Dean Rock explains his four-step free-taking routine
No better man to learn from.
Dean Rock is one of, if not the most prolific free-takers Gaelic football has ever seen.
Over the last ten years, since he began his Dublin career in 2013, the likelihood has been that whenever he stands over a free, it will end up in a score.
Speaking to SportsJOE ahead of Budweiser's Combine event ahead of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, Rock described to us his routine when it comes to free-taking.
"The first thing for me is taking my time to go over to the free," says the 33-year-old.
"There's no real rush unless you're chasing the game.
"Now I'm not one of them who, like, you're four points down, you've a minute to go and you're still going through your process for 30 seconds. I'd be quite comfortable to just grab the ball and kick it over the bar."
"But ideally, you try to just take your time and that gives you an opportunity to get your heart rate down.
"You obviously have a better chance to think a bit more clearly about things then if your heart-rate's down," he says.
"Yes, you'd have the time to go through what you need to go through. But I think with the practice I've done through the years I'm very familiar with all of the areas of the pitch, so I probably don't need as much time as I did when I was younger."
No better man to learn from.
Dean Rock explains his four-step routine to taking frees 🎯
Rock will put his speed and kicking skills to the test against NCAA standards in Budweiser's upcoming 'combine.' pic.twitter.com/FfmC2blBdR
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) August 24, 2023
Then it's decision time.
"So then I decide whether I'm going to kick it out of my hands or off the ground and that's based on the wind and kind of a feel thing.
"After that, it's just going through my own personal routine, and process that I've developed over the years, and then just executing and stick it over the bar."
So what is that routine?
"The big thing is if you're kicking out of your hands, your shoulder position at the start is obviously vital and then the direction in which your feet go after that are the most important things.
"Because, for a right footed kicker, if I'm pointing my left shoulder towards the target as I approach the kick, then if I open up my right shoulder, my chest is open, which is going to drag the ball to the left.
"So there's always, there's different things for me, the shoulder position to start, then the direction in which your feet go, then it's trying to hit the ball, the sweet spot, the foot and then the last thing is your follow through.
"So there are four steps and, and that's the process and that's kind of how I go through my kick."
As in golf, following through and keeping the head down are key.
"If you don't follow through, you're likely to drop it short. I don't try and blast the ball, I try and hit it off the sweet spot of the ball. A lot of guys, obviously when they're kicking and if they drop a short, it's because either they don't follow through or they lift their head up too soon.
"So it's just, it's a trigger for guys to keep their head down sometimes when they're kicking free kicks.
"You just have to be present enough to think of that stuff and execute that stuff under pressure, whether it's in front of 80,000 people or so on. That's the differentiator really.
"It's repetitive practice in training, your triggers, experience and then confidence I would have worked with Gary Keegan the sports psychologist for years. He would have helped me in that sense."