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Football Instruction/On-Sides Kick


What is the ruling regarding an on-sides kick that is caught in the air by a kicking team player?  Does the ball have to hit the ground before a kicking team member can recover it?  Does the kicking team have to give the receiving team an unobstructed opportunity to catch the ball, even if the receiving team did not signal for a fair catch?

Hello David, thanks for using AllExperts.

I will first answer your question, then give the variables. Once a kickoff goes 10 yards it is a live ball, be it in the air or on the ground. So the kicking team can recover it, whether it is in the air or on the ground.But they CANNOT interfere with a receiving team player attempting or moving forward to catch the ball.(while it is in flight) Now for the pro and college game, it is easy to go back and review the play on camera and tell if the ball went 10 yards or not. High school and under it is just just a judgement call by the line official, who should be standing at the 10 yard mark. Now the kicking team CANNOT interfere with the receiving team player who is attempting to catch a "airborne" kick, even if a fair catch WAS NOT called. That even goes for a "pooch" (short) kick. But the key to that is the ball has to be "airborne" or in flight. That is why most onside kicks, are kicked on the ground or into the ground first. Once it is kicked on the ground and crosses 10 yards, It's who ever recovers it first.

Now some leagues have different rules. I even know of a Little League group that rule states: " If the ball is kicked into the ground and then bounces high, a  fair catch can be called if the ball doesn't take a second bounce." But NFL, college and majority of football has NO such rule.

I hope that I helped you with your question.

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Arthur Anderson


I can answer most football questions. Per position, skill, training, technique and conditioning. I can answer questions about football on every level from youth to professional. Offense, Defense, Special Teams. Game film break down.


I have been involved in football as a player and/or a coach for over 39 years. I started playing football at the age of 5. A high school standout, a good college career and a stint overseas in the WFL and the NFL Europe. I started coaching youth sports in the off season while playing overseas. This marks my 20th year as a youth coach. I also was a player coach my final playing season overseas. I also worked as a scout, recruiter, asst, OC and head coach on the Overseas pro and Semi pro levels. Recently I worked with a upstart development league as a Asst GM and League Talent Scout. My niche in the coaching forum is a disciplinarian, a motivator and a teacher. This past season, of training my youth, I have 17 of my 22 kids that signed with D-1 schools. Next year, I already have 15 of my next group already committed to D-1 schools. I have served on the Youth Football Committee of San Antonio for 6 years. Recently being appointed as an executive board member.

North American Junior Independent Football Federation 100 Men of America Texas Youth Coaching Assoc. American Coaching Assoc.

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High School Graduate College Graduate - Cal St poly College - Palo Alto Univ. - Kinesiology

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First Team Offense - High School New Comer of the Year - College Standout Rookie Award - WFL Coach of the year- 1994, 97, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2013 (Some youth Sports, some Semi pro)

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NAJIFF, FBU, Youth Sports of South Texas, NSFL, DSFL,WFL, XFL

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