As many an England player knows, taking a penalty can be a thankless task. Score it and people say, ‘So, what? A player shouldn’t ever miss a penalty anyway’. Miss it, and you’re public enemy number one.
Blast it or carefully place it? Down the middle or straight into the corner? Find out how to score the perfect penalty with our simple 5-point plan…
Don’t practice… rehearse
Training to take the perfect penalty isn’t just a case of blasting a few shots at the keeper towards the end of a training session. Penalty taking is so much more than a simple physical act; it is an act that relies on your mind being in the right place. You’ll find, therefore, that the top teams rehearse the whole act of taking a penalty to simulate the situation they may find themselves in a high pressure game. Players will take the walk of doom towards the spot, carefully place the ball and then compose themselves before running in and taking the kick.
Reap the rewards
In a real situation, there is a very definite reward in scoring a penalty – a goal. But, on the training pitch, there isn’t quite the same motivation or pressure to do well. Making a shootout competitive, therefore, can add an element of pressure to the situation and dividing players into two teams can add a much-needed element of competitiveness. With rewards for the winners and punishment laps for the losers, it should really crank up the pressure and focus your mind on scoring.
Visualisation is a technique by many of the world’s top athletes, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for Sunday league football! Taking the perfect penalty kick over and over again in your head can create a narrative in your mind. When it comes to taking the a penalty kick for real, you’ll be so used to scoring, you’ll be in that positive mind frame with an expected, successful outcome.
Don’t overthink it
Although penalty taking relies so much on the mind, it is crucial that you don’t overthink the whole process. Don’t try and second-guess the keeper; you’re not psychic and you never will be – it only serves to distract the mind from your ultimate goal, which is scoring the penalty. Just focus on where you’re going to put the ball…
Where is the best place to aim?
According to research carried out by the Liverpool John Moores University, the best place to aim for in a penalty by far is the top corner, as it is extremely difficult for a keeper to save. Placed correctly, Professor Tom Riley from the university says, “A shot to the top corner will have a 100% success rate”. However, the shot is very tricky to pull off and you risk hitting the bar, the post, or even missing the goal altogether.
Surprisingly, the popular theory that you should hit the ball hard and low into the corner actually has a greater chance of being saved, as the keeper can still reach it reasonably easily. However, this should be balanced with the fact that the shot is easier to pull off. Wherever you choose to aim, one thing is certain – pick your spot and stick to it. A last minute change of mind will only result in a poor penalty, and your chances of scoring (wherever you aim) are severely reduced.