Archive for March, 2011
This article was written by Jacob Noe for a college English requirement to discuss a personal high and a personal low and what was learned from it. Jacob was a kicker for the Hillsboro High School Burros in Nashville, who won the 2008 Tennessee Class 4A State Championship by upsetting the team with the nation’s longest winning streak at 74 games. He holds the state record for consecutive extra points with 106 from the midpoint of the 2007 season through the final state championship game.
A Kicker’s Story
We all have our highs and lows throughout life. Some of which change our lives, others we soon forget. And some are so distinct that you can smell the air and hear the noises of the moment every time you recall them.
I have two experiences – one being a high, the other being a low – that will definitely stay with me for the rest of my life. I have many memories in my life, but none as distinct as these two. I have also learned many lessons in my life, but none like the lesson learned from these two experiences, a lesson I consider to be the most important I have learned so far – to never give up.
It was the state football quarterfinals, and my team, the Hillsboro Burros, was facing the Maplewood Panthers, our arch rival. I was the kicker for the football team, and it was my junior year. I had had a great year thus far. In fact, I had made my last twenty kicks. I was feeling confident about my team’s chances and also in my ability to make the kicks when my team depended on me.
Our team got up on Maplewood early in the game but Maplewood gradually came back to take an eighteen to seventeen lead with only a couple minutes left. After they took the lead, I knew there was a good chance the game could end up resting on my shoulders. I was soon to be right. As my team drove down the field, my teammates started telling me “you can do this!” My coach started yelling at me to start warming up on the kicking net. I heard my name being chanted in the stands “Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!…” I was all of the sudden filled with adrenaline.
After three years of kicking, my dream was finally coming true – the chance to attempt a game-winning field goal. I started kicking balls into the net almost non-stop. Although we were not yet to the 50 yard line, my heart was already pounding. My best friend, Hendrix, who was also my holder, tried to calm me by saying “Hey, it’s just another kick, you’ve got this.” I was just so excited for the opportunity. Little did I know, in about ten minutes, my world would spin upside down. My team was getting closer and closer with each ball I kicked into the net. It was a very chilly night, but the cold was nothing compared to the nerves I felt in that moment.
Finally, we were at about the six yard line, and my coach called us out onto the field. There were about ten seconds left in the game. I was completely focused and ready to kick it through when my coach called a time-out to run another play first. I was a little frustrated by this, but soon enough, I was out again to attempt the kick. I felt my legs shaking from under me. The ball was snapped. Hendrix caught the snap, and I made my way toward the ball and kicked it. This is when time stood still for me. I watched the ball head toward the uprights. At this point, I was thinking “please stay down the middle”. It did not. The ball started moving right until it sailed directly over the right upright. I looked at the referee and saw him call it “no good”. My heart plummeted to the ground, and at the same time my body fell to the ground. I was in shock. Our once promising season was now over. My mind was so set on making the kick that I didn’t know what to do when I missed it. I found myself shaking hands with the other team after the game, but I was not there. I was still, in my mind, celebrating the winning kick.
I know that not all stories have a happy ending; fortunately this one does not end here. Although the following week was hell, waking up to read about the missed kick on the front page of the newspaper and going to school to face my fellow classmates, I decided it would be in my best interest to continue my kicking career. The very next weekend after that missed kick I was back on the field. I worked harder than ever to train myself to get better throughout the winter and spring. Soon enough, my senior season arrived and I ended up having a record breaking season. I broke the state record for most consecutive extra points made and I made every single kick I attempted throughout the season going into the state championship.
The state championship was being held at MTSU, in a stadium that could hold over thirty thousand people. We were facing the Maryville Rebels who had won four state championships in a row and had the nation’s longest winning streak at 74 games! Everyone in the state was picking us to lose this game. This just made us more fired up about the game, and miraculously we were tied with them seven to seven going into the fourth quarter. After many ill-fated attempts to score by both teams, we finally started making progress down the field midway through the quarter. I suddenly got a shot of déjà vu, as we crossed the fifty yard line. And of course there went my heart again, pounding more and more after each yard we gained.
Once again, I started kicking in my kicking net as my best friend Hendrix showed his support by saying “you’ve made every kick this season so far, why stop now. You’re a state record holder buddy!” It was encouraging. My eyes were now focused in between those uprights, because now there was no doubt in my mind that if it came down to it, I was not going to let my team down two years in a row. Finally, our quarterback found a wide open receiver for a big gain all the way to the five yard line! I think my heart skipped a beat this time as our whole sideline was jumping in joy. We were held for the next three downs and sure enough I was sent onto the field.
I felt like I was running onto a pro field in front of thousands and thousands of people. It was a surreal feeling. As I made my way to the spot where I was to attempt the kick, I noticed it was almost the exact same spot where I ended our team’s season one year earlier. As I took my steps back, I noticed I was sweating which is not a good sign for a guy that only kicks. Hendrix told me what he tells me every kick, “head down, foot through.” It felt like he was speaking in slow motion. Then time went back to normal speed, the snap came, Hendrix caught the ball and then it was my turn. I kicked the ball, and immediately felt myself get hit to the ground by a Maryville defender.
As I got to my knee I watched the ball sail and sail what felt like forever until finally saw it sail straight through the uprights. I wanted to fall back onto the ground in joy, but my teammates rushed me and I was surrounded by excitement. As I made my way to the sidelines I heard my name being chanted once again, and this time I could enjoy it. We held on to win the game and the championship, and since we had stopped the nation’s longest winning streak, we received recognition in the nationwide press for days.
These two moments are imprinted on my memory forever, and I have learned so much from them. I now can respect the low points in life because they make us stronger and help us achieve things that are great. Hillsboro had won the state championship that night! As for me, I did not really win on that night; I had already won exactly one year earlier, when I chose to not give up.
Published by Mark Maynard - Prokickernews.com
Proper contact with football is important for the kicker
Impact With the Sweet Spot
For a soccer-style kicker, the sweet spot of the ball is about 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches down from the ball’s widest segment. Contacting this area of the ball on the kick is most effective to achieve the optimal height and distance. When the holder positions the football in a straight up-and-down position, the kicker has a greater opportunity to strike the sweet spot.
Because the ball is a prolate spheroid shape, its axis of symmetry is longer than its other axes. This means the ball has a natural curve from its midsection that continues inward and to both points of the ball. When the football is positioned for placement-vertically for maximum sweet spot exposure-the inward curving of the ball from the midsection down to the point of placement on the ground provides the ideal surface area for contact on the kick. When the kicker strikes the ball as the kicking foot ascends, the ideal impact surface of the football and the top of the foot are more likely to meet, making for optimal impact and compression. Note: Even though the football needs to be vertical (side view) for optimal impact – most soccer-style kickers like the top of the football to lean slightly away (back view) in order to better match the angle of the foot when making impact with the ball. The centrifugal force of the football in flight will enable the football to travel vertically toward the target.
On contact with the ball, the kicker’s upper body is angled back slightly and away from the ball. Contact occurs at the exact moment the kicking foot begins to ascend. The kicking leg is rotated inward slightly as the kicking foot remains locked at the ankle with toes pointing down and out. The kicking leg should be in a nearly locked position.
The inward rotation of the kicking foot allows contact to occur at the top of the foot. This motion enables the leg to rotate slightly, allowing the knee of the kicking leg to move forward and face the direction of the target. At the moment the ball begins to compress, the impetus of the body-including the plant foot, hips, and leg swing-comes together to maximize the energy transfer through the football. At this moment, all the mechanics of the kick coordinate with the direction of the plant foot, which has transitioned to a firm and flat position, and come together to focus all energy directly toward the target.
At the very moment the football is compressed, the kicking leg locks. The kicker’s hips are square to the target and should continue forward in a thrusting motion, allowing for optimal power through the football. The left arm begins to sweep forward to counterbalance the anticipated swing of the kicking leg and provide stability as the body’s energy becomes concentrated toward the target. The right arm is slightly behind the body as it counterbalances the plant foot and the swing of the left arm.
The lean of the kicker’s body positions his head at an angle above and almost directly over a spot slightly behind and to the outside edge of the plant foot. This natural positioning of the body provides an optimal viewpoint. As the body continues the slight lean, with chest, hips, and kicking leg in a direct line to the kicking foot, the kicker looks down his body with eyes focused intently on the ball.
On impact, the kicker’s body is slightly back and angled away from the ball, which allows him to kick up and through the ball, gaining immediate elevation to clear the ball over the oncoming rush. This is the kicker’s natural way of adjusting his center of gravity to get a quick lift on the ball.
Optimal trajectory means obtaining maximum height and distance on the football to clear 10 feet easily from a 7-yard distance. An extra point or field goal is kicked 7 yards (sometimes up to 8 yards) behind the line of scrimmage, where the potential blockers are swarming. Oncoming rushers can jump about 10 feet in the air. Thus, once the kick is on its way it must immediately climb above 10 feet before it travels 7 yards.
This is an excerpt from Football Kicking and Punting Published by Human Kinetics Publishers
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