See also How to catch a football, How to throw a football
Kicking a football is another unusual and counterintuitive act that requires loads of practice and impressive powers of concentration. Imagine having 85,000-90,000 screaming, maniacal football fans using every bit of karmic will, voodoo, and pure unfiltered loathing all for one purpose: make you mess up.
Needless to say, this is not a friendly environment.
I'm going to describe the soccer-style method here. Punting will be described in a separate node.
Anyhoo, the technique:
- Have your holder place the ball on the ground, perpendicular to it, laces facing the goalposts. Decide where to kick the ball (left if you're on the right hash mark, etc.) for the best chance of scoring.
- Take your plant foot (i.e., your non-kicking foot) and line it up so that the toe is just behind and maybe nine inches to the side of the ball. Point your plant foot in the direction you want the ball to go. It WILL go where your foot is pointing. Trust me.
- Take three big steps back from the ball and two big steps away from it so that you're making about a 45-50° angle with it. Place your kicking foot behind your plant foot.
- Focus your eyes on the point of the ball you're going to kick. It should be three or four inches above the ground. If the ball is NCAA-approved, there will be a semicircular white stripe on it; kick at that stripe and you'll be fine.
- The rest of these steps describe a continuous motion.
Take three steps to the ball - tiny step with the left foot to start moving, normal step with the kicking foot to build momentum, and a large sweeping step with your plant foot, which should end with the plant foot resting in the same position you marked at the beginning. BTW, you're still looking at the point on the ball you want to kick.
- As your body swings through the 45-50° angle you took for the approach, your arms will naturally swing out from your body. Let them; it balances you. If you try this off-balance, you might as well forget it.
- Lift your kicking leg and bend it at the knee. Lock your ankle at 90° and swing your foot toward the ball.
- Contact the ball with the instep of your foot. You want to use the area that connects your sole with your tarsals, rather than simply smashing the arch of your foot into the ball.
- Follow through the motion of your kicking leg, bringing it up at least parallel to the ground while STILL looking at the point the ball used to be. It is, of course, tumbling toward the goalposts at this point. Strive to stay balanced in this position for a moment or two; this gives the ball stability in the air.
- Now look up and watch the ball sail gracefully
between the uprights!
Some points to consider:
- Only practice improves your skill. Don't use a kicking tee for practice if possible, since you'll get used to the extra inch of height it affords to the ball.
- There are differing schools of thought on whether or not the ankle should be locked. Try different muscle tensions and use the one that seems to give you the most control.
- If the ball pulls to the left or right in the air, your approach is probably off-kilter. Experiment to find the proper placement for your plant foot and ensure that it points toward the spot you're aiming for.
- The kicked ball should spin on its short axis in end-over-end fashion. If it wobbles or spins on its circumference, you were off-balance when you kicked it and you'll miss it nine times out of ten.
- The follow through is what gives the ball height and distance AND accuracy, NOT the force on impact. If you skimp on the followthrough, you lose 20 yards off your kick. I'm not kidding.