Penalty taking: You get one shot!
You get one shot...........
And there is a lot at stake. Taking a penalty is all about handling pressure; about
performing under pressure.
The good news is that you can learn to perform under pressure. Here we focus
on taking a soccer penalty.
Its part of the bigger picture to look at how people cope with pressure and related
to our work with the BBc and "Can you compete" and articles written for peak
I gave an interview for the BBc website in 2004 where I discussed how to
manage pressures when taking a penalty and discuss possible intervention
We worked with COPA 90 to produce a programme where we looked at the
psychology of penalty taking.
The take home points
- If you strike the ball hard enough and accurate enough (top corner) then the goal keeper
needs to make a brilliant save to prevent a goal. Your job as a penalty taker is to take
- Goalkeepers do make brilliant saves from to time to time. You cant control when he or
she will be brilliant. Goalkeepers also make simple saves. A softly struck penalty,
somewhere near the centre will be much easier to save. You have a choice. Make it
difficult for the goalkeeper by hitting a well hit and accurate penalty. Don't make it easy
for the keeper by "dinking it" down the middle.
- You should have 4 different penalties that are over learned. You need to put hours and
hours of practice in being to strike the ball hard and accurate.
- Decide which penalty you will take as early as possible; visualise the spot you want to
hit. Do not change your mind. The goal keeper cannot see inside your mind.
- Keep facing the goal keeper after putting the ball down. Step backwards. You should
know exactly how many steps back you need to take.
- Let the referee blow the whistle. Pause briefly. Starting running when you want to.
Practice and practice running up and striking the ball after a whistle is blown. The
sequence is "whistle" - "momentary pause" - "run" - "strike ball" - "goal". The momentary
pause needs to be practiced. It is a tiny gap in time - you need to recognise that gap.
How to practice. ....But...you cant simulate
the stress of competition?
Maybe not but what you can do is simulate some of its
1. You can recreate crowd noise (youtube clips of crowd abuse - easily found). Have
this played via headphones or a stereo system when you practice.
2. Have your teammates put you off, make comments, etc. Your job is to focus on
kicking the ball hard and accurate. Learn to deal with distractions.
3. You can recreate stressful experiences in your mind using imagery. Imagine taking a
penalty in an important game; recreate the scene in full colour, sight, sound, and feeling.
Mentally see yourself picking the ball up, going through your penalty taking sequence
and striking the ball accurately and firmly.
The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences recently published an "expert statement" which Dr Mark Wilson and team prepared. These are their
- Have team meetings to discuss some of the known success factors in penalty shootouts (see above); the fears of the players and plans to support
individual and team failure
- Develop and practise pre-shot routines (including the walk in from the centre circle) and practice what you look at; getting a clear idea of where you
want the ball to go is important.
- Promote target-focused practice so that players can hit each of the four corners consistently. Can you hit a target at pace? Yes 100% confident!
- Coaches should think of ways to raise anxiety and promote distraction.
- For example, players could practise shooting while telling the goalkeeper which side they intend to shoot to. An accurate penalty is very hard to stop
even if the goalkeeper knows which way it is going - so by practising in these conditions players can reinforce perceptions of control over the outcome.
- Don’t rush: Place the ball properly on the spot and take a breath while focusing on where you intend to shoot, before starting the run-up. Take a deep
breath is likely to ease feelings of anxiety. Taking a deep breathe also sends a signal to the person that he or she is ready.
- Trust your technique and routine - pick a spot and hit it.
- Celebrate! It will help your team-mates who have to take the subsequent penalty kicks.
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