Visualization can be a powerful tool for any football player. Going through the thought processes and imagining success prepares a player to be at his best in those situations.
Perhaps one of the most high-stress moments in a football game for any athlete is when a kicker trots onto the field with the outcome on the line — but that’s what kickers like BYU sophomore Skyler Southam dream of.
“As a kicker, that is something you go through in your head all the time,” Southam said last week. “You think, ‘OK, this is the game-winner against Utah,’ and you get yourself to zone in a little bit more on that kick. You try to do everything you can to visualize yourself in that situation.”
While mental repetitions aren’t exactly the same as taking to the field in front of 60,000 fans with all that pressure, Southam said it’s about developing the right approach.
“I don’t think anything is like really being in that situation, but I just think it’s about really being able to focus on that kick,” he said. “A lot of times you just go out and hit ball after ball after ball. If you think of it as a game kick, you zero in and focus better.”
If the Cougars find themselves in that scenario in 2019, Southam would love to have the chance to put the ball through the uprights. He has the mantle of being the returning starter — but he knows he wasn’t where he wanted to be last fall.
“For me, it was definitely disappointing,” Southam said. “I expected a lot from myself. I think for me anything less than perfect is frustrating because I expect a lot from myself and I know what I’m capable of. Last year was far from perfect and I didn’t have as great of a year as I would’ve liked to have had.”
He finished 11-of-16 on field goals with all five misses coming from more than 40 yards out. He was also 42-of-44 on extra points. Still, a few more made kicks in games against Northern Illinois, Boise State and Utah might have changed the outcome.
Southam is determined to learn the lessons and take advantage of his experience.
“There are a lot of positives,” Southam said. “I know what it is like to face adversity, so if I do happen to miss a kick in a game, I know what corrections I need to make to be able to become the best I can be. I think a lot of things that happened last year drove me to be better this year.”
Now as a sophomore, he feels like he is understands better what it takes to be successful.
“It’s been nice to have a full year now to get into things,” Southam said. “I feel like last year gave me a lot of experience for this year. I just feel really confident in that experience I got and in the way that I’m kicking right now.”
During the offseason, the sophomore said he worked a lot on his technique and becoming more consistent as well as on getting better ball contact. He also has looked to be well-rounded as a specialist.
“Since I kicked last year, a lot of my focus has been on kicking, but I’ve been punting too,” Southam said. “I want to be able to do everything that I can. When I was in high school, I played safety. I just want to be on the field as much as possible. It’s kind of hard for me to just be on the sideline. If I could do it all, that would be awesome. My kickoffs look really good right now, as do my field goals — and I’ve been punting quite well too. I’ve just been trying to do everything I can to help where the team needs me.”
He was quick to compliment the other specialists, especially long snapper Mitch Harris.
“I think we have a really good group of specialists as well as our long snapper, Mitch Harris,” Southam said. “He’s probably one of the most athletic long snappers in the country. He’s been extremely consistent and gotten a lot of good coaching in this offseason. He looks really good.”
While starting kicker and punter haven’t been named to this point, Southam is seeing good things from Jake Oldroyd and Danny Jones.
“There is plenty of competition right now, which is pushing us all to be the best we can be,” Southam said. “We put in a lot of work together during the offseason, kicking together. I think when the time comes, everyone is ready to perform in a game if their number is called.”
BYU assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said the special teams unit is all about putting the right guys in the right places.
When it comes to the coverage teams, he expressed a desire to be able to spread the responsibilities around.
“Right now we have the very best players for the job on special teams,” Lamb said. “Hopefully as the games get closer and we do more live-action scrimmaging, we’ll see guys who can block and tackle live. No matter how we do that in practice, it’s not the same as when we are scrimmaging — and then it is a whole other level on game day. At least in a scrimmage, you get a better idea. Right now we have a whole bunch of guys who we hope will take those special teams jobs away from the offensive and defensive starters.”