Kicking The Competition

Varsity kicker details his training, preparation

Kyle Elmendorf, Staff Writer

As Blue Valley kicker Jackson Likens lined up to attempt the 27-yard game-winning field goal against rival BV North, the entire Switzer District Activity Complex was on edge. Most would have been nervous for such a high-stakes field goal. Likens was one of the few exceptions.

“It’s a kicker’s dream to make it out to that point,” Likens said. “I had confidence in my teammates, and I had confidence in myself we could do it.”

Likens made the kick and finished off an immaculate Tiger comeback against the Mustangs.

Although he only takes the field a few times every game, Likens has one of the most important roles on the team. He spends hours in the offseason practicing for these moments by himself and with his personal coach.

“In the offseason, I’ll go up to the field and kick two or three hours a day,” Likens said. “I have five balls and it’s a lot of walking back and forth. I’ll have a jog in there, somewhere in the evening, to help my legs and then maybe around 9 or 10, I’ll lift and stretch for about an hour.”

Likens got his first kicking experiences from playing soccer, where many football kickers get their start. Although it’s commonly perceived soccer kicking and football kicking are very similar, Likens said there are some discrete differences.

“A lot of people think it’s like kicking a soccer ball,” Likens said. “But you actually turn through, when you kick it and you really point your foot down so it looks like a golf club when you’re hitting it. It feels awkward going from kicking a soccer ball to kicking a football because although they’re similar, they’re two completely different things.”

Likens said when he’s kicking a field goal, he always tries to do the same motion regardless of how long the field goal is.

“A field goal is about staying calm and in control of your body all of the way through,” Likens said. “I tell myself the same things every time, ‘Relax, and swing through nice and easy.’ It’s like golf; the harder you try to hit it the more likely you are the mess up.”

Likens said another misconception about kicking is the amount of preparation kickers do. He said he constantly tries out all of the different kicking balls because minute differences, such as the air pressure in the ball, the width of the ball or the surface being kicked on can make a big difference on a kicker.

“I watch the weather all of the time,” Likens said. “Even on the days where it doesn’t seem windy, when you’re down on the field, it’s windy when the ball is 20-30 feet up in the air.”

The Tigers’ opponent also can affect how Likens kicks and prepares for a game, he said.

“I watch all of the other team’s film,” Likens said. “I watch where their blocking is coming from, and I’m pretty prepared to avoid a blocked kick. In fact, I’ve had a few games where I’ve kick around players, for instance against Bishop Miege. I kicked around two linebackers to make an extra point.”

Likens said, however, he is still very dependent on his teammates for a good performance.

“I’m lucky,” Likens said. “There’s a lot of high school kickers that don’t ever get to kick field goals, mainly don’t have the line, the snapper or the holder to be able to get that rhythm. But our team is really good at just getting it together regardless of where we are, or at what point of the game it’s at. I would definitely be a lot more nervous if I didn’t have my teammates out there helping me.”