the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kicking Wisely During the Preseason

by special guest blogger Michael Husted:

Well, it's that time of the year that we all look forward to...FOOTBALL. However, the beginning is known as the the "Dog Days of Summer." In the NFL, it is called Training Camp. College football calls it Fall Camp and High School football calls it 2-A-Days. No matter what it's called, for players and coaches alike, it can be tough mentally and physically. Even for us kickers, punters and long snappers.

As specialists, we want to start kicking great right away. We feel that we have to kick a lot every practice to achieve this goal. The problem is that if we have two practices a day, we end up kicking many footballs. This is where tweaks, injuries, bad habits, etc. can occur. This is especially the case if we are battling for the starting job. (Note* When I use the word kick, I also mean punt and snap.)

We are like pitchers in baseball. You don't see pitchers throwing many full speed pitches every day. During the season, unless they are a reliever, they play every four to five games. We have to remember that it isn't about the quantity of kicks that we take, but the quality of kicks.

Here are things that you need to make sure are in your daily routine during these "Dog Days."
  • Warm up well, especially before morning practices 
  • Manage your kick count each practice 
  • Stretch well after each practice 
  • Become best friends with the ice tub 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Repeat 
Warming up well before you kick is more about getting the blood flowing. A solid dynamic warm up is key. You don't want to over stretch before you kick as it will fatigue your muscles.

Managing your kick count is going to be the hardest. When you are young, you want to kick...I did it. If fact, I was nicked named Kick A Matic by others due to the amount of footballs I would kick. I have heard that at other kicking camps, those kicking coaches will kick too much. Not wise. During these "Dog Days of Summer," we need to make sure that we have a scripted routine that we can follow and not just go out and swing away.

I consult kickers at all levels and part of the consultation is developing pre-season, in-season, pre-game and off-season routines. Twenty years ago, there were hardly any kicking coaches and the ones that were out there were new to coaching kickers and punters, let alone long snappers. Most of us back then had to depend on ourselves to develop our own routine, if you want to call it that. From my own personal experience as well as watching and studying some of the best kickers during my time in the NFL, I can share that experience with the next generation of specialists.

I truly believe that getting a great, not good, stretch in after you kick, lift or run is one of the most important things that you can do to stay healthy. You have just put a lot of stress and tension into your body. Stretching will help relieve it, but like I mentioned before, stretching does fatigue you. Therefore, post stretching is the best time. Even when you are exhausted from the practices, heat, whatever, make time to stretch. Flexibility is very important for our skill and longevity.

Unfortunately, I think that this is where many kickers slack off...Don't be one of them. STRETCH!

Typically, if you are kicking a lot and your team is practicing twice a day, if not three times, soreness will set in quickly. Ice baths were part of my routine after every practice. Getting the water temperature around 55 degrees will be great for your muscles. It's easy to get your toes, feet, and knees in the tub, but to get the rest of your body, up to your waist, is not fun...

However, you will be amazed at how much it helps you to recover. Be careful not to stay in the water too long. Most experts will say that 8-10 minutes is ideal. Too long in the water is not good for your body. 

All of the above is all for naught if you don't stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can cause us to lose focus, which can cause us to develop bad habits when kicking, which can cause us to get injured. It is a domino effect. According to Bobby Boucher, water should be the preferred beverage. Yes, Gatorade tastes good and has electrolytes (good), but it is also loaded with High Fructose Syrup (bad.) Several NFL and College teams will use Pedialyte, which, in my mind, is better than Gatorade. However, at FBU's Top Gun Camp, a company provided me with a product called Drip Drop to give to the kickers at the camp. I really enjoyed it and thought it worked well. No matter what you choose, make sure that you are well hydrated.

Good luck this season.
- Michael Husted

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