the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mind Over Foot, part 10.2: College Kickers

Our look inside the minds of specialists continues. 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?
Austin Witmer, Missouri State
"A kickers life is all based in pressure so it's very important to be able to handle it. The biggest thing that has helped me is the fact of knowing that my teammates always had my back no matter the outcome of the kick. Of course I still had to focus myself before the kick, but knowing my teammates were behind me allowed me to calm myself and do what I needed to do."

Jordan Day, Gardner-Webb
"The best thing to do is simplify your thinking and focus on one kick at a time. I always tell myself I will make this field goal because my leg is strong enough and I've put in the practice now it's time to show what I can do. Another thing that has helped me is always trust your teammates to do there job and trust yourself to do yours."

Bobby Zalud, Cal Poly
"Knowing that your head coach is sending you out there because he trusts you to make the kick every time."

Colton Cook, Southern Utah
"KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid. .. over-thinking the kick is the worse thing to do."

Thomas Warren, Citadel
"The number one thing I have learned about kicking is to stay calm. Every kick is different but every time you kick should be the exact same. Concentrate on making the kick and always have the confidence to believe in yourself."

Rory Perez, Montana State
"The most important aspect I learned dealing with pressure is too always think of technique, technique, technique. Have the same routine for every kick and treat every kick as the same. Lastly, and most importantly is to believe that the most important kick is the next. Always the next."

Andy Wilder, Northern Arizona
"Be elementary with your thoughts. A kick that is under 'pressure' is no different than a kick in practice when no one is watching. You've already kicked thousands of balls from that same spot during practices and made it, so treat it the same. Practice as if you're in a stadium full of noise, where you can barely hear yourself think, but perform in the game as if it is as quiet as it is during practices where no one is around. The field, the posts, the rules and regulations are all the same, nothing has changed between that kick in the practice and in the game so why should it be treated any different."

Nick Belcher, South Carolina State
"90% of kicking is mental. In preparation for a game, it is equally important to train your mind as much as it is to train your body. Practicing mental imaging is a very important way to help strengthen the mental approach to the game. In situations with high pressure, mentally train yourself to make these moments feel like every other kick. Having a solid and consistent routine is key for success in the kicking game. Be mentally tough."

Mike MacArthur, New Hampshire
"I've been lucky enough to start at UNH for four seasons and believe that you can't be successful at this position without a solid mental game. I've spent a lot of time working on it and have a solid mental as well as physical routine that I go through on every kick. The biggest pointer I could give anyone is that you have to spend time practicing it! I use breathing to help me relax so that I'm usually calmer when I'm on the field ready to kick than I am on the sidelines but it has taken a lot of practice to get to that point. Its also important not to waste any reps in practice; I visualize every practice rep like a game so that games feel like practice. The last mental aspect I've learned tough lessons on is the way you present yourself. I'm very competitive and still get pretty pissed when I miss a kick. When I was younger I used to let it show, but over time I realized that it does not inspire confidence in teammates or coaches. Learning to act composed, even if you have to fake it, is a really important skill."

Brendon Garcia, Idaho State
"Over my four years of college football, I have encountered almost every situation a kicker can be thrown into. From overtime kicks, to final play make it or go home field goals, there is no other feeling in sports like being a kicker put into a pressure situation. The most important thing to remember is that this is just another kick in your long career. It is important to remember the situation you are in, soak it up, but you have to keep a level head before the kick and just do business as usual. Pressure kicks can be a turning point in a career. Make or miss, you have to take it one kick at a time. The worst thing you can do is let a miss haunt you for the rest of the season, or career. I have missed game tying attempts that haunted me early in my career. I decided to use it as fuel to better myself. That brings me to the mental side of kicking. The most important thing you can have is confidence in yourself. When you can clear your head of the mechanics, the crowd, the pressure...  You allow your body to do what it has done thousands of times before. Preparation and muscle memory allow you to relax during the game because you believe in what you can do. Most of the pressure you experience during a game is self inflicted. I think of the same things as I line up every kick.. Find my spot, settle the feet, deep breath, and say "right down the middle". Find your spot and hit it. Straight lines on every kick. My senior year has been by far my most successful and everything that I have learned in my first three years contributed to that. Experience is the best teacher, whether it be good or bad."

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