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Take your time – my tips for young penalty takers

By Dave Clarke

David ClarkeThere is no reason for it, but how often do you see players who are scoring freely for the team run up and miss the penalty? It happens a lot in youth soccer, but it also afflicts the professionals.

Sometimes it’s the whole team that can’t score. Leeds United have missed 8 of their last 9 penalties using different players. Their leading score got 33 goals from open play but couldn’t score when put on the spot, this included a vital penalty in the play-off final against Millwall which Leeds went on to lose – watch the penalty below.

Penalties should be money in the bank, unless the goalkeeper makes an outstanding save players shouldn’t miss.

But now researchers think they may have an explanation for why the players miss them. A study shows players who ‘rush’ penalties have the biggest failure rate. Those who respond fastest to the referee’s whistle are much more likely to miss than players who pause briefly before starting their run up.

To work out why some players miss, researchers from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences studied the time it took players to complete a kick. They found those who started their run up less than two milliseconds after the referees’s whistle scored only around 57 per cent of the time. A millisecond is one thousandth of a second. But those who took more than a second to respond hit the back of the net more than 80 per cent of the time.

Psychologists call this phenomenon ‘self-regulatory breakdown’. It is a natural form of human behaviour, where someone feels such intense distress from a situation that they do whatever they possibly can to end it _ even if it is harmful to their performance.

So according to the scientists it’s that easy. Take your time…

Tell this to your players it may help them to know that even the professionals are scared when they have to take one.

This is my penalty advice:
SCJUNIOR_gamble top corner

  • Keep it simple
  • Tell them to make up your mind early which spot of the goal they’re going to shoot at – and stick to it. Ideally take four to six steps in the run-up
  • Disguise their intentions – for example, approach the ball as if aiming for one corner but strike the ball to the opposite corner
  • Head down, eyes on the ball when taking the shot
  • Body over the ball and non-kicking foot alongside to keep the shot under the bar
  • Whether high or low, aim for the corners – a ball struck with enough pace will be unsaveable
  • Hit the target – miss the goal completely and there’s no possibility of a rebound for the penalty taker or their team-mates

Watch this great penalty into the top corner by Digeo Forlan in the last minute of the Equador/Uruguay World Cup Qualifier. He had to score to keep Uruguay’s World Cup hopes alive. See where he puts the ball then watch these penalty misses, Beckford for Leeds and Robert Pires tries to be clever with Thierry Henry and causes a mix up for Arsenal:

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5 Comments so far
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[…] Original post by soccercoachblog […]

Pingback by Take your time – my tips for young penalty takers | Football Coaching

Good point about taking your time. Also good point about choosing a side and sticking with it. My only suggestion is to discourage from kicking the ball high on penalty kicks. A miss-hit can cause the ball to go over the goal. A ball on the ground can’t and it is more difficult to save.

Check out my post ( penalty kicks that will have youth goalie saving 75%+ of all penalty kicks and give the kicker more good advice.

Comment by Alex Kos

I don’t agree that it’s more difficult to save a penalty that’s on the ground than one in the air.

A top corner penalty is the hardest to save, followed by a bottom corner, anything from the shins to the waist is the easiest height for a keeper.

The question for me is, do you go for the more difficult shot to the top corner, where the chances of missing the goal are increased, or do you go low in the corner for a more saveable shot but with better accuracy.

Personally I try and send the keeper the wrong way and keep it low, but for a more consistently accurate player then top corner might be best.

Comment by Alex

I’ll concede that indeed it is next to impossible to save a penalty that is kicked in the upper corner. But I contend that a well-struck kick on the ground that hits the side netting is next to impossible to save as well.

Therefore if each kick is just as difficult to save, why risk the chance of kicking the over the net? Through high school, I recall only ever missing 2 penalty kicks … both were kick over the cross bar.

Comment by Alex Kos

Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. Somtimes it takes so much effort to find even tiny useful piece of information.
Nice post. Thanks

Comment by Car Insurance Guy

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