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Some of my comments from 35 years as a keeper, from Fred
Hey Gianni,

Good comments on the penalty kicks, in particular on hints for the keeper. Some of my comments from 35 years as a keeper.

I have found that there are three strategies for choosing which side to go to with PKs:

1) Decide before the shooter even approaches the ball. I.e., just choose a side based on statistics and go full force in that direction (as you say go right with a right footed shooter).

2) Decide as the shooter is approaching the ball. I.e., try to read body language and approach to guess the direction the shooter is going.

3) Decide at the moment the shooter kicks the ball. I.e., hold your ground and try to save the shot on reaction (which includes reading the final body position, such as the position of the shooting knee and non-kicking foot, at moment of shooting).

All three have advantages and disadvantages.

#1 has the best chance of making the spectacular glory save *if* you guess correctly, and of course looking slightly foolish if the shooter goes to the opposite side or right down the center. (I've seen keepers dive away from a shot near the center, or pick the correct direction, but dive *past* (over or under) the incoming shot!)

#2 gives you a better chance of guessing correctly, but gives you less time to make your decision, and thus less time to move in that direction. Some shooters are also very good at hiding their intentions with their approach and body language.

#3 gives you a better chance of saving any shot that goes anywhere near the center ... but of course less chance of saving even a moderately well-taken shot.

Percentage-wise, I'm not sure any strategy is much better than another ... but the keeper should pick one and practice it! All three require different practiceable skills and suit different styles of keeper.

#1 suits keepers with great diving ability, while #3 is better for keepers with quick reactions, and #2 is a blend of the two. So the keeper and coach should assess how much of the keeper's athleticism or reaction time is his/her strength, and pick and practice a strategy (the decision moment) that takes advantage.

#2 and #3 are all about reading subtle hints in body language, and this can only come from seeing *many* penalty kicks in practice, ideally from many different shooters.

It's also important to practice it so that the keeper is not thinking too much during the shot, which can freeze the keeper. E.g., if the keeper is thinking that there's a 70% chance the shooter will go to his right, but the shooter lines up and approaches the ball in a way seems to be going to his left, but at the moment of contact the inside of his knee is out but shooting foot is pointing right, all these are good but conflicting pieces of information, and game time is not the time to be sorting these out. The keeper needs to practice knowing what things to pay attention to and which to ignore.

Oh, for a PK shootout (to decide a tie game), I like to pick #1 for the first shot, but dive in the *wrong* direction (e.g. dive left with a right-footed shooter) ... and then for all other shots use my normal strategy (1, 2, or 3).

Why? Because the other four shooters are sizing you up based on that first shot (which is usually taken by the best player and thus there's not much chance of saving it anyway). If you guess correctly and save or almost save it, the other shooters will think twice about shooting to the wrong side. If you guess incorrectly and look a little foolish or frustrated (a little acting is good here) they will be more likely to want to repeat your experience. Either way you've encouraged the other shooters to go to their *correct* side, or might get them shooting right down the center (shooters love to make a keeper look foolish). At the least it may get them thinking you're a guess-and-dive kinda keeper, and get them thinking too much into trying to out-guess you. Remember that each shooter in a shootout will have less and less experience with penalty kicks.

Finally, anything the keeper can do to get the *shooter* thinking is good. I like your advice about making eye contact with the shooter, and not entering the goal until the shooter is ready ... make him wait for you, make him think about what *you're* doing. I will sometimes also stand a bit over to my left for a moment before the whistle so that the shooter is looking at the extra room on my right ... and then moving to the opposite side. If I can get the shooter thinking "The dumb keeper's off-center ... I'm going to shoot right ... no wait, he's moving, now I'll shoot left." then I've succeeded in getting into his head. If I can get him to change his mind at the last minute ... he's dead. Remember, it is legal to move left and right all you want as long as you are on the goal line. This is most effective together with strategy #1, as you know what side you're going to anyway.

With #2 and #3 it takes some practice to keep from distracting yourself with all this movement, and to get back to the center of the goal at the moment the actual shot happens.

So the bottom line is: pick a strategy that best uses your skills (diving vs. reflexes) and practice it.

-- Fred

Posted on 20 Nov 2005 by coachgianni
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