The Mindset of a Kicker

Between 100-125 million people will be watching the Super Bowl tonight. 

The game between the Patriots vs. Rams features some AWESOME matchups. The battle of the coaching geniuses,  Bill Belichick and Sean McVay. The GOAT, Tom Brady vs. the young star, Jared Goff. This game features plenty of stars at their positions whether it’s Todd Gurley, Julian Edelman, Aaron Donald, or Rob Gronkowski.

But I’ll be focused on one matchup in particular. It’s a matchup with two of the strongest at their position physically, but more importantly, mentally. I’m talking about the kickers, Stephen Gostkowski and Greg Zuerlein.

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A strong mindset is essential for a kicker to perform at their best, and have a sustainable career. Every time they step onto the field, the kicker can either be the hero or the goat. When they do their job and make the kick, it’s ho hum, that was expected. But when they miss, EVERYONE remembers.

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Sure QBs throw INTs, and skill players fumble. Defensive players miss tackles and botch assignments. But the amount of plays they are on the field to atone for those mistakes is far and away more than the kicker.

And lets not forget the coaching strategy specifically geared to disrupting the kicker’s mindset, known as “icing the kicker”. 

This is when the opposing coach calls a timeout riiiiiiight before the ball is snapped on a field goal attempt.

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The opposing coach does this to invade the kicker’s mental space and disrupt his focus. It’s meant to act as a chink in the kicker’s mental armor as they try and lock in for the kick. By calling the timeout it gives the kicker more time to think about the kick. This can lead to seeds of doubt, confusion, and even fear. Icing the kicker can break routine, as well as frustrate and fluster kicker. 

So what do the elite kickers do to overcome all of these distractions? How do they stay consistent in the storm of frustrations and pressure?

1) PREPARATION

Their confidence is built on their trust in the preparation they have put in for this moment. They have made thousands and thousands of kicks at practice and hundreds of kicks in games.  This fuels their belief in themselves, and promotes confidence.

2) VISUALIZATION

Taking physical reps is essential, but taking mental reps is too! The elite kickers visualize themselves making kicks over and over again. They also visualize getting iced by the other team! If we prepare for it, it won’t affect us.

When they visualize they tap into their 5 senses in order to simulate a real game. They hear the crowd and the opponents. They see the defensive line. They smell the grass on the field, and the popcorn in the stands. They feel their foot hit the ball right in the sweet spot. They see the ball sailing through the uprights. They taste victory!

Robbie Gould’s career stats: 14 seasons - 358-408 (88%)

Robbie Gould’s career stats: 14 seasons - 358-408 (88%)

3) ROUTINES

They don’t allow negative thoughts to creep into their mind and effect their confidence. They acknowledge the negative thoughts, instead of suppressing them, and then delete them. They take a deep breath and recite a R.O.O.T. statement.

This is called having a routine. They have steps they take in order to get their mind right before the kick. A common routine for a kicker is:

1) Slow Down your mind

2) Deep breath to slow your breathing, calm your muscles, and get present-minded.

3) R.O.O.T. Statement

4) re- focus on task at hand

Here are some R.O.O.T. Statements a kicker I work with uses:

1) “Straight and through”

2) “Smooth and easy”

3) “See it. Trust it. Drill It.”

4) “Up and in”

Kickers practice their routine as much as they practice their kicks. That way it becomes 2nd nature. They become unflappable if they are about to execute their job, and the referee blows a whistle for a timeout.

When the other time ices them, an elite kicker says “so what?” and restarts their routine.

Here’s an idea for kickers out there. Practice getting iced. Go through your pre-kick routine, step up like your about to kick, and then call it off like a timeout was just kicked. Reset and restart and put it through the uprights!

Tonight’s game is going to be a great game, and I think it comes down to the last possession, and one kick.

Prediction: RAMS 30 PATRIOTS 27

Ben Kaplan