Mental preparation for penalty shoot outs

Footballers need to prepare themselves mentally before taking part in penalty kicks, it has been claimed. Dr Denise Hill, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology at the University of Gloucestershire, was speaking after England's latest disappointment in a shootout at a major tournament - the quarter final defeat to Italy in Euro 2012.

According to Dr Hill, players have to accept and understand the pressure that comes with taking the shot, while also being able to self-regulate their emotions in order to successfully carry out the skill they are trained to do, the Gloucestershire Echo reports.

In the match against Italy, Ashley Young and Ashley Cole were both guilty of squandering their chance from 12 yards, while Portugal pair Bruno Alves and Joao Moutinho did likewise as they were knocked out in a similar scenario against Spain in the semi finals.

Dr Hill noted Young and Cole have not had the proper guidance from a qualified professional to take on the challenge without wanting it to be over as soon as possible.

She added: "Teams like Germany have been using sports psychology for ages. England are probably 20 years behind the top teams in this respect."

Dr Iain Greenlees, a Chartered Psychologist, from the University of Chichester:

"Whilst it is bitterly disappointing to see England bow out of a major tournament after losing a penalty shoot-out, it was at least encouraging to see that Roy Hodgson has moved away from the rather archaic notion that the penalty shoot out is a lottery and that penalty taking is a skill that can not be practiced.

"However, whilst the view that you can never recreate the penalty shoot-out environment in training does make sense, as a sport psychologist I do believe that there are a host of strategies and mental skills that can be practiced and can be effective in enabling footballers to execute their skills under the highest levels of pressure. Numerous athletes testify to the work of sport psychologists in helping them to cope with pressure and perform to their best when it is most needed.

"Perhaps it is now time for the English Football Team to embrace sport psychology more fully?"