Physics Of Placekicking : Straight-On vs Soccer-Style


Author MARK FISCHETTI, in his fine article, “Why Do Pro Kickers Opt For Soccer Style?”, scientifically explains why Newton’s Second Law of Motion always compelled “straight-on” placekicking to become a thing of the past :

“When a toe-baller kicks (a football in the classic ‘straight-on’ manner), only the cross-section of the front tip of his shoe contacts the ball. In soccer style, the whole instep of the shoe makes contact. The greater surface area of contact gives the kicker more control over the ball’s flight path. Simply put another way, a toe-baller has to strike the ball almost perfectly head-on to put it on a successful path because the contact point is so small. In a soccer kick, the greater contact area provides for more margin of error.

Soccer-style also imparts more force from the human to the pigskin, sending it farther. For a toe-baller, all the force is generated by the kicking leg, which swings in line under the hip like a pendulum. With soccer style, approaching the ball from the side allows the kicker’s hip to rotate, which creates more foot velocity. “The angled approach allows for more use of hip momentum, which creates a more rotational momentum – more angular momentum – in the foot,” says William Barfield, a specialist in biomechanics and orthopedic science at the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.

More angular momentum creates greater foot speed which delivers more force to the ball.”

Justin Medlock
UCLA Bruins placekicker JUSTIN MEDLOCK (# 7), who equaled a school record by registering nine extra points in a game against Rice University and also established a new Westwood standard by booming six career field goals of fifty yards or longer, sidefoots the ball just beyond the reach of the leaping USC Trojans defensive linemen during the annual intra-city clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 2, 2006 (AP photo/Chris Carlson)


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