November 2016 Newsletter


In this Newsletter:

1. Season is over. Now what do you do?

2. Two questions that you should not ask me or other kicking coaches.

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1. Season is Over. Now what do you do?

Simple answer: Kick often...not too much...compete occasionally...not too often...play other sports...not too many.

Off-season is the best. You get to do whatever you want. Next season is 9 months away. What will you do with your time? Here is what I suggest:

1. Kick. You get better at kicking by kicking a lot. Even if you are doing it a little bit wrong technique-wise, you are still getting stronger and better at controlling your body through the kicking motion. Aim for three kicking workouts per week - totaling 200-250 full kicks.

2. Attend kicking camps. Have an experienced kicking coach look at you and give you a direction to pursue. Also, camps are a good opportunity to compete with other kickers in your age group. But while competition is good occasionally, it can be harmful long term if you overdo it. If you are better than most kickers, you can get overconfident and slow down your progress. Also, if you are always looking ahead to a competition that is coming up, you will be hesitant to take necessary steps backwards in order to keep improving.

3. Play other sports. You are not a professional kicker. Don't make kicking the only thing in your athletic life. Play another sport. You can play it for your school, a club team, or on your own. It really does not matter. What matters is that you are developing athletically and that you are taking a mental break from kicking. I chose mountain biking as my second sport. I liked how different it was from organized team sports and that I did not have to follow anyone's orders for few months. However, if you play something during the winter, something else in the spring, and you don't start kicking again until May, you will not be able to improve your kicking very much. So either find time to get short kicking workouts in during the winter, or limit your offseason activities to only one other sport.

4. Kick with someone. If you can find another kicker in your area, get together to kick as often as possible. If not, parents are great kicking companions - they pay attention at kicking camps to learn techniques, and they care about you and your athletic development more than anyone else.

5. Have fun with kicking. You can't fast forward your development from where you are to where you want to be. And even if you could, you shouldn't. You will have to experience everything that every other good kicker had to experience. You will kick well... you will kick terribly...you will make a kick that will make you the talk of your town...you will perform terribly at a camp where you wanted to impress...you will be jealous of kickers who are getting more attention than you...your parents will hear someone in the stands yell out "kicker sucks!"...you will have days on which you will amaze yourself...you will feel like kicking 1000 balls on some days...and there will be weeks that you will just go through the motions. And there will be many many more feelings and experiences that will shape you as a kicker. When I hear about a kicker missing an important kick in high school game, I usually respond with ,"it is great that you got to experience that at such a young age". I mean it 100%. Regardless of how long your kicking journey is, best journeys are the ones that will challenge you and reward you. Don't wish for easy times. Instead, welcome every experience as an opportunity to learn something about the game and yourself. So be thankful that you are a kicker, get out on the field and have some fun kicking footballs.

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2. Two questions that you should not ask your kicking coach.

Next year will be 25 years since I started kicking footballs. I was a high school kicker, college kicker, pro kicker, and now I am a full time kicking coach. With exception of fruit stacking at a grocery store in high school, every single job that I held has been in the kicking world. As a long term resident of the kicking world, I became the one that high school, college and pros ask questions. I want to share with you two questions that I hear a lot that I personally never asked. And as I connect the dots backwards in my life, not asking those questions made all the difference in my athletic career. That does not mean that if you asked one of these questions, you are automatically going to fail. The points that I will make in this Newsletter merely suggest that it is in your best interest to take more charge of your circumstances, and not look for too much validation along the way from people who do not know you as well as you know yourself.

Question 1: Do I have the potential (to be a great kicker)?

If you ask this question, you are assuming that talent/potential is something that you are born with or without. And you are assuming that someone like myself, who played professionally and has evaluated thousands of kickers, can recognize in you, and calculate how successful you will be. We would all like to know how we compare with others in our age group and if we have the ability to improve rapidly. But why? Research proves that talent/potential do not play as big of a role as we think. Yes, some of us learn faster than others. And we all have genetical ceilings. But another truth is that majority of athletes do not give 100% effort daily, or train consistently, or consistently focused. Also, majority of people will give up on mastering a skill way before they get close to their genetical ceiling. So talent/potential play a role only if a less talented person and more talented person put up the same amount of effort and focus, and maintain it for the same amount of time, while dealing with every setback and every success in the same way. In other words, that will never happen. So don't look at someone who is kicking better than you at the moment as someone who you will never catch up to or beat. Things change. Even though I have seen many many kickers over the years, I can't recognize how passionate you are about kicking, how focused you are, how resilient you are to setbacks, and how hungry you will remain after successes. And ultimately, when combined, those matter significantly more than potential. If me at age 22 asked my current self if he has potential to kick in the NFL, my current self would have said to the young me," Your hands are very good. Your leg strength is adequate for NFL. But you averaged just over 40 yards in college. And you are coming out of a division 2 school. And you never hit a 5 second hang time punt. You can improve. But you have a big gap to close in a short amount of time." All true points. But a bit too pragmatic and grim to have a motivating effect on a young athlete's psyche. Luckily, my 22-year old self did not consult with experts. He believed that he has done more to prepare for the NFL than any other specialist, and that he can find a way to outperform anyone. Whether that was true or not, it did not matter. It got me excited to do drills, workout, and tirelessly seek competition and spotlight. In summary, nobody knows what is inside of you - not me or any other kicking coach. Nobody knows how much you will kick, how focused you will be when you kick, how you will react to setbacks, how you will react to successes, etc. Don't give any person the power to set the trajectory for your athletic career. Keep your eyes on the prize and keep taking steps forward.

 

Question 2: Do you know of any college that is looking for a kicker?

I understand the reasoning behind asking me this question. I communicate with colleges. I have access to this information. I know who is really looking, versus kinda looking, or not at all. But you are severely limiting your odds of finding a good fit with a school if you are considering only schools that may be interested in you, or schools that may be looking for a kicker out of your class. The way that I see it, it is in your best interest to consider every school to which you can get accepted academically, and that provides the environment that is important to you - academics, location, facilities, etc. This is what I considered when I decided on my college, in order of importance,...My parents lived near the school, school offered the major that I was interested in, tuition was reasonable, they had a dome for me to kick all year around. I had no idea what their kicking situation was. I just knew that once they see me, they will invite me to join the team, and once on the team, I will outperform anyone to win the job. Again, I don't think my assumptions were necessarily true. But it lit a fire under me to train hard and seek competition and spotlight. University of South Dakota did not know that I existed until I walked into the football office in March, after being a student there for two semesters, and asked if they could to look at me kick for few minutes during their spring ball practice. Fast forward few years...I am the starting punter and kicker on a full athletic scholarship. The point that I am trying to make is that by asking who is looking for you, versus you going out to look for the school, you give someone else the power to set the path for you. And that path is rarely better then the path that you would choose for yourself. It seems a bit philosophical. But here are the numbers...you can wait for schools to reach out to you, and have few to choose from...or you can choose to attend any school. There are risks in both scenarios. 1. You will have to win the starting job regardless of how you got there and where you go. 2. Schools will bring in additional kickers every year to add to the team and competition. 3. Unless you are getting a full athletic scholarship at Division 1 level (very small percentage of athletes and kickers), you will be responsible for some tuition and most expenses...According to Professor Obvious, 50% scholarship at a 50K per year school that recruited you is financially same as 0% scholarship at 25K per year school that you chose because you knew that you would like it. College athletics are fun, but also stressful at times. If you pick the right environment for yourself, you will be a lot more successful at dealing with the stresses, and you are more likely to overcome obstacles. If you choose a school based on football only, and you are not in a good environment, stress will get you. You will either hate school or football, or both. In summary, selecting a college should be exactly that, you selecting a college. If you are a kicker that has many schools interested in you, just pick the one that you like the best out of that group. But if you are talking to one or two schools that you may not be all that thrilled about, pick a school that you like, keep working on your skills, and find a way to get on the team once you are there.