3 tips for focusing during a penalty shot

A penalty is a moment of maximum tension for the spectators of a soccer match. This also affects the players, who have the responsibility for the result on their shoulders. How to stay focused on these seconds?
3 tips for focusing during a penalty shot

Last update: 20 April, 2021

Soccer is a sport in which all the cognitive resources of a person are required to obtain optimal performance. In particular, there are times when you have to focus, like during a penalty shot.

Penalties are one of the most tense moments during a match. So much so that the moment before launching it feels as if time has stopped and nothing else exists at that moment.

How to focus during a penalty shot

This tension that we are commenting on is something inherent in that instance of the match, but even so the footballer has to know how to manage it to be successful. This includes not only the player who decides to throw it, but also the goalkeeper who has to try to stop it.

Given the importance they often have on the final result, here are tips on how to focus during a penalty.

1. Establish a pitching routine

Routines are a basic technique that every athlete must apply to stay focused on important moments. In fact, many athletes already put it into practice even without being aware that they are doing it.

Basically, a routine is a sequence of actions that is executed automatically and that allows the athlete to increase their attention and confidence in a task. The routines are of a personal nature, this means that there is no universal routine that works for all athletes, but that each one has to find the one that fits the best.

In addition, you have to differentiate between routine and superstition. The latter are based on the belief that an action will bring luck. For their part, the routines have the objective of increasing the concentration in the athlete, but they are not related to mystical aspects or chance.

Player concentrating before taking a penalty.

2. Use positive self-instructions

It is normal that, before a penalty, the footballer experiences nervousness or anxiety. However, stress has a negative impact on athletic performance. The nerves can come from the situation of having to score the penalty or from the pressure thoughts that the athlete says to himself.

Regarding the first case, little can be done; it is not possible to change the meaning of that moment. Therefore, to eliminate nerves, it will be necessary to work on the second assumption, that is, negative thoughts and verbalizations.

One technique that works very well is positive self-instruction. These are verbalizations that the person says to himself to reaffirm himself and gain security. For example: "I am able to mark him", "I am going to hit him hard" or "I have trained hard for this moment."

3. Make your attention focus narrower

One of the problems a footballer faces before taking a penalty is the many distractions around him. From the crowd to the referee to your teammates, there are many irrelevant stimuli that can steal attention.

This is an attentional focus problem. When a player is distracted by irrelevant stimuli, it means that their attention focus is too wide. For that reason, an effective solution is precisely the opposite: to make the field of attention smaller.

Player and goalkeeper during the shooting of a penalty.

Applied to a penalty, this means that attention should be directed only to a small number of stimuli. This is: the goal and everything that is inside it.

Concentrating during a penalty kick increases the chances of success

Many times it is said that penalties are a lottery and that the team with the luckiest wins, but this is not the reality at all. The penalty is one more action of the game and has a special technical, tactical and psychological preparation.

A very interesting field is the one that studies the behavior of the players when executing them. In this sense, a journalistic publication of The Conversation reports on several studies that affirm that goalkeepers rarely stay still : they prefer to jump even if they do not hit the right side.

Knowing this, you can stop invoking luck before taking a penalty and get to work to be a better footballer. It's a matter of training and concentrating!



  • Garrido, A. J. G., y Prados, J. M. P. (2007). Aspectos psicológicos que influyen en el futbolista. Lecturas: Educación física y deportes, (106), 46.