the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Sweet Spot, part 3

Although he didn't use the term, Washington Redskins kicker Graham Gano was talkin' 'bout hitting the "sweet spot" when discussing his game winner against Tennessee the other week:
"Before I even looked up, I knew it was going in. It feels like kicking a pillow, really. You don't even feel it."
Many of the kickers, punters, and coaches that we previously spoke to also mentioned not feeling the ball when connecting with the sweet spot. Of course there always seem to be an exception to every rule, and in this case it may be when kicking in extreme cold. Calgary Stampeders punter Burke Dales didn't mention any pillows when recently discussing frigid weather conditions:
"It’s like kicking a rock. It’s heavy - well, it feels heavier. I guess it would be the equivalent of kicking a cinder block. That’s what it feels like. You have to get a good foot on it, and you have to hit the sweet spot, that’s imperative."
Regardless of weather, or any other conditions and factors, in the end kicking is a simple matter of hitting the sweet spot. Or maybe it is not quite-so-simple, as our final coaching feedback discusses:


"Hitting the football on the sweet spot requires physical and mental routine that enables a kicker to achieve it again and again.

First of all, there are technical points that are very important. One of them is keeping your eyes on the target. The rhythm running to the football is another one. To hit the sweet spot all the time, your global technique has to remain the same.

But why is it so difficult to hit it over and over? A lot of practice is to make the movement an automatism. When the movement becomes a second nature, the emotions come along to stabilize the whole kicking motion or unfortunately, destabilize it. Being confident, staying concentrated on the target, having pride to execute the attempt, and staying positive are some of the good emotions. Being afraid, insecure about your skill, afraid of teammates, fans or friends’ feedback are some of the feelings that you don’t want in your kicking routine.

To be able to succeed under pressure requires the proper control of these bad feelings. Being anxious is a lack of a common need: confidence. A lack of confidence could be catastrophic while trying a 35 yard field goal. With anxiety comes stiffness. Stiffness destroys your kicking motion. At the end of your movement, the follow through is not the same. Hitting the right spot on the football can’t be the same either. Worst, anxiety could make you lift your eyes too early. Raising your eyes too early to see if a kick is good brings your head in a different direction, which open your hips a little bit too much. Oops… the kick is wide to the left. The sweet spot… Oops…

To progress, it is important to remain in the present moment. Each tenth of a second at the time."

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