Coaching the Kicking Game – Doug Blevins
In Chico CA, NFL football has been particularly exciting to watch over the last couple of years. Aaron Rodgers is a hometown hero and it’s been thrilling to watch his success. This year, in particular, all of the long-time 49’er fans had something to be excited about. While I’ve become more of a baseball fan over the last several years, I ended up watching a few more football games this year. Of course, I’m a bit of a fair-weathered fan. I couldn’t watch the Niners until this season. I wasn’t a Packer’s fan until Aaron was drafted, but I’ve always been a fan of the Patriots (and Red Sox!) as I lived in Connecticut until I was 8 yrs old.
Over the last couple of seasons of football (college and NFL), it seemed like there were lots of games that were lost by the kickers. How often do kickers get praised with winning the game? For sure, it’s reported that they lost the game. Yes, it will be reported that xyz kicker kicked the game winning field goal, but do they mean that he won the game for the team in the way that they mean he lost the game? I think there are a few kickers who do get that sort of praise. As a Patriots fan, you have to give credit to Adam Vinatieri. This year, the Niners relied on kicker David Akers because the offense couldn’t score in the red zone.
Both of these kickers share a common history as they were both coached by Doug Blevins. It turns out that Doug Blevins has been hired to work with and train several prominent NFL kickers. He’s worked with the Jets, the Dolphins, and the Patriots as a coach or consultant since 1994. The amazing thing about Doug is that he was born with cerebral palsy and coaches from a wheelchair.
There’s a great story about Doug here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1103994/1/index.htm
After first reading about Doug, I was inspired and wanted to learn more about him. Here is what is said about Doug:
“Doug has the perfect kick in his mind”.
He has insisted on seeing rejection as an opportunity.
He just sees things.
“I’ve never seen anyone that knowledgeable about kicking.”
“You come here, work out with him and it’ll change your mind.”
Blevins focuses on the mechanics, the science of the kicking game.
Trainers in every business can learn from Blevins’s teaching techniques. He breaks each motion down to its component parts, then squeezes out incremental but critical improvements. And he knows just how much he can change in a player — and when he should leave well enough alone.
“Olindo (Mare) knows he can come to me to pinpoint the small things, and he knows I won’t just try to change him for the sake of changing him.”
Blevins drills unforgivingly on technique and works to give players what he calls the “positive arrogance” they need to excel. “Doug can make you feel invincible,” says the Baltimore Ravens’ Kyle Richardson, another Blevins disciple, who made his NFL debut with Miami in 1997. “He can help you feel so mentally dominant that you go out there and do things that you didn’t feel you could.”
“He is so precise on the fundamental part of it, so sound,” says Adam Vinatieri.
When it comes to being a great coach, the game may change, but the rules are still the same. Here’s a page from the playbook of Doug Blevins.
Understand the game in obsessive detail. “A kicker can miss for a thousand different reasons — the position of his head, shoulder, or arms, or the number and length of his strides to the ball,” Blevins says.
Understand, analyze, and develop all of your players’ individual strengths.
Don’t try to change people. Instead, work to improve them.
When there’s no margin for error, be a perfectionist. Demand continued improvement from your players.
Inject game-on-the-line pressure into every practice. Every kick counts.
Pace your players. Don’t have them kick so many balls early in the season that their legs wear out.
Technical and mental competencies build on each other.
Develop chemistry with each of your players.
Believing that you can be the best, and sacrificing to be the best, will motivate your players by example.
Losers always allow for excuses; winners always perform. Says Blevins: “Great players and great teams walk with a swagger.”
When I read more about Doug, I became a little less interested in his story and much more interested in his coaching. He’s credited with being one of the best coaches in the kicking game for a reason. He’s passionate about the game, he’s a student of the game, he’s learned how to see, and he knows how to communicate what he sees. He’s not bound by any conventions. He treats each player as an individual and he finds individual solutions for each player -based on science, research, analysis, principles, and relationships.