Houston Matters

Don’t Get Too High, Don’t Get Too Low: Kaʻimi Fairbairn Finds The Right Headspace For Kicking

The Texans open the season without their place kicker, who’s dealing with an injury. But, back during the offseason, Fairbairn explained how he deals with the pressures of a very mental task.

Houston Texans kicker Kaʻimi Fairbairn in 2020.
Houston Texans kicker Kaʻimi Fairbairn in 2020.

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/408164/408148" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X

The Texans begin their season Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. But they’ll be doing so without their kicker, Kaʻimi Fairbairn, who’s dealing with what the team is calling a minor pulled muscle in his leg.

The 27-year-old is entering his fifth NFL season following a college career at UCLA.

Earlier this summer, Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty caught up with Fairbairn after one of his offseason workouts with local trainer Ben Fairchild of Fairchild Sports Performance where the Hawaii native told him about how he found his way to football.

“I always say, ‘I think most kickers are reject soccer players,'” Fairbairn said.

But he says he had a good high school coach who taught him kicking technique and the mental side of the game. And it’s that mental side of kicking that he and Michael talked about the most — dealing with the pressures of being an NFL kicker.

Ka'imi Fairbairn Headshot
Houston Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn enters the fifth year of his NFL career as the 2021 season begins.

We know kickers face a lot of pressure, especially since they’re on the sidelines most of the game until they’re called out on the field — many times with the game on the line.

But Fairbairn says the physical act of kicking is pretty simple.

“It’s a simple movement,” he said. “You have one rep to kick one ball through the posts. And just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s very difficult. And I think that replicating it over and over and over again — you’re not running different routes. You’re not blocking anyone. It’s just you and the ball. So, just kind of getting out of your own head. And trusting your body. And trusting your process. Trusting the work and let it rip.”

Getting out of your head — for that more complicated aspect of kicking, Fairbairn does breathing exercises and uses a meditation app on his phone to help him find the right intensity for the moment.

“I don’t want to get too emotional, and get too high, get too much adrenaline on the sideline,” he said. “So, I’ll try to calm myself down with certain breathing movements. And then there might be the opposite where you’re too calm, and you need a little bit of juice. So, just finiding the right mindset, the right headspace.”

But what about the tactic we’ve all seen — “icing” the kicker? The opposing coach calls a timeout right before the crucial kick in hopes of putting more time — and distractions — between the kicker and his sideline practice and his on-field setup.

Does that work? Fairbairn says he actually likes it.

“It kind of gives me more time to settle down and feel out the field,” he said. “Because, obviously, as a kicker I’m not on the field a ton. I’ve got two or three opportunuites. So, just kind of being on the feild and feeling the atmosphere. And, obviously, it’s important not to think about the consequences of the kick. You think about the process rather than the result.”

Ka'imi Fairbairn Winning Field Goal
Houston Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn celebrates with teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal against the Buffalo Bills during overtime of a 2020 NFL card playoff game.

And what if you miss — especially that crucial, game-deciding attempt? Well, it’s important to remember that the kicker is a real person.

“I always tell myself, ‘You’re not going to make every kick. You’re human,'” Fairbairn said. “You want to, and I damn sure try to. But I control what I can. And what will be will be. I can live with results knowing that I tried my hardest.”

He says he’s lucky enough to have a good support system in his wife and family — all of whom definitely remember he’s a real person, no matter what happens.

“They know what’s important,” he said. “How you are as a human being. How you live your life. Your work on the field is one thing, but that doesn’t mean that’s who you are.”

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required

Share

Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

More Information