If you’re a kicker, you know that sometimes the biggest game on Friday night isn’t played on the field; it’s played in your head! The mental kicking game can sometimes be more challenging than being able to kick a 40 yard field goal. Most of us have grown up playing team sports whether it’s Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball, or Youth Soccer; we’ve all done it. Team sports are great character builders and help you learn how to communicate and work with other people. Kicking however is a completely different experience. As a kicker, it’s just you and you! Over the years I’ve learned a few great individual sports that have helped me as well as some of my students tackle the mental game of kicking. Here’s one sport that will significantly help you stay calm under pressure on Friday night when faced with that last second game-winning field goal opportunity!
Not only is bowling extremely fun, but it can be an excellent tool to help you learn to stay consistent and prolong a streak. A kicker hopes to make every field goal and extra point he tries. A bowler attempts to throw a strike and not leave an open frame by at least getting a spare each time. Doing either is very difficult. A bowler lines up every shot with his eyes, aligns his body, sets his feet, and attempts to replicate the same motion and result one after another (just as a football kicker tries to strike the ball cleanly every time). A bowler has to stare down that long alley, just him, the ball, and the pins. Sound familiar to a kicker? It should! We kickers have to stare at that goalpost, get our body set, approach the football, and deliver a precise kick through those goalposts! Where the learning experience comes in is how you capitalize on your streak, but more importantly how you rebound from your failure. If you start your game off with a gutter ball, are you going to pout, quit, and not care about the rest of the game? If you miss your first extra point in the game, what do you do? You have to rebound!
Being a kicker is all about handling the adversity, riding your ‘hot streak’ as long as you can, and being able to shake off those disappointing misses immediately. Let bowling help challenge you to build a streak of no open frames just as you should challenge yourself to make every kick taken. Set a goal for yourself like ‘I want to be able to make 10/10 extra points or 5/5 40 yard field goals in today’s practice’ or if bowling ‘I want to finish out this game with 3 strikes and end my game on a positive note!’ I assure you that if you start bowling, even if it’s once every couple weeks, and setting goals for your kicking; your mental toughness will improve and you’ll handle that weird feeling (when your legs feel rubbery) with much more ease. Just do me a favor and get yourself some exercise and put down the Wii Bowling and go bowling with some friends at a real bowling alley!