the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

D3 Special - Sometimes Less is More, part 1

Our Q&A college tour continues at the Division III level. We asked senior kickers and punters the following question:
Looking back over your college career, how was the experience of playing specialist for a small school?
Once again we received plenty of responses, so we've split them into two parts.

Jeff Sauer, University of Chicago
"I think the best part of my experience as a specialist for a small school was the opportunity I had to both punt and place-kick. A lot of bigger division I and even a lot of division III schools have their own kick-off guy, punter, and place-kicker, but at the University of Chicago I was recruited to handle all of the kicking duties. While my responsibilities had increased, I was able to improve my ability to both punt and kick instead of just getting to focus on one or the other. On a similar note, there is often very steep positional competition at larger schools in which specialists will only get to see any significant playing time for one to two years. At a smaller school, it is very common to see a specialist start all four years of college, which not only makes for a better college football experience but also allows you to really improve your kicking-game."

Zack Rogers, Waynesburg
"I absolutely loved playing at Waynesburg. The coaching staff and comradery between the team had a big school feel with the small school atmosphere. Whether I was playing in front of 5,000 people or 100,000 people I still had to block the noise and distractions that came about on Saturdays and do what I was supposed to do, which was punt the ball. Special teams and punting specifically is absolutely critical. Our special teams had a phenomenal year this year. Having the confidence in them to block the rush and to cover the punt allowed me to focus on my job and not worry about what was going on around me. With being at a smaller school, we didn't get as much exposure as larger ones, but when we broke the top 25 the exposure began to come. This ride over the four years has been great. I wouldn't have traded it for anything." 

Jamal Mitchell, Anna Maria College
"While I did play at a small school, I felt as there was more pressure for me personally to do my job efficiently due to the small school community and everyone knowing who I was. And being that our program had just started the first season ever my freshman year, it was nice to know that everything I did over my four years was going to be the foundation of records that over the years many people will try to break or tie. The overall experience though was awesome because I got four more years to play the game I love and was able to be a big impact to my team and the school community."

Scott Puschell, Ferrum College
"I loved playing football for a small school. The good thing about playing at a small school was I was able to look up into the stands and see my family and fiance, which gave me the courage to go onto the field and make every point count. People might overlook a small school to go and play at a bigger school, but for the players that just care about playing and having fun they will get the same experience at a small school, because football is football no matter how many people are watching. If I could go back and have the opportunity to play at a bigger school over a small school, I wouldn't take it because of how amazing the experience was and how close the teams and fans get to one another. It makes it more like a family with everyone instead of just a team."

Mauricio Alfonso, Chapman
"For the past four years now everyone has always asked what is the difference between kicking in D3 versus kicking in D1? The only difference I can think of besides the amount of apparel you receive that actually matters, is the atmosphere. Other than that, the fields are the same, the holding and snapping are similar, the posts are identical, and the kicking is the same. Exposure might be an issue when it comes to kicking for a smaller school but it could also be detrimental kicking for a bigger program, more pressure, which means less room to mess up on a larger scale. I have found it to be more beneficial kicking at a small school because I get a little bit of everything but don't have to worry as much as other kickers might. I feel the pressure is the same everywhere because in the end there is some sort of crowd relying on your kick and your job is to get it done. I thoroughly enjoyed kicking for a smaller school and hope that I can take my talents on in to the future. I do love the idea of the rah-rah from larger schools but if you have a school who buys into the program and supports your games, then it is quite satisfying."

Christian Hallingstad, Wisconsin - La Crosse
"It was an unbelievable experience. The lessons you learn from football can be applied not only to your on field playing but to your life off the field as well. Those lessons you carry with you your whole life and you can apply to almost anything.
An example that comes to mind is when I applied for a job and I was in the interview and they asked me a question about being a team player. Well, being a football player, that was an easy question for me and I used football as an analogy for her to help her understand.
Everything we do in today's society involves being a team player in some aspect. Football is the ultimate team sport. Everyone needs to do their job together in order for them to reach their common goal. If one person makes a mistake the link in the chain is broken. You might get lucky and still make a play but more times than not it results in a mistake. You can use the football ideology of being a team player with everything you do.
Another thing that you'll take with you the rest of your life is the bond you form with your teammates. At the small school, division 3 level, you don't play football because you plan on going pro or because you have some fancy scholarship. You play because you worked your butt of to get there and you love the game. I think D3 athletes are the definition of a student-athlete because we are in school for academics, not athletics. It's extremely difficult to find a balance between the two. If you want to succeed in one then you take time away from the other. These kids work so hard to achieve their dreams. My football teammates are all playing their hearts out because they love the game so much. When you have that kind of commitment and dedication from a player it makes you respect them. That respect forms a bond between you and makes the whole team very closely knit. These guys would do anything for each other and that's a special thing to have. To be able to trust the guy next to you with everything."

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