Three boys stood in football pads at the 2-yard line, staring up at the field goal jutting into the East skyline. Sophomore Tommy Nelson watched as sophomore Alex True bent down, placing a football gently on the turf. Senior Liam Griffin broke into a run, drew back his leg and kicked the ball, something he’s being doing for many years. But for Griffin, it’s his first year kicking a football.
“Don’t they play soccer?” someone asked. They’re right. Griffin, True and Nelson are the kickers for the 2015 Lancer JV/Varsity football teams, but play on the soccer team as well.
“They kick the ball better than any of my football players,” said varsity football coach Dustin Delaney. Soccer players generally make good kickers because of the power they’re able to exert on the ball. This ability forms from their soccer training, and is difficult to teach the majority of football players in a single season. Each of these players were selected in different ways, but for this similar reason.
During True’s freshman year, the freshman football team lost a game due to the lack of a designated kicker.
“[One of my friends on the football team] asked if I wanted to kick for them,” True said. “I went out there, and Coach Gagnon let me kick an extra point.”
After that, True was handed a helmet and pads. He had been chosen as the new kicker.
Nelson and Griffin, however, were selected as kickers after trying out at the beginning of the season, along with trying out for the soccer team. The transition from soccer to football doesn’t seem to be an issue for the boys. After all, “you’re just kicking balls,” True said.
Similarly, the transition from football practice to soccer practice isn’t much of an issue either.
After school, the boys go down the the field for a 15 minute kicking practice, then drive off campus to soccer practice at 3:30 p.m. According to True, it’s important that these brief practices pay off, as a field goal can mean the difference between a win or loss.
“You don’t do anything all game and then all of a sudden they need you to score some points or kick a last minute field goal,” True said. “I try to block everything out and convince myself it doesn’t matter.”
Like True, Nelson feels the pressure of his position, even though he hasn’t kicked a PAT, or point after touchdown, yet this year. A good warm up helps him cope with the pressure and get his nerves out.
Griffin, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised when it came to game day.
“I thought I might be nervous the first game,” he said, “but I felt confident and didn’t really notice the crowd.”
During practice, the pressure to attempt perfection is at a low. If the boys miss, it’s no big deal; however, if the boys miss a field goal during a critical point in a game, it’s a difficult situation for both the team and the fans.
“[The football team] knows all of [the kickers] from school, so we can joke about them missing kicks in practice,” sophomore Tom Phillips said. “But if it were a game where we really needed them to make a field goal but they missed, it would make everyone dislike them.”
Each of the boys feel that they undertake a responsibility when they step out on the field: a responsibility to make the field goal, to defend the team’s record, to elevate the level of school pride and to show the entire community that they are number one. When it comes down to the final kick in the closing seconds of a game, True, Nelson and Griffin know they can rely on the skills they’ve learned through soccer to play well on both fields.