onside kick recovery a game for the first 3 or 4 games because many teams probably haven’t practiced or made changes to their kick return squads before playing your experienced onside kicking squad. You can certainly take advantage of a few teams as they learn what your onside kicking squad is doing. Youth football kickoff Special teams will win a few games for you that you were not suppose to win.

We have had seasons were we did not focus on Special Teams like we should have done. Several years ago we assigned a coach to Special Teams that really thought he was to good to coach Special Teams and did not put the proper focus to the squad. We did not average many onside kick recoveries that season. The next season I took back Special Teams and we were back into the recoveries. Moral of the story, focus on Special Teams with a committed Special Teams coach. Many NFL Hall of Fame Coaches swear by Special Teams play.

I think three or four times, we have had games were we recovered two onside kicks in the first half and the opposing team touched the football 4 plays. This is demoralizing to an opponent, almost like my favorite offensive play the Beast Wedge.

I have been lucky with drafting Select soccer players for my kickers. Getting a great kicker helps with kickoffs and extra point / PATs. You can tell the experienced youth football coaches in your youth football league by the ones that have soccer players as their kickers. Huge advantage on youth football kickoff special teams.

Sometimes you get lucky with a pee wee player that has a knack for onside kicks. Let everyone try out to be the kicker and find your onside kicker. I have found several diamonds in the rough and found my crazy footed kicker. In the end, good onside kicks comes down to practicing these funny kicks at every pre-practice. Make sure to have a dedicated Special Teams coach that can work with your kickers on distance, different kicks, what to look for on the kick return team etc. Kicking onside kicks is like chipping in Golf. Practice, practice, practice.

Once again, I hardly ever kick deep because I think it is too risky to kick the football to a tier 1 or tier 2 tailback in open field on kickoff return. Many good kick returners will shred a youth football kickoff team. Most youth football teams do not have the skill level to effectively defend this open field threat in my opinion. Most of the time when I kick deep or see others, the kick returner will either score or be tackled around the 50 yard line. Many times, our onside kicks will result in the football recovered around the 50 either by us or the opposing team. Works out perfectly most times.

Here are some on my youth football kickoff special teams onside kick strategies and philosophies. I am not going to review everything here, but these are some kickoff schemes that I have used on youth football special teams onside kickoff since 2011 or so.

Onside Kick Alignments

  • Reggie
  • Opie
  • Mickey Mouse
youth football onside kicks special teams

Our main youth football kickoff special teams’ alignment for onside kicks we call Reggie, which stands for regular and means we are kicking to our sidelines. Mickey Mouse means we are kicking to the middle field, and Opie means we are kicking to the opposing sideline. You can see those kickoff alignments in the diagram at the top of page or in the video above.

We have a kick side and a off-side in our youth football kickoff special teams onside kick alignment. The Offside is mainly good open field tacklers in case the kick returner breaks out of the half box we are trying to contain the football into. The Kickside is made up of my skill players and the main two headhunters. These headhunters are the main players that move in the alignment calls, unless I have called the play before the kickoff set or I call a quick shift.

Onside Kick Length

  • Deep
  • Short
  • Medium
  • First Base
  • Second Base
  • Third Base
  • EZ

The lengths of our kicks vary but we kick short or to “second base” which is the second line or “easy” which is at the front line to the second line. We like to onside kick to a triangle area from font line to second line on either sideline of the field and or a specific player or we will kick to a box on the middle front line which is the Mickey Mouse kick area. This is specialized lengths in the youth football kickoff special teams onside kick strategies.

onside kick alignments special teams kickoff

Kickoff Directions

  • Flag
  • Post
  • Triangle
  • XX
  • Box

The Flag direction is in blue above and is deeper than our normal kick. Post is a deep kick if no one is back and or in the middle. Then Triangle is the area we most try to hit. We will also kick at a player XX and or kick to the empty Box in the middle in front of the kicker. These are our youth football kickoff special teams kickoff directions.

I like to kick the football at the feet of youth football players and make them field a ground ball. Bending over with coordination is very difficult for many kids, especially big linemen. We also have a sky ball kick which we call mortar which is like a high punt. Another difficult height to deal with for pee wee football players. Once again, like a golfer, your kicker should have different clubs for different situations. Practice these kicks in your youth football kickoff special teams practice periods or pre practice.

Height of Kickoff

  • Grounder
  • Feet
  • Chest
  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Head
  • Sky

The Grounder kick is just as it seems a kick that stays on the ground. And then we may kick a line drive at a certain players feet, head, chest, knees or ankles. Or as mentioned above we may kick a high Sky ball which is hard to catch. These are all great things to learn in youth football kickoff special teams onside kick skills.

Types of Kicks Calls

  • Regular Tee
  • Mortar
  • Jump Ball
  • Pooch no Tee
  • Line Drive
  • Spinner no tee
  • Field Goal
  • Softball
  • Squib
  • Dealers Choice

The type of onside kicks and kicks we use may sound a lot to many coaches but works out great for us over the years. A regular tee is is just that. We are going to use a tee and just kick the football to the kick area called. In the Mortar kick will be high like a punt of field goal. The Jump Ball kick will be the traditional end over onside kick style that takes the high hop at the front line. The Spinner kick is similar to the NFL kick everyone was up in arms about where the football curls into the front line.

Field Goal kick is a deep mortar kick. The softball kick is a soft in the air low kick below the chest. Squib is the kickers best weird kick that does crazy things. And Dealers Choice we allow the kicker to choose his style for that kick. I left the pooch no tee kick for last. This is my favorite kick. The football is usually turned sideways and just pushed by the toes, almost like a knuckle ball. Pretty cool youth football kickoff special teams onside kick styles.

As you can see, the onside kick for youth football kickoff special teams is not just about lining up in an onside kick formation. If you focus on the special teams play you will become very effective at recovering onside kicks. And that is a huge advantage in youth football.

I know that was kind of fast and furious. This is a lot of onside kick Special Teams information. I hope you guys enjoyed the blog post on youth football kickoff special teams onside kicks. Watch the video above for more info. Or contact me anytime.

Do you run onside kick on Special Teams kickoffs on your youth football team? Did you find something new on kickoffs? If not let me know what you would like to see next in Special Teams series at

Please leave me a comment below or contact me anytime. I love talking youth football and coaching youth football kickoff special teams.

Remember to Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!
Coach Parker
Fort Worth, Texas / Keller / N Fort Worth

PS: Stay Safe and remember we are all on the same team in the end. Be Nice.

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