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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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8 Self-talk before penalty taking

Read about Alex Danson’s experiences before taking a penalty. How can her use of self-talk be categorised into a process, a motivational outcome, a control of excitement/anxiety or an instructional focus?

Alex says ...

During the semi-final of the Olympic Games we won a penalty stroke, almost immediately I knew it was my job to step up to the spot. The last time I took a penalty stroke was at the European Nations Cup, and I had missed. I had consciously changed a few behaviours after this last experience. Firstly, in this instance, I outwardly celebrated winning the stroke. I then picked up the ball and very slowly walked to the spot where I put the ball down. I stood up very tall and looked at the goal and visualised exactly where I would put the shot. I then paused, took a deep breath and remember thinking, ‘this is going in’. I didn’t let any negative thought pass through my mind. I had done all the practice, I had a physical and mental routine and although I was in an Olympic semi-final, it felt like I was just taking another shot back at our training base at Bisham Abbey. In this example, I scored and we went through to the Olympic Final.

In contrast, at the end of the Olympic Final, I had a penalty shuffle, a different skill to a stroke, but requiring the same mental skills. I employed all the same techniques and this time the keeper saved it, but this was an outcome I had already accepted was a possibility before the game had even started. This was important as my mind and body had to be ready if I was needed to step up and take another, in case it got around to sudden death. For me, the acceptance of either outcome before the game meant on both occasions I took the stroke and shuffle without nerves and full of confidence.

Notice how Alex had consciously adjusted her behaviours from the European Nations Cup. Her routine was deliberately orientated towards a positive outcome of the task (i.e. saying ‘this is going in’) and her body language (i.e. standing tall), visualisation (i.e. the placement of the ball in the goal) a set routine and acceptance of either score or saved outcome all helped towards controlling excitement/anxiety.