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More Data on Onside Kicks in Youth Football

More Data on Onside Kicks When Coaching Youth Footballdrill-kickoff-return


Onside kicks are often the difference between average teams and good teams in youth football. They are especially important when your team is less talented than those in your league.


Why Onside Kicks?


I’ve been a firm believer in onside kicks for the last 11 seasons for a variety of reasons.


#1) Why put the ball in the hands of the other teams best player in space. Why do exactly what the opposing team wants you to do?


#2) In 11 seasons of using the onside kick nearly every time ( until we are up by 3 scores then we kick deep) we have not had an onside kick returned for a touchdown.


#3) We have also been fairly adept at recovering onside kicks, recovering anywhere from 12%-33% of those kicks with our first team over the past 11 seasons.


Last weekend at the LA clinic a  youth coach from Yorba Linda California shared with me his teams onside kick experience from last season. His age 10-11 team was down 32-6 at the half and had to kick-off to start the second half. They onside kicked and recovered, then went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing offensive drive. They repeated this same picture 3 more times in a row to pull out an amazing 34-32 win, now that’s coaching.


No Better Way to Turn Games Around


There is simply no way they could have turned the game around had they not executed their onside kicks to perfection. This coach told me that like my teams, they only practiced the onside kick and they put a lot of time into perfecting it. It wasn’t one of many kicks they practiced it was the ONLY kick they practiced. We do the same thing and simply don’t bother spending valuable practice time on deep kicks. The only time we kick deep is when we are up by 3 scores, at that point we let anyone kick and just instruct them to kick it as hard as they can. At that point in the game we don’t really care if the opponent gets good field position.


Most youth football coaches don’t fully recognize the value of onside kicks and the value of denying the opposition the football. Another huge benefit is the change in momentum and psychological edge a team has over an opponent whose offense is sitting on the bench. After an onside kick recovery or two the other team often has a “defeated” attitude, you can see it in their faces and demeanor.


Game Over


In many games my personal team has scored a touchdown on the opening drive, onside kicked and scored again before our opponent has even touched the ball for a single play on offense. The game in essence is usually over at that point.


I’m always willing to give up the delta of 10-15 yards of field position for the safety of knowing the kick will not be returned for a touchdown and the 12%-35% chance my kids will recover the football. Something to consider as you ponder your special teams strategy for next season. The book covers both onside kick schemes we use as well as the coaching points etc.


Pop Warner National Championships


FYI obviously other youth football coaches are “getting it”.  In the 2008 Orlando Pop Warner National Championships, all four teams in the Pee Wee Division Championships onside kicked EVERY time. Not only did they onside kick, but they were simply outstanding at it. Port St Lucie Florida had the best onside kick scheme and coverage I have ever seen in youth football.

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  1. Football Software

    Great point – a lot of coaches focus on the field position that they would lose instead of considering the simple math. The field position difference is minimal compared to the potential for the big play and the chance at the ball!

  2. Devon Price

    With 8 – 9 year olds, you probably will not see the ball kicked deeper than the 30, probably less. And there is no reason to justify kicking the ball to what will certainly be the two best runners on the other team. I never kick deep unless I am three touchdowns ahead and we are handling the other team easily defensively. We practice on-sides kicks frequently. We expect to get 50 – 75% of the on-sides kicks we do.

  3. Jim Struck

    We have been kicking on-side exclusively, except when we have a 3+ touchdown lead, for the last 7-8 years and it has worked out great. In all those years we have had just one kick returned for a TD, and it was a fluke “Sunday Hop” kick. On the other hand, it was decisive in our one of our Super Bowl wins. We were tied at half against a very good opponent, but we kicked off to start the half, recovered, drove down and scored, on-sided again, drove down again and scored, and then finally gave up the ball. We had the ball on offense the entire 3rd quarter, the opponent was demoralized, and we ended up beating a team that had beaten us pretty good in the regular season.

  4. Darin Klemchuk

    Last year, we began kicking off side with the ball resting sideways on the tee. We can thank Coach Moran for what we call the “mellon ball” on side kick that lead to several recoveries.

  5. Greg Novarro

    We always onside kick and we get it about 50% of the time. We take our best and fastest athletes and have them attack the kick. We practice it all the time and the boys have fun with it. However, one year we broke this rule, why?

    We had an 11 year old that could kick it into the end zone every time. Not only that but he was the fastest kid in the league, best linebacker and RB in the league, and after he kicked it he would be the guy making the tackle. He was an ex-soccer player and he taught himself how to pooch kick it so after 2 or 3 endzone kicks he would pooch kick it super high and short and one time he caught his own kick. There are exceptions to the rule and that was a fun year to play with it.

    Love all you do!

  6. Mike

    I fully subscribe to the “Why put the ball into the hands of their best player who is standing back waiting for the kick off…” We have had unbelievable success with the onsides kick. In our championship game this past season we kicked off three times. We recovered the one after we went up 16-0. The back to back possessions allowed us to eat up the entire third quarter. We won the game 16-8. Had the other team had a possesion in the third quarter, we may not have had the same outcome.


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