Prior to Victoria university he has worked across multiple High Performance sporting teams including Melbourne football club, Hawthorn Football Club, Fremantle Football Club and Australian Institute of sport. 

Highlights from the episode:

  • Drills to improve a footballer’s strength, skill acquisition, and confidence
  • Healthy amount of volume of kicks 
  • Mentors and influencers
  • Things he do to build confidence and technique
  • What he learned from the best kickers

People mentioned:

  • Luke Hodge
  • Sam Mitchell
  • James Hird
  • Joel Selwood
  • Tom Hawkins
  • Garry Abblett
  • David Mundy
  • Matthew Pavlich
  • Peter Bell
  • Aaron Sandilands
  • Nathan Chapman
  • Jade Rawlings
  • Brett Deledio
  • Scott West
  • Peter Blanche
  • Cooper Cronk
  • Cameron Smith
  • Greg Ingles
  • Adam Larkham
  • Bohdan Babijczuk
  • Chris Connolly 
  • Eddie Jones
  • Craig Bellamy
  • John Baker

Connect with Kevin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-ball-15399529/

To have Jack answer your questions send us a voice message via this link: https://www.speakpipe.com/PrepareLikeaPro

Listen: iTunesSpotify

Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host and in today’s episode I interview Kevin Ball. He’s currently the sports scientist at Victoria University and currently consults pro rugby and AFL players and teams. Prior to his role at Victoria University, he has consulted and worked at many sporting teams, including Melbourne Football Club, Hawthorn, Fremantle Dockers, and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Highlights from this episode: we discuss the importance for core strength and pelvic control for kicking technique; practical tips for coaches and developing athletes to improve your kicking efficiency; Kev shares multiple real life stories of situations where he’s worked with the high-performing athletes in high-performance environment; the use of muscle activation in skill acquisition.

Before we start this episode, for those wanting to improve your strength and power to gain a competitive edge this preseason, hire a Prepare Like A Pro coach and join our individualized coaching package. Head to preparelikeapro.com and join our email list for free master class.

Let’s get into today’s episode. Welcome, Kev. Thanks for jumping on, mate.

Kevin: Hello, Jack. Great to be on, mate. There’s a storm in the background, so it is a bit noisy.

Jack: That’s fine, a little bit of chaos. I’m sure that will come into the kicking side of things with football. Take us back to the beginning of your career, mate. At what age did you discover you had a passion for strength & conditioning, working in high performance sport and then,obviously, your specialty in biomechanics?

Kevin: I was pretty lucky actually, Jack. I really liked sport and I liked conditioning and I was pretty good at maths and engineering. I liked those areas. And biomechanics was the first one that I was really interested in. And I found a photo in a newspaper one day. In the foreground it had a sports scientist with a computer screen and on it with a stick figure. And in the background, it was a javelin thrower.

And basically it was a biomechanical analysis witch I’d never seen before, but I just loved it. So I went searching to see what that was and found it, found out that biomechanics and moved down that path of human movement. Funny enough, I met the guy who was behind the computer and I’m mates with the javelin thrower. Because I eventually went to the Institute of Sport. So, that was my background. And that was where it all started. 

Jack: Very good. And your gut feeling it seems like it took you there, as well as your knowledge base and your interests. When you followed your gut and started working in the field, what did you gravitate towards, and what were some successful things that you did back then that you felt opened some doors for you? For the developing strength & conditioning coaches, biomechanists, people working in the industry, what would be some recommendations you’d make? 

Kevin: In the early days, when I went to the Institute of Sport, probably I just worked for very little to start with. Just as a research assistant, on not much money. At the same time I was doing a lot of playing. Elite level sport and hockey in particular was the one I was good at. I played a lot of league and union, and cricket, but I was best at hockey. So, I played National League and Australian Masters with hockey. But I was concurrently looking at doing a lot of coaching and playing, and understanding how to improve my own performance all the way along.

At the same time I’d take new opportunities. The Institute of Sport was great. That work experience was essential in terms of developing my network and my knowledge base. It was great to work with all these senior elite level biomechanists, headed up by Bruce Mason, but there was John Baker and Brian McLean were there, different sports they work in. And then we got to work with all the other disciplines as well.

I worked with Craig Bellamy and Peter Blanch in physiotherapy a lot. Jeff Bond was in psychology then. And a lot of the psychology guys we could get to work with. Performance analysis didn’t exist as it does now, it started to emerge from our area. And then the physiology side of things as well. Worked with Julian James, also came across him a lot in the S&C area too. He helped out with our hockey team a little bit in terms of developing Olympic lifts.

And so, a few really good components that came together. But I’d say the key bit on the way was getting experience, but also constantly improving the knowledge base. 

Jack: It’s interesting, the work that you’ve done in the biomechanic space is very specific and specialized, even to a point within a sport. But what you’re mentioning there early days, it sounds like there was a lot of different opportunities that you had in almost like a generalist approach, where you’d help out where you were needed in each environment. Was that intentional? 

Kevin: Yeah, it was, it was to me. I mean, I think that was one of my key themes. Some of the questions you sent through are really good. And we were supposed to do this podcast some time ago, so they stayed with me and I’ve actually been giving them a lot of thought. And one of the key themes with my work is the connectedness of it all.

If you want to improve performance, then all the components are connected. I’ll get annoyed, it might come up a bit later, but when people say, ‘It’s all in your head.’ Well, it’s not. You can’t get the ball through the goals, unless you actually make contact with it with your boot. So, there’s physics in there. But there’s a lot of different components in it. There’s certainly a strong mental component to it, but there’s a really strong physical component. You can’t kick 50 meters. You’re not going to kick a set shot from 50 meters, it’s going to fall short. So, there’s some simple things like that, but just the connectedness of all things, it all combines in different levels.

Some of the players I’ve worked with, for example, there’s been a case of conditioning. So, it’ll be an in-the-gym thing that’s going to improve them, without any coaching, purely gym-based work, where they’re going to improve flexibility or strength in a particular area, or just general things overall. Sometimes it’s very much a mental thing, where it’s very little about anything else, but the mental approach in different aspects that we use. And then sometimes it’s more technical, and then it depends on the individual as well as to how they best learn and how they have learned. So, being able to change them, you need to dabble into lots of different fields, otherwise you won’t. Well, you’ll improve some, but you won’t improve all.

Jack: You might get to realize your real potential. 

Kevin: Exactly. 

Jack: And for the young athletes that are listening in and are wondering, ‘Okay, what can I do to get better? I recognize that I probably need to get a little bit stronger. I need to get a little bit more flexible. I need to practice my repetitions and get my skill work in, and then, obviously, boost my confidence.’ Like you mentioned the mental side as well. I guess, start with the physical side, what would be some common drills that you would do with young developing footballers to improve their strength in the gym? And then their skill acquisition, and then maybe go into the mental side as well. How can you boost your confidence going into a game, maybe if you are a forward?

Kevin: All right. When we talk about the physical side of things, just a good basic strength training program is a really important one for the 14, 15, 16-year-old athletes. They’re starting to develop and get stronger. Even all the way through, I would say that S&C is essential all the way through.

But it’s a really good basic program. Specific to kicking, the ball’s in contact with the boot for 10 milliseconds and you can get a hundred kilograms worth of force, if you’re kicking it long. So, there’s nothing that can quite mimic the impact in the gym. So, you need the kicking part for that, but just a good base, core strength. Core strength is probably the one that I think has changed the most in my time, is a crucial one. And glute function, probably they’re the two biggies.

The other stuff was pretty good beforehand, but core has been a really important one. It’s not great. I think a lot of junior athletes coming through now, they’re across core a lot more. During my time that wasn’t the coolest thing. When I started working in 1990 with the Hawks, it was something like this: our gym session was 15 minutes weights, 10 minutes or five minutes of abs and five minutes of stretching. Whereas now half of that might be core or a third of that could be core work and connecting the top and the bottom of your body, which is a really important thing. So, the good basic strength & conditioning program and making sure you connect that middle.

Probably one of the most common physical problems with any kickers, because you kick a lot, is really tight hip flexes and probably glutes that are either not strong enough or don’t fall out when they need to. So, one thing we’d mucked around with the AFL Academy one year was that we did a pre-test and then we got some guys doing just lots of flexibility work on their hip flexes, which is really important, but some guys just doing some strength work on glutes.

It wasn’t actually so much plan, but this is what the guys did. Because the overall program was doing both, we wanted to get both the hip flexes going and the glutes strength going at the same time. And the guys who did just hip flexing string, flexibility improved by maybe two degrees. And that relates to about five meters extra distance. So, that’s significant. Let’s say three to four meters difference. The glute strength guys has got about the same.

Jack: Sorry, the two degrees reference, what’s the two degrees for?

Kevin: So, with a hip flexor, it’s how far you can get that thigh back, at the top of your leg swing. So, a two degree improvement.

Jack: Hip extension.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Hip extension. You can extend your hip more a couple of degrees, that gives you a few more meters distance in kicking. But the hip flexor guys improved by a couple of degrees, so did the glute strengthening guys. But the guys who did both at the same time, they improved by about something like eight degrees. So, not even two plus two, it was a lot more. So, the combined work was the best way to do it. And those guys improved their distance by five to six meters.

And that just by simply being able to get that leg back further. It’s a bit like in tennis swing or a golf swing getting the club or the racket back. So, if you’ve got a tight hip flexors, it’s like you’re just taking the club or the racket back halfway and then trying to swing it through. Increasing your flexibility means you can get the leg back further and then swing it through, so you get more foot speed and then more distance. 

Jack: That’s a great visual for the listeners, that maybe even hip extension might’ve been S&C jargon. But just getting that leg back, like you were saying, with the backswing, so you’re getting more momentum through the footy. And potentially, you’ve mentioned, you might be able to handle more loads as well, more kicking with that function.

Kevin: Absolutely, that’s been the reason. But then those has reduced a lot. It’s still floating around a bit in bits and pieces, but it was really rampant there for a while, at the late 1990s – early 2000s. But then certainly core strength was one of the big ones that reduced the injury risk, as well as the hip flexor flexibility. Hip flexors and abductors, getting those guys flexible, abductors when you’re growing muscles, the ones on the inside of your leg. Getting those two muscle groups flexible is really important for both, as you say, for performance, but also from injury prevention point of view that’s crucial.

Jack: And even for the footballers, they might get their kicking in a good spot by just working on those areas that you’ve mentioned. You’re going to improve your acceleration, change of direction ability. There’s a lot of benefits. 

Kevin: Absolutely. There’s a lot. I’ll look at a lot of the running actions to help me when I analyze a kick. Because there’s a lot of crossover and those things, range of motion that you talked about, your strength, your speed, the running on top of the ground versus seeing low, that hip control, all those things. But certainly at a very basic level for all the guys, you’ve got people listening who are trying to improve their kicking or their skills, start doing a good core program and good flexibility program and just draw a line between now and the end of year, when you start playing. 

Jack: And in your time at Hawthorn and Fremantle, were there different philosophies in the strength & conditioning, the coaching and the psyche side?

Kevin: There was a little bit. Probably I saw bigger differences beyond those that changed, because some of the staff went from Hawthorn to Fremantle. But it was a really good one, the first-years at Fremantle in particular, where I was full-time, were very fit. It was Adam Larkham who ran the show and he’s like an Olympic sprint coach since he did that and really brought a fantastic repeat spreadability. We might pick up on this one bit, but that was probably one of the big changes at that stage.

It was lots of distance running before that. But the way he ran it and Bohdan Babijczuk as well. So, it’s similar backgrounds and Bohdan’s a cracker. Basically they come from the track and field background and just know running technique inside-out for an individual and can get people running faster. And not only just faster, but they’ll be able to run faster for longer. So, getting more efficient.

So, that’s probably one of the changes, from distance running to more strength there, a more interval-based high-intensity running rather than the long slow distance was the big change. But that’s pretty much standard these days.

Jack: And you mentioned off air that your role at Fremantle full-time was as an assistant coach, specifically with the goal of improving the team’s kicking performance, and then as well as a strength & conditioning coach. At that time were you the only S&C in the gym floor, or were you specifically appointed as a strength & conditioning coach with the specific role of almost consulting the S&Cs on how strength & conditioning can help their kicking performance?

Kevin: That was pretty much the S&C role there. So, I worked with Adam Larkham on the floor, running the show, particularly around Olympic lifts, they were a big focus at that point, and making sure guys could do them technically properly. But during that program, we had a lot of really cool bits that crossed over from the strength side of things to the conditioning side of things, adding a little skills in between.

So, particularly when that muscle excitation’s up when you’ve just done heavy squats, making use of that part and level, to then do some skills, whether that was running drills or kicking drills. We’d add those things to the program as well, which really made it seem, so it was pretty much a traditional S&C role that one. But, obviously, with the work that I was doing, I could angle it towards improving kicking.

I think for me personally, it was great because you work closely with the players in that environment, you get to talk to them outside of the footy environment. And so, you can talk to them about different things. You get to understand who they are as people, you get to understand their bodies and what their strengths and weaknesses are, or how flexible they are, how strong they are in certain movements, what they need to work on, how are they going in their personal life, which can affect the way they perform. And that combined with the coaching side of things was fantastic for me to be able to develop a good program for kicking and improving the guys individually. 

Jack: You mentioned something that I haven’t heard of before in the industry. Basically doing contrast training, but with kicking. So, you’re doing a heavy lift and then, as is common in the industry, you’ll do like contrast maybe a jump or some sort of plyometric. But in this scenario you’re doing some sort of kicking. What type of drills would you be doing? Are they like punch kicks?

Kevin: That was the one I was mostly working. Some support legwork as well, like running faster, kicking on the run, being able to hold a higher position. You have to be careful with that one. Because you just need to be more space and…

Jack: Was there like an indoor space you had there? Like a 20–30 meter?

Kevin: Yeah, we did. We also had, it was basically you go out the door of the gym and then three meters away there was the pitch, that field as well. So, we could get out onto the ground and do that stuff in between. We experimented with that a bit, a little bit around the core stuff, a little bit around kicking, which I think was useful, just a bit practically difficult. But that was certainly of use. 

But most of the time you’re going to be in the gym. And most of the things we would do would be from a key specific point of view. It would be things like holding a position. You’re running fast and then stopping really hard in a good kicking position. That support leg control and that core control. One was just lay out a punching bag or a tackling bag on a side and use that to kick. So, you didn’t kick it anywhere, it was up against the wall.

Golfers use this one, they have hitting bag and they’ll hit the bag with the club. And they’re looking to get a certain sound, because they know that certain sound indicates a good position for impact. So, borrowing from that, the golf side of things, we try to do that with the kicking. We’re trying to get a good sound, which did two things. One, it made that foot more rigid, which is really important for kicking for distance. And particularly for miss kicks.

You do much better if you have a firm foot when you kick. You’ll kick it further, but also it you do a slight miss kick, if you’ve got a firm foot, you’re gonna miss the target by meter. If you’ve got a loose foot, you’re going to miss it by far. Because that impact, that means that if you’ve got a firmer foot, it’ll hold slightly better. So, working on that. And working on that ability to get that foot really firm, we’d be just using a tackle bag.

Jack: A tackle bag, and they are literally kicking that at power. And then are they asymmetrically doing a hold? 

Kevin: Not really. It’s just keep kicking and hear the sound. So, one of the things that’d happen with kicking the bag, is that if you had a loose foot, well, sometimes it’d hurt, but also it would sound different. So, guys would always just subconsciously, unintentionally, implicitly, they would get that position. Firstly, get a good contact position. Secondly, get a good firm ankle at that point. 

Jack: And you hear it, in the last few years anyway, in the industry about strength & conditioning coaches, especially with commentators, getting a bad name in terms of reducing players kicking loads and all that sort of thing. In your experience, being in the S&C room, being in the trenches and specifically running a kicking program, an AFL program, what would you say is a healthy amount of volume of kicks for any player? Once they’ve got the technique part down, and they’re moving efficiently and they’ve got a good read of their body and all those types of things, but can they handle a fair amount of volume, do you think? 

Kevin: Yes, they can. They can handle more than they do probably, I think. I would also say a few things on this. That’s a pretty big topic. Just a few snippets from across the board. I remember talking to Eddie Jones, the now English Rugby Union guy. And he was a coach and at that stage he was with the Australian team and Chris Connolly, who was our head coach, had a strong relationship with him. So, he came around and spent a week with us.

And we’d talk to him about kicking and all the things that I do and which I was really interested in. And I talked about volumes, saying, ‘Well, that’s one of the challenges.’ It was a funny one, he said, ‘Look, if they were my guys, I’d be just saying to S&C coaches, ‘Just get them fit enough, so that I can do as much kicking as I want.’’ It was quite funny. He was pretty competitive about it, which I quite liked. It was quite good, he might’ve really said a good point I thought.

And from that then I went more strongly down the conditioning path. Because he was right, kicking is just another load on the body. They put certain loads on the body. As I said before, it’s a hundred kilograms with a force, kicking hard. So, conditioning plays a huge role in kicking and you need to kick the ball, because you can’t mimic that particular one. You need the background, you need the really good strong core, you need good flexibility work, you need a really good basic S&C program behind it to be the best kick you can be. But you need to kick. It’s put essentially, that’s the key.

The nuance in this is the contrast. And I talk about this in some of the talks that I do. I had two players. One, and we tracked all the kicks, he could kick 600, 750 kicks a week and didn’t get injured in the whole time I was involved, through kicking. But then there was another player, who actually I worked with him at Hawthorn as well, who’d hold his breath after he did about 30 kicks in a game, because he was really very explosive, very tight, didn’t have a lot of flexibility. And so, I quit. He was at the high-risk end of kicking cycle.

So, there’s certainly nuance that’s needed in there. We probably go to the lowest common denominator, which is to the detriment of the majority of the squad in terms of kicking. But I do think it needs to be considered as a load and you build up to it and you need to condition it. And it follows all the same principles of conditioning.

One of the things that came up in that talk with Eddie Jones was the fact that Rugby Union guys would often spike their training. And I’ve worked with the Rebels and the the Wallabies and also a lot of the guys in a lot of Rugby League teams now and that’s the way they do it, particularly Rugby Union. If the kicking coach, the strength kicking coach came along, then they’d be taking a load of maybe 50 kicks a week. And all of a sudden they’d do 300, because he’d be there until they do two or three huge sessions.

And you invariably get injured. So, it’s important to be able to condition for it. It’s important to do it, you’ve got to do a lot of kicking, but you’ve got to build up to it. You can’t go out in the paddock first day of preseason and do 300 kicks in a session. You’ll be sore for a week and you might get injured. Just need to build up.

Jack: It’s certainly something that, like part of my learning curve in football conditioning is that it should be in the Christmas program. Just like your high speed running meters and change of direction. 

Kevin: Absolutely. It should be. The stuff I did at Fremantle and it doesn’t have to be kicking a footy. The stuff that I did with some of the guys was make sure they’d take a soccer ball with them when they’d go down at the beach. Just kicking a soccer ball around. Another boys had kids at that stage. But just to have a kick around. You can kick a soccer ball, you can kick a gridiron footy, you can kick a rugby union ball, which they quite liked. Just kick something a bit different. And just to get mimicking that impact is really important.

Because otherwise you get two weeks off training and that’s been a big thing. And there’s always a big thing coming back. We’d always invariably lose the first couple of weeks in kicking because we had to start again. We hadn’t been kicking for a couple of weeks, we had to go again, have to get that impact. Impact was the key. So, just do that wherever you want. They don’t have to go in. If they want to, that’s great, keep kicking. But then it doesn’t have to be those kicking your share all the time, just as long as you are making that impact, kicking that impact.

Jack: And you mentioned that the individualization and how some are super resilient, they could do almost as many kicks as they want, double what the normal group is doing on average, and they can handle over five years, no worries. And then someone else can’t do not even close to what the group’s doing or otherwise they’re starting to twitch and will experience an injury, injuries are going to pop up. Apart from injury history, you mentioned explosiveness and being tight. Were there areas that you, after a few years of recognizing these traits, that you could prevent someone that could start to handle more load?

Kevin: Absolutely. It took a few broken legs to figure this out too, by the way. It wasn’t all smooth sailing by any means. You don’t know the limits until you tip over them. There were a few guys who got injured because they did it too much or less, they spiked. Those things are stemmed from the numbers.

But probably the big indicator would be from an injury point of view just tiredness in there, tiredness around the hips. That’s probably that, the one red flag. I haven’t seen too many guys, they can be hyper flexible and get injured, but there’s not too many of those around the place. It’s usually a tiredness thing that’s a problem.

And a lot of the guys actually kick better after they got injured, because what had happened is they reduce across the board their loads of everything. And then they’d start to build up again. But they have to give themselves some time to reset the hips and be a bit more flexible. But just a crucial one to get that, keep the hips flexible. Hip flexes, your rotators, glutes, any of the muscles that go across the hip. Focus is probably the major indicator.

There’s a few more technical things that I’ll see to around pelvis, pelvic control during the kick. You can see it on a high-speed video more easily than with the eye, and that’s what I needed to do early days. I learned a lot of this stuff from high-speed video or from a biomechanical analysis, but then was able to train myself to be able to observe it. But pelvic motion during the kick is another biggie. 

Jack: And I imagine just like we’re referencing it to speed running, all different types of kicks or different loads. How would you quantify that? You’re literally watching a lot of tape, like I imagine in the gym you’ve got your eyes on them and you can track, but when they’re in skills and there’s 40 boys on the track, how do you go about doing that? 

Kevin: It’s a really great question, mate, because there was a big evolution of how I’ve measured it. So, initially just a kick count, a simple kick count, which I was pretty pissed off about this kick count. Because it came back to, one of the match committee members was saying to me, ‘You just said these guys do 120 kick a session.’ I said, ‘It’s nothing like that.’

But then I found out that they counted the kick study beforehand, at least the ones that run at five meters, just kicking while they’re talking about what they did in the weekend. So, there was 40 kicks, and that was an issue in itself. These lazy 40 kicks I got rid of, because they were actually detrimental. Not from an injury prevention point of view, but from a skill point of view, that they wasted kicks and that they used so much volume up. And then actually bad habits crept in because these lazy kicks were creeping the game. So, we eliminated that after this count. 

Jack: I’d imagine that lazy kick, you mentioned firm foot and how important that is, when you’re kicking and you’re talking and you’re chatting, you’d have a pretty relaxed foot, wouldn’t you?

Kevin: That’s right. Loose foot, you’re leaning back, you fall off the ball easily. You’re just standing there, just swinging the leg through. You can be going across, you can be going all over the place. It’s not purposeful.

And the problem was they said they did 120 kicks and I said, ‘Well, 40 of those kicks, so a third of those kicks, were these rubbish kicks.’ The third of the kicks that they did didn’t get anyone die, but were more than wasteful. They were actually detrimental. Because the negative skill transfer could go through. But in terms of a kick intensity, it’s a big challenge.

So, I went from that to probably the easiest one that I did was based on video. If I had some helpers, I could get them to track training and figure out distances. But probably two main keys was distance ends and speed of approach. So, your highest intensity kick, because you’re running flat out and you’re kicking 50 meters. So, you can kick 50 meters off a step and that’s a lot less load on the body than a flat out kick on the run.

Probably the only challenge on distances, and you’re seeing some guys do this too, a 20-meter kick you can log up like a nice little weighted kick. And I can also drill it as hard as I can. And the drill is not a kick over 20 meters. It’s the same amount of force as if I’d kicked it 50, just to be near with more elevation. So, that’s the challenge.

And since that we’ve done a lot of work since, and we continue to do it with accelerometers stuck on the ankle to figure that out. I use technology that can measure that, so we can indicate an intensity rather than a distance. 

Jack: Okay. So, that’s something that, you think, is going to be starting to come into place? 

Kevin: Yeah, I think so. We can stick something to the boot eventually, which will be really handy to indicate that. So that you can just come off the track and know what load you’ve done. But I think for the juniors training, a single kick number would be suitable to know what you’re doing, how many you’re doing. 

But probably just the other point from that is just be mindful of the kicks that you do at the start and the end of training. That at the end of training one is actually usually good because you have a kicking contest to get the goals, and that’s fantastic. For the ones at the start of training make use of, you do some specific work on the stuff you need to work on. I made up a lot of games, good fun games that we could play in that time, so it would be more useful. Things like the game I called ‘Warnings’, you know the one, Jack?

Jack: Yeah.

Kevin: You had to do those kicks or that video session. But basically that one was where you had to just keep the kick and I had to make you drop it. And it was warning, so doing lots of different spins, not at that stage. It was ‘Warnings’ with Brett Lee. Now it’s Nathan Lanes, Josh and Mitchell Stucks. So, you’re not kicking it fast, you’re kicking it slow, but with subtly in.

That game was good fun because it teaches you how to shape the boot. It teaches you how to do different kicks. How to do tops and bananas and top spinners and floaters. And you try to land it just before where the player is or the guy you’re kicking to, your batter, if you like. And you have to try to make him drop it. So, it teaches you a lot about shaping the foot, teaches you about ball drops, and that can be handy itself in a bit of reverse engineering.

And if you can shape your foot better on the ball to get the ball going to where you want it to go, then that’ll actually improve your general drop punt kicking. Because when you do drop it a little bit badly, you can shape the foot so that you can still get it to the target. It might be a bit wobbly, but you’ll still get it there.

So, Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell was too great proponents of that particular one. James Hird many years ago, he was really good too. He often got criticized for ball flying, which wasn’t perfect all the time by all means, but it was because he was just really good. Anybody else kicking this stuff that he kicked, the ball would be missing the target by five meters. He just got these wobbly ones that still go to the target because he could shape the foot really well.

Jack: It’s great. We talked about power and distance and punching the kicks and all that sort of thing, but from the skill acquisition point of view the more options you’ve practiced, the more you’ll have on the field, the better you’ll be.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Getting that balance is really important. That’s why those 40 kicks at the start of training can be this huge variable. Just a quick, funny story. I did this at the Storm, I was at the Storm for five years and I was doing this with, with Cooper Cronk and Kevin Smith and Billy Slater. And it was good fun, they really loved it. Griffin was there at that stage too.

And they had a lot of fun with it and they’d play it a lot in the games. And the forwards, they are really athletic too, rather than the ball players. The forwards tend to be the big guys, the real powerhouse. They run in and crunch into each other. They’re the tough guys of the team. So, anyway, one of the forwards got a hold of this game too. And they were playing it and it was hilarious watching them kick it before games and before training. They had great time.

And there was a trial game and one of the forwards has put one of those kicks in. So, one of the good things about ‘Warnings’, is you’re likely to grab the kicks that they use in rugby league. Rolling behind the line to then try to get the ball and score a try. So, one of the forwards actually did this, ran up to the line, did one of these grabber kicks, ran around, kicked and scored.

I’m going to be considered a legend of the club. This is great. I’m going to the club and saw the state county, the forwards coach coming across the aisle thing, I don’t think he’s going to pat me on the back. I don’t know how crossed he was. I thought, ‘No, he’s not going to pat me on the back. He’s not looking real happy.’ And he got close to me. I thought he was steaming. And he basically said, if he ever sees, if I ever put an idea in the forward’s mind that they could kick in a game, he’s going to… ‘I don’t want him thinking about anything, just running straight ahead.’ 

Jack: That’s awesome. That’s a great story. And going back to your career development for a second, who were some strong influences or mentors, if you like? 

Kevin: Dad was the first really big mentor for me. He was a head of his town. We had a great group in hockey and cricket and tennis, where I come from originally in New South Wales. And they were just ahead of their time with training. It was all lots of games for learning and small games, numbers and stuff that at that stage wasn’t done. It’s done a lot more now, but it wasn’t at that stage then. It was more like lines and more isolated stuff that they used. He was just a really good coach and it gave me the passion for coaching.

And then probably the other thing he really instilled in me was watching off the ball. So, he never used to watch on the ball in a game, whatever it was. He’d come down where I was working at Trey, I would get him to games and he’d never be watching the ball. And he’d always be watching to see what was happening out the ground or down on the ground to see why is the full forward in 10 meters of space now?

So, you’d be watching the full-forward and fullback contest, and then just see what was going to happen, what actually plays on. Or what was happening in the back line. And just think if this gets turned over. So, he was fantastic at looking off the ball. And that was one of the crucial things that I think is big part of my coaching as a result. Understanding what’s at the other end, it’s not just necessarily the kick, but what’s happening at the other end that meant that kick missed. It could be the other end, it’s connected system.

Chris Connolly was a huge influence in my AFL career. He employed me first at Hawthorn, and we had a lot of success those first couple of years. And then he went to Freo and I went with him in full-time capacity, while he was in Perth. And then worked with him in Melbourne as well. Chris, just lots of learning from a footy point of view, from a life point of view. Chris is a very funny man, also a really good footy brain. And just lots of little things I could pick up from him.

And he didn’t even know he was teaching me some of these things, I don’t think, but he just would say things. One I really remember. It was late, we just about finished training. We were just doing some kicking. I think it was him and Johnny Barker and he was mucking around. And he said to me, ‘Right here I am, I’m going to do a kick off to the side, to the wind. And you’ve given me confidence in my technique that I’m going to be able to do it.’ And I know he can’t, and he’s just gone through and he kicked it, switched right through the middle.

But the fact that he said, I’ve given him confidence in his technique. Not I’ve given him a good technique, but given him confidence in his technique was really, really important. Different angle to what I was thinking, certainly. And with good technique comes good confidence, for sure. But then making sure that people get confident in what they’re doing is such a crucial thing. And it’s certainly a case of if you’ve got good technique, then you’ll be more efficient. It’s pretty simple. But being confident in that technique is really, really important.

So, lots of gold all the way along with Chris. Probably the big one was Mike McGuire. It’s has been the Rugby League. I’ve worked with Craig Bellam, he was really good as well. Fantastic, great thinker. In the Rugby League Mark McGuire worked with the Storm and the Rabbits. I was then at Wigan and the UK for a couple of years. Just really at that stage Rugby League was all the way behind the AFL, but these guys where at that level, at the AFL level, in terms of implementing new and improved ways of going about it. And no surprise that both had a lot of success in their careers.

So, they’re probably the main ones. And there’s guys, lots of people outside of footy. A couple of golf coaches I have worked with, tennis, which has been really handy, particularly around when you’re talking about set shot goalkicking or in the case of Rugby League Union the golf shooting component. Because that’s more akin to the golf game at that situation than a footy game. Because it’s not a dynamic situation, it’s not a general play kick. It’s basically you’re just having to kick the ball through a couple of parts. And so, I’ve learned a lot from golf coaches over the journey. How they go about it, go through routines, go through processes of aiming, because they have to be really precise with where they aim the ball. And that’s really a crucial thing for golf shooting.

And psychology probably was the other biggie. I’m looking at sort of sport science thing, but I’m just keeping it specific to sport, this one. But Neil McLean was a really big influence for me at Freo. Always liked getting involved with the psychs in the clubs I work with. 

Jack: And with that, the working with the sports psychs from a performance point of view, and like you said, in the gym was a good opportunity to get to know the players and build that relationship with them to help your coaching. What would be some things that you do? Like you mentioned the importance of building technique, but then building confidence with your technique, bringing those two together. So, let’s say, you get a player to a point where their technique is now efficient, to a point where you feel like that it’s in a good spot. Now we want to build confidence in it. What would be some things that you do for players in that position that’s effective? 

Kevin: I think making sure that they understand that they’ve improved and then showing their improvement. So, we’ve got a lot of stats in AFL and that can certainly help. You could get a lot of stats in the grinds of footy and that can help with your efficiency.

You can get a feedback from other people, that could often be good. But don’t expect it because a lot of the guys I’ve worked with at the AFL level, there’s three levels of your kicking, really. You’ve got the guys who are really good kicks who people talk about all the time, and you’ve got the guys who are really bad kicks that they talk about all the time. But then there’s this big midgroup, that you just don’t talk about kicking. And that’s a good thing. So, we’re talking about the guys who have moved from there where they’re a bad kick to then this where nobody’s talking about it. That’s a good, positive space to be in, because you’re being really efficient and you’re not making those mistakes anymore.

But I think, probably getting back to it, that really is a very connected system, that one. That’s where the mental and the physical are so connected that they almost go hand in hand. You improve technique and then that confidence just simply comes from that. Because in improving your technique then you’re improving your efficiency. You can kick longer. You you can hit more targets. You can kick while maintaining greater speed while kicking on the run. These little fine things are really important, they tie in closely together. So, it’s a good question. Probably the best answer is it’s very much connected.

So, making sure that you appreciate your improvements. They might be small, but they’re important, even if they’re a couple of percent. And it can be a bit like watching the grass grow in that respect, because you can improve slowly or you can do some jumps. But basically improvement isn’t like this nice line, it’ll wobble all over the place too. Your start point would be here, your finish point would be over here. And in the middle it’s all squiggly all over the place. So, you’ll improve, and then you’ll fall back a bit, and you’ll improve again with your technique. But good mechanics purely means better performance and better performance equals your confidence.

Jack: And it’s like, from my understanding, you can build someone up to be an absolute beast in the gym, and then you get him in a wrestling situation and it takes a while to be able to transfer that and get aggressive, but also be able to use the technical skills of tackling efficiency and all that sort of thing. So, if we compare that to kicking for a second, you can build the perfect kick, like you said, when in a controlled setting, and then you drill physicality into it, high pressure in a congested situation. And I guess that’s where you like the warning drills and all that, having more options is important. But how important is it to practice perceived pressure and high intensity around your kicking techniques when, like you said, running at speed?

Kevin: I’ll just get back onto one of the things you said about the transfer. And I think that’s a really important one where we can evolve more from S&C point of view. You know how we talked about the kicking stuff during the gym work?

Jack: It’s almost like in isolation. 

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Doing it concurrently is really important. So, one of the stories, growing up and watching a lot of Rugby League and being involved with Rugby League, there was always that criticism. And this was probably early days of S&C starting out and they’ll do it in such a way that it was almost in isolation. And then they come out and start playing and then the criticism was ‘They’re all slow. They’re all too slow now because they’d been doing too many weights.’

It wasn’t because they’d been doing too many weights. They potentially were doing the right weights, but definitely there wasn’t concurrent training. So, all of a sudden, you’ve got this different tool that you are running around with. You’ve got a different body, but you haven’t practiced the skills. You’ve got to almost relearn the skill for that new body.

There was an example when in Freo where we got one of the guys who wanted to build up more to play closer to the goal. And the decision, the bad decision was taking him out of skills training. I was just really wanting him to keep kicking because for six weeks he just did a lot of stuff that made him bigger. And when I got him again, he was like swinging a kilo and a half heavier club. His leg was a kilo and a half heavier.

So, all of a sudden he was so different, and the sound of the ball that he kicked was so different. And the way that ball flew afterwards was completely different. Everything had changed as a result. What we needed to do was just keep him kicking during it, so when there’s a slight increase in strength, then he would just make a little adjustment to his kicking. And when it was concurrent then it’s a lot better.

So, we can do that, and wrestling is a really, really good one. If you can do it concurrently, then the benefits are greater. That’s a really good highlight for me, that the skill has to keep up with the conditioning challenges. Otherwise it’s almost a new skill they’re learning.

Jack: Yeah. Because the great kickers, like you said, are able to read the next player: where the player’s going and running towards and the leading pattern and all that sort of thing. They read the players, obviously. 

Kevin: Yeah, that’s right. And even backwards from there, just the plain old physical way. That’s a good point because then also this player, when he would see somebody running, he’d know that he’d kick it a certain height and a certain amount of force to be able to get it there. And then all of a sudden that changed for him because his leg was coming through differently. It was different mass, all those things. But, certainly, you’ve moved on to the perception side of things as well.

But talking about those and talking about getting under pressure, that’s hard to train, that one. Lots of games, as many games as you can, all keeping kicks in games. There’s a few little tweaks you can do, like making your training even more random rather than in blocks. It helps. So, block training is like where you do 10 set shots from in front of 30 meters. And then random training is where you might do 10 shots from always different distances. Or even better, you do 10 shots during a whole training session where you’re doing lots of other stuff in between. I’ll have just one shot. Bang, I have a shot. Then we get back in, we do another drill, one shot.

So, we’ve done that. We’ve done that quite a few times at training where we’d have a bin of balls at either end. And then at the end of the drill, everybody goes up and does one set shot, and get back into training. And so trying to randomize it. That could certainly help in the pressure side of things, because from a set shot point of view that can get you close to games.

It might get harder. Manipulating this sort of games or having a kicking game where you might have five by five, but making the space smaller, let’s say. So, there’s less space, such that you have to get the ball away quicker. And you can have two small spaces, so you need to kick to the different spaces. That can help you improve.

It’s more time pressure usually than physical pressure, because they’re training, so they probably are not going to get smashed. But it’s still a good one. Time pressure is one that you can do safely. As the physical pressure goes, then we’ll do sessions with it. It’s just hard to do lots of inside. That’s where games come in handy. 

Jack: And what about the best kickers that you’ve worked with? What have you learned from them, the ones that do it really well in games? What are some of the big rocks?

Kevin: Well, some of them have got a really good techniques. Nathan Chapman was fantastic. He’s now a pro kicker. So, he was probably the first one. Then was Jade Rawlings, the best kick in the club. And so, I would look at him, I would look at his technique a lot. And one of the things, one of the big group of kickers is that they’ve got really good range of motion in their knee, their hip. They are the guys that kick long. Greg Ingles was really good at that in Rugby League. Matthew Pavlich was really good at Freo. David Mundy has probably had the best technique out of anybody I’ve worked with. 

Jack: And then field kicking. 

Kevin: Yeah, just general, just technical kicking. I mean, as far as the general play kicks, there’s so many good kicks that are really efficient. Most recently I worked with Geelong where they’ve got Joel Selwood. He’s just a really efficient kick. Manie Gala is really good as well. Got a really good technique. Probably Tommy Hawkins, fantastic, really set job.

Garry Abblett was just amazing. He was probably the complete package. Would’ve been the best I’ve seen in terms of pretty good technique. And just a really good, just a great sense of, I guess, the other things that he had with his kicking, he had a great sense of where people were, how much time he had and then a very efficient kick with that upright bulldog, which is really good. But not many people use it.

Jack: That’s precise.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s really good. It reduces the margins of error a lot in that drop, in a bulldog space. And he had a wonderful sense of where to kick the ball to, as well, just had it. He was really good.

I would say probably across the board that every kicker, and it doesn’t mean any kicker that I’ve worked with, can’t improve anyway. There’s always certain areas where they can improve, whether it’s central kicking or some guys are a lot better on the run, than off steps. Some guys would rather go a bit longer than shorter. Some guys might struggle to run fast, kick slow.

So, we developed some drills around it. Tried that with Reed at Richmond, because he would be running really fast through the middle and then they’d just put an extra man in defense and they would sweep and kept getting his kicks where he was going to. So, he had to develop this short kick, where he could drop the ball over there, to the sweeper, or over the spare man and drop it into the space of the hindsight. Developing those different kicks is really important.

But the attributes of a really good kick is good awareness, good spatial awareness as to where they are. Good technique. It’s really important. And I should say, I probably haven’t emphasized it enough. There’s no one technique for all. It’s very individual. One of the earliest days sessions I had Aaron Sandilands and Peter Bell in the same kicking group. Some people might have heard or seen those guys, but Peter Bell, you might have picked up on this, he’s 5’6 and Aaron Sandilands is the tallest guy in the league at 7’2. There’s a funny shot where Aaron Sandilands is dropping the ball, he’s just released it. And just in the background is Peter Bell and his head is at the same level as Aaron Sandilands.

Why would you expect for those two guys to have exactly the same technique to get the ball going? It’s just very different dimensions. So, it’s very much an individual specific thing. It depends on your limb length, the dexterity with your hand and the size of your hand even, in terms of the ball drop. Your flexibility and your strength as to what your best kick is. But understanding your own best technique and your own best kick and then working that into games is really important.

The other thing the best guys do is understand where their strengths and limitations are. And the good guys, the ones that kick well, they both set themselves up to be able to kick those ones in the first place, and then execute those ones that stay within their margin. So, if they’re really good at 35 meter kicks at 45 degrees, then they’ll look for those. They’ll know where the kick is before they even take the ball and they’ll be around and then lining themselves up for it. 

Jack: Shifting over to the coaches that might be tuning in, as in tactical coaches, I imagine you would have worked with a lot in your time and potentially you have consulted where you were working with the athletes, but also consulting with the coaches behind the scenes. What would be some common things that you’ve done in workshops and you think is handy for coaches to start to understand when wanting to improve kicking if they don’t have a kicking mechanics? 

Kevin: Probably the best thing from a coaching point of view to do is, I do a lot of the individual specific stuff, but also more broadly, probably just understanding, and this is one of the first things I’ll say in any coaching conference I’ll go to, is that there’re two real rules to keep. One is it’s a connected system.

Kicking is not just about the kicker. It’s also about what’s happened before. So, you know, you think about the perfect paths that I get to. But think about those scenarios where there’s a turnover, but there was a sloppy handball at the start. And so, player B tend to take a bit longer to kick it to player C, who then was completely under the pump. He just wheeled around and batted it on the boot to try to get it forward. If that handball is good, then these player B and C do get it with more time.

So, what’s happened before can affect the kick. And it’s not necessarily the kicking. In fact, the guy’s turned it over, it gets attributed to the turnover, but it might not have been his fault.

Jack: He was set up to fail.

Kevin: He was set up to fail. He was just put under failure. And on that one, turnover is not necessarily a bad thing and on the stats, if you’re using stats and most of the time, but depending on the couches, whenever you’re coaching. I was coaching the Monday Nights, I would go to Monday Nights, 17 and a half this year, which was a lot of fun. We don’t have any stats for those guys. We’re just watching, up to when you do have lots of stats, when you can have a look at it. But a turnover isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be the best option. If you’re under the pump on the goal line, you can’t rush it through, you just have to bang it out, out towards the junction and then hope for the best. It gets turned over. Well, that’s better. It’s better turning it over there than in here.

Just looking at it a bit more broadly and also what’s happening at the other end. A lot of times there’ll be a turnover, but and this is one of the problems we specifically had at Freo and Melbourne, it was the off the ball work. So, the ability to create space to where the ball’s going. The really good teams, Hawthorn were fantastic at it, they could create lots of space ahead of the ball, into the region they wanted to kick it.

And so, what would happen then is that, even if the kick wasn’t as exact, wasn’t that precise, it could be a couple of meters either side of the target, it’s still a successful one. The player can change direction and pick it up, turn the way of the game. If you haven’t created that space, you’re kicking to more congestion. And so, it’s going to get turned down, because you have to hit a pinpoint pass to get it to the player.

So, connected systems are important. Have a look at what’s happened before, have a look at what’s happening after and where you can improve it. Particularly the after is one that you get big gains on. So, just making better space up forward. Or where you were going for the ball. Give yourself that margin of error for the kick by having more space to the guy you’re kicking to. It’s not only the precise kicks, but it can certainly improve it.

Probably the second one. So, there’s the turnover and the connected system. Probably just from a general point, this is more of a general coaching point of view is I’ll talk about the coaches toolbox being really important. And just to do the analogy: when you’re walking around, home and you’ve got a hammer. And you’re walking around the home, you’ve finally found a nail, bang, got it. Nailed it, I’m trying to avoid that one. Bang, got it. Found another nail, bang, got that one. Found a window, bang. Oh, that didn’t work.

And the reason I say the hammer is because we’ve all experienced, I’m sure, coaches that had a hammer. And that was all they had, that was a hammer and they’d hammer, hammer away. It just doesn’t work. You need tools, they need a good toolbox. The hammer is undoubtedly going to work at times and undoubtedly it’s going to work with some players and some players are just going to be the ones that you use it all the time. But not everybody’s like that.

So, you just need different tools for different players, for various reasons: different personalities, different things they need to work on. Some things are just simply effort-based, but then some things are real subtle. I’m finding most are more skill-based and you can’t have a guy go a hundred percent at it to fix those. So, develop your coach’s toolbox. There’s a lot of different ways to get that result you’re after. And you just need to develop your toolbox, develop your skills as a coach, to be able to have different skills, to try to apply to a kid or to one of the players you’re working with, to find that spot.

And one of the tools, which you just mentioned before, was getting rapport for the players. And, just to speak a point outside of what the question was, but people often say to me, ‘When somebody’s 23, you can’t change their technique.’ And that’s completely wrong. There’s lots of examples of where people have changed techniques. They all had coaches. Dennis Lillee, famous Australian fast bowler, had dreadful back injuries and they had to completely change his technique to come back. And he did, he came back and he came back successfully. Tiger Woods has changed his golf swings six times.

And there’s all those guys. I worked with some guys who worked with prosthetics. Those were returning soldiers coming back from Afghanistan who had to completely relearn how to… They had to learn how to walk, how to develop new skills, to be able to walk again, because they lost a leg or something else. And all these people were doing it.

The key here is bion. I always say, if somebody has bion, they’ll be able to change their technique. If they don’t have bion, it doesn’t matter. That won’t happen. Getting that bion is so important. 

Jack: And being able to deliver purpose. Like you said, what they are trying to change it for and understanding their why. And for these players, whether it’d be injury prevention, but some of it might be just to get 1% better with their performance. 

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. That’s right. I’ve had a lot of changes of technique of guys kicking from AFL guys who were in their thirties, because they had to. There were entire technique changes, finding their strategy change, finding where their best kicks are. And part of the technique change is more what’s happening before the kick. As in when they gain the ball, they’re angling their body, so that they’re getting into a kicking position earlier, so they’ve got a little bit more time be able to kick. But they’re subtle changes. And so, most people wouldn’t see the change. And that’s part of the reason that it’s considered that you can’t change. It’s certainly harder. And again, it has different challenges, but it’s doable. 

Jack: And like you said earlier, it can be quite contextual or situational for their game on what’s the opposition doing to disturb their performance and working out how to combat that.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. So, understanding that one too. And just coming back to coaches, I think coaches have got a lot of different strengths as well. So, coaching to the strengths can be good too. Finding guys that you can most improve.

So, for me, obviously, there’s a strong technical component. So, I’ll do that. I always used to work closely with one of the other assistant coaches from the game stats point of view, because we needed it, we wanted to connect. At Melbourne I worked really closely with Josh Mahoney and Scottie West at Melbourne and Sean Wellman was there at that stage.

So, those guys, but we just worked together in terms of improving the player. So, having that combination, it really made us see the program, because we needed both, so we could hit all bases, then we’d go the technical stuff, we’ve got the situational stuff, and then moved both across the personality aspect with the player.

Jack: And you mentioned accelerometers in boots and potentially that’s where we’re going to start to move towards. It’s a bit of a watch, this space. It makes a lot of sense. And it’d be really exciting to see that come in. What’s something you’re passionate or interested in at the moment that you’re doing some research and self-learning about? 

Kevin: Certainly that technology is going to help them. There’s a lot of different things that could emerge that are going to help, I think. And they’ll help in different ways. So, a lot of them might not directly be, in fact, a lot of them could be independent of the player’s own understanding. It’s the coaches or the S&C coaches role to understand that and then modify accordingly. A bit like when you are going to the doctor, you don’t want to know all the stuff that is not wrong with you, but you just want to be fixed.

Because there is a lot of information there and that’s part of the challenge with technology in the space that myself and you work in, Jack. There’s a lot of information there that we’ve got, and one of the roles of the coach or even sport scientist, probably the sport scientist, S&C coach at that level, is understanding the data and filtering through what’s important. So, getting rid of the stuff that’s not important and then delivering what is important and finding that quickly and making it to be easily understood. Because that’s passing up along the chain, if you like, to then for people to make decisions, so they can make more informed decisions at that next level with that info.

I think the technology will improve and that’d be certainly good. Especially since there’s been a lot of mucking around with ball tracking as well, more recently. We’re doing a lot of stuff with FIFA in the soccer space, trying to improve ball tracking. So, there’s a number of providers. Some of them got chips in the ball. Some track just with lots of video cameras, they are tracking the players and the ball with video cameras. And so, we’re validating a lot of that stuff. That’ll be really good stuff moving forward as well.

I think being able to get things like ball speed would be a fantastic addition to the coach’s ability to have feedback about an individual development of an individual kicker, because the ball speed stuff is the key. It pretty much tells you how far the ball is going to go. The faster the ball speed, the longer the ball can go.

Certainly, from my point of view, that’s what I’m most looking forward to. Being able to have something that can get ball speed, as they do in golf. You often see the systems put in there, but it’s an easy prediction because it’s a stationary ball to start with. But they’ve got systems now, where you can hit the ball and they can predict where it’s going to end up.

Jack: Awesome. I’ll watch this space, it’s exciting. We’ll start to wrap up, mate. I really thoroughly enjoyed this episode and having you on, mate. It’s been invaluable to get an insight into your philosophy and also hear all the stories in the different environments that you’ve been in, in high performance sport. Thank you for jumping on.

We’ll go into the personal side of that, the get-to-know-Kevin section. It’s a bit of a lighter part of the podcast, mate. First one is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? We can throw in book as well, if you want.

Kevin: Actually, I was thinking about this from the questions. ‘Ted Lasso’ was the most recent one. I really liked ‘Ted Lasso’. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. 

Jack: No, I haven’t.

Kevin: It’s about an American, I think, football or basketball coach, who coaches one of the English Premier League teams. And he’s basically got no idea about soccer and no idea about anything, but he’s a learner, basically. I really liked that. I found it quite inspiring because he was alone. He was growing, he always wanted to learn, even at that level.

One of the things, which I really liked, is a really good scene where he’s playing darts. And there was a story about that. And that’s one of the good things about him is that he might seem a bit dopey, but he’s growing. So, that was a good one. That was one of the most recent ones that I’ve liked. And we’ve had a bit of time to watch a few series. 

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. Us, Victorians, that’s for sure. I’ll note that one down, that’s on the list. Favorite, inspirational quote or life motto?

Kevin: I probably got it. Just that one: ‘Stay green’. That’s what I really liked. Keep searching. The coaches I most enjoyed working with were the seekers. So, Chris Connolly, Craig Bellamy. They just keep seeking, they keep seeking the next thing, looking for what else, what else can improve? What can we do? They never stop. Choco. They’re always looking for different ideas. So, stay green, keep learning. 

Jack: I like that. In your work life, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves? 

Kevin: That’s right. I have an answer to this question. Probably quite a few things. Probably the main thing is not being able to see past your own area, which has implications for other people. So, staying too discipline-specific without understanding implications beyond. And specific to my area, it’s not just about physiology. It’s not just about biomechanics and it’s not just about skill acquisition. It’s not just about psychology. They’re all combined. So, understanding how they are combined is really, really important.

I think probably the pet peeves is there’s still too much, particularly in academia, too much overconfidence in individuals within their own area. So, they’ll be very, very confident in that area, but it’s a blinkered view and it doesn’t see outside of their own area, the bigger view.

Jack: And a favourite way spend your day off?

Kevin: A few things. Got into boxing since we’ve been locked down. So, it’s been good fun, good fitness. Play a lot of sport. Play sport with the boys, play a lot of hockey. But I think if I wanted to keep back and do nothing else, then fishing.

Jack: On the river or boat? Fly fishing? What’s your favorite style?

Kevin: All of those. And probably the most out on the fishing kayak at the moment, it’s the most common one, catching King George Whiting at Western Port.

Jack: How good. And this is the COVID-free world for the last one. Favorite holiday destination? 

Kevin: Spain, without a doubt. That’s probably the main thing, I’m on their red wine. 

Jack: Very good. Well, thanks again, mate, for jumping on. Thoroughly enjoyed this chat and thank you for sharing all your experiences and providing practical tips for developing footballers, coaches, S&Cs. And like you said, how important it is to have an integrated approach for when working in high performance sport. So, thank you so much for coming on, mate. I’ll definitely got a lot from it.

Kevin: That’s great, mate.

Jack: What’s on the horizon for you for 2022?

Kevin: Well, hopefully, we’ll get back into the footy stuff. At least less at the moment because of the salary cap, I mean the footy department’s spent. So, I’m doing work with more individuals, a couple of NRL guys and a few the AFL boys for individual based stuff.

Probably from a workplace point of view, we need to get back traveling to Europe again with our work. With FIFA, validating the player tracking devices that we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. And last year, the big challenge was doing it remotely where we always start at three in the morning on an iPad, watching, testing what’s going on in Arrowhead Stadium in Manchester, making sure everything was right for us. Turned out it wasn’t. So, we’ll have a fair bit of work ahead of us. But, hopefully, getting back to a bit of travel and conferences that aren’t two in the morning.

Jack: Absolutely, mate. Fingers crossed. A bit of normality for 2022. That all sounds very exciting. For those that want to follow your work, where’s the best place to get in touch?

Kevin: Probably LinkedIn would be the best one, I reckon. I’ll pass you the details for that one. That would be the best. 

Jack: I’ll add it in the show notes. Thank you for everyone that’s tuned in. We’ll keep you in the loop when we have our next episode. That will be next Thursday, at 8:30 PM. We’ll post it on our Instagram. But thanks for everyone for tuning in. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it’d be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest.

If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at jack@preparelikeapro.com. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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