the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NAIA: Small Schools, Big Kicks – part 2

Last week we began our discussion of kicking and punting in NAIA schools by talking to persons with direct knowledge of the topic. This week we continue with more responses from more NAIA kickers and punters.

Mitchell Mascaro, Cumberlands
“Being a punter or a kicker at a smaller school in a lower division has its advantages and disadvantages. Because you are at a lower division it allows many freshmen to receive varsity playing time. Another advantage of a small school is that those who are academically oriented will receive more individual support from actual professors. Although small schools have their advantages, there are some benefits of a larger school that one cannot find at a smaller one. For true development, a kicker or punter needs a full time coach for his position and the majority of small schools do not have them, which means that we are forced to develop our athletic abilities on our own. Another disadvantage is that a small school does not get as much media exposure as that of the larger schools which in turn limits your ability to be seen by scouts. Due to the lack of media, most small schools also lack the large fan base. Despite these disadvantages, the NAIA still produces successful kickers and punters. The experiences that I have had are ones that I will never forget. I am proud to be an athlete of the NAIA and would recommend it to any prospective kicker or punter looking for the small college atmosphere.”

Aaron Mize, Shorter
“Punting to me is something that seems to be looked over sometimes. I came into Shorter not really knowing where I would be in the line up. I won the starting position two games into the season. No matter what anyone says you do have a special job, as a punter. You are the defense’s great asset. You always can change the tone of the game by pinning them deep in their own in of the field. So no matter what anyone says, you are a very important part of any football team. No matter how small you are, you are a very big part of a football team.”

Kollin Carman, Saint Francis
“I feel like being at a smaller university is actually a benefit. Yeah, we all had dreams of going to a D1 school, who doesn't? Which I had the opportunity to do, but when you sit there and think about it, at a large school you'll be just a number to them in the class room and it takes a while for all the coaches to get to know you. Which is where being a kicker or punter at a small school becomes very beneficial. You get more personal with teachers and coaches, and also the people in the stands get a chance to learn who you are after games. Yes there is a down side to being at a smaller school, such as being on ESPN and stuff like that, but if you love the sport it shouldn't really matter. Kicking is kicking and punting is punting. If you’re good at it you will get noticed. I feel like if you have dreams of making it to the NFL, don't worry about what school you’re at… if you’re good then they will find you.”

Derek Mathewson, Trinity International
“It is very demanding and stressful at times, considering the higher level you go the better the talent level is, and more than less teams won't punt as often.”

Name Witheld Upon Request
“It’s easy, laid back more than other positions. We have a "kicking coach", but he hardly ever does anything but tell us when to run laps... so I spent most of this year just working at my own pace, and working on what I wanted to work on.”

Mike O’Brien, Northwestern College
“Kicking in the NAIA can be a terrific experience if you’re well prepared. Obviously, there are very few kicking coaches at smaller schools, so you need to come in ready to be your own coach. Something that I haven't learned until later in my collegiate career is to have good communication and repetition with my snappers and holders and getting them to understand that they are as important to the process of me making kicks as I am. With that being said, if you are able to master that, it really is a great place to play. I am really fortunate to be at a school where my coaches and teammates not only care about me as a football player but as a man. I’m not sure that a lot of people can say that at bigger schools. Not to mention we also have an outstanding football program.”

Johnny Garcia, Hastings
“Being in a smaller school really lets you grasp the overall feel of being a college athlete, even more as a kicker/punter where usually we go under the radar. Because of being in a smaller, private school, we’re more noticeable and ultimately end up being an essential component to the result of the game just like a quarterback or a d-lineman. Kicking in any division will always be kicking. A 50 yard field goal in D1 is the same distance as in NAIA, so a lot of good kickers and punters go unnoticed due to the size of their school preference, when in reality, they can play up to the same caliber as other athletes in better divisions. So, school size or division shouldn't play a role in the choice of school. It is more of a self preference because in the end, it’s more about finding the school and the program that fits you the best, not the other way around.”

Ezequiel Rivera, Central Methodist
“As a freshman, starting kicking for my college was a great experience. There's a lot of Competition out there… that's what makes it interesting and fun. How I see it is it doesn't matter if you kick for an NAIA or NCAA shool, but as long you show your talent on the field every game is what counts. Kicking for my college is not just a job for me, but something that I love doing everyday with my heart.”

Garrett Chumley, Baker University
“Originally transferring from Washburn University (a D-II school) to Baker University, I feel like I have a pretty unique perspective on what life as an NAIA specialist is like. The major difference is obviously the size of the institution at which you play. In comparing it to a larger state university/college, NAIA schools are a lot smaller in size. Baker has around 1,000 students on the main campus. The facilities are a lot smaller but still very adequate for what you need as an athlete. Crowd size is another big difference. As an athlete at the NAIA level you don't get the chance to play in front of tens of thousands of fans on a weekly basis. However, to a good kicker or punter, crowd size should be irrelevant. Finally, at the NAIA level, grades are stressed a lot. Class attendance is more strict, and grades play a bigger factor in playing time.

In terms of the actual life of an NAIA punter, I feel like it's not much different than any other level. We are required to do drills during practice, but on our own. I'm not sure I've heard of an NAIA school with an official kicking "coach". A lot of our work is done in the off-season. Personally, this involved going to pro-development camps, "combines", and private lessons with my long snapper. We carry over the drills from these off-season camps and such to practice during the season. Other than that, I would say that the life of an NAIA specialist is pretty similar to that of any other division of football. We are still guys out there kicking, punting, and snapping, and enjoying football.”

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