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«Psychological Preparation of Goalkeepers for the 11-m Penalty Kick in Soccer—A Review Ronnie Lidor, Gal Ziv, and Tamar Gershon In this article we ...»

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The Sport Psychologist, 2012, 26, 375-389

© 2012 Human Kinetics, Inc.

Psychological Preparation

of Goalkeepers for the 11-m Penalty Kick

in Soccer—A Review

Ronnie Lidor, Gal Ziv, and Tamar Gershon

In this article we reviewed a series of studies (n = 18) on psychological preparation

of the goalkeeper (GK) for the 11-m penalty kick in soccer. The main findings of

this review were that deception strategies (e.g., standing slightly off-center) can

increase the chances of the kick being directed to a desired direction, and that individual differences among GKs should be considered when planning sport psychology programs for GKs. A number of research limitations and methodologi- cal concerns, such as the lack of ecological validity of the tasks performed in the studies and the lack of studies on psychological interventions, were discussed.

In addition, a number of practical implications for sport psychology consultants who work with GKs in soccer were suggested.

Stopping an 11-m penalty kick in soccer is considered to be one of the most challenging tasks the goalkeeper (GK) has to face. An 11-m penalty kick is a free kick at the goal that is executed from a point within the penalty area at a distance of 11 m (12 yards) from the goal, with only the goalkeeper allowed to defend it.

It is awarded to the attacking team after a foul is made within the penalty area by one of the players of the defending team. Facing a kicker who stands 11 m from the goal and has the time to prepare him or herself for the kicking act makes it difficult for the GK to stop the ball. One statistical report (Major League Soccer, 2010) on soccer performances during the 2010 season in Major League Soccer (the Ameri- can professional soccer league) showed that only a small number of penalty kicks were stopped. During this season, 56 penalty kicks were performed, and among them 48 were successfully completed by the kickers (i.e., 86% success of scoring).

When the GK prepares him or herself for the penalty kick, he or she takes into account a number of environmental factors, such as the stance of the kicker, the angle at which the kicker starts his or her run toward the ball, and the direction the kicker is looking toward before the kicking act. Although these conditions are not stable and may be difficult to anticipate, GKs can still prepare or alter their plan before initiating their movements, and therefore they should be provided with performance-enhancement sport psychology programs to enable them to do Lidor, Ziv, and Gershon are from Tel Aviv, Israel.

375 376 Lidor, Ziv, and Gershon so. Those professionals who work with GKs (e.g., sport psychology consultants [SPCs] and soccer coaches) should obtain relevant knowledge on psychological interventions that can be used to enhance the GKs’ psychological preparation for his or her attempt to prevent the penalty kick. This knowledge can be implemented in the psychological preparation of GKs for the penalty kick, and can also be integrated within the general sport psychology program aimed at preparing GKs for practices and games.

In this article we review a series of studies (n = 18) on psychological preparation of GKs for the penalty kick in soccer. We did not find any similar reviews in the sport psychology literature on psychological preparation of GKs for the penalty kick, and therefore we consider it to be the first article to review this literature base.

Based on this review, we attempted to (a) discuss a number of research limitations and methodological concerns associated with the reviewed studies, and (b) propose several practical implications for SPCs and soccer coaches who work with GKs on how to prepare the GKs for the penalty kick.

A literature search for peer-reviewed papers in the English language was conducted using two databases (SPORTDiscus and Google Scholar). Search terms included goalkeeper* and penalty kick. The inclusion criterion was that the studies include psychological aspects of performance of GKs during the penalty kick. A manual search of the reference lists in the relevant studies found in the computerized search was also performed. The search yielded 18 studies, and these are included in our review.

Anticipation, Deception Strategies, and On-field Performances The studies included in our review were grouped into three categories according to two criteria: (a) The investigated psychological characteristic/intervention, and (b) the type of study—descriptive or experimental. Based on an analysis of the psychological characteristic/intervention investigated in each study, we came up with three main categories associated with psychological preparation of GKs for the penalty kick: Anticipation, deception strategies and tactical behaviors, and onfield performances. The category of on-field performances was composed of those actions GKs actually initiated during actual games to successfully stop penalty kicks.

Anticipation Eleven studies examining anticipation in GKs were found: Two descriptive studies, four experimental studies, and five studies in which gaze behavior was recorded.

In the descriptive and experimental studies, relevant and important features such as reaction times and accuracy measurements as the dependent variables associated with GK performances were described. In the studies on gaze behavior, gaze tracking systems were used to determine whether directing gaze to certain locations at specific times aided the GK in stopping penalty kicks.





Descriptive Studies. One study (Graham-Smith, Lees, & Richardson, 1999) that calculated movement duration of GKs found that it took 1.03 s on average to reach the farthest parts of the goal (e.g., top left corner) and.61 s to reach the 377 Psychological Preparation of Goalkeepers closest locations (e.g., closest areas to the GK). Unfortunately, these durations are usually not short enough to enable the GK to stop the ball, since the average ball flight time has been observed at between.344 s (Morya, Bigatao, Lees, & Ranvaud, 1997) and.648 s (Savelsbergh, Williams, van der Kamp, & Ward, 2002).

Anticipation of penalty kicks was examined in seven GKs playing for English Football League clubs (McMorris & Colenso, 1996). The GKs watched 10 videos showing right-footed kicks and 10 videos showing left-footed kicks. While watching each video, the GKs had to predict where the ball would cross the goal line in three temporal visual occlusion conditions: Two seconds before foot-ball contact, at foot-ball contact, and two seconds after foot-ball contact. Radial error in the predicted location was calculated for each kick. Lower radial errors were found in the right-footed kicks (approximately 10–11 cm) when compared with the left-footed kicks (approximately 12–12.5 cm). No differences in radial error were found between the three occlusion conditions. In interviews conducted after the procedure was completed, the GKs reported that it was difficult for them to pick up the cues from the left-footed kickers. However, they did say that they were able to pick up cues from the angle of run-up, position of the kicking foot at ball contact, and hip position at the time of ball contact.

A similar methodology to the one used by McMorris and Colenso (1996) was used in a study of 10 experienced collegiate GKs (McMorris, Copeman, Corcoran, Saunders, & Potter, 1993). Significant differences in radial error were found between the occlusion condition of two seconds after the foot-ball contact (48.72 cm), at foot-ball contact (69.98 cm), and two seconds before the foot-ball contact condition (74.72 cm). Vertical error was reduced from two seconds before ball contact to two seconds after ball contact. In addition, horizontal error improved from two seconds before ball contact to ball contact, but did not change between ball contact and two seconds after ball contact. It is unclear why one study (McMorris & Colenso, 1996) found no differences in performance based on different occlusion times and another study (McMorris et al., 1993) did find differences. However, even if waiting for ball contact before initiating movement can actually lead to better anticipation, it may not be practical. Unfortunately, if the ball travels at a speed of over 20.83 m·s-1 (75 km·hr-1), waiting until ball contact will not provide the GK with enough time to reach the ball before it passes the goal line. Average ball velocity of penalty kicks is usually much higher than this. According to one study (Morya et al., 1997), ball velocity was 32 ± 6 m·s-1 in World Cup penalty kicks and 26 ± 3 m·s-1 in regular league penalty kicks.

Experimental Studies. An attempt to teach 30 university students with no soccer experience to anticipate ball direction during penalty kicks was conducted by Savelsbergh, van Gastel, and van Kampen (2010). Participants were asked to watch clips of penalty kicks and to move a joystick in the direction they believed the ball would take when crossing the goal line. The participants watched 30 clips in a pretest phase, and were then divided into three experimental groups: (a) Perceptual training—watching a highlighted area that moved from the kicker’s face to the upper-body and hips, and then to the feet, (b) training—watching the clips without the highlighted area, and (c) control—no training. The control group received no training sessions and the two other groups received four training sessions over a period of six days. A posttest phase of an additional 30 clips was conducted for all participants after training was completed. The results of this study confirmed 378 Lidor, Ziv, and Gershon that the perceptual training did lead to a shift in the search behavior patterns of the participants. In addition, compared with the control group and the training group, the perceptual training group was more successful in stopping penalty kicks during the posttest phase. However, it is possible that this type of training would not be as fruitful if the participants were experienced as goalkeepers, due to (a) the fact that goalkeepers are already proficient at anticipating ball direction, and (b) a possible ceiling effect. In addition, as the authors of this study suggested, the use of a joystick allows for corrections to be made while watching the video clips. Such corrections are very difficult to perform in a real-life situation once the GK is committed to a motion to one direction, since body inertia is difficult to overcome.

Another study (McMorris & Hauxwell, 1997) examined whether anticipation could be improved in 30 male soccer players (not GKs), who were divided into three groups: (a) Experimental 1—watching video clips of 250 full-flight penalties and being provided with specific instructions regarding where to look, (b) experimental 2—watching 500 video clips of full-flight penalties and being provided with specific instructions regarding where to look, and (c) a control (instructions were not provided). While watching the videos, the participants from both experimental groups were instructed to look at the angle of run-up, the point of foot-ball contact, and the angle of the kicker’s trunk at contact. All groups completed pretest and posttest phases in which they were required to note where they think the ball would cross the goal line at three visual occlusion conditions: Two seconds before foot-ball contact, at foot-ball contact, and two seconds after foot-ball contact. No significant differences in radial error, horizontal error, or vertical error were found between groups in the pretest phase. During the posttest phase, the two experimental groups had lower radial errors at the 2-s occlusion condition, lower horizontal error at the foot-ball contact condition, and lower vertical errors in all occlusion conditions, when compared with the control group. In addition, both experimental groups improved their radial error significantly from the pretest phase to the posttest phase at all occlusion conditions, whereas the control group improved significantly in the foot-ball condition only, but their performance declined at the 2-s occlusion condition. The results suggested that watching 250 video clips of full-flight penalty kicks improved anticipation. However, watching double that number provided no additional benefits.

Since most studies present group means and statistically examine relationships between those means, individual differences among GKs are often overlooked.

Examining these differences can lead to the adoption of different training regimens for each individual GK. As indicated before, waiting until the point of foot-ball contact gives useful information regarding the direction of the kick but may be detrimental to performance, as GKs’ reaction times cannot catch up with the flight time of the ball. However, GKs who have excellent reaction times can be taught to wait almost until foot-ball contact. In fact, it may be possible to calculate the last moment the GK can wait until before ball contact, based on his or her reaction times and average the ball flight times. Such GKs will benefit from being able to observe the greatest number of cues concerning the direction of the ball. In contrast, GKs with slower reaction times may need to learn how to search for cues that will help them effectively anticipate ball direction. One study that addressed differences between individual GKs in stopping penalty kicks was found (Dicks, 379 Psychological Preparation of Goalkeepers Davids, & Button, 2010). Seven competitive and experienced GKs were filmed as they faced 10 nondeception penalty kicks and 10 deception kicks (the kicker used a technique to mask the direction he was kicking to, such as looking in the opposite direction), evenly directed to two target areas at each side of the goal. In addition, baseline reaction times to each of six locations (right—bottom, middle, top, and left—bottom, middle, top) of each GK were measured by asking the GK to move his hand as quickly as possible to a football located in the center of each of these locations, and these times were recorded. Significant individual differences were found in almost all variables. For example, differences were found in baseline reaction times, penalty-kick movement time (the time movement was initiated in relation to foot-ball contact of the kicker), and saves. In the nondeception trials, all GKs saved between 5–6 kicks out of 10. However, in the deception trials, the GKs’ success varied from between 0–3 saves. Similarly to previous findings (Kuhn, 1988;



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