What is Special Teams?

Special teams are the kicking units in football

Kickoffs, field goals, extra point kicks, and punts are examples of special teams. The name “special teams” comes from the role of specialists on these units: the kickers and punters who specialize in kicking the football. Special teams play an integral part of American football.

Who plays on special teams?

Kickers and punters are the primary players on special teams. But there are 21 other players on the field for a special teams unit (11 players in total for each team, as Walter Camp established when writing the rules of football).

During a punt, there are 10 other players on the punting team aside from the punter. The punting team has two main jobs: prevent the punt from being blocked, then, subsequently, tackle the punt returner. On the punt receiving team, there is one designated “punt returner”—whose job is to catch the punt and return it. The other 10 players on the punt return team want to either block the punt, or block for the punt returner.

On kickoffs, the kicking team’s job is to tackle the kick returner. The kicker is responsible for tackling the returner alongside the 10 other kicking team members. The kickoff return team’s job is to return the kickoff as far as they can. There is typically one or two designated kickoff return player(s), while the others are responsible for blocking. However, any player on the kickoff return team can catch and return the kickoff.

On field goals and extra point kicks, there is one designated kicker and one designated holder. The kicker’s job is to accurately kick the football through the yellow goal post. The holder’s job is to catch the snap and hold the ball in place for the kicker to kick. A field goal is worth 3 points, while an extra point kick after a touchdown is worth 1 point. The other 9 players on the field goal kicking team are responsible for blocking for the kicker. On the opposing team, all 11 players are allowed to rush the kicker and try to block the kick attempt.

The job of special teams

Special teams are crucial units on a football team. Special teams can win or lose a game. The various jobs of special teams are to score points, change field possession, prevent the other team from scoring, and—in the case of kickoffs—to start the game. Kickoffs also give the ball back to the other team after the kicking team scores a touchdown or field goal. Special teams are sometimes overlooked; but their importance to the overall game can’t be understated. Special teams also give young and inexperienced players a chance to earn their spot on a football team.