What is a Kicking Tee and Why do we use them in Rugby
Rugby kicking tees are a specialty piece of equipment but a necessary one that is a huge factor in whether a kicker can successful convert the post try conversion. World Rugby Shop takes a look at the differences between kicking tees to help you find the perfect one for your game.
What is a kicking tee?
A rugby kicking tee is used to give a rugby ball some clearance from the ground and allows a secure holding of it for a player to kick conversions. Given a tee is only used for extra points there are no World Rugby regulations presently as to what constitutes a tee as there is no safety risk to other players. Historically everything from turf to sand was used as a tee so you have a lot of leeway to figure out what works best for you!
Construction of the average Kicking tee
A kicking tee is a simple item. It will have some sort of cradle to set the ball in, a base and potentially an adjustable middle portion as on a telescoping tee although this is not universal. They are usually constructed of rubber (hard, soft or a combination) and will have a low, medium or high profile depending on how much clearance you want from the ground. Most kicking tees are single piece construction, but telescoping tees are at least two pieces.
Picking a Kicking Tee
When you are picking out a tee there are 4 primary things to look at: Stability, ball grip/placement, height and material. If any of these things is lacking for your needs the tee will be a hindrance to performance.
Stability of the Kicking tee as a platform
Having a kicking tee that is stable enough to not fall over in the weather or slightly uneven fields is essential. Clearly if a tee falls over mid-kick this can ruin everything. A tee should have a base that is sturdy enough to hold the ball steady in various weather conditions and field conditions.
How the Kicking Tee holds the Ball Grip/Placement
The cradle the ball is set in is the next most important consideration. You will need it to be able to hold the ball steady and in the angle most appropriate for your kicking style. Basic tees tend to have the cradle tips made out of the same material as the rest of the tee and without grip dots, but higher end tees will often use softer material with grip pads on the cradle points to hold the ball in place.
Height of the Kicking Tee
The height tee you use is down mostly to personal preference and kicking mechanics. There are world class goal kickers that use each type to great effect so experiment to see what works best for you and your kicking style.
~6 cm (2.36”) ground clearance. This is the most commonly seen tee in Rugby Union. This is arguably the most stable kicking tee height as it has the lowest center of gravity and doesn’t sit as high up into the wind. Many feel it puts the ball in a more ideal spot for power kicking as well. The downside to a low tee is it has less margin for error in foot placement. Swing too low and you will strike the ground and interfere with follow through and a clean strike. You usually have to strike the ball slightly higher up to avoid hitting the ground as well. Probably the most difficult for beginners to learn off of.
~8 cm (3.14”) ground clearance. This is more common in Rugby League, but allows for greater ground clearance and kicking the ball on the very end of the ball (can help with accuracy, but can diminish distance). Given it is only a couple of cm taller than a low profile these tees tend to have very similar designs to low profile ones.
10-11 cm (3.93” – 4.33”convert to inches) ground clearance. High kicking tees allow the most ground clearance and are more forgiving if you swing through too low. These are perhaps the easiest for players to begin learning off of as they get comfortable with the basic mechanics of kicking. Many top professionals kick off this height so it is not just for beginners however.
6 – 11 cm (2.36” – 4.33”) – These tend to have a different cradle type altogether, but their main function is allowing for a variety of kicking heights so a player can fine tune it to their mechanics. This can be a great option for new kickers who need a higher ground clearance initially to develop their technique, but can be gradually lowered over time as desired.
Materials they are made from
This is the least important consideration, but kicking is about fine margins often times. Traditionally kicking tees have been made of hard rubber all through, but newer tees are beginning to incorporate or be entirely constructed of softer rubbers. The rationale is that hard materials can potentially alter the flight path of the ball if the foot strike causes the tee to interfere with the ball as it leaves the tee. Softer tees in theory provide more flush contact with the ball and can absorb (as opposed to transfer into the ball) more force from the strike. Some players also feel they can follow through the kick better when the tee is softer which is critical to accurate and consistent kicking.
Final Note on the Kicking Tee
Kicking is a highly individualized endeavor and one that requires controlling many variables through repetition and predictable movements. It is important that kickers find a routine and technique that works for them both physically and psychologically. As such, there is no best type of kicking tee for everyone. Experiment with different types to find the one that works best for you and your kicking style.