World Cup football (soccer to my readers in the USA) is underway and the dreaded though compulsive penalty shoot outs are here again. Should you blast it or stroke it? New research gives the answer.
Liverpool John Moores University has studied this and have concluded that the ball struck hard and high in the top corner is unstoppable, even if the goalkeeper anticipates it. Apparently 90-100 km/hr is about right – harder than that and most players lose too much control.
Most penalty takers aim just inside the post. Unless it is well struck, apparently this has a greater chance of being saved.
Some aim dead centre, presuming that the goalkeeper will dive – but they look foolish if the goalkeeper stays there!
Psychologists believe penalty takers shouldn’t think too much. Thinking about trying to fake where they are going to hit the ball can mean that the feet, legs and body can end up in the wrong place.
Also the more we practise the more our actions become automatic skills. Apparently we create unconscious memories of how to act – particularly useful in front of 80,000 partisan, screaming people.
Statistics show that:
- It helps to be the first team to shoot (there’s added pressure on the second team to keep up)
- The so-called stars in the team tend to miss more often (added pressure on them?)
- It helps to come from a country with a ‘collectivist’ culture rather than an ‘individualist’ culture such as England – The Czech Republic have never missed a single penalty!
Useful messages for those in professional practice?
- Consider where your job requires you to be in an equivalent situation to taking a penalty (big client pitch, at the podium doing an important presentation, critical negotiation, etc).
- Get your head clear and focus clearly on what needs to be done and how
- Practise, practise, practise!