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
"  and articles written for peak performance.

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 strategies.

We worked with
COPA 90 to produce a programme where we looked at the psychology of penalty taking.
The  take home points.
1. 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 t
ake that penalty

2. 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.

3.  Y
ou 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.

4. 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

5. Keep facing the goal keeper after putting the ball down. Step backwards. You
should know exactly how many steps back you need to take.

6. Let the referee blow the whistle.
Pause briefly. Starting running when you want
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.
cant simulate the stress of

Maybe not  but what you can do is simulate
some of its features

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
The British Association of  Sport and Exercise Sciences recently published an "expert statement" which Dr Mark Wilson and team prepared.

Here are their suggests:

In training:

• 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.

In match:
• 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.