the study of the kicking components within sports

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sweet Spot, part 1

Kickers and punters often mention hitting “the sweet spot” when they discuss kicking a ball. While most sports fans have a general idea what that means, and may be familiar with the term from other sports that involve striking a ball, they probably don’t have a true appreciation for it unless they themselves have kicked a football. With that in mind, we asked kickers, punters, and coaches to elaborate on the sweet spot.

When I hit the ball on the "sweet spot", I did not even feel the ball come off my foot. The ball had a deep "thump" sound as opposed to the "slapping", higher-pitched sound of a mishit ball. As a kicker/punter, this is the most unbelievable feeling you can have because you see your maximum potential in hang time and distance come to fruition. The endless hours of hard work and boring drills are all worth it.

Rob Maver, Calgary Stampeders punter
Personally, when I hit the sweet spot I can't miss. Whether it's a field goal or a punt, if you hit the sweet spot the ball is going to come off your foot the way you want it to since you can only hit it if you strike the ball perfectly with good form. It feels effortless because of the form, and when you strike the 'sweet spot', the ball compresses the most it can and jumps off your foot accordingly. It's tough to hit the ball anything but perfect when you hit the sweet spot.

Hitting the sweet spot is like punching a bag... It doesn't have to be super fast or hard, but the connection has to be there. You can swing as hard as you can to punch someone in the face, but you won't get much damage with making very little contact scraping their cheek. A slower but better connect punch to face does more damage. This is similar in kicking, work on hitting the sweet spot over and over at a decent speed, and when comfortable enough with skill, accelerate still hitting the sweet spot, this is how you break your own personal best FG or KO. Stay in control, but be explosive. You will know right away if you got under a ball, not by just looking at it spinning frantically in the air, but how you connect with the ball that you know it's short. However, when you feel a good connection with your upper foot on the bottom third to half of the ball, you know you've hit optimal distance.

When you hit "the sweet spot" on a football, whether it's a field goal, kickoff or punt, you know instantaneously upon contact that that ball is going exactly where you want envision it, at the height & distance you want it to travel, and with the "perfect rotation".

Brion Hurley, Kicking.com
You know when you hit the sweet spot when you don't even feel the ball on your foot. The ball leaps off your foot and goes further than any of your other kicks.

I have some great footage on the second page of my website on the Film Study link....
Jordan Congdon just finished his career at USC. What’s notable about Jordan was he did not have a huge leg - 50, 51, 52 was just about his max. He needed every shred of everything he had to make a FG. What Jordan was able to do better than just about anyone I’ve worked with was he could control his change of direction exceptionally well, get a very late hip turn, and not take any sort of divot. He has a couple of different sets of film on the site but the “sweet spot” kick to which I am referring is listed under “Compression and Contact”.

Matt Wile was named US Army All-American (as a punter) and I have film of him hitting the sweet spot on a FG. The side shot of him in the film where he’s wearing a green shirt shows EVERYTHING firing in the right order. What Matt is doing is creating LIFT by exceptional timing and body position through contact. Most kids will over swing in a futile attempt for HEIGHT, when they should be creating lift. Kids often don’t realize the importance of the timing of the kick. To go out and hit ball after ball with a set of sticks and ignoring the importance of the rhythm of snap, hold, kick is simply a huge waste of time.

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