the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mind Over Foot, part 8.2: Collegiate Punters

It's been said that kicking and punting are 80% mental. Along those lines, in part 8.1 we gathered feedback from some punters who've also spent the last few years immersed in academia. We continue with a few more responses from members of this year's senior class from FBS colleges around the nation who weighed in on the following question:
"What's the most important thing you've learned during your college career regarding dealing with pressure and the mental aspects of punting?" 
Kyle Dugandzic, Arizona
"You have to treat every kick the same, no matter the situation. You can't give more or less value to every kick. What's worked with me is maintaining the same mentality on every kick and focusing on my technique. That way you're confident in your ability and trust yourself that you're going to get the job done."

Gerald Levano, Boston College
"The main thing is being confident in yourself. You don't necessarily have to block out all the external factors or pressures, but rather you can use them to help you. For example with me, a packed stadium gets me pretty pumped. As long as I make sure I don't rush the fundamentals I believe I actually perform better. Being confident and under control is a good way to summarize it for me. The biggest thing I learned personally would be that everything in the game happens faster than in practice. Being able to slow yourself down and hit a good ball makes all the difference for me."

Ryan Neir, Northern Illinois
"Block out all the distractions such as fans, teammates, opponents, weather, etc. and focus on my technique. When all the distractions are eliminated, it allows me to perform to the best of my ability. I think a lot of kickers and punters 'over-think' due to pressure. Instead, I tell myself 'just hit your ball'. My advice is don't try to do too much, block out the distractions, and focus on your technique."

Bobby Cowan, Idaho
"Stay calm and trust your ability. Have the confidence in yourself to know that you will get the job done in pressure situations. It comes down to technique and the things that you have practiced over and over again. Do these things and pressure becomes a much easier thing to deal with."
Jamie Boyle, Central Florida
"The biggest hurdle you have to get over as a kicker or punter is the mental aspect of it. Being able to deal with the pressures of kicking, and still have success is what it's all about. One thing I have learned is that you have to be able to perform in front of your coaches, as well as on game day. You can be the best practice player of all time, but at the end of the day, your results on game-day dictate how you will be remembered. Like all things that are hard to master, kicking under pressure comes from experience and practice. You have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions sometimes in order to grow as a punter."

Dylan Breeding, Arkansas
"As far as dealing with pressure, it is important to realize that everything must stay the same. What I mean is that a punter practices exactly what they will need to do in a game all week during practice, so when he gets in the game he must treat it as any normal day. Nothing should change on game day. This will give him confidence heading into game day that he is able to step in and perform under pressure by being consistent. Also, a punter should also do their best to just embrace the pressure as a challenge. Many people see pressure situations as not a good thing, but really pressure situations are just opportunities to perform exceptionally well and to be a game-changer. There is no other play in football that can be as big of a momentum shifter as a punt, so to know that just by doing your position well that it can really help the team. Mentally, a punter should be as methodical and consistent as possible, this way they always have a mindset that is focused both in practice and in games. This allows for you to not get too excited when punting well or too down when you are having an off day. After a bad punt, it is vital to remember that just because you did not perform well on one play does not mean that all of your God-given talents are gone. This should allow you to run back out on the field knowing that you have another chance to make a positive difference for your team. After all, you are the best on the team at what you do, so go out there and prove it. Also, punters should not think about technique during the game. This is what gets many punters thinking too much which adds unneeded pressure. Just trust in the technique that you worked on during the week and allow the game to be a showcase of what you have been practicing."

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