Krysten Muir is past the hard part.
She kicked for the Marcos de Niza football program the past two years, last year was her first year with varsity. She earned a spot, won the players and coaches over, and converted 90% of her extra points as the Padres made it to the Division II state title game.
But that’s not enough for her.
Muir went straight from football to soccer, and her “offseason break” consists of constant workouts. Even when on vacation in Carlsbad, CA, she woke up early and ran miles and miles on the beach to improve her lower body strength. She is headed to Australia this summer and has already lined up training sessions with one of the country’s best rugby players to make sure she doesn’t lose her edge while she’s international.
And she is teamed up with a coach who is trying to take her to the next level.
Muir and former NFL kicker Max Zendejas were introduced by a mutual friend. Zendejas had helped kickers in the past but stepped away from coaching.
Until Krysten came along.
“I saw something in her and thought I would help her out,” Zendejas said. “It’s been a good experience for both of us.”
The two practice at, “The X’, a park in southern Tempe that is a hot spot for kickers. But on an April day, it’s just Krysten, her mother and Zendejas. Muir stretches and starts booting balls between two telephone poles. Zendejas looks on. He doesn’t speak too much but shares the necessary adjustments when needed. Krysten is bending her plant leg too much so Max wraps her left knee in athletic tape, making it almost impossible for her knee to give.
It’s training sessions like this that are helping her develop.
“He’s helped so much. He’s like magic,” Muir said. “He’s helped me with my technique and just little tweaks on how to hit the ball, where to hit the ball and also my leg strength.”
Part of that leg strength has come from Muir’s constant conditioning. Her offseason consists of “training, training and more training” in hopes to give her more “beefed-up legs”.
“You can tell she’s a lot stronger. We’re working on the steps and the follow-through.” Zendejas said. “Kicking is all mental. It’s 99% mental so we always have to get back to the mental side.”
Muir may not have much of a problem with the mental side because football is always on her mind. Her love of football is, well, genetic. Her father was a coach in Nevada when she was a young girl. One year, his kicker was a girl, and Krysten vowed she would find the gridiron.
Now, she shares the field with her father, who is an assistant coach at Marcos de Niza.
— Krysten_M (@KrystenMuir) September 5, 2015
“It’s fun because it’s a father-daughter thing, and it’s really cool because we can talk about it,” Muir said. “It’s nice to have someone where I can say, “Hey, what am I doing wrong?” or just be able to talk to someone.”
Thanks to Krysten’s work ethic, support from her parents, Zendejas and the Padres assistant coach Ben Patrick, she’s been able to be a key special teams contributor for Marcos de Niza. Muir’s ultimate goal is to get an opportunity to kick collegiately at the Division I level, but to get there she wants perfection her senior year. She said she was 92% on her kicks in her junior and wants 100% accuracy as a senior.
Muir’s story has been well-documented, and it’s brought many girls out to the gridiron. She’s been asked by countless girls of all ages, including some of her teammates on the soccer team, what it takes to find the field. Muir’s advance: Give it a try, work as hard as you can and don’t back down.
“If you have a dream, go fulfill it. Don’t let anybody say, ‘No you cant because you’re weak or you’re not smart enough or you’re a girl’. Prove them wrong and and tell them, ‘I can do this and I can do this better than you.'”
But ultimately, her success is measured based on the team’s success. Of all her accomplishments, she is most proud of making the playoff run with the Padres to the state championship.
“In the beginning of the season, I had no idea where we were going to be. And in the middle of the season, I thought, ‘We can do this’,” Muir said. “And we finally got to that point and playing in that game really proved (a lot).”
And her coach believes Muir’s drive can lead to state championships, scholarships and success in whatever she ends up doing.
“She might get a full ride for kicking and she might stick with it or there are other opportunities that come along. The thing is that she doesn’t give up, she keeps trying and something will happen.”