By Matt Settles

Coach Settles recently completely his 11th season as a high school coach in Indiana. The former collegiate player at the University of Southern Indiana is also a regular contributor to the Soccer Toolbox

Some coaches love them and some coaches hate them.  Regardless of your personal opinions or experiences, penalty kicks are a part of soccer and not going away.  If you have coached long enough, you have more than likely been on both ends of penalty kick shootout.  The excitement and joy of one of your players making a deciding PK to win or the gut-wrenching feeling from the opposing goalkeeper making a save to win the shootout.  It’s a tough and not very fair way to end a game, but the other side of that is that both teams had two halves and overtime to decide the game before it got to that point.  If it’s a regular season game where the rules require a winner or a postseason match where one team must advance, the penalty kick shootout creates winners and losers every time.

There are no secrets to penalty kicks.  There are several important steps you can take though to help prepare your team if and when a shootout occurs:

  1. Preparation
  2. One of the biggest mistakes any coach can do is to not prepare or practice for a PK shootout.  Let your players hit PK’s on their own in practice and then make competitions for them to compete against each other.  Play a scrimmage and end it with a PK shootout where both teams send five players to take shots.  It’s important that players are taking PK’s under pressure and learning how to handle it.  It’s not only a great way for you as a coach to evaluate who your top players are for PK’s, but it gives the kids repetition and experience.  As soon as you don’t practice PK’s because you don’t think they will happen, you will find yourself in the middle of a shootout.

  3. Placement Over Power
  4. A big mistake that players make when taking PK’s is that they don’t understand placement over power.  I see kids each season trying to hit a PK as though they are shooting 40 yards away from goal.  They swing so hard that they are off balance and most importantly, they lack accuracy.  Young kids see pro players hitting PK’s high into the corners and think these upper 90 shots are how you do it.  The fact is that shooting a PK low and to the corners is the best option.  Goalkeepers struggle the most with diving to the side to get a hand on low shots.  Also, it doesn’t take the powerful shot to score.  If players can understand that PK’s are more like a firm pass, they will be much more successful in the long run.

  5. Importance of GK’s
  6. A goalkeeper that is good at saving PK’s is a huge advantage.  Your players taking shots still need to focus on scoring, but knowing you have a goalkeeper that can make saves relieves some pressure and provides confidence to the team.  It’s just as important for goalkeepers to get reps in practice.  The more PK’s they see, the more prepared they will be.  The best goalkeepers don’t guess on a side where the shot is going.  They watch the shooter’s movement, their run to the ball, foot placement, etc. and they know where the shot is going.

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