Two Eyes Are Better Than One Leg
By Guest Coach Taylor Mehlhaff
Taylor Mehlhaff was a 2007 first team All-American Kicker at the University of Wisconsin. He was a sixth round selection by the New Orleans Saints in the 2008 draft. Taylor has previously coached at The University of Tennessee, Pittsburgh and is currently working with the Special Teams at his alma mater.
All of the kickers I’ve ever coached have heard me preach about being good with their eyes MANY times. To me, this is the key to kicking! THE BETTER YOU ARE WITH YOUR EYES, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCE OF MAKING THE KICK! You will make a lot of kicks if you are good with your eyes.
Have you ever had a coach tell you to keep your head down? If you have, he has the right idea; I just don’t like telling kickers to keep their head down, because putting your head “down” encourages “crunching”.
“Crunching” is the last thing we want to do when we kick. For one, it limits us kickers as far as height and distance go, and it also limits you from getting “up and through” your kick. We want to use our body to its fullest. Ideally, we’d like to stay up as tall as possible. This enables us to use our levers to their fullest.
The goal is to stay nice and tall, while simply focusing our “eyes” on the back of the ball (more precisely, the “sweet spot”). The better you are at seeing the “sweet spot” of the ball with your eyes, the better contact you are going to make. The better contact you make, the higher and further the ball will go.
Think about this…when kicking, do you ever actually see your foot make contact with the ball? I know I don’t. And nearly every single kicker I’ve ever asked has answered the same way. So essentially, we’re kicking the ball with our peripheral vision.
If you play golf, the concept is very similar. I know that when I tee off, I DO NOT see my club head actually make contact with the golf ball. It all happens far too fast. The goal is to train your eyes to become so focused on the sweet spot of the ball, that you nearly watch your foot make contact with the ball. If you can do that, you will become a VERY good kicker!
Not only does being good with your eyes help you to make better contact, resulting in more distance, but it also helps you to hit a straighter ball. When we kick, we have two different methods of countering our leg swing. One is our counter arm. Although I do encourage having a “high” counter arm, which promotes a good upswing.
I never ask a student to focus on his or her counter arm when kicking…this is something that just naturally happens. The other way to counter your leg swing is to hold your eyes back behind the ball. Our eyes control EVERYTHING! If we peak up early to see if we made the field goal attempt, our shoulders start rotating forward as well as our hips. Many times, this causes kickers to “pull” or even “hook“ the ball. Holding your eyes back keeps you in line to your target!
In the end, there are so many little things that contribute to becoming a great kicker. Some guys try to focus on too many of those things at once. The best guys in the world, the guys in the NFL, don’t think about anything when they kick. They have hit so many footballs in their life and have put themselves in every situation possible; they just go out there and let it happen. If you have to focus on one thing when you kick, let that be your eyes and you will have a lot of success!
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