"Weathering" the Elements
As the last leaves fall off the trees and the night gets bitterly cold, a kicker’s job becomes exponentially harder. When the temperature is below freezing, hitting a ball can feel like kicking a football-sized hockey puck. Nevertheless, it is a kicker's livelihood to get the job done regardless of the elements.
Two seasons ago, Blair Walsh lost his job. On January 10, 2016, the Minnesota Vikings played host to the Seattle Seahawks in a NFC Wild Card matchup. The temperature at kickoff was a brutal -6 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill was -25 degrees Fahrenheit. As expected, both teams heavily ran the ball. Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings both passed for under 150 yards. It was a low scoring affair with the Vikings leading 9-0 after three quarters, thanks to three Blair Walsh field goals. Things fell apart from there. The Seahawks scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings had a chance to win it with 22 seconds left. All Blair Walsh had to do was kick a 27 yard field goal. He hooked it left to the disgust of Minnesotans. After a disappointing performance in week ten of the 2016 season, Walsh was released. Fortunately, he was able to recover and was signed by the Seahawks for the 2017 season.
What can you learn from Blair Walsh’s experience? Preparation is key. A kicker should practice in the conditions they are going to play in. Unlike a quarterback who can utilize gloves or hand warmers, a kicker is unable to warm his feet. Therefore, a kicker who plays in a cold climate needs to practice in the cold. The days when it is 40 degrees outside are a perfect opportunity to work on your kicking.
In other conditions, such as rain or snow, in-game adjusts can make a difference. Shortening up your approach if the grass or turf is slippery or watering is pooling can help maintain your fundamentals. Your chances of slipping or messing up footwork are lower when you kick with a shorter approach.
Ron Coluzzi, the founder of Coluzzi Kicking and a former Iowa punter, talked about the adjustments he made in response to the weather. “Small steps are always very important but when it’s wet outside small and compact steps create consistency and reliability,” Coluzzi said. I always thought of snow like being on ice... grip with your toes, float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee, focus on making solid contact and the rest is history.”
Preserving good fundamentals during less than ideal conditions is key to performing well. But, the physical performance is just half of the equation. You must approach each situation with the same attitude and confidence. If you do not believe that you will make a kick in bad weather, then you won't make it. Believing in your abilities, especially in poor weather, can make the difference between a game-winning kick and a disappointing miss.
The weather is out of your control. What you can control is how you prepare for the elements and how you adjust to the circumstances. Good fundamentals and solid contact can go a long way to being a successful kicker in bad weather.
Learn more about the science behind kicking and punting in bad weather by scheduling a Virtual Lesson with Ron today- email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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