The Making of One of America’s Top Kicking Instructors
While it is true that I share the same name as my father, his accomplishments on the football field are a bit different than my own. My father was one of the great coaches in Division III, amassing a record of 117-70-3 in 19 years at UW-River Falls and the “inventor” of America’s first specialty sports camps.
He was my coach during my college career.
But the story of my kicking has more to do with my two older brothers than he. You see, like so many other sports oriented families, I was basically born with a ball or bat in my hand. My playground was a practice field or a big yard outside. And my constant competition (in everything from tiddly-winks to table tennis) were my brothers Steve and Dave.
Understand, that my eldest brother Steve, was an early maturer and absolutely dominated youth sports. He once was given a special baseball plaque at a tournament for striking out 43 of 48 batters he faced. He went on to earn a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota. My next oldest brother, Dave, just happened to be the Wisconsin State Amateur Champion in golf…. who got a scholarship to Madison to play golf for the Badgers. Oh, and that doesn’t really suggest how good they were in other sports!
Me, being the “baby”, meant that they were beating me in everything. It didn’t help that I was little. My mother called my “Tiny”. But, they were great big brothers and allowed me to play in just about every game they ever made up… with their friends, too.
That meant I lost, a lot. But I was always playing against better competition and I wanted to win badly. I still vividly remember beating Dave in ping pong when I was 16 — legitimately — I think it was the first time I had ever won at anything.
One of the games we would play, was practicing field goals in our yard with a big red barn as the backstop. Kick it between the basketball hoop and the tree and on to the roof and the kick was GOOD! Trouble was, if you hit it too well, the ball would hit the roof and bounce over to the backside of the barn (where the grass was four feet high and a pain to retrieve). So the distance naturally moved back a bit to ensure that your kick was “just right”.
Turns out, I just kept moving back, further than they could.
The morale of the story is “keep fighting to overcome your challenges… they are what will make you great… and that perseverance will serve you well in every endeavor.”
Caption for the picture above: Two images from Mike’s collegiate playing days at UW-River Falls (vs. UW-Stevens Point) where Mike handled the punting, kicking and quarterbacking duties. He finished 2nd in voting for Conference Player of the Year and was the WSUC’s second leading scorer …and was part of the 1984 WSUC Championship team.
This is the farm that I grew up on and my “goal post”. Alas, the basketball hoop is gone, and so it the thin tree (now the vines), but the rest is pretty much the same. The “crossbar” is higher and the “posts” narrower than a traditional goal post. A 50-yard field goal here, is like a 60 yarder on a real field… minus the rocks and ruts. The idea is to continually practice, challenging yourself to get better each time you kick.