With our Kick your way to the Grand Final competition now well under way, Ospreys star James Hook tells you how he prepares to succeed with the boot.
Here at magnersleague.com we’re giving you the chance to take part in a unique kicking masterclass with top Magners League stars, including Grand Final winner Hook.
James and the likes of Dan Parks and Ian Humphreys will pass on their advice and teach you how to kick under pressure at a special training session held at your favourite club’s training ground or stadium.
We’re then offering you the opportunity to kick for glory during the half-time interval at a regular season Magners League match and the 2011 Grand Final.
Just click here to answer one simple question and you could be one of more than 200 competition winners. As James says, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
"It’s a great competition and I would have loved the chance to be involved in something like this when I was younger. Everyone should get involved," said Hook, the Ospreys’ Magners League Ambassador.
"Having played in a Grand Final, I know what the atmosphere can be like so to have that chance of kicking in a final and being part of such a big occasion will be amazing.
"It will give you the sense of what it is like to kick in pressure situations and I hope many people enter.”
As for his thoughts on how to deal with that pressure, Hook has some valuable advice: it’s all about practice and making that practice permanent.
"My advice would be to try and relax, don’t hit the ball too hard and stick to a routine which you are comfortable with," added Hook.
"The worst thing to do is to chop and change.
"You want to strike through the middle of the ball and keep practicing. There’s no point in just kicking once a month because it won’t help you. You need to be on top of it all the time and the only way to do that is to practice.
"Every chance you get, whether it’s in the park or the local club, get out and practice with your friends."
James Hook knows all about kicking under pressure
So how does Hook himself practice what he preaches?
"I kick 12-14 balls in a session, maybe a little bit more. I practice four or five times a week from all over the field. In front from the 10-metre line, then to the left and the right, with a few on the 5-metre and 15-metre lines.
"In terms of steps, I’m sure everyone will have seen but I take three backwards and then three to the side.
"When I am ready, I don’t try to hit the ball too hard. I try to strike through the middle of the ball and hope it will sail through the posts."
And what about the crowd? Hook has played in some of the world’s most-celebrated stadiums and in hugely-pressurised situations, knowing thousands upon thousands of fans are desperate for you to succeed or equally keen to see you fail.
It’s a daunting scenario if you allow yourself too much time to think and Hook insists the key is therefore to block out as much as background noise as you can. Imagine it’s just you, the ball and the posts, and you won’t go to far wrong.
"It depends how noisy they are. You do know they are in the ground but I just try to think about what I do on the training field and go through my routine.
"If you do that then it becomes second nature and hopefully you will get the results you want."
For more kicking tips from top stars, keep your eyes on this website, or to read top-draw advice from former world record points scorer Neil Jenkins just click here.
Hook described Jenkins as his ‘childhood hero’ and ‘someone I looked up to…as he did not miss’. What Jenkins doesn’t know about kicking isn’t worth knowing so it’s got to be worth a read if you’re considering entering or have already entered our Kick your way to the Grand Final competition.