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CARMEL KICKER SODANO PLAYS THE WAITING GAME

Football Standout Bides His Time Until March

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

Carmel High School’s Nick Sodano is the poster boy for every local football player whose fall season was taken away by the designation of the New York State Department of Health and the decision by the NYS Public High School Athletic Association.

Once the DOH declared football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading ‘high-risk sports’ – or most likely to transmit the coronavirus – the state athletic association followed by pushing all three sports to what is now being called Fall II Season beginning March 1.

So Sodano waits, and kicks. Waits, and kicks. Waits, and kicks.

One of the best placekickers in the state, routinely drilling 45-50 yard field goals and notching a best of 59, Sodano exemplifies the plight of all high school football players trying to bide their time for the spring and hoping that the virus doesn’t rear its ugly head any further.

Ironically, he started out as a soccer player. We say ironically because while many football kickers have a soccer background, Sodano had a different reason for switching sports back in seventh grade.

“When I played soccer, I was usually really rough,” he quipped. “So I thought I could transfer that to the football field. I didn’t expect to be the kicker but it turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in my life. The first time I kicked a football, it felt so natural to me and I knew it was something I would want to do for a long time.”

His coach at Carmel during his eighth-grade year on the freshman team, Ryan Dall, encouraged him.

“He allowed me to envision myself at the next level. You can tell he really cared,” Sodano said of Dall. “I remember my mom came home to tell me he said he ‘hadn’t seen anything like me in 25 years’ and although this was just a small comment, I still remember it to this day because it shows how the Carmel community is behind you. That comment is what really made me think, ‘Can kicking take me somewhere?’ ”

Now going into junior year on the varsity, Sodano set for himself a series of small but attainable goals along the way to the bigger goal – college.

“I really believe I became a few steps closer of who I can truly become. I knew to be one of the best in the nation, you would have to train like one of the best,” he said. “This is one of the lines I rehearse on a daily basis because achieving greatness is not easy and is a long, difficult and painful road. In January, I would bring a shovel to the field to plow any snow off of it to train. I did this because I thought in my head, “Some of the best athletes from Florida, Texas, South Carolina, etc. are training at this exact moment and that is what is separating themselves from me.”

Right now, he runs three miles every day and kicks every other day. In between, he works out and hopes his attendance at some kicking camps this coming winter will land him in the nation’s top 30 high school kickers. And, thus, get noticed by recruiters.

Sodano has been quick to give credit where credit is due. Nick Sciba from Wake Forest actually replied to Sodano’s message last spring and serves as a mentor.

“Not only is he an amazing kicker, but he is one of the most humble people that play on a Power 5 team. I remember reaching out to him last spring, knowing I had a slim chance of him reaching out back to me, but he answered all my questions thoroughly and was always really positive when I talked to him,” Sodano said.

Another mentor? Mom.

“She takes care of me and never asks for anything in return,” he said. “She is always willing to sacrifice anything she has so I can be successful. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to come so far in the kicking world.”

Sodano said that the pandemic has actually allowed him to train more because of the free time. He has taken advantage of remote learning, getting a run in during his free periods or working out or getting on the field with no one else around to practice his kicking.

Now, assuming football is actually played come March, he said he wants to be one of the central figures that helps Carmel return to a sectional title game under first-year coach Jimmy Nguyen.

“People usually downplay the importance of a kicker, but I think it can play a vital role in games. From clutch field goals to onside kicks, it can really be the difference between a win and a loss,” he said.

He also enjoys the mental aspect of kicking, now that he has his own expectation under control.

“Other kickers like to think about how they approach the ball, or how they want their plant foot to be aligned, but not thinking about anything helps me,” Sodano said. “One of the things I struggled with was overthinking, so to fix that I stopped thinking of what can go wrong and just take a deep breath. I’ve kicked a football hundreds, if not thousands of times so it’s second nature to me. In my opinion, thinking during a game will actually hurt you. … In the back of my head there’s a voice telling me to not let my teammates and coaches down. I think this is what really would separate another kicker from me when it comes down to a game winning-kick because I know what is at stake, and how hard my teammates and coaches have worked, which would give me that extra boost of adrenaline.”

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