Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Basics: Steps Back


By Coach Nick Fleming

Kicking is all about inches and angles.  As a beginning kicker, understanding the importance of proper steps can be difficult because the kickers mechanics are not developed enough to be able to figure out what caused the bad kick.  Being off by a few inches or a couple degrees can make a huge impact on how you contact the ball, the trajectory of the kick, or the power of the swing.  Here are seven tips to remember to maintain the consistency of the steps and create the best contact.

1. Starting Point
·         The starting point for our steps will be our plant spot, with your left foot on the plant spot and your right foot next to it heels together.

2. Find your Target
·         Pick out a target beyond the uprights to aim for.  I use the expression “aim small, miss small.” If you aim for the wide uprights, you can miss the wide uprights.  If you aim for the top of the light pole behind the uprights and miss the top of the light pole, you still have a chance to make it through the uprights.

3. Take Your Steps Back
·         While keeping your eyes on your spot behind the uprights, take 3 easy steps back.  Keeping your eyes on your target will help you stay straight as you walk.  When taking your steps, think about your spacing.  You want your spacing to be as natural as possible.  I like to think “how would I walk 100 yards backwards?” and try to replicate that form while I take my three steps back.  Don't over stride, don't start and stop 3 times, just take easy and consistent steps.

4. Stop and Regroup
·         Make sure what you have done so far is exactly what your want.  Try to draw an imaginary straight line from your left toe, through your plant spot, ending at your target behind the uprights.  If you can draw a perfectly straight line, you know you walked straight back.  If you cannot, start the process over.

5. Get Into Focus Mode
·         Now its time to turn into a robot.  Its time to forget about what the kick means in the game, what the other team may be doing, or what the fans are screaming from the seats.  You only have a handful of opportunities during a game to do your job well, so you do not want lack of focus to be a reason for a missed kick. 
·         After I have regrouped and am comfortable with my steps back, I focus on the block or spot if off the ground, and my eyes wont leave that spot until after the kick.  This helps block out unnecessary distractions.  A lot of kickers will look up two or three more times later in the progression, but then you may see something you were not expecting to, like defensive overload, player substitution, insufficient gap coverage on the line, and you could lose focus.  You know where you are trying to kick it, so you don't need to pick you head up again.  Focus and get ready to do your job

6. Side Steps
·         With the same mental approach as your backwards steps, take two easy side steps over, 90 degrees from your plant spot.  Again, if you had to walk 100 yards sideways, how would you walk?  If you feel your shoulder dipping to get more ground, or if your steps are drastically short of shoulder width apart, you might need to make a change.  Remember, what comes consistently is what comes naturally, and what comes naturally is what you can do without thinking about it.  Take easy, natural steps.

7. Get Ready to Attack the Football
·         When youre getting set-up there are only a few things to keep in mind.
·         First, keep your weight on your lead foot, which hopefully is your plant foot.  This will cut down on your reaction time as you approach the ball and create better consistency in your steps. This will also prevent you from taking a third step or a “jab” which can easily get out of control.  “Jab” steps are not a bad thing, but you have to control the distance of them which can be hard to do as situations get more exciting and your blood gets pumping.
·         Secondly, make sure your hip and lead toe are pointing at the plant to keep the hips from unnecessarily rotating and remain as accurate as possible. 

·         Finally, do what comes naturally.  Think about how you would start a race on the playground when you were young as you will usually find a lot of similarities in your stance for the race and your stance for the beginning the kick.

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