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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jason Baker Milwaukee Hamilton



This week Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the weekend was spent back home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The trip was three fold; business, family, friends and coaching.

First, I was checking out sites in the Milwaukee area to hold kicking camps next summer for high school and college kickers, punters and snappers.

Second, I was planning on attending my 40th High School reunion however, it was cancelled because of lack of interest. I couldn't believe it.

Third, I had promised my mother that I would come back and work with a young man who is presently the kicker at Milwaukee Hamilton High School. I never want to let my mother down once I make a promise. Besides, I also wanted to give back to the school that I graduated from and help out Coach Jeff Wallack and the Hamilton Wildcats football team.

On Thursday I went over to Milwaukee Hamilton High School to work with senior kicker Jason Baker. Jason has been rated as one of the top kickers in the state of Wisconsin by some scouting services. He has also been ranked nationally by a couple of kicking services.

After working with him just for a couple of hours if he isn't one of the top kickers in the state then those scouting services don't know much about kicking or kicking talent.

On Friday night Michelle (my wife) and I also attended his game at South Stadium vs Bay View High School. Hamilton was on the short end of a 65 to 30 score.

However, Jason early in the game kicked a 45 yard field goal showing everyone in the stands why he is one of the states top kickers. Right before half time with 2 seconds left on the clock Jeff Wallack who is the Head Coach at Hamilton sent Jason on the field to attempt a 56 yard field goal. The kick was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fell short.

During the game Jason was trying to use a new six (6) step kickoff approach that we had worked on Thursday. Jason's old approach was very fast and his steps were not very consistent. In the fourth quarter Jason's approach and technique all came together. He hit two kickoffs for touch backs. One was 8 yards deep and the other was through the end zone.


Jason Baker is not just a excellent college kicking prospect but is also an 3 time All Conference soccer player and an college prospect for a soccer scholarship.


We started our kicking session about an hour before practice started. I watched Jason's snapper, Dave Cieplewski warm up and quickly made a couple of suggestions. The adjustments I made helped Dave snap a more consistent and tighter spiral with better accuracy.

Kenny DeBauche who was the University of Wisconsin standout punter and also free agent signee with the Green Bay Packers came with me to help out the holders. He observed the holder's, Daniel Staring technique and worked to get him better at molding the ball and placing the ball with more consistency on the tee or block.

As we all know, it's not just about the kicker. Without a good snap and hold the kicker is nothing.


While Kenny was working with the holder and snapper I spent some One on One time working with Jason on his field goal technique.

Jason has playing football and kicking for only two (2) years. I could tell after just a couple kicks that this young man had a strong kicking leg and some potential.

When Jason first started to kick he just put the ball on the ground and hit a couple of forty (40) yard field goals with excellent trajectory. I asked him why he wasn't using a one (1) inch tee or block to kick off of and his response was, "I would rather kick off the ground." "I just use a tee because my coaches want me to."

He mentioned that he and his father (Dale) had traveled to several regional and nationally syndicated kicking camps and combines this summer to compete against other kickers. He said he was one of the few kickers that kicked field goals off the ground while other kickers were kicking their field goals using a one (1) or two (2) inch block.

I thought right away that Jason is so much further ahead than most high school kickers because he wasn't using a block to kick field goals off of.

I was a college coach for 11 years and during the recruiting process my biggest concern when evaluating high school prospects was a kickers ability to make a smooth and easy transition kicking from a tee or block to kicking field goals off the ground.

Believe me, I've seen a lot of high school kickers that had big legs that kicked their field goals off a two (2) or one (1) inch block become busts as college kickers. They could never make the transition quick enough to impress the college coaches and fell by the wayside.

Again, in my opinion, any high school kicker that I evaluated either kicking field goals off a one (1) inch or wafer tee or especially off the ground, automatically got bonus points in my evaluation.

As I worked with Jason I asked him a lot of questions and listened to his answerer's to get an idea of what he has been taught and what his thought process was when kicking field goals.

For a kicker who has traveled all over the country and with his father who has spent a lot of money for lessons and fees to all these kicking camps and national kicking competitions and services I couldn't believe some of the answers he gave me about fundamentals and mechanics that he has been taught.

As we continued working I broke down all aspects of Jason's field goal and kickoff technique. He absorbed the information and was a quick study. His coaches watched and listened.

Most high school and college coaches openly admit they lack the knowledge of the fundamentals and mechanics of kicking and how to work with kicking specialists.

In the photo below Jason and I explain to Coach Wallack and one of his assistant coaches some of the techniques that Jason has been taught and I explain why he has been inconsistent in certain aspects of his field goal and kickoff game.


In the photo below I explain to Jason in detail, the foot to ball contact point and the locking of the knee progression during and after impact. He had been given some bad information.


In the photo below I talk about the importance of the aim foot.


In the photo below we examine an talk about his presentation and approach to the ball. Jason was not making the proper alignment adjustments on his field goal when kicking from the right and left hash.


In the photo below Kenny DeBauche watches the holders, Daniel Staring's technique and tries to help him refine his catching, molding of the ball, placement skills and holding technique.


In the photo below I make an adjustment with snapper, Dave Cieplewski's weight distribution. He had too much weight forward and was snapping the ball a little high and was not following through on all his snaps. I must say he was also a quick study.


In this next photo Jason is kicking off the right hash mark and I am talking about coaching points concerning target line and the adjustments to your target line because of kicking tendency and wind factors.


After instructing everyone in the group about their specific duties, the group hits a couple of field goals from the right hash with excellent technique.

In the photo below, I am talking to Daniel Staring, the holder about his cadence. Daniel likes to change his cadence to pull the defense offsides. However, Jason the kicker didn't know at times when the ball was going to be snapped.

The most important ingredient in kicking is rhythm. I gave Daniel some coaching tips but made it crystal clear that everyone (snapper, holder and kicker) has to know exactly when the ball is being snapped to be effective.

The three specialist on Friday Night that help make a 45 yard field goal with a perfect snap, hold and kick. Dave Cieplewski, Danield Staring and Jason Baker. Kenny and I enjoyed working with these young men.

Next up was kickoff technique. Head Coach Jeff Wallack informed me Jason has been a little erratic on his kickoffs. Coach Wallack watches as I go over some kickoff fundamentals with Jason.

When I watched Jason kickoff his steps on his approach were inconsistent and his approach was way too fast!

In the photo below I am showing Jason how to find a new and more consistent kickoff approach.

In the photo below Jason is working on his new six (6) step approach. By the end of practice he was kicking off with more power and consistency.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog. Jason in the fourth quarter of Friday nights game was starting to feel very good about his steps and approach. Matter of fact he kicked one ball 8 yards deep and launched another out of the end zone.

I told Jason with time and practice he will become more comfortable with his steps and approach. He will rely on good kicking technique rather then speed into the ball to kick the ball even more consistently on his kickoffs.


It was a real pleasure for me to come back to my old high school and work with Coach Wallack and his staff and all the Hamilton Wildcat players.

It was also very rewarding for me who normally works with college and Pro Kickers and Punters to see good young talent once again and where it all starts, at the high school level.

Dale Baker is Jason's father. He's a very active and involved parent when it comes to his sons soccer and football kicking career. Dale has a kicking background even though he was a straight-on kicker and it was many years ago.

Like most parents that have sons with college kicking potential, Dale travels the country with his son learning as much as he can to help his son develop into a college scholarship athlete. He had some excellent observations and comparision with my instruction and the instruction of other kicking services around the country.

Click below to listen to Dale Baker's testimonial about Jasons and his expierence working with Coach Zauner:

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