Thursday, October 20, 2011

Place Kicking

A couple Outlaw kickers brought a large measuring tape to help practice place kicking.  This was at the old junior high school off of William Cannon.  The practice field was spartan - it had a goal post but the chalk yard line markers were gone.  The kickers used the tape to estimate where to place the ball for a typical field goal attempt.  They were incredulous at just how far and how high the ball would have to carry to split the uprights and score points. 

Something as simple as a PAT (point after touchdown) kick has to sail over twenty yards and clear the crossbar, ten feet above the ground.  The PAT is just a chip-shot among place kicks.  The ball is placed on the two yard line, the kick from around the fifteen yard line.  Field goals are much longer.  In the NFL field goals are routine at forty yards, and have been made at over fifty.  The record is 63 yards set originally by Tom Dempsey (against my Lions - I'll never forget that game) and later matched by two others (Jason Elam and Sebastion Janikowski). 

Field goal practice - Monica is the holder.  She has received the ball
from the center and is placing it on it's point for the kicker.
In my October 17 posting, "Why do we call it football" I discussed the difficulty of kicking the ball any distance at all.  I praised kickers for their tenacity in practicing kickoffs, often alone at the edge of the field, using a kicking tee and net, getting a running start of ten yards or more.  Practicing field goals is a whole different proposition.

Photographing  field goal practice gave me one of my favorite funny pictures. 

Field goals require a teammate to hold the ball for the kick.  The center snaps the ball to the holder who places it vertically on the ground for the kicker.  In my funny sequence, holder Monica has the ball in what appears to be an acceptable position.  Kicker - I don't know who was the kicker in this sequence - looks like she's zeroed in on the target. 

She missed it!  Note I'm trying to expand my mastery
of Photoshop by drawing arrows.  Not a very good
arrow, I admit, but give me time.  I'm an old dog
learning new tricks.  I'll get better.  The arrow points
to the ball still in the holders custody.
The next, the funny picture, has the kicker in her after-kick finish, form perfect,  proper follow through actually lifting her plant foot off the ground.  Just one problem.  She has missed the ball.

Whenever I view this photo I wonder if it was an intentional "dry run," or if it really was a miss.  If you see Monica, ask her about it for me.  She may remember. 

Field goal kicking has a dimension that adds to the difficulty of launching the ball high and far.  In field goal kicking you're dealing with a defensive line charge.  In another prior posting, "Quick," dated October 17, I commented on how fast things have to happen in the backfield - about three seconds.  In a field goal, the holder and kicker have about three seconds - holder to catch and place the ball, kicker to take three steps and nail it.  It is difficult enough to launch a ball with authority under any circumstance -but to do it that quickly?  No wonder sometimes the field goals miss the target, or the kickers don't make the kick at all.

When I first started visiting Outlaw games I noticed that often we'd run the ball in obvious kicking situations.  Fourth and eight at the 45 yard line.  Why not kick it?  Then I realized that it was difficult to find and recruit players with the requisite skills to kick the ball.  Often the run was chosen because of a lack of trust in the kicker.

More recently Amber Lyons has joined the team.  She can kick!   

Following are a couple kicking sequence photo sets.  The first... well, check 'em out:

Dallas #4 and #13 are closing in.  Amber's three seconds are
about up.  Looks like her foot is just making contact
with the ball.  Can she get it off in time? 

Nope.  Another chance to use my newly acquired Photoshop skills -
See the arrow pointing to where the ball landed - a blocked
field goal attempt.  

Kicking field goals is hard.  Sometimes the defense breaks through and makes the block.  But Amber doesn't get blocked all that often.  Check out the sequence below.

Monica has received the snap, placed the ball with point down, laces forward, just like in the NFL.  Amber
started toward the ball even before Monica had it set.  She has to be quick.  Note good blocking by the
Outlaw's line.

Soccer style kick.  Kind of sideways.  See right foot just in front of left leg and ball just leaving,
sailing up over the line.   When I first started watching football a hundred years ago, the kickers came straight at the ball.  Now they come at an angle.  Learning a lesson from soccer players who have a lot more kicking experience.

And it sails through the uprights just the way she planned.

I've never talked with Amber but have lots of photos of her kicking and making tackles on defense.  One of these days I need to resurrect my player profiles.  Maybe an interview with Amber will help us understand what it takes to master the art of kicking a football.

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