If you are one of the countless coaches and players the world over looking for some solutions to improving kicking accuracy, then you should be interested in this article. When it comes to coaching the technical side of kicking it is critical that coaches understand the factors that underpin movement principles.
There are many key moments, and sub phases within a kick, all interrelating to another. More than for establishment of your knowledge as a coach, you have a duty of care to the improvement of your players, in understanding these keys. And yes, this is just one piece of the puzzle, but a piece nonetheless that may reveal some treasures if understood…
One such concept is that of ‘IMPACT LINE’. IL is established by a kicker during the “preparatory” phase of execution and involves the path of the Knee, Foot and Ball….
Further to this, in detail I will explain:
For kick effectiveness, particularly Accuracy, the travel path of the above mentioned is critical. “If the Knee travels in a straight line to target (before impact), then the foot is more likely to travel the same path through impact (contact)”. We are talking about forming one line or path, so we must also consider this path to be taken through the ‘apex’ or vertical centre-line of the ball. So How Does A Player Establish Impact Line?… At heel strike of the support foot, the player will now establish the line that the knee and ankle will take through the ball. Effectively the moment the support foot makes contact with the ground. At this point I feel it worth telling you that I often refer to the support foot as the players “GPS” (or steering wheel), as it has much to do with setting the direction for the kick. Take note of which direction a player strikes as we need a few things to come together at contact…
I think it fair to say that I see three main types of approaches (run up steps) before kicking (I’m talking out of hand now):
* The straight approach
* The curved (oblique) approach
* The step-across approach
To investigate and review players kicking for the line or territory is where you will more easily see these differences in style. And with this there is no right or wrong. However..
For an effective kick to take place a player must end up with his hips square to the target at the imaginary (across) line at impact. Therefore we shouldn’t be so fixated on how a player “sets up” but rather we should be interested in hip alignment and impact line at contact with the ball. It is, having said that, a major observation of mine that many players that kick “around the body (curved/step-across) aren’t able to get their hips across the line and square at impact, thus a poor impact line. Even many pro ruggers are victims of inconsistency in this area.
It is no right of mine as a professional kicking coach to provide intervention where it’s not warranted, but I still much prefer and achieve better results from players that kick (punt in general play) within a framework that involves more direct alignment to target. (Note place kicking is entirely different and requires good hip rotation/angle prior to impact)…
These three elements must play as a team and all exist in each kick. This is true of all kick types, not just those static type kicks down a straight line. If a player strikes the ball either inside or outside the intended ‘line’ of the ball then we risk miss-kicking to the left or right of the target. Note I use the term ‘intended’ ‘line’ of the ball because not every player does or should aim for the centre sweet spot when kicking (particularly place kicking). A good kicking coach should determine with the player the ideal place to contact based on a number of mechanical factors that is individual to that player. It is a line through the centre of this “spot” that is considered ideal….
To know and have read this article is simply not enough. At a minimum this read will sharpen your observation of your kickers at contact, at best you will be able to prescribe best practice solutions to improve them in this area. In effect, that is where the gold is! To be able to take the knowledge & observations and through quality instruction, feedback and practice design achieve improvements.
Please watch the video presentation below for a more detailed explanation of ‘Impact Line’ and its relationship to accurate kicking:
By Stuart Lierich
Specialist Kicking Coach