the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, December 2, 2011

NAIA: Small Schools, Big Kicks – part 1

Large universities in NCAA Division I receive extensive media coverage. Small colleges get far less. Throwing, catching and running with a football receive lots of press. Kicking and punting - not so much. Discussion of small school kicking and punting is virtually nonexistent. To rectify that situation, we reached out to kickers and punters from numerous schools in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).

Eric DeLira, Azusa Pacific
“I think when a lot of people think of NAIA football they just ignore it because it’s not D1 football. At Azusa Pacific I felt the big time college football atmosphere from the players, fans, students, coaches, and school. From the way we were treated on day one in camp and throughout the season was first class all the way! As for future kickers, I think the most important thing to do is work on the little techniques of kicking and to start working on the mental side of the game. Life as an NAIA kicker is great. I had a blast my first year at Azusa Pacific being a student athlete doing what I love.”

Zach Maxey, Morningside
It is almost relaxing to the point that I do not really do anything in practice besides my own drills. Being a kicker is pretty much all mental. Along with my drills I do in practice, I also do ‘mental reps’. It sounds silly, but it really does help just picturing the ball going through the uprights. It helps with your mental mind for when the time comes and the seconds are winding down and you need a field goal to tie or win the game. It keeps you relaxed and makes you feel like you have been there before. I do put in a lot of time in to being a kicker by watching film of myself. I will go from watching my bad kicks to watching my good ones to see what is different that I did. Being a kicker in NAIA, I'm sure it’s nothing compared to being one in NCAA or the NFL and kicking in front of thousands of people. At the same time it is all the same because you are not competing against anyone except yourself. You can control your stats and how well you perform. It is like there is almost no difference between the different levels of football.”

Mike Camargo, Culver-Stockton
“Before I came to NAIA, I have never heard of the division, especially Culver Stockton College. This school in general only has about eight to nine hundred students and is in a small town, Canton. Coming to this school was a complete culture shock for me. Even though the school is small and the NAIA is not the highest level of football, I would consider it to still have a lot of great talent. I have high respect for any athlete in the NAIA and if I had a choice to choose again I would go NAIA all over again.”

Tom Lynch, Saint Xavier
“One thing I always tell people is that there really is not a difference when it comes to kicking at a big school compared to a small school. [for example] The uprights are the same size in the NAIA as they are in the FBS.”

Yim Sribenjakul, Montana Western
“Well I am sure it is just like every other college! But the only difference that I can think of is that you don't get as much coaching as bigger colleges. I spend a lot of time coaching myself and try to get better on my own!”

Jeff Stamp, Ottawa
“The life as an NAIA kicker is one that is centered on academics more than athletics. NAIA schools usually are small and don't travel far, aren't shown on TV, and don't have the facilities like some top level programs. So the one thing that is stressed is passing classes and keeping up with the intense class schedule. The sports side is similar to one of a high school team. The stands aren't usually packed and everyone that comes probably knows you personally. Kicking comes down to what you put in you get out. There are usually no kicking coaches, or ones that know what they are doing. I got lucky this year when the previous kicker that graduated came back to coach the kickers. Usually kickers are told to go do drills by themselves on the side. So it is hard to improve without an outside opinion. My life this year can be described as easy going on the field and stressful in the classroom.”

Kelby Vandenberg, Nebraska Wesleyan
“Going to Nebraska Wesleyan University is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is a very prestigious school academically, but it is also a great school athletically. I came to school here because I felt like it would provide me with the best opportunities career wise. I also chose a small school because you aren't just a number here. All the professors know you and what kind of person you are. The coaches treat you like a son. Coach Keller and his staff are great to me and my teammates. They are willing to help us out with anything. The coaches know about who we are and about our families. They are legitimately interested in what goes on in our lives outside of football. I feel like that kind of gets overlooked and isn't as much of an emphasis at bigger schools.”

Tyler Emmetts, Cumberland
“I began my senior year of high school football very strong, I was sure I would have at least a few "bigger" schools looking at me. In the end I ended up with four offers: three from NAIA schools and one from a D2 school. Not how I envisioned my status to be at that point. So I was skeptical of what playing at a smaller school would be like. To be honest I was not too excited. I accepted my offer from Cumberland University where I resided. Fall practice began and I competed for the punting and kicking job, and I ended up winning out the punting job. I felt just fine. I was formally just a kicker that molded into a punter my senior year of high school, so it was still relatively new to me. I became more excited about the season because of this position I had earned with my skill. The season began where I started as a true freshman. I had an amazing year, earning second team conference punter, with an average of 40.7 yards. Even the NAIA magazine recognized me entering my sophomore year ranking me into the top three punters in NAIA. What I had gained from all of this was not just confidence but a new mindset. I didn't need to be playing at a D1 School. I have found a small home that I fit right into. The point I am going for is this: most kickers think they only have a home at a D1 college and don't even give a D2 college and especially an NAIA college a chance. Success can be found in every level of college football. Just because you’re not on television doesn't mean people do not notice you. I have learned all of this with my stay at Cumberland. I would encourage all kickers who want to give the NAIA a shot. It is worth the time and effort and it will give everyone who plays in it self-gratitude to last a lifetime.”

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