During soccer penalties, the kicker will often attempt to deceive the goal-keeper by changing their kicking action as late as possible. This is obviously to make it difficult for the goal-keeper to anticipate the direction of the kick.
Matt Dicks and colleagues proposed a training task that aimed to improve a goal-keeper’s ability to anticipate kick direction.
The study compared two penalty kick training tasks. In one training group, three players ran to kick the ball but only one player actually took the kick. The rationale was that this should force the goal-keeper to pay more attention to the cues later in the kicking action as it should be too difficult to focus on all three three players at the start. This training was referred to as the “Three Person” training group.
The second training group involved the conventional task of a goalkeeper practicing saving penalties from one player approaching the kicking. This was referred to as the “One Person” training group.
There were 9 participants in each training group. All participants completed 80 kicks across 4 training sessions.
Pre- and post-test were administered. A key aspect of the testing protocol was that half of the kicks (15 of 30) were performed where the kicker attempted to deceive the goal-keeper.
Goalkeepers in the Three Person training group improved the ability to save penalties, whereas participants in the One Person training group did not improve.
For both deceptive and non-deceptive kicks, the Three Person group performed better than chance. Comparatively, the One Person group did not perform better than chance.
What does this mean for coaches?
If you want to train a goalkeeper to pay more attention to the cues at the end of the kicking action, an effective practice strategy is to ask three players to approach the penalty kick at the same time.
NOTE: the reason why the One Person group did not improve from pre- to post-test is likely due to the short training period.
Dicks, M., Pocock, C., Thelwell, R., & van der Kamp, J. (2017). A novel on-field training intervention improves novice goalkeeper penalty kick performance. The Sport Psychologist, 31(2), 129-133.