the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Long Road from Australia to the NFL, part 4

Previously in this series (see part 1, part 2, and part 3), we heard from numerous Aussies who have transitioned to American football. They came from various stages of punting careers - including punting for U.S. colleges, attending NFL camps, playing in the UFL, and having returned back Down Under to instruct the next generation.

Today we hear from two players closer to the beginning of the process. Tom Hackett and Tim Gleeson are both members of the class of 2012 that are still in Australia learning the American version of football. We asked both of them a few questions:

Can you tell us a little about your kicking background prior to learning American football?
  • Tom: "Basically, in Australia we play a game called Australian football, which is based around the art to kick the ball. Similar to how a QB throws it, so I have been kicking since I could walk."
  • Tim: "My kicking background stems from Australian Rules football, which I have played since I was 4 years old. Growing up with a younger brother, Will, we would kick the football every day after school without fail, often using trees on the neighbor’s nature strip as goal posts. We would practice every kick under the sun; from bananas to inside-out spirals. When my dream of turning pro didn't work out at the end of 2010, I got into contact with Nathan Chapman, who I had heard had placed a former football teammate, Alex Dunnachie, into college (University of Hawaii). I had my first training session with ProKick Australia in December 2010 and I loved it straight away! It was a completely new challenge in a game that I (initially) knew little about."
What have been the easiest and hardest parts about transitioning/learning how to kick in American football?
  • Tom: "The art of kicking an American football and an Australian football is somewhat different. The ball shape is different, and the size of an American football is smaller. Being able to kick an end to end punt is what I have been doing for years playing Australian football, that is by far the easiest thing regarding the transition. The hardest would have to be the mental side of things. They say punting and kicking is very similar to Golf, where the mental side of the game is crucial."
  • Tim: "For myself, there was nothing easy in the transition from Australian Rules kicking to punting in American Football. It felt like a never ending cycle for a while – (Nathan) Chapman would change something in my technique, only for me to pick up another awful habit. One particular aspect that I forever seemed to struggle with was the dropping of the football. In Australian Rules, players habitually push the ball onto their boot, in contrast to punters, who float the ball out of their hands. That was my prime adaption issue, literally having to ‘forget’ 18 years of habit and muscle memory."
What should Americans know about Australia that we probably don't know?
  • Tom: "Americans should understand that the game of Australian football is very physical. We come from a tough and physical nation and that coming to America, we are representing our country and will therefore not give up anything lightly."
  • Tim: "We come from a sport where athletic superiority is a must. We gut run for 120 minutes and hit with no protection. Although we don’t have the size and strength of most American Footballers, it is none the less easier. Americans should take a look at this video, which showcases the strengths required to play top-level Australian Rules. Finally, although the punting position in a team may not be as laudable as others, we don’t want to be taken jokingly. John Smith, (the kicking coach with ProKick Australia and the guru of American Football in Australia) along with Nathan Chapman, make sure that all their students heading over to the U.S are 100% ready both physically, and mentally, to succeed."
Postscript: Tim is now in the U.S. at the University of Wyoming.

No comments:

Post a Comment