Penalty Shot – Goal Scoring Guide

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated

Taking a penalty shot is a very demanding task.  Whether it is simply for a goal during a mid-season game, or for the championship, nerves can be a deciding factor.  Watch Roberto Baggio let nerves get the better of him in the 1994 World Cup shoot out.

One way to deal with nerves is to be ready.  By being ready I mean having practiced penalties and knowing where you are going to go.

Many players go into a penalty shot undecided as to where they will go.  They are not sure if they are going to shoot left or right, high or low.  As a result, you will often find those players to be the one’s that miss.  Like anything in life, being unprepared and undecided will yield negative results.

Here are some factors to consider before taking a penalty shot.  Understand that the goalie has no idea where you are going.  When the goalie is standing on his line, visualize his range and where he can and can’t reach.  Shooting low and to the corners is a good penalty; however that is very well within reach of his range.  Shooting right down the middle is a sketchy decision as that is also within his range.  Shooting top corner is ideal as the goalie will rarely reach that area of the net quickly enough due to how close the shot is.  That is a very dangerous shot as once you begin aiming high, your accuracy is diminished and the chance you miss is higher.  Nonetheless, if brave enough, that is the ideal position.

Also understand what the goalie is looking for when you go to shoot.  Goalies have admitted over and over that the most obvious give-aways (although very subtle) are the planting foot and the hips.  When you wind up to take a shot, naturally, your planting foot will point to the corner where you are going to go.  A somewhat larger give away is the hips.  Much like the planting foot, the hips will aim in the direction the ball will most likely go.  Ways to avoid this are approaching the ball with pace and, secondly, practicing to minimize these slight tells.  Do not for a second, though, think that goalies depend on this.  Goalies do not rely on these tells as the gospel – goalies rely on instinct and guessing.

Below is a video guide for the different approaches to take a successful penalty:

Shooting it hard.  Many players feel that finesse will not get the job done.  As a result they will come up and hammer the ball past the goalkeeper.  Although some might stand by this shot, I do not suggest you shoot this way.  Smashing the ball does not allow you to place it as well as you would like, and worst of all, there is a good chance you shank the ball or shoot it over the net.  In any case, smashing the ball might not always be a bad idea.  However, if you are going to hit it, be sure you know where you are going to hit it.  As mentioned, do not just hit it, have an idea of where you would like to go and do not take your mind off that place.  Try not to put your whole body into it; take a little bit off the ball and try to aim to one side.  If you hit it hard and to a side, the goalie will have a tough time stopping that.

Placing the ball.  Most players use this approach because it is the one shot that gives you most command and control over the ball.  With this shot especially, it is absolutely crucial you know where you are going.  Because the ball will not be hit with an emphatic thump, the goalie has a little more time to get to the ball if he guesses correctly.  If you are a right footed, understand the dynamics of your shot.  If you shoot to the left corner, you must curl across your body and across the goalie.  Shooting to your right, you curve away from the goalie and away from the net.  From a strictly statistical stand-point, the shot to the bottom or top right corner makes most sense.

Let me remind you that knowing where you are going to shoot will be the most decisive factor in scoring a penalty shot.  When you approach any nervous situation, knowing what you are going to do and having practiced what you are going to do will not necessarily settle your nerves, but will help your confidence.  When you come to the penalty spot, it should not be an unfamiliar process; the only unfamiliarity should be the crowd noise (if there is any) and the goalie in front of you.  Taking a penalty shot should be a process you can do with your eyes closed.  The reason so many basketball players are successful free-throw shooters is because they have practiced so often that it becomes routine.  In fact, many players create a routine so that even in the highest pressure situations, they do not even have to think – they just do (e.g. dribble once, spin the ball in your hand, bounce on your knees twice then shoot).  I suggest you practice your penalty shot so often that it becomes second nature – if necessary, have a routine.

How do you prepare for a penalty?

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