Billy Vinnedge knows a thing or two about kicking.
As an all-around athlete in high school, playing soccer, football and baseball at Arroyo Grande High School, Vinnedge got into place-kicking for the Eagles’ football team.
He then went on to kick for Allan Hancock College, the University of Wyoming and briefly in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.
For the last couple years, Vinnedge has been taking what he’s learned and bestowing that knowledge and skill on young athletes around the Central Coast.
Vinnedge has been building his Billy Vinnedge Kicking Academy, not into a large school of kickers, but a respected, thorough and impactful resource for young football place-kickers to take improve their game.
Vinnedge’s main goal is to get more Central Coast kids punting, kicking off and booting field goals for colleges around the nation.
In high school, college and with the Chargers, Vinnedge punted and kicked field goals. He’s been kicking and learning about perfecting kicking techniques for over a decade.
This weekend, July 13 and 14 and then on July 20, Vinnedge is running his annual BVKA Camp. He also works with kickers in private, one-on-one sessions.
A lot of the kids he works with are in high school, but he also helps some youth football kickers.
“If you can get into it going in as a freshman, that’s huge,” Vinnedge said. “You then have three years to really improve so you can try to kick in college, if that’s what you want to do. “
“So, when I get kids that are in middle school, I think that’s awesome.”
Many youth football leagues give two extra points when they’re kicked instead of the typical one, so having a solid kicker at that level can be even more valuable.
Vinnedge has worked with many of the best kickers on the Central Coast for the last couple years and says the area is full of talented legs.
“I’d say I work with 75 percent of the kickers from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara,” he said. “So I got a lot of the kickers from every school in this area.”
As far as Vinnedge knows, he’s the only place-kicking instructor for local kickers in the area. Which can be a huge resource for Central Coast kids, reducing travel to get personalized instruction.
Vinnedge says any funding he receives for his camp and instruction goes right back into the program, which can be costly. Kicking instructors need not only the advanced kicking equipment, but they also also need high-tech video equipment. And the facilities aren’t free. Vinnedge has to pay for fields with goal posts to practice on.
Vinnedge has been aquiring all the equipment to ensure local kids have all the resources to land on a college roster.
“I’m out here to make enough money to run an effective camp,” Vinnedge said. “I put the money back into the program and give the kids a reasonable camp that they can go to and get real quality instruction.
“My ultimate goal is to make the Central Coast a powerhouse of kickers and get these kids recruited. That’s my ultimate goal.”
The value of the place-kicking position has skyrocketed in the past decade, with college and high school coaches further recognizing the importance kickers have on every game of football.
A product of that trend has been an influx of kicking acadamies sprouting up all over the country. A decade ago, when Vinnedge was in high school, there weren’t many local resources for kickers to really improve their skills.
Even with that fact, Vinnedge doesn’t think the Central Coast place-kicking community is lagging behind the rest of the state and country.
“(The Central Coast) is not behind at all,” he said. “It’s just that we’re small. We’ve got kickers here that will compete with anybody. We’ve got some juniors coming in this year that have some of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen.”
One of those kickers is Arroyo Grande’s Cole Ramey, who was named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Sophomore Team last year. Ramey took over for one of the best prep kickers the area had seen since Vinnedge in Garrett Owens.
But Vinnedge says he’s seeing more and more kids with powerful legs, comparing favorably to Owens, who is now kicking for Oregon State.
“Take Garrett Owens for example. That kid had the strongest leg I’ve ever seen,” Vinnedge said. “You got kids coming in this year that have got as strong legs as he had coming into his junior year.”
But leg strength isn’t what Vinnedge primarily focuses on.
Vinnedge thinks the technical and mental aspect of kicking is where great kickers are made.
During his camps he works on all areas of kicking, not just field goals.
“I spend equal amount of time on each aspect of kicking, field goals, punts and kickoffs,” Vinnedge said. “I break it down even to an onside kick, squib kicks. I’ll break the camp down to field goals, kicking off the hashes and then, at the end, we’ll rate them.
“I’ll throw a millions things at them, and if they can retain 25 percent of what I tell them, then that’s a successful camp because I’m teaching them so much,” he said.