Van Soderberg’s Consistent Kicks Power Capital High School Football



By Gail Wood

les schwab tire centersVan Soderberg had a life-changing experience when he was watching the 2006 Super Bowl on TV.

When Josh Brown kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Seattle Seahawks a 3-0 lead in that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Soderberg had an epiphany. He wanted to be a kicker.

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Capital High School’s Van Soderberg has been consistent this year as the Cougars’ kicker.

“It just took off from there,” Soderberg said. “That’s what got me kicking.”

After that game, Soderberg went with his dad to the park and started kicking field goals. Now, nine years into Soderberg’s journey, he’s the kicker for the Capital High School Cougars, helping them place second in the 3A Narrows League and advance to the playoffs.

He’s been Mr. Automatic for the Cougars. His lone miss in PATs in 30-plus attempts was a block against North Thurston. On field goals, he went 7-for-8, only missing on a 50-yard attempt.

“He’s a really steady kicker,” said J.D. Johnson, Capital’s head football coach who led his team to a 7-3 record after Saturday’s 14-7 playoff loss to Mountlake Terrace. “I’d assume he’ll have some Division-I opportunities.”

Soderberg is already getting recruiting letters from colleges. Missouri has mailed several letters.

“That’s the end goal,” Soderberg said. “I’d love to get that opportunity to play in college.”

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Van Soderberg waits for the snap to kick a Point After Touchdown (PAT) against North Thurston.

Soderberg isn’t kicking field goals, PATs and punting just because he couldn’t do anything else. He’s not a scrawny kid who couldn’t find another position to play. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Soderberg, who can bench press 300 pounds and squat 500 pounds, has the size, strength and speed to play wide receiver, defensive back or even linebacker. But his calling is kicking.

“He could do some other things, but mama doesn’t want him to do other things,” Johnson said with a grin. “And we respect what mama says. But ultimately, he could probably play linebacker. He could do some other things. Over all, he’s our kicker and that’s what we let him do.”

Besides his accuracy on PATs and field goals, he’s also booming his kickoffs, repeatedly reaching the end zone. He’s kicked the ball into the end zone on 32 of 34 kickoffs. On his punts, he’s averaging nearly 50 yards a punt.

Against Central Kitsap, Soderberg’s 50-yard field goal attempt missed left with about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with the score tied 0-0. Then on his game-winning 33-yard attempt in overtime, Soderberg got a chance at redemption.

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After his team scored a touchdown, Van Soderberg prepares to kickoff against North Thurston.

“I had that miss in the back of my mind,” Soderberg said. “When I kicked it, I just tried to keep it straight.”

Soderberg’s kick split the uprights and pandemonium broke out. His teammates and Cougar fans rushed the field, celebrating the 3-0 win.

“It’s the moment that kickers dream of,” Soderberg said. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities to get any glory or be a huge part of the team. When you do get the chance all you think about is coming through because you know that’s going to be a time you’re going to have the most impact that you can.”

Pressure can do funny things to a kicker. With the outcome of a game hinging on their performance, easy chip shots can turn into dreaded misses. But Soderberg lives for that moment.

“He’s pretty good under pressure,” Johnson said. “I think he actually relishes it. I don’t think that pressure is a major component on his plate. I think he’s a pretty solid kid when it comes to that.”

While kickers are often off by themselves kicking as the rest of the team practices, Soderberg makes a point of joining in when he can. Rather than skip weight lifting workouts, Soderberg goes. In the off-season, his lifting buddies are Dallen Prichett, a lineman, and Deter Morton, a fullback – two big stack lifters.

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Van Soderberg has learned how to be his own coach by attending summer kicking camps.

“I try to be involved,” Soderberg said. “A lot of kickers won’t go to the weight room and workout. Or they’ll leave practice early because there’s not much for them to do. But I try. I feel the closer you are to your teammates, the more at stake there is for you to do your job. You need that connection to the rest of the team. The snapper, the holder and the line – in the end it’s eleven guys.”

Sure, Soderberg knows he needs to make the kick. But he also knows the center needs to make the snap. The holder needs to place the ball. And the line needs to block.

“It’s a team effort,” he said.

Soderberg is driven to be the best he can be.

“The only time you notice the kicker is when he messes up,” he said. “So, my goal has been since I’ve gotten here in high school is to be noticed for the good things I do rather than the missed field goals.”

From the start, Soderberg has learned his trade from the best. Just a couple of months after watching Brown kick for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl nine years ago, Soderberg went to a kicking camp in Seattle put on by Ray Guy, a former Oakland Raider. Every year since, he’s gone to a couple of those camps, either in Seattle or California.

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Van Soderberg booms another kickoff to the end zone after his team scored a touchdown.

“They taught me how to do it correctly,” Soderberg said. “The way those camps work is they want to make you your own coach so you know what you’re doing wrong when you do something wrong. I’ve been able to do that. When I do something wrong, I know exactly what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do to be successful.”

Over the years, some of the special moments in learning how to kick has been going to the park with his dad, Jeffrey Soderberg, who works on Hollywood movies doing the lighting as the chief rigging electrician. In the last couple of years, he’s worked on the soon-to-be-released Fantastic Four, and on  Transcendence, Runner Runner, The Dark Knight Rises and Mission Impossible.

“My dad is gone a lot of the time, but when he’s back we go kicking,” Soderberg said, smiling at the memory. “We still do. That’s one of our pastimes. He has pictures of me kicking when I was eight.”

Now, after a Friday night football game, Soderberg watches with his dad’s video of the Cougar’s game.

“We’ll go and watch the film and think of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,” Soderberg said.


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