Portlaoise native Alan Kingsley has found himself in the middle of a wonderful adventure. After being presented with the opportunity to return to Irish shores from Australia in 2013 to coach Navan RFC, where he enjoyed back to back promotions in the AIL, his stock in coaching circles quickly ascended. So successful was his time at Navan, that he has now found his current home in Wales with Dragons Rugby, where he is the Skills and Kicking Coach for the club. With such a wealth of knowledge, Alan was only delighted to let us pick his brains on the ever growing importance of the kicker in today's game and outline what it takes to make it to the top.
What key traits are required to be a kicker, and what traits in particular do you look for in those that you coach?
A goal kicker is such a closed skillset, that a lot of the traits you would see in individual athletes really come to fore in kicking too. Self-confidence, motivation,
focused, resilient and mentally strong along with the many other traits you see in team players are really important for a kicker and coaches alike.
Is a strong mindset imperative in a kicker, how can somebody mould themselves into that mindset?
Absolutely, a strong mindset is essential in every kicker. Kicking is such an individual skill and can have a massive impact on the result, being strong mentally is vital to cope with the added pressures associated with kicking. I think that coaching and development through underage and academy systems plays a big part in creating a mentally strong kicker. Scenarios and simulated pressure environments in the development stage of the kicker in my opinion helps create and mould a strong mindset alongside the natural ability of the player.
What are the main aspects of your role as kicking coach?
As a kicking coach the main part of the role is the technical coaching aspect for each kick. Dealing with individual differences, especially in the case of not one rule fits all, it involves working closely with the player to explore what key factors suit them and knowing when to leave the athlete to find their own answers. The office part involves studying opposition teams, looking for kick space and areas that a kicking game could influence the game.
Has the role of a kicker evolved through the years?
Most definitely, from having multiple kickers in a backline, using kicking to influence a game, to manipulating defences are all essential parts of every team's approach. England at the moment are probably the most balanced kicking side with excellent left and right foot options which gives them another serious attacking weapon.
What separates the elite kickers from the rest?
Going back to the traits I think the mental strength and the resilience traits are the biggest difference in my opinion. The ability to learn from mistakes and move on is essential along with the mental strength to step up and perform for the team in pressure scenarios.
Can the same practices of a rugby kicker be applied in other sports?
I think to a certain extent yes , visualisation, mental strength , resilience, self-confidence are all aspects of the kick that can be shared across all sports especially where there is an individual and a target. Putting yourself in training scenarios that replicate a match as best as possible is also something that can be shared . While the key factors for every sport will be different there is definitely plenty of similarities that can be shared.