Seeing female kickers in the game of football has become a more common sight in the past decade.
Like most female kickers, Jill Hall’s kicking talent stems from soccer, as she’s the starting goalie on the Sacred Heart girls’ soccer team. Yet, Hall’s connection to the game spurred her interest as her late brother, Carson, was the team’s last true kicker.
Becoming the Crusaders’ kicker was not something she was searching to do. Hall had spent her eighth and ninth-grade years as a team water girl. One day Hall and some of her friends were kicking footballs for fun, and immediately Hall’s leg caught the attention of head coach Ed Smith.
“We were looking for a kicker,” Smith said. “My daughter, her, and a couple of other girls were goofing around kicking, and I said something to her, if you want to come out and be our kicker, c’mon. A week or two later, her mother texted me and said, ‘Jill said you said something about coming out for football. I’m okay with it if you are.’ And so she came out last fall.”
However, Hall’s first year of kicking had plenty of bumps in the road. In her first year, she managed to make two PATs and a field goal, but the memory of her brother, who passed away, has kept her motivated in mastering kicking.
“It pushed me to better than what I am,” Hall said. “It has made me want to kick better. It’s definitely what has pushed me to be the best I can be.”
One of the main problems Hall faced was mastering her technique. Rhythm and timing are two things she admits she has just figured out. Yet, the biggest key she has learned to master is not overthinking the kick itself.
“I kicked it like a soccer ball, so I would transfer my soccer skills over to football which doesn’t really work that well,” Hall said. “It’s a little bit different.
“I can’t think about it. I was thinking too much every single time. I just have to go out and not think about anything. I have to go blank, and then I would do things perfect.”
Another major issue Hall faced was the snaps themselves. More often than not, Sacred Heart was plagued with bad snaps on special teams throughout the season last year.
“Our biggest problem last year, and I think we have it solved this year, is consistency on the snap, hold, and protection,” Smith said. “We had trouble putting all three of those together.”
If one part of that process is off, then it throws a kicker’s timing off completely.
“If the snaps aren’t right, then I can’t get my foot placement on the ball right,” Hall said. “What makes a good kick is a snap. Like If the laces are turned the wrong way, then it’ll curve.”
Despite last season’s drawbacks, Hall’s holder, Nick Pipkins, believes that the team has found their snapper.
“It’ll give us way more points,” Pipkins said. “Last year, the snaps were over my head, we were rolling on the ground bouncing, and I was just trying to get the ball and get out as fast as I could. I think this year, once we work on it a little more, it’ll be good.
“We were just switching back and forth with different snappers. One of our guards, Hunter Boleware, is snapping for us and has been showing out and getting good snaps. He has had a handful of bad snaps in all of the summer practice. I’m proud of him. He’s put in hard work. He’s never done it before. It’s his first year ever doing it. He’s gotten pretty good at it.”
Pipkins also sees great improvement in Hall’s kicking compared to last year.
“She’s an athlete,” Pipkins said. “She is bombing 30-35 yards. That’s more than what we’ll need to ask of her for this year. If she has her adrenaline pumping, especially with her energy, I believe she could bomb a 40 if she had a perfect set.
“We haven’t had a kicker since her brother. She has come in and put in the work, and she is really showing out. It helps us a lot because we have struggled looking for one.”
That’s understandable, as Hall has placed focused on bettering her game since she picked up kicking last fall. She’s worked on it year-round and even went to a Nick Saban football camp this past June.
“It was just perfecting my technique,” Hall said. “I learned how to perfect my steps and my foot placement right before I kick it. It was my rhythm and timing. I learned to perfect my technique. I’m just going with the flow. I’m going to try my hardest and practice every day.”