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Penalty: The fall of a myth

Penalty: The fall of a myth

Penalty is in football the supreme fault and, in some cases, decisive action of victories and defeats. In this action in which the goalkeeper only has 0.4 seconds to react, the chance of success is of the kicker and not so much of who defends it.

Often the term “lottery” is associated with the marking of penalties. This fact results from the myth created that the decision of a game by penalties kicks is essentially a result of chance or luck, being apparently outside the “range of intervention” of penalty kickers.

Why this myth? From my experience, it results mainly from a reason. Increasingly, coaches and technical teams are enabled for the development of physical, technical and tactical training, with many gaps in relation to mental training. And setting a penalty is essentially a mental issue, and the fact that you are not prepared for this area of training leads you to attribute your result to luck or chance.

A penalty can bear on the one who is going to perform an absolutely unbearable emotional weight! This weight can be that of thousands of fans of a club or of an entire nation, and everything that this means. In your mind the goal may literally get too small to think it can be successful!

But does the penalty really have a strong mental component? What do the studies say?

In a recent study by Brown University, which analyzed the penalties between 1970 and 2008, it concluded that 60% of the teams that shoot the first penalty, win the respective contest.

A recent Norwegian study has shown other interesting data. When the penalty allows to pass to the position of winner (situation in which the game is tied), 92% of the penalties are fulfilled. However, when the penalty kick means to tie the game (once the team is losing), the success rate drops to 60%.

Olaf Binsch, in an article in the Human Movement Science Journal, presents the difference of results when the kicker of the penalty does it based on a negative message (“avoid the goalkeeper”) or positive message (“to shoot for an empty space”).

These brief statistics seem to leave no doubt… If the penalty was a case of luck and chance issues such as anxiety, motivation, confidence, fear, concentration would not be part of the lexicon associated with the penalty… and we all know that, not only are they part and they are absolutely decisive! The question is not whether the penalty is a lottery or not because it seems obvious that it is not! It is, and above all, the result of training and mental preparation. From the ability to put at the player’s service, skills that allow him to be successful in executing this technical gesture … and I believe that these competences are mainly emotional.

The questions I pose are: “Is the penalty a result of chance or is it primarily a consequence of an emotional state? What emotional state provide the best result?” Knowledge areas such as neuro linguistic programming and coaching have given many valid clues to the answer to these questions… whose answers will appear in the following articles.

Because … sport is 100% mental!

If you would like to learn more about mental conditioning for success in Soccer, check out our online courses.

How to set clear and successful goals to your soccer team?

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