In any sport, there are situations where the importance of the psychological aspect becomes really noticeable. Sanctions are a good example of such situations.
At a time when players need to initiate penalties, they usually feel under pressure, especially if the penalties are decisive in a team’s standing in a league. Feeling under pressure is more complicated to be precise, why it is difficult to maintain an optimal level of concentration. Therefore, in order to have more opportunities to pass a sanction, skills such as concentration must be trained.
What to focus on?
Knowing how to concentrate is knowing pay attention to what is really important At a certain point. To master this skill, you must learn to differentiate between the different centers of attention, know how to switch between them according to the context, and regain concentration if you get lost due to a distraction.
The direction of focus can be internal (for example, on everyone’s emotions, thoughts or sensations) or external (for example, on the environment like the audience, the goal or the ball). The range of focus can be wide (for example, if they are fixed on various aspects of the game) or narrow (for example, when they are fixed in a specific place inside the goal where they are trying. catch the ball).
When the different focal points come together, four types of attention control emerge: assessment, analysis, preparation and action. One way to improve penalty training is have players practice all of these types so that they learn to use the most appropriate.
How does the merger affect the sanctions?
The coach can use the assessment (large and external) by putting videos on penalties that do or do not end in the goal for players to assess characteristics of both.
To train the analysis (wide and internal focus), players can practice by reflecting on the thoughts they have during the penalties, noting which ones have helped them the most and which have not. Another way to use this goal is to think about the penalties they suffered in the competition and write down two aspects that they did well and one that they need to improve.
Preparation (narrow and internal focus), this can be done during competition and during training. To do this, once players know they need to take a penalty, they can practice switching to this type of concentration. The best way to start using this type of mind control is with deep breathing. Four breaths are usually enough to focus on that exact moment. Once they are focused, they can tell each other the steps to take to take the penalty, or if it is easier for them, they can visualize themselves throwing the penalty successfully.
Finally, it’s time to act (narrow and external focus). To do this, when the referee blows the whistle, the players need to take some time, not rushing, keeping mental focus for at least 10 seconds and focusing on where they want to send the ball. Once they’ve got it clear where they want to throw the ball they must pull firmly, without hesitation.
Errors and distractions
Players often lose focus, among other reasons, due to distractions. If they are using any type of attention control that is not appropriate for the activity at the time, players they are often distracted by details that are not important at the moment. That is why it is important to practice the different types of concentration and to gain practice in exercises in which you tend to stay focused.
Another way to train the focus on sanctions is to think about their sources of distraction. They need to recognize whether what distracts them is internal (such as a lack of self-confidence, negative internal monologue) or external (eg the audience clapping and shouting in the stands). Being aware of the issues that concern them is the first step in being able to stay focused and perform optimally.
Once the distractions are identified, the next step is to refocus attention. To do this, players can use phrases or words to help them. As the inner monologue is a very personal thing, the players themselves are the ones to think through and choose the words or phrases that work for them (eg, “Let’s go”, “you can”).
The advantages of simulation
Finally, a practice particularly used by elite athletes is the simulation of competition aspects. It is recreate a training environment very similar to that of competition so that when players have to throw a penalty in a major game, they don’t notice the difference.
One of the aspects in which competitions are different from training and which increases the pressure of the players is the sound; now that of the referee’s whistle when he signals the start of the penalty, or the shouts of the public. In training, players generally do not hear these types of sounds; therefore, if they get used to training closer to the championships, they will be better prepared when they need to throw penalties. Another way to recreate the atmosphere of the championships, especially in the run-up to the event, is to train in the same clothes you will be competing.
Alicia Plaza, psychologist