Bulletin 3
Punt kick – The kicking template and the final stride

 

Welcome to the August edition of the Bulletin Board. It is interesting to observe in recent weeks the number of elite players who, in taking a set shot for goal, still do not have a template for success. It is imperative that players are ‘deadly’ in front of goal with kicks from around 50 metres but especially with kicks of 20-30 metres. Observations in several recent games indicate that not only did some players change their technique depending on the distance of the kick but rushed their preparation and obviously had no aiming template to follow. This from elite players can only be put down to poor preparation by kicking coaches and/or the pressure of the situation getting to the player. It is absolutely imperative that players DO NOT change their core kicking technique, or for that matter style, no matter what the distance of the set kick.

Sure, with greater distances, players may increase the obliqueness of their approach or step across technique into a more open hip position to the ball to ensure greater body and leg rotation. However the additional power generated from such a refinement of the skill should not change their core kicking template. So it is with some disbelief that one sees elite players from close to goal ignoring this kicking template and attempting to steer the ball between the posts. Such a change in technique completely alters the dynamics of the kick and most importantly the players balance and rhythm.

Failure to convert will be the price to pay for those who take a more casual approach at distances perceived to be ‘safe’. Players in this instance often hold back in the mistaken belief that the energy conserved will somehow assist in accuracy. This is a fatal mistake! A 30-40 metre punt kick should be approached with the same patterning and deliberation as a kick from beyond 50 metres.

One of the most critical elements in the patterning of the kick is the length of the final stride. Note the short stride of Lindsay Gilbee of the Western Bulldogs and the long stride of Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda. Riewoldt is clearly kicking for distance. If in this case Gilbee was also kicking for distance then he is understriding.

The final stride of Riewoldt demonstrates clearly heel strike occurring with pronounced dorsiflexion of the foot. In addition the lower leg angle is at about 45 degrees, with the foot well in advance of the knee, all characteristics of a long final stride. Gilbee, on the other hand, demonstrates a flat-footed plant with the foot directly under the knee. Clearly the kicking muscles have not been put on stretch and their contribution to the forward leg swing has been compromised.

A long final stride is designed to ‘prime’ the principal kicking muscles – in other words to place them on ‘stretch’ in order that they are ready to deliver an explosive force at the moment of impact with the ball. The stretched muscle will always react more forcefully than a muscle that has not been stretched and will deliver a more dynamic ‘whip kick’. Furthermore, it will alter the timing of the leg swing relative to the descent rate of the ball after it leaves the hand as well as affecting the balance of the player. Players who alter, or break the template developed and reinforced over extended practise sessions are destined to alter many aspects of the kick including ‘muscle memory’ and a compromised delivery will be the result.

 

 

 

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