Emphasizing ‘A Natural Style of Kicking and Punting’®, Coach Zauner’s teaching philosophy facilitates an environment where kicking specialists develop the skills, technique, and confidence to achieve their maximum physical and mental potential. At an amateur and professional level, Coach Zauner, LLC programs and events provide a kicker, punter or snapper ‘A Specialist’s Path to PRO Football'®...Coach Zauner, LLC Mission Statement

Monday, September 27, 2010

Remembering George Blanda's Kicking Days

Raiders Hall of Fame QB George Blanda dies at 83

'Blanda held the pro scoring record when he retired, with 2,002 points. He kicked 335 field goals and 943 extra points, running for nine touchdowns and throwing for 236 more.' Read more...
George, thanks for your love of the game and the memories through the years!

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Taylor Yancey Valor Christian HS

Last week from Wednesday to Sunday I was in Denver Colorado working with Taylor Yancey who is the kicker at Valor Christian High School. Valor Christian High School is located in beautiful Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
Last season Taylor was the 3A All State kicker at Valor but was struggling a little this season as Valor opened the season against three 5 A schools.

Taylor Yancey and His Father Shaun

Taylor's father Shaun contacted me and asked if I would be able to work individual kicking lessons with his son Taylor while I was in Colorado for Saturdays U. of Colorado vs U. of Georgia Game. Colorado won 29 to 27. I was in Colorado to actually see one of my prize pupils University of Georgia punter Drew Butler perform vs Colorado. Drew on three punts averaged 46 per yards.

Valor Christian High School doesn't look like a high school when you first drive up to the entrance. Valor almost looks like a private college. After a tour of the entire facility I must say that Valor is first class in every aspect of their academic and athletic programs. The people in charge have built this school and program to be the best of the best.

Wednesday afternoon I attended Valor's football practice. I watched special teams practice and evaluated Taylor's kicking form and technique with a snap, hold vs a rush. I also watched him kickoff and evaluated his kickoff technique.

After special teams practice the coaches let me work with all the snappers and holders. A big part of Taylor's problem and most kickers problems is sometimes the snap, hold or protection. In my opinion Taylor was a victim of a little bit of all three.

At the end of practice I recommended to the head coach and special teams coach that they should try a new snapper. Later that evening I worked with quarterback and punter Jack Ramirez on his holding technique.

To me Taylor was going to have a better chance to be successful and help Valor win if Jack was the holder and Max Mccaffrey was the long snapper.

On Thursday I went to practice again and worked with Taylor and his new snapper and holder. To me the new personnel on the field goal unit would give Valor Christian High School an edge in the kicking game over the rivals.

Too many high school games are won or lost in the kicking game just because of a bad snap, poor hold, bad kick or a botch extra point. For the coaches and players to plan and work all week long to be beat by an opponent on a simple thing like a missed extra point or a couple of extra points would be tradgic. My motto has always been the difference between winning or losing is the Kicking Game.... however, that's Coach Zauner thinking!

On Friday night I was curious how the boys were doing during the homecoming game. So, I drove 45 minutes to the game to evaluate Taylor, Jack and Max working together and hope that my coaching had a positive effect on the boys.

At the end of the game the final score was Valor 31 and Pueblo South 2. Taylor made all of his extra points and one short field goal. The boys did good. As I was driving back to Boulder Taylor called and was feeling real good about himself. Valor had won their homecoming game and the boys could enjoy their evening and the homecoming dance and activities.

I advised Taylor to get some sleep on Saturday night because we were going to work more on his individual technique on Sunday.

On Sunday we worked on Taylor getting a better and more consistent foot position on his field goals and kickoffs.

We then worked on Taylor eliminating the crunch and kick with a more upright body position. Taylor needed to kick up and through the ball and skip down field. Taylor has some excellent natural kicking talent but I felt he was being too mechanical. I wanted Taylor to relax and let his soccer skills take over his kicking motion.

At the end of the lesson Taylor was not only kicking up and through the ball and skipping down field but was also kicking under better control. He was not kicking as hard but the balls were flying higher, further and straighter.

Taylor finished his kicking lessons kicking field goals from the left and right hashes with Jack holding. We worked with a snap, hold, and kick. Timing and tempo with good kicking mechanics.

Taylor hit some great balls and I could tell in his eyes he was getting his confidence back. We finished the lesson and Taylor and his father were very pleased with the results.

It was a pleasure meeting Taylor Yancey and his father Shaun. I wish Taylor and the rest of his Valor Eagles teammates the best of luck this season. I hope the coaches realize the importance of keeping the field goal unit together for the sake of the entire football team.

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Long Snapping Lessons

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ben Davis Kicking Lessons

On Friday and Saturday Ben Davis a young man from North Carolina was in Scottsdale, Arizona for individual kicking lessons. Ben who attended the same high school with current Ole' Miss kicker Bryson Rose was in town to work on and improve his kicking skills.

Ben has a real passion for kicking. He decided not to immediately attend college because he really didn't know what he wanted to do. But he does want to eventually kick some place. So, the first thing we addressed was to make him a better kicker. If your a good kicker it can open many other doors and opportunities.

Ben started his kicking lesson like most kickers, just trying to kick hard. I could immediately see that the crunching action was not allowing him to kick freely up and through the ball. Also, the flight of the ball had a lot of spin which meant he was not making solid foot to ball contact.

I tested Ben's flexibility and I could see he had that quality. I just needed to teach Ben to stop crunching and kick more relaxed.

After the first day of lessons and video review I gave Ben several drills to do back at his hotel that evening. Ben was a quick study because day two he came out kicking more relaxed. He was not crunching as much and was hitting the ball further and straighter with less effort.

We also addressed with a couple drills his foot to ball contact. The combination of improvements put a smile on Ben's face. However, as I tell all my students, it will take time (two to three weeks) for the new muscle memory to take over and make his new swing more natural.

It was a real pleasure meeting and working with Ben Davis and I wish him the best of luck in the future with his kicking passion. I just wish and hope that Ben understands that if he puts a lot of time into kicking or anything in life he will be successful... and that includes college.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Matt Katula Snapping Lesson

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week former University of Wisconsin and Baltimore Ravens Long Snapper Matt Katula was in Scottsdale, Arizona for a One on One Snapping Lesson with his former Special Teams Coordinator - Coach Gary Zauner.
When I was the Special Teams Coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens in 2005 I scouted, evaluated and recruited Matt Katula to sign as a free agent with the Baltimore Ravens. Matt was a prior free agent in my eyes and we needed a long snapper that could not only snap but block and cover. Matt signed a free agent contract after the 2005 draft with the Baltimore Ravens and received no signing bonus but a chance to make the roster.
Matt proved me right.
In his rookie season Matt beat out Joe Maese the incumbent snapper because he had the total snapping package in my eyes. Matt at 6'6" and 270 pounds was not only an excellent snapper but very athletic. A former point or shooting guard at Catholic Memorial High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin Matt could also block, run and change directions. In his first season with the Baltimore Ravens, Matt made a total of 10 special teams tackles. That led the NFL Football league amongst long snappers.

A Concern for Specialists:

The 80 man roster rule has affected several NFL kicking specialists in the last couple years with injuries. Many NFL teams have limited the numbers of specialists they bring to mini and training camp. The results have been that several veteran NFL specialists have come up with leg, groin and back problems due to over kicking or punting. Long snappers like Matt have acquired elbow and shoulder problems due to excessive snapping reps.

But not too many NFL Head Coaches, GM's or Personnel Directors seem to take caution with this concern. They just figure that all a specialist has to do is just kick, punt or snap and they shouldn't be getting hurt or injured anyways. In recent years more and more kicking specialists are getting hurt and I believe it is a direct result of the 80 man roster rule. Not too many NFL owners or front office people are concerned about changing a rule because of a kicking specialists.
Example: In 2009 I received two calls during training camp from Special Teams Coordinators who had only one kicker in camp and had to play a preseason game that weekend. Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders) strained a hamstring and Shane Graham (Bengals) a groin. Both teams had just a couple of days to find a 'rent-a-kicker' for the game. And there are getting to be more and more each year.

Last season the Ravens brought in two kickers and punters to compete for jobs however, Matt was the only snapper. During training camp Matt took all the reps while the kickers and punters competed for the starting positions. During mini camp Matt acquired a sore elbow, which many trainers or doctors refer to is a 'tennis or pitching elbow'. The elbow continued to get worse as the season went on.
Most NFL snappers, use both hands to field goal and punt snap. Matt a self taught snapper is predominately a one handed long snapper. Because the elbow of Matt's snapping arm was sore or injured he no longer was snapping perfect. Matt who normally was perfect on every long and short snap was becoming erratic. It was also having an effect on the punter and kicker.

A Side Note:

During my 13 years in the NFL as a Special Teams Coordinator with the Vikings, Ravens and Cardinals there were a couple of years I had to go to camp with just one kicker, punter or snapper.
However, I knew first hand if a specialists over kicks or punts he will get hurt. In 1973 when I was a free agent kicker and punter with the Minnesota Vikings I went to camp and kicked way too much during training camp and tore a muscle in my thigh. The next week I was released.
My experience as a player has helped me tremendously coach and train all specialists. As a Special Teams coach you must protect the most important or 'Vital Man' on your special teams. I always referred to the long snapper as the 'Vital Man' in the kicking game because of the importance of his snap. In other words all good kicks and punts usually start with a Perfect Snap and most bad kicks or punts start with a poor or bad snap.

Matt Katula works 'Perfect Laces Drill'

As I mentioned earlier, Matt was a self taught snapper and never did any drills to reinforce good basic snapping fundamentals. He basically picked up a ball and started to snap. And he snapped at a very high level. When his injury occurred and the muscles were injured, I believe he lost the perfect muscle memory for a 'Perfect' field goal and punt snap. He was snapping just OK but not at the highest level.
Matt told me he tried to work and get his snapping technique back but really didn't know how to go about it. In the spring once his elbow felt better he started snapping again. However, without good fundamental drill work to get his 'Perfect' snap back he never really improved. He went to training camp in snapping shape but still felt he was not snapping at his highest level.
After the first pre-season game Matt was Released. Morgan Cox a free agent Long Snapper from the University of Tennessee earned the job. I felt bad for Matt but happy for Morgan. I have known and worked with Morgan for the last two years. He attended both my PRO Development Camp in 2009 and my College Senior Specialists Combine in 2010. You can view Morgan's College Senior Specialists Combine video: Click Here!

Morgan in PRO Development Camp

Snaps to Drew Butler 'Ray Guy Award Winner'

Morgan was in as the snapper with the Baltimore Ravens and Matt was out! Life in the the NFL.

Matt had been with the Ravens for 5 years. He was devastated. Matt was no different than any other player or coach in the league. He had settled into Baltimore with his wife and two daughters and acquired a ton of new friends. But, as I tell all my friends the letters NFL mean 'Not For Long'!

Life goes on as Matt and I have both learned. When I got fired after the 2006 season with the Arizona Cardinals I was devastated. My wife Michelle and I had just moved across the country to live in Arizona and I was fired after one season. I felt with my background and football coaching record I would get hired again. Well I didn't!

I needed to do something so I rekindled my career as a Kicking, Punting, Snapping & Special Teams Coaching Consultant. Two other times in my life when I was out of coaching I took what I do best and started my own business; Coach Zauner LLC.

One on One Kicking Lesson with Billy Cundiff

I specialize in kicking, punting and snapping lessons. The One on One Lessons help a kicking specialist that is committed, take his game to the next level or in the case of Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, get his game back to the highest level.

I have also started two combines. In February I have my College Senior Specialists Combine and in March I host my Free Agent Specialists Combine. Both combines have helped a lot of kicking specialists get the exposure they want and need. In 2009 (17) of the (41) participants signed contracts with either the NFL, CFL or UFL.

In 2008 after I worked some individual kicking lessons with Billy Cundiff he attended my 2009 Free Agent Specialists Combine. There were 32 NFL, CFL and UFL coaches and scouts in attendance. Billy performed leaps and bounds above the rest. His kicking game was back and eventually so would his life in the NFL.

Billy was seen by almost every NFL team and all were impressed with his performance at my kicking Combine. Billy got his confidence back and waited for the calls. Because he was a veteran many NFL teams didn't want to sign him because of the salary cap. They wanted to go to camp with a rookie. However, when the season started NFL teams wanted the best available kicker and that was Billy Cundiff.

In 2009 Billy had short stints with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns when their kickers, Jason Hanson and Phil Dawson went down because of injuries. Later in the year because of Billy's kicking success with the Lions and Browns the Baltimore Ravens signed him. Billy ended the 2009 season with the Ravens and is there today in the 2010 season kicking better than ever.

The Matt Katula Story:

On Tuesday and Wednesday I video taped and showed Matt exactly what had happened to his snapping technique because of the injury. I had some video in my files when I coached Matt back with the Ravens when he was snapping perfectly on both field goal and punt snaps.

I compared Matt's old (2005) video to his recent video. I analyzed Matt's form and technique and discussed with him what I felt was the best game plan to get him not only back in perfect snapping form but back in the NFL.

Matt (Chicken Wing) One Handed Snapping Form

Matt (Two Handed) Follow Through Technique

Two Handed Finish

During Matt's two day One on One Snapping Lesson we addressed both phases of his snapping game. I gave him a set of drills to work and perfect his field goal and long snapping technique. The drills will help to replace the old muscle memory with the new and 'Perfect' muscle memory. The new will replace the old or bad muscle memory in a couple of weeks as long as Matt is diligent with his practice routine.

As I tell all kicking specialists, it takes at least two to three weeks of drill work to address a kicking, punting or snapping problem or flaw. The key to all specialists getting better is Practice, Practice and more Practice.

In the words of Vince Lombardi: "Practice doesn't make Perfect. Perfect Practice makes Perfect."

I believe the One on One Long Snapping Lessons were not only good to repair Matt's snapping technique but maybe more importantly his confidence.

After just two days of working with Matt I know he has the talent and skill level to be back in the league. I always felt that Matt even with his unique (one handed snapping) technique was a Top 10 Snapper in the NFL. Now with some drills and better technique and with his athletic ability I believe the sky is the limit for Matt.

Click below to listen to Matt Katula's testimonial after working a One on One Snapping Lesson with Coach Zauner in Scottsdale, Arizona.

During my NFL coaching career I have been lucky to meet and coach some great players and people. Matt is one of my all time favorite specialists. He has a great personality and is very likable. Both Matt and I are from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area... two cheese heads. Maybe that is why we connect well.

Whatever the reason, it was once again a pleasure working with Matt. After 5 years in the league Matt has hit a bump in the road. I am hoping that our work together and my expertise will get Matt back on the road to success and back in the NFL. Best of Luck to Matt and his supportive wife, Allison!

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bears History Book: Kevin Butler

Taking a Look in the Bears History Book: Kevin Butler
by HoneyBear on Sep 10, 2010
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Drew Butler 'On A Specialists Path'

On A Specialists Path-Drew Butler

Blog written by James Wilhoit - September 13, 2010

How does the only kicker in the College Football Hall of Fame have a son that becomes the best college punter in the country? Read More...

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Marshall Dirksen Kicking Lesson

On Thursday August 26th and Sunday the 29th I did a Kicking Lesson (One on One) with Marshall Dirksen of McClintock High School here in Phoenix, Arizona.

Marshall's father John called me a couple of weeks ago and wanted me to give his son a kicking lesson before the high school football season started. He wanted me to put another set of eyes on his son and give him any help that he might need.

John mentioned that Marshall is an very good and accurate high school kicker but his short coming was on kickoffs.

I accepted the kicking coach assignment. However, because the season was right around the corner I was being very sensitive about changing anything toooo much.

So, during the first kicking lesson I watched Marshall warm up and go through his kicking progression. I asked Marshall a lot of questions to see how much he really knew about his own kicking technique. The answers he gave me really helped me learn more about him faster.

I also took a plethora of sequential photos to analyze his form and technique. I started taking photos during his no step and one step drills. In the photo below you can see how much Marshall crunched. Is crunching good? NO

Next, I looked at how he lined up his kicks and how good his foot position was on the ball. He made just about every kick. However the photos and video confirmed later at the video review that his target line was consistently off. The good news was he was kicking exactly were he was aiming. He had more of an aiming problem than a kicking problem.

Next we focused in on Marshall's foot position and aiming point on the ball. Once again the photos revealed that he was consistently contacting the ball a little bit to low causing a fast rotation of his field goals and big time on his kickoffs.

When the first kicking lesson ended I had enough sequential camera photos and video to make a point on how I thought Marshall, who in my opinion is a good high school kicker, could improve his kicking even more and take his game to another level.

Once again I was keeping in mind Marshall's football season was right around the corner the next weekend.

On Sunday we started the second lesson. Marshall had three days to think about what I had presented to him Thursday night. He had already started to implement some of the drills and techniques I had showed him.

Marshall is an excellent student and bright young man. What I had showed him all made sense. And because he was a former soccer player and a natural kicker my presentation made a impact. I introduced Marshall to my Coach Zauner Natural Style Kicking Technique.

On Sunday I took Marshall through my kicking progression. We started with a modified one step drill emphasising foot to ball contact. We progressed working on Marshall staying more upright and kicking up and through the ball rather than at it.

Marshall hit a couple of balls during my goal post line drill that had perfect rotation. The balls traveled higher, further and straighter. Marshall knew he was on to something that was going to make him even better kicker.

We went through and documented Marshall's perfect triangle. Next we incorporated his perfect triangle into left and right hash mark kicks. We focused on lining up his kicks better and drawing a more exact target line. Marshall was once again a quick study. He made almost every kick but was hitting the ball further and with a better rotation.

We ended the kicking lesson working on Marshall's kickoff technique. We tweaked a couple of things and shortened his approach. Running into a kickoff from a further distance doesn't insure a longer kickoff. Matter of fact most kickers hit the ball further and more consistently with a shorter approach. The reason..... you should take a kicking lesson and find out! Marshall knows and it paid dividends for him.

He ended the lesson hitting a couple of kickoff (7) seven and (8) yards deep. He was smiling and so was his father John.

It was a pleasure meeting and working with Marshall. I wish Marshall Dirksen and the McClintock Football Team the best of luck this upcoming season... Go Marshall!

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tyler Dore' Kicking Lesson

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning Tyler Dore' of Spring Branch Middle School in Houston, Texas was in Scottsdale, Arizona for a Kicking Lesson (One on One).

Tyler's father Bill Dore' brought him to Arizona to work on the very basic fundamentals of kicking. Tyler has played football in middle school and has shown he can kick the ball pretty good with just raw talent. Bill wanted to expose Tyler to a kicking coach that would teach him better technique. Now enters Coach Zauner.

During the first kicking lesson I watched Tyler stretch and immediately start kicking. He did not use any type of kicking drills like the no step or one step drill before kicking his field goals. He just started kicking. When asked why he doesn't use any warm up drills, he said, "Because I also play another position and I don't have time." Good answer.

As Tyler kept kicking I could tell that he had a good kicking leg but very few solid fundamentals. In the first kicking lesson I took a number of sequential photos to analyze his form. I started working on the basic fundamentals of kicking using the sequential photos as teaching aids.

When Tyler first started kicking he just kicked and kept his plant foot in cement. There was no kick and skip. He just kicked and pivot and fell off to his left. Some kicks went straight but many were pulled to the left. He also had a occasional push to the right.

We worked a couple of drills to get Tyler to kick up and skip through the ball and stay squarer down field.

Next we worked drills for him to lock his foot and knee upon and after impact. He got better but still needs to improve even more.

After the first lesson we went back to my office and reviewed his video. Tyler had never really seen himself kicking on video. During the video review session the slow motion and stop action shots made everything crystal clear on what he needed to improve on.

He also viewed video examples of drills and techniques of many NFL veteran kickers I have trained. Examples of Gary Anderson, Garrett Hartley (New Orleans Saints), Josh Scobee (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Billy Cundiff (Baltimore Ravens).

Saturday night at the hotel and Sunday morning he worked the mirror drill. He worked on kicking and skipping up and through the ball and walk down field. We also addressed the correct position of his torso and left arm.

We finished the last day working on kickoffs. We took the fundamentals of field goal kicking that Tyler had just learned and incorporated them into his kickoff technique. I stayed very basic. We worked a short 4 step approach with the proper kicking fundamentals. I did not introduce the hurdle technique to Tyler during this kicking lesson.

It was a pleasure meeting Tyler and his father Bill. As a kicking coach to work with Tyler and I believe this is just the start of a good young kickers career.

I get calls and emails all the time from parent asking if I will work with middle school or high school kickers. My answers is: "Why not teach and coach them the correct way from the start. If they are good they will get better much quicker and have success."

Tiger Woods started very early in life learning a perfect golf swing and it paid dividends for him. If a kicker's parents have the ability to get kicking lessons for their son it could be a excellent investment into getting a free education by earning a full ride football scholarship.

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Kicking Lessons

Coach Zauner Kicking Coach