the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Today's Forecast: Cold with Wind Rain Mud & Snow

In the final segment of our 2012 college Q&A tour we visit NAIA schools. We asked senior kickers and punters the following question:
What's the worst weather conditions you ever played in and how did it impact the kicking game?
Tom Yaremko, Carroll College
"The worst game I played in was against Azusa Pacific from California my sophomore year. This was a first round playoff game in November. During this time of the year all the grass is dead and the field is frozen rock hard. The week of the game it started snowing on Thursday. Saturday / game day had a high of ten with a wind chill of negative 10. It snowed so hard during this game they had to plow the sidelines during time outs and between quarters. It definitively snowed a foot during this game. The extreme cold freezes the ball and makes it rock hard. You lose 15 yards on all your kicks. You have to wear a turf cleat on your plant foot to maybe get a little traction. The cold also makes it impossible to stay warm and your kicking with super tight muscles. For this game I wore liner socks, wool socks and and thin white ones on top plus foot warmers in my cleats. I wore leggings, two layers of Nike cold gear, a cotton long sleeve and a hat/ face mask under my helmet . There are heaters on the side line I used to try and keep feeling in my kicking foot, but this really doesn't work and it physically hurt to kick a ball. In these conditions you get horrible traction and are on the verge of pulling a Charlie Brown every kick. This game was so cold, probably the coldest I have ever been in my life. The weather this game made kicking ten times harder."

Alex Kreimer, Georgetown College
"My freshman year we played at Campbellsville University after it had rained for it felt like weeks. At the time they had grass, but there really wasn't grass because it consisted of 6 inches of mud. The conditions were so bad I couldn't even run up to the ball on kickoffs or walk up to them on PAT's and field goals. Everytime I tried to plant, I was slipping and falling. I didn't miss a PAT, but I did miss a field goal because of it and all of my kickoffs were pretty poor. It was by far the worst condition I have ever played in. I played in Montana in the freezing cold with snow and it wasn't anything compared to the mud."

Doug Dunn, Sterling College
"The worst conditions I have ever played in consisted of a heavy wind and a cold day at that. The cold made it hard to keep my muscles warm and foot stung every time I struck the ball. The wind was crazy and made accuracy a hard thing to come by, and it was a lateral wind so it affected the ball no matter which way you were kicking. I would have to aim outside of the uprights in order for the wind to carry the ball back in for a made field goal."

Tim Gilday, Avila
"Against Peru State we had 40 mph cross winds. It wasn't too hard to kick field goals... I went 4 for 5, missed a 48 yard field goal because I didn't factor the wind conditions enough but it had the distance with ease. The worst was trying to punt with the cross wind because we had to do rugby style punt where you roll out to your kicking leg side and punt on the run. The ball moved so much right after I dropped it to kick that I shanked one punt but then had another punt where I punted the ball well over 60 yards."

Steven Stewart, Baker
"Since I've only been kicking for one year of my life I haven't had to deal with too many horrible weather conditions. Especially with how beautiful the weather was this fall. The worst I experienced though was a very cold but mainly extremely windy day. Gusts of up to 35 mph. Awesome and horrible at the same time. KOs from one side I got to just kick them out of the end zone while from the other side I would just pooch kick it and the wind would actually bring the ball back towards us making it extremely difficult for the other team to catch it. Luckily for me I didn't have any FG attempts."

Nick Knell, Rocky Mountain College
"The worst weather conditions that I have ever kicked in was my last game of my senior season of college football. It was in Billings Montana and it had snowed probably 6 inches and it had froze. They tried to scrape the turf field but it had a sheet of ice that was stuck to the turf. It.was also about negative 4 degrees which I had to have hand warmers in my cleats. When I went to kick field goals me and my holder had to scrape off a spot for the ball and for my plant foot. This process took a long time and we got a delay of game on one kick. On my kickoffs I didn't have as good of footing when I was running on the ice so my kickoffs were not as far nor as high as they usually would be. The elements are always a factor when kicking the football, it's just about who can overcome them and who can find excuses to why they can't."

Craig Anderson, Jamestown College
"There were two instances that were just awful. Once my sophomore year in college we were in Black Hills South Dakota and it was sunny and around 70 while warming up, but a front moved in the minute we started playing. The weather dropped down to 50 and I had no sleeves because it was nice earlier and a heavy downpour with an east to west wind around 15 mph. Snaps were all over and just trying to field and get them off was a challenge itself, but one time I did manage to drop the ball off the side of my foot, the wind caught it and I had a brutally short punt that went over the fence behind our sidelines and into the road! Another instance was this year when we traveled to Dakota State University, my senior year. The outside conditions were a little cold, but decent. However, there must have been a high school game played on the field a day before and a layer of frost set in that was melting which combined made the worst mud surface one could possibly play on. Every kick needed extreme concentration, especially on the plant foot, and was by far the worst field I had ever tried to kick on."

Kenny Zoeller, Concordia (NE)
"Without a doubt the worst conditions I have ever played in was my sophomore year at Concordia University Nebraska, when we were playing at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. It was a nightmare because it had what I like to call, the big three: Cold, Wet, and Wind. The temperature was around the upper 30's with rain and sustained winds of 20 miles and hour with gusts around 35 coming out of the North. Now besides the obvious discomfort, these three conditions effect the ball in a detrimental way for a specialist. Now, I am no a physics major, but with my basic understanding of the subject, molecules move slower when it is cold so the ball does not "pop" off your foot as well as say a 75 degree day. Essentially the ball becomes a rock. When the ball is wet, it is simple: it becomes water logged and it is just heavier to kick. Now with wind it gets a little more complicated. You have to take into account these factors. Which way the wind is blowing on the field of play: left to right, right to left, or north south and vise versa. The wind that day was blowing north south so one team should essentially have an advantage when kicking with the wind, but if it is a constant heavy wind that is not the case. With heavy winds at your back (such as 35 mph) you must be careful that you hit the ball exactly on the sweet spot. You need to get a trajectory on the ball that is perfect because the wind is actually shortening your kick, unless hit perfectly. Because while your ball is going up to its highest point of the kick, it is actually fighting the wind because of how strong it is. So the wind actually causes your ball to peak at a shorter height and that causes it to not go as far."

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