Kicking butt: Steamboat soccer players bring kicking talent to football team
Special teams are aspects of football that are underappreciated. Punts, kickoffs and returns are taken for granted, with fans only speaking up when they are performed poorly. People also tend to notice when special teams are exceptional, and this year, the Steamboat Springs High School football kickers are pretty incredible.
Sophomore Charlie Reisman and junior Erik Sandvik are soccer players by default but have taken their talents to the football team as specialized kickers. Sandvik is the Sailors’ punter, and Reisman does kickoffs and field goals. On the pitch, Reisman is a forward, and Sandvik is typically a center back.
Soccer coach Rob Bohlman and football coach Jay Hamric were more than happy to accommodate the boys and their desire to play two sports.
“It’s truly a gift to be able to have talented kids on our special teams,” Hamric said. “Those plays, those special teams plays during a game, can make the biggest difference in the outcome of the game. We have solid kickers, punters, and it greatly impacts the positioning on the field, as well as the momentum of the game. With both of these kids having strong legs, they’ve had a major impact on field positioning.”
Soccer is the priority for both of them, but they attend about one football practice per week and have found a way to attend every game for both teams. They are essential full-time players for the soccer team and have drawn a lot of attention for their brief appearances on the football field.
“What a cool thing — to represent your football team and your soccer team in your hometown,” Bohlman said.
Considering kicking in college
Last Friday, in a game at Coal Ridge, the Steamboat Springs football team lined up for a 45-yard field goal.
Senior quarterback Jake Hamric placed the ball on the 35-yard line. Reisman took two steps and, with the third, swiftly made contact with the football and sent it flying. End over end, it tumbled through the uprights, giving the Sailors a 10-0 lead.
Hamric said if he didn’t have Reisman, he would send Sandvik out to take such a long field goal, but without either of them, he never would have made the call.
“If I didn’t have Charlie or Erik, absolutely not,” Jay Hamric said. “There’s just no way. We don’t have any kids on our team that can kick a 45-yard field goal besides those two. We’re very fortunate. College teams, professional teams struggle with a 45-plus-yard field goal. To be able to have that on a high school team is pretty extraordinary.”
A little later in the game, Reisman attempted another 45-yard field goal but narrowly missed wide.
“A 45-yarder felt pretty good for me. It’s not quite out of my boundary,” he said. “I did feel confident I could get it there, but I will admit on the first one, my right leg was shaking. The ironic thing was on the second one, I had no fear, but I think that’s probably one reason I missed. It’s good to have that fear.”
His participation in both sports is something that requires a lot of support from not only both coaches and teams but his parents.
The Sailors football team first played Aug. 28, beginning at 6 p.m. That afternoon, Sandvik and Reisman helped the soccer team win over Littleton on the Front Range. Reisman’s mom drove the two players back to Steamboat. They ran up to the field with their pads on, missing a little more than the first quarter.
“It was one thing I wanted to make sure my mom was OK with, and that she wanted to make the effort to drive and do that stuff,” Reisman said. “It’s been worth it.”
Reisman takes a lot of free kicks for the soccer team, during which he takes three or four steps leading up to his kick. Reisman is one of the team’s top scorers and is often used on penalty kicks and direct free kicks.
The football team, which is 3-1, next plays Friday versus Aspen in its homecoming game.
The soccer team, which is 4-4-1, next plays at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 versus Battle Mountain at home.
With football, there is more technique and precision. A kickoff requires seven steps, and before a field goal, he takes three steps.
He spent a lot of time practicing all of his kicking skills with his parents this summer and even attended a kicking clinic in Atlanta. He spends more time playing soccer, but both sports hold a place in Reisman’s heart, and potentially, his future.
“Both of those sports have been a dream to go to college for them,” he said. “This past year, I did a kicking showcase in Atlanta. I’m just trying to figure out which sport I want to do.”
Tough when it counts
Punting is hard. There’s no one catching the snap for you or holding the ball for you. Punters have to do it all, and the team expects them to do it well most of the time.
Sandvik was more than willing to take on such a daunting role, since it was the only way he could participate in both soccer and football. Last year, with the seasons switched up due to the pandemic, Sandvik played football for the first time. He was a wide receiver and defensive back, but he couldn’t continue that while playing both sports during a “normal” schedule.
Over a year and half of punting, Sandvik has gotten pretty good, which is impressive since there is zero overlap in the skills it takes to kick a soccer ball and those needed to kick a football. First of all, Sandvik never has to worry about getting his hands on a soccer ball.
“You’ve got to focus on the catch because you do not want to drop it,” he said. “Then, it’s all about the drop of the football, how you drop it, making sure it’s at the right angle to your foot. You try to get a spiral when you kick it, but that’s hard.”
Generally, soccer calls for using the inside of your foot when kicking a ball, but there are exceptions. While punting, Sandvik kicks using the outside of his foot, which is what helps the ball spin.
Of course, the series of events is not always perfect. In a home game against Middle Park two weeks ago, Sandvik got a high snap that went over his head and behind him. He scrambled to get to the ball, and with opponents closing in, he turned back around and got a punt off, pushing the Middle Park team almost to the end zone.
Sandvik’s grit and confidence in football carries over to soccer. As a center back, he’s often the last line of defense before forcing the Sailors keeper to deal with an attacker. So he knows, it’s up to him to get the job done.
“You have to be mentally tough,” Jay Hamric said. “You’re thrown into some really difficult situations whether it’s the wind, a poor snap, whether it’s a key kick with the game pending on the line. These kids have to be mentally tough, and I think it says a lot about these individuals.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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