the study of the kicking components within sports

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mind Over Foot, part 9.1: Collegiate Kickers

Once again we head back into the minds of specialists. This time we talked to kickers from FCS schools, with members of this year's senior class responding to 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 kicking?

Adam Shriener, Elon
"The biggest thing that I learned from a mental aspect is to understand and know how to 'lock in' and then let go of your focus during both practices and games. If you try to stay completely focused and zoned in during a three hour practice or over the course of an entire game day, you will drive yourself crazy. I came to realize that in your mind, kicking happens in 30 second intervals. Whether in practice or in a game, you need to learn how to focus yourself and completely lock in for the roughly 30 seconds it takes to jog onto the field and execute the kick. Once the kick is over, you need to be able to let go and stay relaxed. This type of approach really helps to not let a miss affect you the next time you are called on. It will also help you to not get too comfortable and lackadaisical if you are having a good day already."

Greg Langer, Robert Morris
"The most important thing I've learned throughout my career is during the high pressure situations is to not over think the kick. During field goal practice every Thursday, coach would have the first kick as a pressure situation no time out kick. This to me helped myself get mentally prepared for dealing with the pressure kicks."

David Brown, Youngstown State
"The most important thing I have learned regarding pressure is practicing with a purpose. Go out on the practice field with the idea that every kick is a game winning kick. That makes the pressures of a game much easier to deal with. In addition practicing positive visualization helped me a lot in keeping a positive mental approach that every kick was going to be good."

Drew Geldbach, Southeast Missouri State
"I think the most important thing I've learned during my college career regarding the mental aspect of kicking is to let things go. It's tough when you miss a field goal, especially one that you know is important, to try and get it out of your mind quickly, but its pretty important to do so. You never know when your team is going to count on you to come in and get those crucial three points. The most helpful thing that I would do to let go of a miss is right after I missed one, I would instantly find the long snapper and/or punter and we would start talking about something unrelated to the game. This would help me to clear my mind and they were usually pretty good at making me laugh about something or just talking to me enough so that I would get the miss kick out of my mind yet continue to stay focused in the game. I think its important to remember that even though you might have just missed a 30 yard field goal or something, everybody in the stands, on the sidelines, or even on TV knows that you are fully capable of making it so there's no need to overcompensate on the next one." 

Everett Goldberg, Norfolk State
"For me the best way to deal with it is to play golf with other kickers. It puts you in every pressure situation that you would see in a football game and it helps to control the tempo of your leg swing. If you rush your golf swing or your kicking swing everything gets out of control and the result is inconsistent at best. As far as what I've learned from the pressure it is that when looking at the big picture there really is no pressure. We as kickers are perfectionists and we care about ball flight, ball rotation, height, all those aspects of the kick but all our coaches, fans, and teammates care about is that the officials put their arms up in the air signaling the 'its good' call. It takes a special situation such as the Kyle Brozman situation to get a memorable missed kick. Other than that your teammates and fans typically will forget that you ever missed a kick as long as it's not a game losing kick. As my kicking coach Sean Cheevers told me, 'nobody cares about blocked or missed kicks until it costs them money or costs them a win'." 

Jimmy Pavel, Eastern Washington
"The most important thing that I have learned during my career is not to get too high or too low. If you get to high you forget to do the little things because you think you are too good and don't need it. If you get too low you will lose all confidence in yourself and every kick become a toss up if you will make it or not. The other thing that I have learned and implemented in my kicking this year comes from my mom and an article I read in ESPN magazine on Billy Cundiff and his missed field goal last season. He said that he takes long slow breathes before he goes out. I started doing this on the field to slow my heart rate, calm my mind and take away any anxiety that I might have. That combined with my mom's advice on my mentality during August camp has really helped me to take my mental game to the next level. It's not that she made some huge talk that lasted hours or anything like that but when I was really struggling she asked me what I was afraid of during each kick. I told her that I look at the posts and all the space and thought to myself what if I miss... she stopped me right there and all she said was 'what if you don't?!' Those four words have made all the difference in bringing my game to the next level."

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