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Monday, June 2, 2008
Updated: June 6, 10:17 AM ET
HOLY CRAP ... THIS IS HARD


You know those plays that look so easy that you scream like a nut job at the TV when somebody screws one up? Turns out a lot of stuff is way harder than you think. Let five jocks tell you why, then let us show you how to master those tricky skills at home. All you need is a few buddies, a bit of imagination … and lots of toilet paper. If it sounds crazy, just roll with it.

HOW DO YOU PRACTICE CHANGING TIRES ALL WEEK AND MESS UP ON SUNDAY? JAKE SEMINARA Rear Tire Changer, 18 M&M Toyota (Kyle Busch)

Trying to do our job in 12 seconds, it's hard not to make a mistake. I have the air gun, and my task is to knock five lug nuts on and off two tires. A perfect 20 is a good stop, as long as nuts don't fly all over. I can't have Kyle run over them.

Plus, I could roll an ankle, pull a muscle … get hit by another car. Tracks with outside walls [Dover or Bristol] don't give drivers room to swerve out of the way. They'll either hit the wall or the pit crew. And, of course, I could catch on fire.

At Darlington, I hit four lug nuts instead of five, and the official saw and called us back in for a penalty. Putting that last lug nut on took us from first to 29th, and I felt like I'd let down not just the 15 guys at the track but also 400 Joe Gibbs Racing employees. Thankfully, Kyle worked his way thorugh the field and won.


YOU HAVE ONE JOB, LONG-SNAPPING. DO YOU EVEN GET A PLAYBOOK? DAVID BINN Long-Snapper, Chargers

Anyone can bend over and throw it back. Try it with a 350-pounder waiting to kill you as soon as the ball moves. And I don't even get to look at him; I've got my head between my legs. Think it's so easy now?

After I snap, I must instantly begin blocking and quickly anticipate where my guy will go. Granted, it's all I practice, and I've been known to play golf during offensive and defensive meetings. But a lot of guys know they can't do it.

I bounced one to the punter a few years ago. I thought the call was being changed, so I tried to pull the ball back just as I was snapping. We got off the kick, though.

I get the same treatment as kickers and punters: a lot of crap. But when it comes down to a field goal to win the game, everyone is my best friend.


YOU DROPPED AN INFIELD POPUP? WHAT IS THIS, T-BALL? BRANDON PHILLIPS Second Baseman, Reds

First off, if you don't call for it, your teammates will run into you. Ryan Freel, playing centerfield, crashed into me once. That man's a speed demon—we could've both been on the DL. But I caught it.

Then again, a lot of guys call popups too early. If it's windy, before you know it, the ball is on the other side of the field. This year in San Francisco, a Giant hit one, and I said, "I got it," but it got blown to the outfield. First time I ever missed one. It was a creepy feeling.

The worst time to catch a popup is in the rain. Raindrops hit your eyes, and you have to keep blinking. A rainy day is the only time I say, Don't hit me a popup; please don't hit me a popup. I hate it.


HOW DO YOU CLANG A TECHNICAL FREE THROW? MY LITTLE BRO HITS 10 IN A ROW. BEN GORDON Shooting Guard, Bulls

For a lot of guys, a tech is harder than a regular free throw. You're on the spot. And you're supposed to be the best shooter, which ups expectations. The key is to avoid rushing.

I relax by focusing on my routine (spin the ball in my hands, bounce it four times) and my mechanics (eyes on the target, bend knees, follow through).

For me, a T is easier than a regular free throw. I'm in a comfort zone with no one on the line to distract me—like I'm in the gym over the summer. Free throws ar elike free money, like seeing a $100 bill on the ground. A technical? That's free, free money.

Of course, if you're the guy picked to take it, the first thing that pops into your head is, I'd better not miss.


THE GOAL IS 24'X8'. HOW CAN YOU MISS IT? ABBY WAMBACH Forward, U.S. Soccer

Any penalty kick is pressure packed. It's just the shooter, the keeper and 12 yards. Confidence vs. confidence.

Even if the keeper reads me and gets a jump, I kick it where I want. Switching my shot late could cause me to miss the goal entirely. Then again, my actual target is quite small, so if the goalie does move in the direction I'm shooting, and I try to be even more precise, I could miss everything, too.

Once—in the Algarve Cup against Germany—I could've put us up, but I hit the crossbar; it actually bounced back to me, and I caught it. We ended up losing the tournament. I'll never forget feeling like I let my team down. It was heartbreaking.

But you can't be scared. Once a goalkeeper sniffs fear, she has the upper hand. Ultimately, all you can do is focus on kicking the ball exactly where you want it to go.