the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Sweet Spot, part 2

Yesterday we revisited our exploration of the Sweet Spot in kicking a football. Today we continue with more responses from kickers, punters, and coaches.

Michael Husted, National Camp Series
For me, the sweet spot is when you hit the ball just right that it feels like you have barely made contact with it. Your technique is so sound that when your upper torso is tall, your hips, knee and ankle are synchronized at the same time when making contact, that you barely feel the ball flying off of your foot. It is one of the best feelings for a kicker.

Nathan Chapman, Pro Kick Australia
THE SWEET SPOT, a mysterious spot on the ball that when your kicking well can feel like you will never miss it, BUT also when your not going so well and your confidence is down, can seem like there is not one there at all. One thing that you can get a feeling of though is when you are on your approach for kicking or punting and somehow you just know that you are going to hit it sweet before you even touch the ball with your foot. So a tip to keep hitting the SPOT would be to keep practicing with good technique and you will likely hit it more often. When you hit the sweet spot you are smiling before the ball leaves your foot, when you miss it, the field will seem 200 yards long, the blood will drain from your face and your biggest decision is working out who NOT to look at first, your head coach or your special teams coach.

Filip Filipovic, The Kicking Coach
Before I even start my approach, I like to think of the solid sound that top of the foot makes with the ball and the image of the top of my instep compressing the ball forcefully. I know that as long as I keep my focus on the image and the sound, it will happen that way, and the ball has to go straight and far.

As a kicker we love the sweet spot. We teach our holders or know how to set the ball on the tee to assure we are getting the best shot at hitting it. When you hit the sweet spot just right you hear a deep thud off your foot and it feels as if you barely hit the ball. When you look up the ball is a picture perfect kick. It has great rotation and it takes off. As a kicker you know when you haven't hit the sweet spot. It sounds almost like a slapping sound. The ball may have a fast rotation or a funky spin and it feels as if you have no power or accuracy. We thrive on hitting the sweet spot and we try to be perfect each time.

The emotional aspect is beyond comparison for those who love kicking. When you hit the sweet spot, I don't have to look up, think about it, or even guess. You know right when you strike the ball, that it is solid and will be straight down the pipes. Even if you just kicked 50 field goals, it makes you want to hit another 50.

The sweet spot on a football, for me as a straight-on kicker, was a small area about 2 1/2 inches from the bottom point of the ball, directly opposite the side with the laces. As a kid, I remember reading a magazine piece featuring former NFL kickers Don Chandler and Tommy Davis. As I recall, they would put chalk on the front of their square-toed right shoe during practice. After kicking the ball, they would look for the chalk imprint on the football to make sure they were hitting the sweet spot consistently. Of course, you can immediately tell when you kick the ball in the perfect spot without looking. I would compare it to the sound and feel of hitting a baseball right on the screws: no reverberation. The sweet spot on the football for straight-on kickers was more difficult to hit consistently than it is for today's soccer-style kickers, who use their entire instep.

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