Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preparation Precedes Performance: SF 49ers Kicker Assesses the New Terrain

49ers Specialists Adjust to 
Levi's® Stadium Confines
For the first time as a full team on Monday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers practiced inside Levi’s® Stadium.

But some 49ers have sneaked off in small groups to test the new building’s amenities.

Take the specialists as an example.

Kicker Phil Dawson, punter Andy Lee and long snapper Kevin McDermott have ventured into their new home in the morning, at midday and during evenings to test out the gameday confines.

After all, elements such as the field and the wind directly affect their day-jobs.

“Talked to Phil about it, and he’s encouraged,” Jim Harbaugh said of Dawson, who adjusted quickly to Candlestick Park in 2013, making 32 of 36 regular-season field goal attempts. “He feels like it’s going to be a great place to kick.

“It’s part of the process. We’ve got to get used to it. We’ve got to get used to the new stadium, new wind, new grass, everything. We can mark our territory soon as we possibly can. Get used to it as much as we possibly can before we play our first game there.”

Harbaugh pointed out that the team’s practice fields, which face north and south, run parallel to the field inside Levi’s® Stadium. The coach previously compared the natural, Bermuda Bandera grass to that of a fairway at Augusta National Golf Club.

McDermott, who bested veteran Brian Jennings in a training camp battle this time last year, said he won’t be affected nearly as much as his teammates.

“The length of my snap usually isn’t affected unless the wind goes above 30 or 40 miles per hour,” the second-year pro said. “For them, it’s important to know which direction the wind is blowing and in that stadium, it’s blowing all different directions.

“They’re the best in the game, so they’ll be able to handle anything.”

Lee, for another, relies on the weather when deciding how he sends the football off of his right foot. He and the other members of San Francisco’s three-man group of specialists are looking for “keys” like whether the flags atop the stadium’s northeast corner reflect the wind pattern.

“Not really sure about how the ball is going to fly,” Lee, who punted for 10 seasons at The ‘Stick, said, “but the wind is definitely a little swirly. You can walk in five-yard increments, and it could be doing something differently.

“Hopefully, we have enough time to get in there, get things figured out and – hopefully – have a little bit of an edge over our opponents.”

Source:  San Francisco 49ers


Everyone prepares for a competitive situation in their own way.  Some mediates. Others talk and wait.  Phil Dawson of the San Francisco Forty Niners strategizes his next game time situation by studying the weather reports and practicing his kicks.

Dawson, 38, routinely mines data from Weather.com, AccuWeather.com and WeatherBug.com.

“I’m pretty psycho, I’ve got to admit,” he said. “It’s a borderline problem.”

Dawson’s history in wind, sleet and horizontal-blowing snow became relevant when he signed with the 49ers in March. Dawson’s new home stadium, Candlestick Park, is known for its swirling winds that mess with field-goal attempts, and kickers’ heads.

But Dawson has been there. Endured that. He’s played 204 of his 215 career games outdoors, with 108 coming at the Browns stadium, which is perched on the shores of blustery Lake Erie.

Dawson has played 12 percent of his career games in Cleveland in December. The average forecast for the city in the final month of the year: High of 30.9 degrees with 12-mile-per-hour winds and .38 inches of snow fall (that’s from climate-zone.com, Phil).

... Despite consistently weathering less-than-ideal conditions, Dawson ranks ninth in NFL history in field-goal percentage (84.0) and third in percentage from 50-plus yards (70.6). Seventeen months removed from his 40th birthday, he’s improving with age: He ranked second in the NFL in field-goal percentage (93.5) in 2012 en route to his first Pro Bowl and has drilled 14 of 15 attempts from 50-plus yards since 2011.

The 49ers believe they’ve upgraded after six-time Pro Bowler David Akers, 38, who was cut in March, endured his worst season in 2012. Dawson has missed 14 attempts (93 of 107) since 2009, one more than Akers missed in last year’s final 14 regular-season games.

Given his sustained success, Dawson is optimistic he can handle the inevitable surprises during the 49ers’ final season at The Stick.

PHILD“I think those experiences can only help, but they’re no guarantee,” Dawson said. “So I’ve still got to put the work in. I’ve got to wear out Weather.com like I always do trying to figure out hourly forecasts and wind directions. Has it rained that week? Is the field going to be soft? Is it going to be firm? All that kind of stuff. I’ve got to do my homework.”

Dawson did some advance Stick scouting in the offseason, visiting the stadium several times to get more acquainted after only playing two career games in San Francisco. In 2003, Dawson missed his only attempt, a 48-yarder, at Candlestick. In 2011, he made his only kick, a 52-yarder. Not surprisingly, Dawson recalls that he kicked in ideal conditions during his previous visits to the stadium.

“The weather’s been perfect,” Dawson said. “I’m still holding out hope that I’m bringing that with me. Lord knows I’ve played in rough stuff elsewhere.”

Dawson has also endured rough seasons, from a team perspective. He’s appeared in just one postseason game and the 49ers’ recent success was alluring when he weighed his free-agent options.

Now, the weather wonk who has kicked in all elements is eager to experience playoff conditions for the first time since 2003.

“I’m more looking forward now to kicks that are more team-centered, rather than personal accomplishments,” Dawson said. “It’s been communicated to me that’s why I’m here.”

Click here for the entirety of this news item and click here for another view of this story

Assessing the 
Process of Phil Dawson 
On the field, Mr. Dawson operates without any hi-tech. gadget. His pre-game research has already given him the Big Tangible Picture of what would the weather be at that game day and at any specific time. He knows the viscosity of the grass, the direction and the momentum of the wind at any part of the football field at any specific moment during the game, the shading of the sun and the possibility of extreme weather while methodically follows his sequence of "readiness to implementation" with zero hesitation.  

Mr .Dawson assesses by intuitively focusing on the range, the wind direction, the wind speed (by looking at the flags), the temperature, and humidity. 

The Position stage begins when he maneuvers to the right point of the terrain and begins the process of visualization while synchronizing his breathing with the projected execution. Dawson's then pre-positions his kick to the ready position while being mindful of the wind direction and the location of the yellow-colored goal posts.

The influence begins when he scores the field goal and after the play is over. His team becomes more confident with him. In a climate-challenging game situation, they know that there is a positive chance that he will score the field goal.

Well-executed influence always originates from a well-honed assessment and well-planned positioning.  The usual move of the successful strategist is to execute the influence.

In a game situation, he will have the advantage.


To an speculator, the act of kicking the ball looks easy. 

But there is more to the act of scoring the field goal, ultra class professionals like Mr. Dawson usually spent many hours, preparing himself for this type of complex-driven competitive situation. But nothing is ever simple especially in a highly stressed, high reward situation where there are other multi-components that also makes the kick operable.

Click here on a news item on what the Niners are looking for in terms of securing other home advantage.

The Compass Solution

Compass Principle: The time that it takes to assess, and position is inversely proportionally to that the time it takes to influence.

By realizing the complexity, the risk, the uncertainty and the volatility of a given situation, the successful strategists take their time to assess their situation systemically.  After a few sessions of intense preparation, the practice of implementing the "assess, position and influence" steps becomes automatic in a "real-time" competitive situation

The process model of Assessing, Positioning and Influencing (API) requires some planning, some preparation and practice.  One cannot always prevail in a strategic complex situation by operating from their seat of their pants. 

In a complex situation, some people are not willing to properly take the time to assess their situation especially if they do think that they have the time, the discipline and the drive to perform that function.  Their usual excuse is that they never have the time to assess, position and influence their objective but always have the time to rectify the problematic after-effect from their initial decision.

The Questions of the Day
Do you ever methodically assess the targeted terrain before implementing your action? 

Do you make selective assessment a daily habit?   

# Side note: The key to building this habit begins with the act of centering.


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