How Anxiety Affects the Outcome of Penalty Kicks

Paper Type: 
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1627 Words
Date:  2021-03-05

Introduction / Define Research Problem

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Penalty kicks are important in football games today (Wood 2015). The effects of psychological pressure are seen by analyzing kicks taken in the highest-pressure situation. In a case where missing a penalty kick means that a team will lose, such as knock-out matches in international football, the success rate is relatively low, about 52 percent. But when scoring a penalty means that a team will lose, the success rate is very high, about 93 percent. (Simpson 2007).

Purpose of study

The purpose of the study is to find out how anxiety affects the outcome of penalty kicks.

Literature review

The outcome of a penalty kick is dependent on the amount of pressure involved in its taking. Anxiety leads to performance failure during penalty shootouts (Jordet et al., 2007). The belief by some that penalty kicks depend on luck, just like a lottery, and not on skill, technique and possibly composure, is not entirely true as anxiety plays a great role when taking penalty kicks (Jordet, Wilson and Wood, 2013). According to Hartman et al. (2007) high pressure penalty shootouts such as the knock-out phase of major international tournaments is a very dramatic event in international soccer. The outcome of such penalty kicks is attributed to a number of factors which include physiology, psychology, chance and also skill.

Using Spielbergs trait anxiety scale with trait anxiety scores, control and pressure conditions manipulated by instructions, groups of high trait anxiety and low trait anxiety were selected amongst university soccer players to determine relationships among trait anxiety, state anxiety and conversion of penalties. The soccer players were divided into two groups each consisting of eight players. Each took 20 shots, aiming at the top right and top left of the goal post respectively. 10 trials were given for each condition in a within-subject design. The dependent measures included the number of successful goals and the state anxiety scores under each instructional condition. The result showed a significant main effect of instruction. State anxiety scores increased more and the number of successful goals decreased more in high trait anxiety groups than in low trait anxiety groups under pressure instructional condition. These are the figures:

Higher trait anxiety score players experience increased state anxiety when under a lot of pressure which affects the outcome of the penalty kick (Horikawa, 2012).

Uncertainty has been linked with high levels of anxiety which in turn affects the outcome of penalty kicks (Lox 1992). Players who take penalty kicks with uncertainty tend to have low success rates. On the other hand, players who believe that the outcome of the penalty kick is in their hands have a high success rate (Jordet et al. 2006). Uncertainty is therefore related to anxiety amongst penalty takers and therefore determines the outcome of penalty kicks.

Choking can occur during penalty shootouts whereby a penalty taker is emotionally distressed and feels that his ego is threatened (Baumeister 1997). Emotional distress results in anxiety for the penalty taker. The usual response by penalty takers in this situation is to rush through the penalty and this results in the penalty being missed. Anxiety is therefore determines the outcome of a penalty kick.

Motivational factors play a big role in determining the amount of anxiety on penalty kickers (Wilson et al., 2009). If a penalty taker is promised a sum of money if he scores, his accuracy will improve and the chances of him scoring is high. This is because with the prize money in mind, the player tends to take a better penalty kick as he is motivated. On the other hand, the goal keeper has nothing to lose and hence will not put everything into keeping the ball out of the net. But if the tables are turned and the goalkeeper is promised the sum of money instead, it will be harder for the player to convert the penalty kick as the goalkeeper will be motivated. Motivation therefore determines the amount of anxiety placed on penalty takers and therefore the outcome of the outcome of the penalty kicks.

The ability of a player to instantaneously change the direction of the shot after seeing the direction in which the goalkeeper dives can greatly determine the outcome of a penalty kick(Wood, 2010). The player optimizes eye movement for visually guided movement (Land, 2009). This can only be done when a player has low anxiety. Under high pressure, when a player is very anxious, the player will most likely miss the target as his eye movement will be altered. Anxiety therefore affects the techniques also used for taking penalties.

The goalkeeper plays a big role in inducing anxiety on the penalty taker. The goalkeepers standing positions, movements and even arm positions affects the judgments made by players while taking penalty kicks (Kamp and Masters, 2008). By jumping or waving his hands, the goalkeeper becomes more distracting. The color of the goal keepers shirt can also be a distraction to the penalty taker. Red shirts tend to be more distracting to penalty takers. Stimulus driven penalty takers tend to be more distracted by the goalkeeper compared to goal-driven penalty takers (Derakshan et al., 2009).

Anxiety also affects the aiming of players when taking penalty kicks (Wilson et al. 2009). When anxious, players tend to focus on the centralized goalkeeper and spend a long time looking at this position compared to when they are not anxious. This tendency is increased when the goalkeeper attracts the kickers attention through distraction (Wood & Wilson, 2010). The player tends to shoot centrally at the goalkeeper (Bar-Eli & Azar, 2009). In short, if penalty kickers aimed at optimal areas of the goal post such as the top corners, they would have a higher penalty conversion rate but due to anxiety, penalty takers tend to aim centrally at the goal keeper which results in a lower penalty conversion rate.

Players who take their time to process the information needed for taking accurate penalty kicks, the Quiet-eye training (Vickers, 2007), while focusing on specific target areas of the goal post such as the top corners have a higher conversion rate compared to players who impulsively take penalty kicks (Wood and Wilson 2012). The Quiet-eye training players also maintained their consistency during high pressure games. Therefore there is a relation between the amounts of time taken to take a penalty kick to the success of the penalty kick. Players who take their time before taking penalty kicks also have better accuracy and cope well under pressure. This can be seen in the case of French and English football players. French players take their time during penalty kicks and have a high conversion rate compared to English players who take the shortest time when it comes to penalties. England have lost six out of seven penalty shoot-outs, a terrible record (Covington, 2014).


The hypothesis set for this study is that high levels of anxiety results in more penalty kicks being missed while low levels of anxiety results in less penalty kicks being missed.



The participants will include 10 strikers from the local football teams. Their ages will range between 19 and 24. They will all be penalty kick takers in their respective teams. The participants will participate in all matches that will be played throughout the season.


A book for recording each players penalty statistics.


Throughout the season, the players penalty conversion rate during friendly matches will be compared to their penalty conversion rate during high pressure matches such as final, semi-final matches and knock-out matches. The results obtained will then be tallied and analyzed.


At the end of the season, each players penalty conversion rate for friendly matches will be compared to their penalty conversion rate during competitive matches. To conclude, the study should give an insight to how high anxiety affects the outcome of a penalty kick.


Mark, R. & Vine, J., 2009. Anxiety, Attentional Control, and Performance Impairment in Penalty Kicks. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 31, pp.761-775.

Wood, G. & Wilson, R., 2015. On winning the lottery: psychological Preparation for football penalty shoot-outs. Journal of Sports Sciences.

Jordet, G., 2007. When stars flop: Public status and chocking under pressure in international soccer penalty shootouts, Oslo: Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.

Jordet, G. & Gemser, M., 2012. Stress, coping, and emotions on the world stage: The experience of participating in a Major Soccer Tournament Penalty Shootout. Journal of applied sport psychology, 24, pp73-91.

Sigmundstad, E., 2009. Temporal links to performing under pressure in international soccer penalty shootouts. [Online] (Updated 19 March 2009) Available at: <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

Noel, B. & Memmert, D., The development of a method for identifying penalty kick strategies in association football. Journal of Sports Sciences, 33.

Horikawa, M., 2012. The Relationships among Trait Anxiety, State Anxiety and the Goal Performance of Penalty Shoot-Out by University Soccer Player. [Online] (Updated 23 April 2012) Available at :<>[Accessed 16 June 2015]

Jordet, G., 2008. Avoidance motivation and choking under pressure in soccer penalty shootouts. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 30(4), pp.450-457.

Hartman, E., 2007. Kicks from the penalty mark in soccer: The roles of stress, skill, and fatigue for kick outcomes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2.

Wilson, M., 2013. The BASES Expert Statement on the Psychological Preparation for Football Penalty Shootouts. [Online] (Updated 2013) Available at:<>[Accessed on 16 June 2015]

Wood, G., 2010. Anxiety and attentional control in football penalty kicks: Amechanistic account of performance failure under pressure. [Online] (Updated November 2010) Available at: <>[Accesed on 16 June 2015]

Simpson, D., 2007. Penalty kicks: are they all in the mind? [Online] (Updated 16 February 2007) Available at: <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

Jacobs, A., 2011. The Strikers Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. [Online] (Updated March 1 2011) Available at: <> [Accessed on 16 June 2015]

Cite this page

How Anxiety Affects the Outcome of Penalty Kicks. (2021, Mar 05). Retrieved from

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