Say you’re a kicker for a Canadian Football League team. Say your team has a bye week between games against the British Columbia Lions and the Edmonton Elks.
Where do you go to practice your technique? You go east, young man, to Garcelon Field at Bates College.
While Henry Nell is not the starting kicker for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Rough Riders (he’s on the practice squad), the 23-year-old former rugby player still has to be diligent about practicing his craft, should the call come.
So when his team had a bye week, he headed to Lewiston, where his wife, a traveling physical therapist, was working at a local hospital. With a playing surface similar to what many CFL and NFL teams use (FieldTurf), Garcelon Field was the place to practice.
“I’m working on some technique things: where my upper body is, and just trying to hit a clean ball,” he explained between kicks at Garcelon Field on Aug. 5. “I don’t want to hit too much ground and I don’t want to hit no ground. You gotta find that in between.”
Nell grew up in South Africa, where he played professional rugby. Since his switch to American football, he’s kicked for the Indoor Football League and the National Arena League. This is his second year with the Rough Riders.
Whether it’s the golf swing or the swing of a leg, an athlete perfecting their technique needs to focus on just a few things at a time. “Kicking is difficult enough, so you don’t wanna focus on a million things at once,” he says.
His wife, Brianna, helps out with that, and helped shag the kicked footballs at Garcelon.
“I analyze his technique and whatever he wants me focus on, his hips or his swing or whatever, and yell at him when he’s not doing it!” And she’s part psychologist, too. “Just be there for him support wise.
“And when he gets in his head, I’m like, ‘Just don’t worry about it. You’ll get the next one.”