6 Ways to Mentally Prepare for A Penalty Shootout at The World Cup

6 Ways to Mentally Prepare for A Penalty Shootout at The World Cup

“We talked long and hard about owning the process and we kept calm during the penalty shootout.”–Gareth Southgate

By Omar Figueroa

England National Team finally managed to win a penalty shootout after 25 years of not being able to win in a penalty shootout in a major international tournament. Research states teams with poor penalty shootout performances continue to attain poor penalty shootout performances over time (Jordet, Hartman, & Vuiik, 2012). Breaking the poor penalty shootout performance takes thorough preparation.

England’s head coach Gareth Southgate was prepared for a penalty shootout long before the end of full-time during the Round of 16 World Cup match base. Being a part of a penalty shootout involves a significant amount of mental conditioning to ensure success. The following are 6 ways a team is preparing for a potential penalty shootout at the World Cup.

  1. Who

As a team starts participations during the knockout stage of the World Cup, the head coach and coaching staff should be preparing for everything. One of the items the head coach should know is who will be one of the 5 players the head coach will be able to depend on for a penalty kick. There are multiple ways to the find the 5 players, but the two primary approaches to finding the potential penalty kickers is to ask who wants to be penalty taker or to review players’ penalty stats, either way the pressure of taking a penalty kick at the World Cup is unique.

  1. Visualization

Once the team knows we will be the potential penalty kickers, the Mental Conditioning Coach for the team should conduct a penalty kick visualization exercise with the team several days before the game. The penalty kick visualization should be practiced as a team for the players to develop familiarity to the feelings, emotions, stadium, grass, lights, and thoughts of the moment.

  1. Practice

Head coach and coaching staff should recreate the penalty shootout scenario at the end of practice in the practice days leading up to the knockout stage match. The players should be encouraged to mentally visualize the feelings, emotions, and thoughts of the moment of taking a penalty kick to get use to the feelings of taking a penalty kick at the World Cup.

  1. Pre-Performance Routine

Players should be encouraged by the Mental Conditioning Coach to identify or develop a specific pre-performance routine for the penalty shootout. The player should practice their pre-performance routine at practice and during visualization to develop muscle and mental conditioning of the pre-performance routine goal, which is to reduce the somatic and cognitive anxiety. 

  1. Self-Talk

 The Mental Conditioning Coach and players should develop positive self-talk statements to focus on maintaining concentration and confidence of the penalty shootout. Research shows, players who tend to rush during the penalty kick increase their possibility of missing. Creating a self-talk statement to remind the player to remain confident during the penalty kick could develop consistency for the penalty kicker.

  1. Self-Regulation Techniques

 At the World Cup level, most of the players have been kicking soccer balls into goal for a significant portion of their lives, but the cognitive and somatic anxiety of the moment tends to be the reason why player facilitate a poor penalty kick. But how do you control your body when the anxiety gets to you? Breathing is the key to the body. Practicing a belly breathing technique will help the player in the moments as they wait to take the final penalty kick for the WIN!

These six steps should help you kickstart your mental preparation for a penalty shootout.  I have used them myself to help guide a professional player who is in preseason now and wanted to have a higher sense of confidence during a penalty shootout scenario.  Response from the player has been positive overall.  Next step, is to test all that was prepped, practiced, and visualized in a real-life game scenario. His confidence level is there though.

Mental conditioning is a vital element of penalty shootout preparation and the key to developing a consistent sense of readiness and confidence during the high-pressure situation.

Coaches/Owners:  Incorporate mental conditioning into the daily lives of players.  It is a skill that can be carried with them long after their soccer careers to help them succeed and navigate the traverses of life.

#mentalconditioning #soccer  #futbol  #fifa #worldcup  #futbolmarketing


Jordet, G., Hartman, E., & Vuijk, P. J. (2012). Team history and choking under pressure in major soccer penalty shootouts. British Journal of Psychology (London, England: 1953), 103(2), 268-283.

About the Author

Omar Figueroa is committed to helping people, from students to professional athletes of all ages and backgrounds in the areas of athletic counseling, mental performance, and higher education. For more information on Omar Figueroa, please visit www.futbol-marketing.com.