As you would no doubt be aware, there are a few inter-related technical elements that contribute to every kick from the tee. For those of you that know me and my philosophy on kicking, you’d no doubt be familiar with my “Kicking Is An All Of Body Movement” mantra. It is critical that players are coached to kick with “process” utilising an effective system of delivering consistent execution. Rather than this be an instructional “how-to” article, I wanted instead just to share with you some observations of mine (and yes there are many more!) that link movement principles and poor kicking in general. These are limiting factors to any kicker’s potentially best performances from the tee. I know of many players that kick with the following traits, even at the Pro level of competition. It is my point here to suggest that they are not poor kickers, as such, but rather could certainly kick better given some attention to to below mentioned points….
1. “Leg Power Alone” – This is characterised by a player that has their support foot “anchored” at contact with the ball during the execution phase. I often refer to this as a “Handbrake”. This anchoring of the support foot prevents any energy generated in the approach to be transferred through the kicking leg and ball. The support foot is “grounding” the energy and is effectively wasted. Many players with a powerful kicking engine will rely on Leg Power to kick, limiting what could be a more powerful (and controlled) action utilising the pillar of the body (shoulder to hips) to assist the transfer. It is interesting to note that those players that “anchor” are pre disposed to their kicking leg causing body rotation if they aren’t able to engage their non-kicking shoulder in the action. A great stage for young and less physically developed players to master, as it proves you don’t need to be the strongest necessarily to kick with power….
2. “Inconsistent Marking Out” – It’s fair to say (an understatement actually!) that one ingredient in a consistent place kicking routine is a well measured approach that works on all angles. It appears, certainly at the junior level, that significant amounts of players wish to emulate their goal kicking heroes. Let me say this is brilliant, and long live boyhood rugby dreams of playing on the big stage! But as coaches and mentors we must understand that any senior player’s technique is generally based on what works for them, even if it appears complicated to the untrained eye. When establishing a run up it is important that the player (support foot) arrives at the tee at the optimal distance & angle that will allow for range of motion and transfer of weight. The key here is to always maintain your perspective to the target (and ball) when marking out. This will give you a better chance of maintaining correct angles. It is common for players, even in the backward steps from the ball, walk a different line each time! This will obviously have some affect on the arrival at the tee if this is pronounced. Step sizes must be identical each time, and practice these at various angles to goal. If you need to use any tools to measure initially, then do so. You need to know if you are consistent, or not. Remember, any adjustments to your approach shall only be made if they affect how you arrive at the tee. If a player takes more (or less) steps in the final approach, than were marked out in the set up, then consider this general rule: Even Number of Steps in set up = Start with the Kicking Foot, Odd Number of Steps in the Set Up = Start with the Non-Kicking Foot…..
3. “Poor Contact” – I am here not referring to how good the strike feels to a kicker, but rather a kick that doesn’t contact correctly on the ball. We are after all seeking to “introduce” the correct part of the foot to the correct part of the ball during the execution phase of the kick. I will leave the discussion of “where is the ideal contact point on ball” for another occasion, although I will say this: Different launch heights and angles, together with player mechanics will determine optimal contact area or sweet spot on ball. Hence it is not always on the centre line as many resources will instruct, and is individually driven on most occasions. Regardless of the ideal contact location (ball) it is essential that a player’s technique allows them to drive through that line that has been established, to target. This element does rely on others for success, but many kicks in rugby miss when a player strikes too far inside or outside the line (contact point/sweet spot). Yes, many players have perfected a technique that exploits this, but many are strong only on one side of the pitch, and it can affect distance attempts. Even good “curved kickers” strike through the line they have established for themselves. Kicking through the line reduces the risk of mis-striking and generally offer a true flight path and spin frequency. My experience suggests that even though a player (regardless of style etc) thinks they struck well (on correct ball location), they, in fact may not necessarily be spot on. Drawing a black spot on the ball and incorporating focus techniques will go a long way to complimenting good structure. After all, what is good technique without striking the correct part of the ball?