the study of the kicking components within sports

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mind Over Injury, part 2

As we mentioned yesterday, and the day before that, and numerous times in the past, kicking is 80% mental (or some similar percentage that conveys that same intent). Does that also apply when one is less than 100% physically healthy? Physical rehab from kicking/punting/snapping/football injuries is widely discussed, but less so the mental aspects. We asked the pool of experts, "What's involved mentally during the course of an injury, recovery, and/or returning to play?" Previously in part 1 we heard from four specialists.Today's responder takes a detailed look at playing through an injury.

Nick Setta, Setta Performance
"During my time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats [2006-2009] I had received a broken back during the second preseason game of the season. A ball was snapped over head and when I ran back and jumped on the ball an opponent's knee drove into my lower back. It was just one of those cases where the he hit the right spot and it created a pain that made it unbearable to walk. Although I did not finish that game due to it being a preseason game, I did however play the season out. That was probably the hardest mentally draining season I have ever had. 

Although it was very visible that I was in pain. We did not let the media know it and also I did not speak about it. My answer was always 'I'm fine'. And when asked but why aren't your kicks the same. I repeated with 'I'm fine'. That season I was CFL player of the month and week a few times and also had been given the game ball against a strong Montreal team as well as became the all-star punter for the year.  

The pain of the injury became a benefit to my technique. I could barely walk for the first four games and had to fight through the pain and focused on simply contact point. Everything being in the right place at the right time with less movement. On my first game I didn't launch any punts but I kept the ball low and angled and still averaged over 43 yards and netted around 41 which was what any coach would be looking for.  In terms of field goals they were low but straight and with the help of my snappers and holders making things easy on me I was able to get the job done.  I did have a game though indoors actually which I missed a few kicks and I truly feel that was from my lack of mental focus and thinking it's indoors and with less elements I should be okay. Unfortunately I was wrong and had one of my most poor field goal kicking games. When asked what's wrong my answer... 'I'm fine'.

While some will let everyone know from the moment it happens in hopes to get some sympathy form their fans coaches etc... my mindset was stay tough stay hard get the job done,  because in five years no one is gonna look back and say... 'Nick wasn't 100% on that day he missed the game winner'. If you are on the field there are no excuses. Although that mentality of keeping things within the team may of hurt me in the long run, when it came to my coaches even believing nothing was wrong because as we all know sometimes the coaches aren't as kicker friendly... it made me a stronger athlete and competitor.

Since I was day to day before the first game and even with such a severe injury was looked at to be more helpful to the team than any of our backups and or those who they would bring in, I had to stay ready. So I did not just rest and stay off. Since I knew they were gonna want me to kick, I kicked daily and still worked out daily. The pain that kept me from sleeping because any movement would set it off and getting in the car to drive was a 30 second ordeal of figuring out where to put my hand on the car and how I was going to fall in the car and exhale because I knew if I tightened up it would be hell. So I would kick 10 yards. 15 yards 30 to 75 times a day minimum. I would ask our therapist to press on the affected area and slide his hand down it continuously to set off the nervous system so I would feel the pain of the injury and get more used to it.. This way when I jarred my body to kick I was more used to the pain. I would still do the bleacher sets I did during the week to keep my legs strong except I would walk and focus on relaxing my body so at no point I pulled out of my back and also this way my back was used to taking on more impact. 

Some would disagree with this but it is what prepared me to take the pain and I guarantee that injury would of lasted a lot longer if I had not done that active recovery. In pregame for the first game I was still only hitting balls in the 10 to15 yard range and still remember the first kick and how I felt as if my body popped and I felt nothing on the impact of the ball. But when the ball flew with a hang time of around 2.5 seconds and went out of bounds 44 yards down the field... It was all worth it!!"

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