If you look at youth soccer players at the club level and try to assess the reasons they miss penalty kicks you’ll come up with two main causes: general nerves and indecision. One, nerves, leads to the other, indecision, of course but if you can minimize indecision you stand a good chance that the nerves will also be somewhat abated.
So how do you get rid of indecision? You could tell the player exactly what you want them to do on the penalty kick so the decision is removed entirely from them. The problem with that is that you are likely asking them to do something they would not choose themselves and consequently you ratchet up the nerves which is counter productive.
What I find works well is to tell each player who’s going to take the penalty that it’s entirely up to them what they want to do with their PK but they must tell me, quietly, before they go to take it and they can’t change their mind.
So now they have ownership of the decision and can choose something in their comfort level. Because you’ve made them to commit to this decision they won’t go up and then have second thoughts or doubt. As a general rule, for young players, it’s about the best way you can mentally prepare them to take penalties. It obviously works better in a shootout competition at the end of a Cup game when you can be on the field with them and have the luxury of time to have that conversation but you could train your team to do it during games. You’d just need to identify who is talking the spot shots and have them quickly come to the sidelines to tell you what they’re going to do and then go over and follow through.
Anyone got any other advice for kids taking penalty kicks?