Tag Archives: NFL Draft

Missed Field Goals: Kicking System Interview

John Matich is the owner of Kicking System (www.kickingsystem.com), a local resource for kickers and punters from high school to the NFL.  He interviewed me for a story on the NFL Scouting Combine that he ran on his blog and he has agreed to let me post the interview in its entirety on www.sandiegosportspsychology.com as well.  I’m including the original link to the interview so you can get more information on John and Kicking System.

http://wp.me/p3SrC-d1

I always find the NFL Combine an interesting topic of conversation and this was a fun interview.  John Matich is a former kicker at Boston College who has been through the combine, has been in NFL training camps, and has experienced the pressure of having his team’s success or failure depend on his kick at the end of a game.  Missed field goals have been on the minds of so many San Diegans in the last month and I’m glad to have had a chance to offer some thoughts on the subject.

John Matich: This year was an “off” year for kickers & punters in the NFL.  Why do you think that is?

Geoff Miller:It’s hard for me to speculate as to why so many kickers and punters performed worse this year than in other years, but in general, I think the increased scrutiny on every game and every kick is a contributor.  Some of that scrutiny comes from media, fans, and even teammates and coaches and some of it’s self-imposed.  I work with athletes in a number of sports and the advances in technology, video analysis, measurement, and strength and conditioning have made it so that every last detail can be studied and improved. Kicking a football is not a skill that can be executed perfectly 100% of the time, but that’s the expectation and it’s an unrealistic one.  I see too many athletes making mistakes because they get overly focused on being perfect in their mechanics rather than just going out on the field and competing.  I’m not saying that the advanced techniques aren’t important, but I do think they contribute to kickers and punters (and golfers and pitchers, etc.) overcomplicating the game.”

JM: The testing methods they use for kicking at the combine are over 15 years old.  What would suggest as some new testing measures for kickers? David Buehler, Dallas Cowboys kicker, set a record for a kicker in the bench press last year, are those tests necessary?

GM:I’m not in a position to speak on the testing methods for the combine, but my advice for measuring the potential of kickers in any setting would be to find out as much as possible about how they handle pressure.  That should be done by simulating game conditions as much as possible and through having kickers compete against each other as well.”

JM: How would you test the “mental” side of the game?

GM:We have an assessment that we use with professional and Olympic athletes to identify the critical mental game factors that predict performance under pressure.  This assessment is called TAIS, which stands for The Attentional and Interpersonal Style, and we are able to directly measure how people concentrate, where they get distracted, and general personality characteristics that tell us how and when people will experience pressure.  When people are comfortable and confident, they are able to be focused and this allows them to execute their skills.  When people feel pressure, it affects the way they concentrate and makes execution more difficult. So we are often asked by professional sports teams to evaluate potential draft picks using TAIS and we outline for players and teams the mental game strengths of each player and the potential challenges players will face when they encounter pressure or have to deal with failure.”

JM: Do you recommend any certain type of tests for kickers?

GM: “I would certainly recommend that kickers prepare mentally and learn as much about themselves as possible in advance of the combine.  Most of my use with TAIS is not done on the scouting side, but for player development.  We use TAIS to design specific programs for athletes to help them improve their performance under pressure.  And I have worked with football players to help them prepare for the pressure of the combine experience itself.  The combine has become so important to draft status that some players place too much pressure on themselves to “do well” during that weekend and that added burden impacts their speed, strength, and agility in drills, hurts their test-taking abilities which impacts their Wonderlic scores, and makes them more nervous during their interviews.”

JM:  What are your thoughts on San Diego Charger kicker Nate Kaeding? Why did he miss three field goals in the playoffs against the Jets?

GM:Living in San Diego, I’ve been asked about Nate Kaeding a lot in the last month.  As I mentioned in my first answer, it isn’t appropriate for me to speculate on why Nate missed those kicks.  But this example of a great kicker who has missed in multiple playoff attempts demonstrates the importance of the mental game in sport.  Obviously, this is someone with elite level physical talent and something has kept him from displaying that talent when the season is on the line. And it brings to mind an example I use called “the downward spiral.”  An athlete finds himself in a pressure situation and makes a mistake.  He has trouble letting go of the mistake and instead of focusing on his NEXT opportunity to succeed; he stays focused on the LAST play that didn’t go well. This makes it more difficult to focus and another mistake is made, which increases the pressure, and so on and so on.”

JM: Do you recommend kickers working with someone such as yourself?  How often? How can it help?

GM: “Not only do I think kickers should be working with sports psychology professionals, the most important message I would want to convey is that this is not something that should only be done when an athlete has a problem.  The best way to get the most out of yourself as an athlete is to learn the complexities that make you who you are so you can be prepared for pressure, failure, competition, and success, too.  When I work with athletes it is typically to help them make sure that they maximize the tremendous potential that they possess, not to help them “get out of a slump”.  I’ve worked with some athletes for a month and some for five years, but for kickers out there who want to get started, I think a realistic expectation would be to plan for 3-6 months.  We call our services at Winning Mind “performance coaching” and we typically meet with our athletes every other week for an hour at a time.  There are many ways a performance-coaching program can help, but my simple explanation is that performance coaching helps you to:

1. Know who you are

2. Know what you want

3. Know what to do when you don’t get what you want

4. Know what to do in the meantime while you’re figuring those things out”

· · ·

If you are interested in taking TAIS or for more information on Winning Mind performance coaching programs for individuals and teams, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com

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Case Study: Stressed Out Athletes

Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, is now available!

Click here for more information

 

From time to time, I will be posting case studies that include sample data from our TAIS inventory.  TAIS stands for The Attentional and Interpersonal Style inventory and we use it with all of our coaching clients in corporate, sport, and military settings.  In my work with elite athletes, aspiring amateurs, Major League Baseball players, and teams, I use TAIS to help players identify their mental game strengths and weaknesses, then use TAIS data to help them shape performance improvement plans.  On the scouting side, I use TAIS to evaluate potential draft picks, which are not used in a “thumbs up, thumbs down” fashion, but more to help provide another level of detail on who the player is on and off the field, how he will handle failure and pressure, and the best ways to help each player develop skills and learn the game.  This case study is on an extremely stressed out football player who was having trouble getting his performance back on track.  I’m including only a sampling of TAIS scales (there are twenty factors that are measured when someone takes TAIS and a brief description on each so you can understand the context of the case.  Learning a bit about this athlete may help you if you have athletes like the one I’m profiling here.

Case Study:  D
Sport: Football
Biggest Derailer:  Stress
Comparison Group: World Champions


My normal approach when reviewing a profile is to look for key concentration strengths, find out strong personality factors, and pinpoint potential derailers so I can understand who the athlete is and predict where he or she will struggle in pressure situations.  However, when I see a profile like this one, my approach changes.

D was a college football player at a major Division I school and he contacted me because he only had one more year of eligibility and while he had performed well at times, his career had more ups and downs than he had hoped and he had never been able to play at a consistently high level.  He was worried about playing in the NFL, he was worried that he was going to let down his parents, coaches, and teammates, and he was worried that he was going to look back on his career and wonder why he didn’t live up to the expectations he had for himself.  My first order of business was to help him get back in control of his emotions and to reduce his stress level.

Stress

Take a look at D’s Awareness and External Distractibility scores.  Notice how different they are from the average Awareness and Distractibility scores of world champion athletes (as shown in the gray shaded areas.)  Then take notice that the same patterns are true for Analysis and Internal Distractibility and Action and Reduced Flexibility.  This pattern of scores tells me that the athlete is overwhelmed by his environment, by his thoughts, and by his emotions.  He can’t think, he can’t focus, and he doesn’t feel in control of anything going on in his life.  This is also reflected in D’s low Control score.  It was easy for me to see that D was feeling stressed out.

Social Style

On Extroversion, D scored 36% and on Introversion, he scored 99%.  In general, there are times when D enjoyed being around others, but for the most part, he was a private, guarded person who needed personal space.  Team sports are much less stressful on people who need to be around others and seek out social situations.  However, I’ve worked with many introverted athletes who mostly enjoy the atmosphere of sharing so much of their time and their lives with their teammates.  What I usually hear from those athletes is that they are comfortable socially with their teammates, but they don’t let many people in too close.  They save most of their stronger friendships for people outside their sport.  D was a trusting person, but he didn’t confide much in teammates or coaches.

Communication Style

When discussing pleasant topics or good performances, D was open and talkative.  But he was quiet and unwilling to discuss tough situations or the discomfort he was experiencing with others.  When it came to volunteering information, D was a closed book, which made it tougher on teammates, coaches, family and friends to know how much stress and anxiety he was experiencing.

Summary

My strategy with D was to get him more comfortable developing a support system among people who were close to him.  We outlined a list of topics that he would be comfortable discussing with his girlfriend, another list that he felt like he could discuss with his position coach, and another that he could share with a few teammates who he felt closest to.  In getting some of his worries off his chest, D was able to sort through them in his head.  By hearing from teammates and coaches he hadn’t opened up to before, he saw that he didn’t have as much to worry about as he had built up in his mind.  We discussed how this communication process would help to expand his comfort zones and make it easier for him to share information with others in the future.  Then we worked on taking control of his game again.  Instead of measuring his success by the results he got in games, he would only focus on his effort.  He would rate his effort in practices and in games and each week, he would give himself a score on a scale of 1 to 10.  Effort was something he had 100% control over and he knew he could achieve this goal every time he put on his pads.  And as a talented athlete, if he gave his best and didn’t get the results he wanted, he would know that there was nothing else he could have done about it, which helped him stop second-guessing his play.

D’s improved communication with people close to him relieved stress and helped him stay focused on working hard each day instead of worrying about the future.  His focus on effort instead of results gave him back the control he was looking for, which made him more confident and more comfortable on the field.

If you are interested in taking TAIS or for more information on Winning Mind performance coaching programs for individuals and teams, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com

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