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Stress, Coping, and Emotions on the World Stage: The Experience of Participating in a Major Soccer Tournament Penalty Shootout



This study was designed to capture the first-hand experiences of stressors, coping, and emotions that elite professional soccer players have during a major soccer penalty shootout. Eight players who each took part in an important European Championships penalty shootout were interviewed. The results showed that the experience of stressors, coping, and emotions changed extensively throughout the event. Moreover, the participants experienced a series of different stressors, some of which were specific to the penalty shootout, and they employed a variety of coping strategies. Anxiety was the most common emotion. Practitioners can use these results to help design valid simulation protocols.
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Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
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Stress, Coping, and Emotions on
the World Stage: The Experience
of Participating in a Major Soccer
Tournament Penalty Shootout
Geir Jordet a & Marije T. Elferink-Gemser b
a Norwegian School of Sport Sciences
b University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen and
HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Available online: 27 Dec 2011
To cite this article: Geir Jordet & Marije T. Elferink-Gemser (2012): Stress, Coping, and Emotions on
the World Stage: The Experience of Participating in a Major Soccer Tournament Penalty Shootout,
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 24:1, 73-91
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Copyright C
Association for Applied Sport Psychology
ISSN: 1041-3200 print / 1533-1571 online
DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2011.619000
Stress, Coping, and Emotions on the World Stage:
The Experience of Participating in a Major Soccer
Tournament Penalty Shootout
Norwegian School of Sport Sciences
University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen and HAN University of Applied
Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
This study was designed to capture the first-hand experiences of stressors, coping, and emotions
that elite professional soccer players have during a major soccer penalty shootout. Eight
players who each took part in an important European Championships penalty shootout were
interviewed. The results showed that the experience of stressors, coping, and emotions changed
extensively throughout the event. Moreover, the participants experienced a series of different
stressors, some of which were specific to the penalty shootout, and they employed a variety of
coping strategies. Anxiety was the most common emotion. Practitioners can use these results
to help design valid simulation protocols.
All you need to do is walk fifty yards, take a penalty and score. That’s the worst part of it,
that bloody walk from the halfway line. Why do they make you stand there, so far away?
God only knows which masochist decided that. It is clearly someone who has never been in
this nerve-jangling position because it heightens the tension to an unbelievable degree. (Stuart
Pearce, 2000, p. 3)
The rules of soccer state that when a winner has to be declared and two teams are tied
after extra time in a tournament, the penalty shootout (or kicks from the penalty mark) is used
to decide the winner (F´
eration Internationale de Football Association [FIFA], 2011). Five
players from each team perform one kick each. If the score still is equal after 10 kicks, one
player from each team takes a kick, until one team has scored a goal more than the other
from the same number of kicks. The penalty shootout has been used to decide almost 1/4 of
games in the knockout stages of major tournaments (Jordet, Hartman, Visscher, & Lemmink,
2007), including several finals (e.g., the 2006 World Cup final). Thus, the event has become a
Received 17 January 2011; accepted 27 August 2011.
The authors wish to thank Chris Visscher, Koen A.P.M. Lemmink, Frank Abrahamsen, Johan Fallby
and Mieke Richart for their contributions.
Address correspondence to Geir Jordet, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Postboks 4014 Ulleval
Stadion, Oslo 0806, Norway. E-mail:
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normal feature of top level international soccer. The general purpose of the present study was
to shed more light on some of the qualitative aspects related to performing in an event that is
so important for the outcome of major tournaments in the global game of soccer. Specifically,
the study sought to understand the stressors encountered, the emotions these players felt, and
how they coped when taking part in this event.
In the sport psychology literature, the majority of the research on stress has been based on
the transactional model of stress, coping, and emotion (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Lazarus,
1999), which holds that people constantly appraise the transactions with their environment
(for a review, see Nicholls & Polman, 2007). When encountering a stressor, people use
primary appraisal to evaluate its personal significance as threatening, harmful, challenging,
or beneficial. Secondary appraisal is an evaluation of the extent to which the person has the
resources to cope with the stressor. Coping is often defined as “constantly changing cognitive
and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised
as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 141).
Among the typical categories of coping are problem-focused coping (i.e., strategies used
to manage or alter a stressful situation), emotion-focused coping (strategies to regulate the
emotional distress in a situation; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), and avoidance coping (attempts
to mentally or behaviorally disengage from the situation, Roth & Cohen, 1986). With respect
to coping effectiveness, one model is the goodness-of-fit approach, where effective coping is a
function of the fit between a person’s appraisal of the stressor and the type of coping engaged
in (Folkman, 1992). For example, when one encounters a stressor perceived as controllable,
problem-focused coping will be most effective; although encountering a stressor perceived as
uncontrollable, emotion-focused coping will be better. Finally, it seems that people are likely
to experience several different emotions as they go through a specific stressful competitive
situation (Folkman, Lazarus, Dunkel-Schetter, DeLongis, & Gruen, 1986). Effective coping
strategies may buffer stress and lead to positive emotions, although ineffective coping may
lead to negative emotions (Lazarus, 1999).
Several recent studies have examined these processes among elite level athletes performing
under similar contextual conditions as professional soccer players, or performing skills of
similar nature to those found in the soccer penalty shootout. For example, in a diary-based
study of professional rugby union players (Nicholls, Jones, Polman, & Borkoles, 2009), many
of the stressors reported for match days were related to other people (opponents, referee, or
crowd). With respect to match day coping strategies, blocking (an avoidance strategy) was
most frequently cited. Furthermore, anxiety was the most frequently reported emotion during
training, while anger was most cited for matches. Although several other studies have been
conducted with athletes at a high international level of performance (e.g., participants in the
Olympics; Pensgaard & Duda, 2003), there seems to be few published studies of stress and
coping in elite athletes playing professionally in major teams sports.
However, given the focus of the current paper on performing in the soccer penalty shootout,
it is also relevant to consider a series of studies that has been done on international level
adolescent golf players, who perform skills very similar to that found in the soccer penalty
shootout. Many of the golfers in these studies refer to opponents as a stressor, but they refer
even more to other aspects of performance (e.g., the score, mistakes, outcome, and errors;
Nicholls, 2007; Nicholls & Polman, 2008; Nicholls, Holt, Polman, & James, 2005). Moreover,
the elite golf players seem to employ a wide variety of problem-focused and emotion-focused
coping strategies, and similarly to the rugby players, they report particularly often using the
avoidance strategy blocking (e.g., Nicholls, 2007; Nicholls, Holt, & Polman, 2005; Nicholls,
Holt, Polman, & James, 2005). Interestingly though, it has been found that blocking and
some other strategies can be rated as both effective and ineffective, even for the same stressor
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(Nicholls, 2007). It also appears that golfers experience a series of emotions in relation
to competitive events, both pleasant and unpleasant emotions, with anxiety being the most
frequently cited emotion (Nicholls, Hemings, & Clough, 2010). In this latter study, coping
appeared to generate pleasant emotions. Finally, in a study that may be particularly relevant
for a penalty shootout, Nicholls and Polman (2008) used a think aloud protocol to examine
stress and coping over six holes of golf. Interestingly, they found that stressors and coping
changed throughout the six holes, which suggests that stress and coping take place as a dynamic
Given the importance of scoring on each of the shots in a penalty shootout for the outcome
of the entire game, the pressure on players to perform well will arguably be very high. A study
of 409 kicks from the World Cup, European Championships, and Copa America demonstrated
that kick importance (indicative of high levels of performance pressure) was negatively related
to the outcomes of these kicks and more strongly related to outcome than both goal-scoring
skill and fatigue (Jordet et al., 2007). It was concluded that the experience of (and coping with)
stress may be influential for success or failure at the penalty mark. Furthermore, based on
Baumeister’s (1997) model of self-defeating behavior, several studies have been conducted on
elite soccer players’ behaviors in major tournament penalty shootouts. This process may start
when an athlete’s self-image is threatened and he/she experiences intense emotional distress.
This in turn may cause self-regulation and coping efforts to fail (e.g., Baumeister, Heatherton,
& Tice, 1993). In essence, when experiencing intense distress, people seem to think about
immediate issues and less on long-term implications from what they are doing. Thus, emotional
distress may be so dominant that it is given top priority to end the distress, and less to more
adaptive patterns of self-regulation or coping (Baumeister, 1997). These mechanisms have
been demonstrated in major soccer penalty shootouts using video observation methods. Under
high levels of ego threat, players exhibited more avoidance-based coping than under lower
levels of threat (Jordet & Hartman, 2008; Jordet, 2009a, 2009b). This was exhibited by players
who turned away from the goalkeeper (seemingly attempting to not looking at the stressful
information) and in players who rushed their shots (seemingly attempting to quickly get the
shot over with). The latter of these behaviors – short preparation time – is associated with
inferior performance (Jordet, Hartman, & Sigmundstad, 2009), suggesting that this way of
coping with the situation may be misguided. It should be noted that these studies are based on
mean values and probabilities and that just because a penalty is missed does not mean that a
player has not coped well. The same logic suggests that just because a player has scored does
not mean that he has coped well. Many other factors (including an element of chance) may
play a role for the outcome.
Although autobiographies (e.g., Owen, 2004; Pearce, 2000) have richly articulated some of
the players’ experiences of participating in a penalty shootout, systematic phenomenological
descriptions of stressors, coping, and emotions in these events are completely absent in the
research literature. These types of experiences are important to capture if one wishes to meet
calls by leading stress and coping researchers to provide full and detailed observation and
description of phenomenal, natural wholes (e.g., Lazarus, 2000b) and to provide practical
knowledge that, it has been argued, should be tailored to specific contexts and situations
(Somerfield & McCrae, 2000). The way that this study potentially may add to the knowledge
we already have on stress, coping, and emotions, is primarily that it addresses elite professional
athletes’ experiences of one specific stressful situation. Moreover, given that athletes’ specific
behaviors in this particular situation has recently been the object of a series of video observation
studies (e.g., Jordet, 2009a, 2009b; Jordet & Hartman, 2008; Jordet et al., 2009), it may be
possible to compare the phenomenological experiences captured in the present study with
the typical behaviors captured in these other studies. By isolating one narrow contextual
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feature in this way, one might get a reasonably clear image of the processes of interest related
to elite athletes’ stress, coping, and emotions when they compete at the highest possible level
in their sport. Thus, the overall purpose of our study was to provide first-hand descriptions
of the experiences professional soccer players have during the different phases of a penalty
shootout, with specific attention to stressors, coping strategies, and emotions.
The eight male participants all took a kick in the quarterfinal between Sweden and the
Netherlands in the 2004 European Championships soccer tournament. Because some of the
results of this study are potentially sensitive and all participants are well known in the soccer
community, no information that could potentially reveal the participants’ identities is disclosed.
However, some basic demographic information can be provided about the total population from
which these participants were drawn. In total, 12 players took a kick after this game, with the
players ranging in age between 20 and 33 years (M=26.3, SD =4.8) and having played
between five and 79 national team games for their country (M=35.6, SD =26.2). In addition,
at the time of this event, all players represented major professional European clubs: Ajax
(two players), Anderlecht, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Barcelona (two players), Bayern Munich,
Manchester United, PSV Eindhoven (two players), and Rennes. In the penalty shootout, nine
players scored and three players missed their shot.
Interview Protocol
Following guidelines for phenomenological interviews (Dale, 1996; Kvale, 1996), the inter-
viewer tried to, without biases, ask each participant to provide accurate personal descriptions
of his experiences. Every attempt was made not to lead the participants, but to let them express
their experiences as freely as possible. One open-ended question was asked: What did you
think, feel, and do here? Follow-up questions were then asked in relation to the initial answers
of the participants.
The interview question was asked to each of the four functionally different phases of the
event. These phases, and their duration in this game, were (a) break after extra time, from the
end of the game to when the players are gathered in the mid-circle (about 2 min, 30 s); (b)
the mid circle, from entering the mid-circle to leaving the mid-circle (between 40 s and 8 min
and 30 s, depending on when the player took his shot); (c) the walk, from leaving the mid
circle to arrival at the penalty mark (about 20 to 30 s); and (d) the penalty mark, from arriving
at the penalty mark to when the shot has been taken (about 10 to 35 s).
Because all interviews were held between 8 and 12 months after the game, the participants
were, during the interview, shown video images of themselves from this particular event.
This technique may facilitate memory of emotions and coping (Eubank & Collins, 2000).
Each interview included other questions and questionnaires (see overview in Jordet, Elferink-
Gemser et al., 2006). However, the phenomenological aspect of the data collection presented
here was conducted first, after a few initial demographic questions were asked. This prevented
the participants’ responses from being affected by preceding interview topics.
The participants’ contact information was obtained from personal acquaintances to key
people in the two teams and all players who were asked to participate agreed to do so. The
participants played and lived in various countries across Europe, so the interviewers traveled
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to their clubs and interviews were carried out at facilities close to the training ground. Ethical
institutional approval was obtained prior to the data collection, in line with the policy of
University of Groningen and antisocial desirability guidelines were given to the participants
before each interview. The players’ informed consent was then obtained.
The interviews were conducted by the first and the second author in two different lan-
guages. To facilitate reliable collection of bilingual data, we attempted to homogenize the
two interviewers’ interview guide and interviewing style. Thus, three pilot interviews were
conducted with both interviewers present. Both interviewers had previously been trained in the
use of qualitative methodology and interview techniques. Also, they both have had personal
experiences in high-level sport, which helped to facilitate rapport with the participants.
Data Analysis
The interviews were transcribed verbatim, to produce about 60 single-spaced pages of
responses to the open-ended questions. The analyses were both deductive and inductive. First,
the two researchers read through and familiarized themselves with the interviews, discussing
initial findings and general trends. Second, all interview responses were split into independent
statements that expressed one specific point or thought, for each of the four phases of the series.
This procedure was also repeated by a third researcher. Third, raw data themes were inductively
generated from the statements. The authors and two additional researchers discussed the themes
at length until consensus was reached on all themes and dimensions. Fourth, the raw data themes
that could be identified as stressors, coping (problem-focused, emotion-focused, or avoidance
coping), or emotion were labeled as such. An additional deductive analysis of the independent
statements was done, to make sure that all statements related to these dimensions were detected.
At this point, some operational definitions of key terms were agreed upon. For example, the
term anxiety was used to represent all negatively connoted expressions of emotional responses
to competitive stressors (based on Mellalieu et al., 2006), such as negative thoughts, tension
and statements about being stressed. Fifth, individual participant profiles were created, which
gave an idiographic basis for discussion and material for member checking. Finally, the most
representative interview quotes were translated from the original language into English for
inclusion in this manuscript. Translations and back-translations were discussed until consensus
was reached about all quotes. To protect the anonymity of the participants, some statements
were rewritten without obscuring the conceptual message.
Kvale (1996) explicitly operates with several kinds of validity, all of which we aimed for.
First, craftsmanship validity was pursued using method triangulation and member checking.
The former made it possible to check whether the results from the open-ended interview
questions concurred with results from standardized questionnaires filled in later in the interview
and with video images of the participants performing in this event, obtained from media
coverage of the event. With a few minor exceptions, the results from the different data sources
were in agreement. The statements about which the sources showed some disagreement were
removed from further processing. Member checking was used by having each participant look
through and provide comments on a detailed 10-page personal participant profile (summary
of the most important individual results). All participants agreed with the most important
findings. Second, communicative validity was pursued by ongoing conversations about the
findings of the study with the participants themselves, additional researchers, and other elite
coaches and players. Third, pragmatic validity (i.e., whether the interview results lead to action)
seemed relatively high, given that the research team, on multiple occasions, was invited, and
invited back, to present the results to soccer teams prior to major international tournaments.
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In total, 283 statements were split into 131 raw data themes that could be grouped into 49
higher-order themes coded under stressors, coping, and emotions. The results are structured
in relation to the four phases.
Phase I. Break after extra time
Concerning the period from when the referee whistled for full-time after the second half of
extra time and until the players went into the mid-circle, the participants expressed statements
that easily could be related to stressors, coping, and emotions (for an overview of themes and
dimensions, see Table 1).
Tabl e 1
The break after extra time (Phase I)
General dimensions Higher order themes Raw data themes
Stressors The penalty shootout Knew I could take one (n=6)
That the game went to penalties (n=3)
Aware of the team’s bad history (n=3)
Did not want to take a shot (n=2)
Others did not want to take a shot (n=2)
Preferred another shot number (n=1)
Convinced this is a lottery (n=1)
Coaches Was told the order (n=4)
Was asked to take one (n=2)
The regular game Tired from 120 min of play (n=3)
Aware of previous game events (n=2)
Alone Left to oneself, alone (n=3)
Importance Aware of the big opportunity (n=2)
Aware of spectators’ reactions (n=1)
Coping Problem-focused coping Planned/concentrated on shot (n=5)
Physiological recovery (n=4)
Knew where/how to shoot (n=3)
Wanted to take one (n=2)
Legs were fresh, no need for physiological
support (n=2)
Goal of scoring (n=2)
Took responsibility (n=1)
Self-talk (n=1)
Emotion-focused coping We can do this (n=3)
Hope/pray (n=2)
Receiving emotional support (n=1)
Accepted the pressure (n =1)
Searching for the good feeling (n=1)
Avoidance coping
Emotions Anxiety Anxiety (n=5)
Relaxed Relaxed (n=4)
Fatigued Fatigued (n=3)
Dissatisfied Dissatisfied that the game went to penalties
Charged Charged (n=1)
Confident Confident (n =1)
The nindicates the number of participants with statements categorized into the raw data theme.
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One prominent group of stressors seemed to be the upcoming penalty shootout itself.
For example, three players expressed a general dissatisfaction with penalties (e.g., “I was
very disappointed that it went to penalties”), others talked about their team’s poor penalty
shootout record in previous tournaments (e.g., “I cannot remember that the Netherlands has
ever before won a penalty shootout. What everybody thinks then is naturally ‘oh no, not
again”’). Furthermore, the communication with the coaches also presented itself as a stressor.
All eight participants received information from the coaches in this phase, as confirmed by the
video images. Most importantly, it was now decided who would take a shot and the order of the
shooters. Although six participants said that they immediately, as the referee blew his whistle
for full time, knew that they would take a shot (e.g., “I knew, when he blew his whistle, that it
would be a penalty for me”), two participants expressed in the interview that they did not know
at this stage that they would be asked to take a shot, and they were also both reluctant to do
this (e.g., “In advance, I had personally said that I did not want to take one”). Also, apparently,
other players were asked to take a shot, but declined (e.g., “Some players had said no. That is
why there was confusion about the order. Both Player X, Y, and Z [the participant identifies
three players on his team]. Perhaps you should have talked to them too?”). Although this was
expressed about other players that were not interviewed, these players’ total disengagement
from the situation presents a clear example of avoidance coping. Moreover, four participants
stated that they now, for the first time, were told what shot (number 1 to 5) they would take (e.g.,
“I heard that I was the x one to take a shot”), which served as a stressor because they could
not prepare in advance for this particular shot number. Another stressor related to teammates
was the absence of them, in the sense that three players expressed how they were left to
themselves (e.g., “He pointed at me and said ‘you take penalty number x.’ It then felt as if I
went out of the discussion a little bit, that I wasn’t part of it anymore, I already knew what
to do”). At this point, these players also reported concentrating on their upcoming shot, so
being left alone may have been a way to get time and space to focus on their own upcoming
With respect to coping, in Phase I the players seemed to mostly engage in problem-focused
coping. Almost all participants reported starting to think about their shot in this phase. Five of
them thought about the shot process, which involved deliberately planning and/or concentrating
on the shot (e.g., “I started to prepare, talking to myself and decide, clearly, what I would do.
Above all, I thought about how to take it”). In addition, several players experienced thoughts
related to the shot outcome, of which most were positively toned, such as thoughts about the
goal of scoring (e.g., “You just have a goal. And the goal is: The ball must go in”). Three
participants expressed how they, in this phase, were feeling fatigued from the game they had
just played (e.g., “At that moment you are just totally exhausted. The one hundred and twenty
minutes are up and, thus, you are completely fatigued”). Related to this, four participants said
that they engaged in some type of physiological recovery (i.e., massage and water), whereas
two said that they were just substituted into the game and that they therefore needed no help
(e.g., “I hadn’t played the whole game, so my legs were ok”).
There was some emotion-focused coping as well. One participant provided statements about
searching for the good feeling (“‘How do I feel? Do I feel good? What should I do to feel
good in the end?’ That is the first”). Moreover, in contrast to physiological support, nothing
was said about receiving psychological support from the coaching staff.
Although emotions were more frequent and elaborate in later phases, five participants
expressed how they felt some type of anxiety (e.g., “The tension is very big at that moment.
So then, you sometimes feel small trembles through your body”). However, four participants
stated that they were calm and/or relaxed (e.g., “I was not that nervous when we were with the
coaches, minutes before it all started”).
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Phase II. The mid-circle
Phase II stretches from when the participants step into the mid-circle before the kicks and
until they, individually, step out of the mid-circle to take their shot. The responses from the
players in this phase generated, relatively speaking, more statements and raw data themes than
the other phases (see Table 2).
With respect to stressors, four participants talked about the experience of simply waiting
and watching (“Watch. Watch. And hope. All you can do is hope, because you don’t have
control over the situation”). This was also expressed in relationship to anxiety, where some
participants talked about anxiety as an integral part of the waiting. Several participants also
expressed how important it was that they would score on their upcoming shot (e.g., “I knew
Tabl e 2
The mid circle (Phase II)
General dimensions Higher order themes Raw data themes
Stressors Waiting Just looking at shots and waiting (n=4)
It is hard to wait (n=1)
One’s shot Had to score, it was all up to me (n=3)
Shot number 5 is most difficult (n=1)
Knew late that I would shoot (n=1)
Little communication Little talking (n=2)
Not good that we were spread (n=1)
Opponents Not good that other team starts (n=2)
Outcome Know you are near a semi-final (n=1)
Knew the exact order and score (n=1)
Coping Problem-focused coping Concentrated about my shot (n=3)
Looked at where keeper went (n=3)
Take penalty as I always do (n=1)
Emotion-focused coping Gave/received support (n=4)
Radiating team unity together (n=4)
Convinced that I will score (n=2)
Stood with players I knew well (n=1)
Try to calm down (n=1)
Cheering (n=1)
Other team was more tired (n=1)
Avoidance coping Shut out what player before does (n=1)
Could not stand together (n=1)
Did not want to look at goalie (n=1)
Emotions Anxiety Anxiety n =6)
Anxiety was high because of
waiting/watching (n=4)
Anxiety down when team missed (n=2)
Less anxiety as time passed (n=1)
Hope Hopeful (n=5)
Disappointed Disappointed (n=4)
Happy Happy because opponent misses (n=3)
Happy because your team scores (n=2)
Confident Confident about teammate (n=3)
We will win (n=2)
Energetic Energetic (n=2)
Fatigued Fatigued (n=1)
Note. The nindicates the number of participants with statements categorized as the given raw data theme.
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that I had to score” and “It was all on my shoulders”). Thoughts about the outcomes of other
players’ shots were also common (e.g., “Does he score, does he not score?”), while others
reported outcome thoughts in relation to their own shot (e.g., “Player X misses, then you
simply know that you have to score”).
The two teams exhibited different communication patterns, clearly visible from the tele-
vision images and this has been coded as a stressor for one team and a coping strategy for
the other team. The players in the team that ended up winning the penalty shootout stood
together throughout the entire event, holding around each other’s shoulders. In this team, four
participants reported giving and/or receiving emotional support (e.g., “By psyching each other
up. Shout things to each other. Maybe say some supporting words to the one whose turn it
is or when he comes back”). Several participants rated this as positive because it enhanced
the team feeling (e.g., “We show that we are a unit and a group”). We have coded this as an
emotion-focused coping strategy. With respect to the team that ended up losing the penalty
shootout, the video images showed that the players in this team were spread around for most of
the series. In this team, two participants explicitly indicated less verbal communication (e.g.,
“We hardly talked anything during the shootout. Nothing. I didn’t say anything and nobody
said anything to me either”). Based on the way that this was expressed by the players, we have
coded the statements from players in this team as a stressor.
There were less problem-focused coping statements in this phase compared to the other
phases. Only three participants said that they concentrated on the shot process in this phase
(e.g., “At that moment you only concentrate on your penalty, also not at what he [the opponent
shooting before him] is doing. Whether he misses or scores, that doesn’t matter to me”).
Moreover, one participant explicitly said that he did not concentrate on the shot in the beginning
of the series, but began to focus when there were about two to three shots left before him.
On the other hand, more emotion-focused coping strategies could be identified in this phase
than in some of the other phases. In addition to the statements referred to above about social
support, the participants referred to strategies such as positive affirmations (e.g., “We all stood
next to each other and said, we will make it, we will win it”) and trying to calm down (“I tried
to calm down, but that made me even more nervous”).
Many statements in this phase were made about emotions. In total, seven emotions were
identified: Anxiety, hope, disappointed, happy, confident, energetic, and fatigued. Anxiety
was most common. In total, six participants said that they felt nervous or tense in this phase
(e.g., “When we were in the mid-circle I became incredibly nervous. I thought it showed on
television that my legs were shaking, that is how nervous I was”). Although some anxiety
was expressed as a result of the players’ own upcoming shots, four participants also attributed
anxiety to waiting and watching other shots, without being able to influence the outcome (e.g.,
“When one of them or one of us shoots, then the tension is, according to me, a lot higher
than for that person who is going to take the penalty. Because it is not in your hands [to
control]”). Moreover, 1 participant noted that anxiety was lower because the other team had
missed a shot (“The tension is really high, but on the other side, I have to say that we were a
goal up. I think that if you are behind, the stress would have been even higher”). Interestingly,
another participant described how anxiety was most intense early (“I was the most nervous
here, between the first and the second shot. Yes. Most nervous. Absolutely. Absolutely. No
doubt”), but that it disappeared as soon as one of his teammates missed (“First, I felt bitter and
angry, but then the nervousness went away. I became much calmer”). Also common was hope
(e.g., “Hoping, hoping that it goes well. You can only hope, because it’s not in your hands”).
Being confident was expressed by three participants in this phase. This was not so much
related to one’s own shot, but more to those of teammates (e.g., “That shot was of course a
very important one, but it was a sure goal”) or to the outcome of the whole series (e.g., “When
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we were standing there, I just felt that we would win”). In addition, not surprisingly, happiness
was expressed following successful shots by teammates and unsuccessful shots by opponents
(e.g. “That was a great feeling”), while disappointment followed misses by teammates (e.g.,
“That stinks. You are fed up”).
Phase III. The walk
Despite the short time it takes to walk from the mid-circle to the ball, the participants
described a variety of thoughts and emotions in elaborate and vivid detail (see Table 3).
The stressors that appeared from the statements elicited about this phase were related to the
solitude of the walk (e.g., “You have to walk from the mid circle to the penalty spot and that
is very long. You walk really all by yourself on that field”). For some, this was experienced
together with many thoughts (e.g., “At that particular point, there are a lot of thoughts running
through my head”).
With respect to coping, many of the participants expressed that they engaged in problem-
focused coping, with many thoughts about the upcoming shot. Many of these thoughts were
confident (e.g., “I was convinced that I would score”) and others were related to the process,
such as where to shoot (e.g., “At the moment when I begin to walk, you think: ‘I will shoot it
in that corner”’). In addition, three participants said that they were not aware of anything but
Tabl e 3
The walk (Phase III)
General dimensions Higher order themes Raw data themes
Stressors Solitude Long and lonesome walk (n=3)
Many thoughts (n=1)
Coping Problem-focused coping I will shoot it in (n=4)
Decided where to shoot (n=3)
Concentrated (n=3)
Did not see spectators (n=3)
The ball must go in (n=2)
Body language to trick goalie (n=1)
Aimed for camera behind goal (n=1)
Did not see any cameras behind the goal (n=1)
Emotion-focused coping Positive affirmations (n=2)
Breathe (n=2)
Try to show calmness (n=1)
Take my time (n=1)
Kick in ground (n=1)
Hold/fondle the ball (n=1)
Receive social support (n=1)
Appreciating the opportunity (n=1)
Avoidance coping Try not to think “what if I miss” (n=1)
Try not to make it too difficult (n=1)
Emotions Calm Calm (n=5)
Anxiety Nervous (n=4)
Decrease in anxiety (n=3)
Fatigued Fatigued (n=3)
Energetic Energetic (n=2)
Happy/satisfied Happy with my shot number (n=2)
Easier to walk because the team is in the lead (n=1)
The nindicates the number of participants with statements categorized as the given raw data theme.
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the ball, goalkeeper and the goal, thus, experiencing that everything else disappeared (e.g., “In
a way, I was walking through a tunnel. You don’t see anything around you. You walk from the
mid-circle and only see the goal”).
The participants also referred to strategies that can be categorized as emotion-focused
coping. Some of these strategies referred to behaviors, such as breathing (e.g. “The body
regulates it itself and you feel that you’re becoming more calm. Your breathing becomes
calmer”), taking time (“Calm. Everything in my time”), and holding or fondling the ball (“I
was holding the ball. Is it not so that things get less stressful as you have something in your
hands? I swirled it around a little bit. I think the ball was very important”). In addition, some
participants reported positive affirmations (e.g., “‘I shoot that ball in!’ I tried to convince
myself”) and others referred to social support (e.g., “At the moment that I started walking to
the penalty spot, all the guys said ‘come on”’). Some participants also referred to strategies
that can be labeled avoidance coping (e.g., “You are thinking, ‘don’t make it more difficult
than it is”’).
Several emotions were experienced in this phase. Five participants said that they were calm
(e.g., “I felt very relaxed, so fun this is”), whereas four participants said they were anxious
(e.g., “Of course it is tense”). Also, three participants noted a progressive decrease in anxiety
from the first two phases to this third phase (e.g., “When it [the series] started I was indeed
stressed. I had some of those small shivers then. When I walked to the ball, it was over”).
Phase IV. At the penalty mark
The participants’ experiences at the penalty mark were also categorized into raw data
themes, higher-order themes and general dimensions (see Table 4). Surprisingly, few stressors
were listed. Among the ones that were mentioned were that you do not want to fail (e.g., “You
don’t want to fail, so you have a special feeling in your body”) and the thought of David
Beckham’s miss (“At the penalty mark, I was just thinking ‘Beckham”’). It should be noted
that David Beckham missed his shot in a penalty shootout 2 days prior to this game, in the
same tournament. However, it could also be that the participant’s thought about Beckham not
necessarily was a stressor so much as it was a reminder to examine the grass at the penalty
spot, which seemed very loose when Beckham made his shot. Hence, this statement could also
be coded as problem-focused coping.
The majority of the statements that could be classified as coping were of problem-focused
nature. A popular strategy was a pre-shot routine (e.g., “This is like a ritual for me. I put
the ball down, go back, watch, stand, all in a certain way. Then, I take my time; focus on
what I’m going to do. These things give a confident feeling”). Interestingly, several of the
participants indicated that they were fully absorbed in the kick when they were at the penalty
mark (e.g., “So focused. The last part, when everything gets quiet, I did not even consider that
the goalkeeper was standing in the goal. I was completely gone. Completely gone”). More
specifically, the participants referred to many detailed thoughts about their upcoming shots,
which were divided among the goalkeeper, the corner in which they planned to shoot and the
outcome of the shot. Not everything went according to plan. One participant, who originally
had decided on one corner, changed this as he shot (“There was a camera high up in one of
the corners so I thought: ‘I will shoot it there!’ Then I ran to the ball and shot it in the other
corner. I can honestly not explain why I did that”).
There were only a few statements that indicated emotion-focused coping. Two of them
expressed that they needed to have the right feeling before they could take their shot (e.g., “I
would only take it when I was ready to. [...] You have to take the time to do that. [...]Itwas
very important for me to have that feeling”).
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Tabl e 4
At the penalty mark (Phase IV)
General dimensions Higher order themes Raw data themes
Stressors Failing Did not want to fail (n=2)
Shot decision Changed corner (n=1)
Others’ misses Thought about Beckham’s miss (n=1)
The goalkeeper Seeing his gamesmanship (n=1)
He did not move (n=1)
Playing a game with him (n=1)
Coping Problem-focused coping Shoot in favorite corner (n=4)
Task routine (n=4)
Only aware of shot (n=4)
See keeper move before kick (n=4)
Let body take over (n=3)
I will shoot it in/score (n=3)
Knew what corner (n=2)
Knew where keeper went before (n=1)
Not aware of goalkeeper (n=1)
Decided corner at penalty mark (n=1)
Hard and low in corner (n=1)
Try to put it in corner (n=1)
Knew ball went in, before hit (n=1)
Knew ball went in, during hit (n=1)
Not aware of possibility to miss (n=1)
Find the rhythm (n=1)
Imagery of shot (n=1)
Emotion-focused coping Finding the right feeling (n=2)
Laughs at what the goalkeeper is doing
Avoidance coping Felt good to turn the back towards the
goalkeeper (n=1)
Tried to not think about missing (n=1)
Pretended it is practice (n=1)
Emotions Calm Calm (n=4)
Confident Confident (n =1)
Anxiety Nervous (n=2)
Increase in anxiety (n=2)
Decrease in anxiety (n=2)
Excited Got a kick (n=1)
The nindicates the number of participants with statements categorized as the given raw data theme.
Some avoidance coping also seemed to take place. One participant reacted (by looking
away) when observing the goalkeeper’s actions (the goalkeeper took time stepping into the
goal, threw the drinking bottle away and then verbally addressed the shooter’s placement of
the ball; “Usually I don’t turn when walking back from the ball. But it felt good to have a
second where I did not have to look at him”). Another participant pretended that his shot was
a regular practice shot (e.g., “Nobody can see what I am thinking now so I will pretend that
this is practice. The chance will be bigger that I score than if I think about how important the
shot is and what is at stake”).
There were somewhat fewer statements about emotions in this phase than in the previous
three phases. Four participants expressed being calm at the penalty mark (e.g., “I was calm,
very calm, just shoot it in, very relaxed”), whereas two experienced anxiety (e.g., “When you
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are walking towards the ball things are going fine, but at that moment when you put the ball
down, you get a special feeling in your body” and “Maximum physical tension”). Two other
participants, who both described extensive use of both problem-focused and emotion-focused
coping strategies, indicated that their anxiety progressively decreased towards the penalty
mark (e.g., “At a certain moment, I put the ball down and everything was just gone. Before
that moment, I was really very nervous and tense”). One of the participants reported feeling
very confident (e.g., “I was confident that I would shoot it in. If I were to miss, I would not
even know how to react”).
Comparison across phases
When we compare the participants’ answers across phases, some patterns can be seen.
There seemed to be more stressors in the first two phases than in the last two phases. In
particular, the participants did not express many stressors in Phase III, the walk. With respect
to coping strategies, the participants reported engaging in problem-focused coping in Phase I,
after extra time, but very little in Phase II, the mid-circle. Then, there was increasingly more
problem-focused coping in Phase III, the walk and even more in Phase IV, at the penalty mark.
The most emotion-focused coping was found in Phase II, the mid-circle and Phase III, the
walk, and the least in Phase IV, the penalty mark. Finally, the participants seemed to report the
most emotions in Phase II, the mid-circle and the least in Phase IV, the penalty mark.
Interviews were conducted with eight professional soccer players about their participation
in a penalty shootout during a major soccer tournament. It was believed that qualitative
interviews of these players would add to our knowledge about the ways in which elite athletes
experience stressors, coping, and emotions during a high-pressure competitive event, the
major tournament soccer penalty shootout. This could also supplement existing video-based
knowledge about performing under the severe pressure that this event can trigger (e.g., Jordet,
2009a, 2009b; Jordet & Hartman, 2008; Jordet et al., 2009).
Above all, the results support Lazarus’ (1999) transactional theory about stress by demon-
strating that stress in the soccer penalty shootout appears as a dynamic process. Even within
the relatively short time frame of this particular event, the experience of stressors, coping,
and emotions seems to change considerably from phase to phase. For example, many of the
stressors in each phase were very specific to that phase, with the least number of stressors in
Phase III, the walk, and the most in the two initial phases, the break after extra time and the
mid circle. Furthermore, the participants engaged in far more problem-focused coping at the
penalty mark than in the mid-circle, and experiencing much less anxiety at the penalty mark
than in the mid-circle. This observation of stress as a dynamic process is consistent with recent
evidence on the stress process of elite adolescent golf players, which showed how stressors
and coping changed throughout six holes of golf (Nicholls & Polman, 2008).
With respect to stressors, our results replicate many of the findings from other studies.
Just like the studies of the stress process in elite golf players (Nicholls, 2007; Nicholls &
Polman, 2008; Nicholls, Holt, Polman, & James, 2005), our results show that stressors related
to the outcome (including the score and the prospect of failing) constitute major environmental
sources of stress. Furthermore, the opposing team was identified as a major stressor in a couple
of phases (most notably at the penalty mark, the goalkeeper), although not as much as in some
of the previous studies (e.g., Nicholls et al., 2009). This slight inconsistency with previous
research may be because the entire penalty shootout event is less interactive than full game
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events. In addition, several stressors were reported that seem specific to each of the phases
in the penalty shootout. In the first phase, the break after extra time, the participants referred
to stressors such as the general dissatisfaction with the penalty shootout itself, the coaches’
instructions, and the teammates. In the mid-circle, they talked about the passive waiting and
observing, without any chance to influence the outcome, as a major stressor. For one team,
this phase seemed to be even more stressful because they did not engage in any type of
communication. Thereafter, during the walk to the penalty mark, the solitude of walking and
the many thoughts that could pop up were the only stressors that could be identified. And
finally, at the penalty mark, there were fewer stressors, but the encounter with the goalkeeper
stood out as specific for this phase. Thus, these results show that although several major sources
of stress are similar to those experienced by athletes in comparable populations (professional
rugby players) and athletes performing similar tasks (golf), there are also important stressors
that are specific to each narrow phase within this specific event. This suggests that researchers
interested in the stress process in sport should not only address separate sports, but also make
sure they capture the nuances and details of stressors encountered within specific events in
that sport. Similarly, practitioners working to assist athletes to cope with specific stressful
events may want to familiarize themselves with the specific plethora of stressors that may
be encountered in each event, and not simply prepare for general stressors that have been
identified in generic studies of stressors in sport.
Several interesting results emerged related to coping. Similar to what has been found in
other studies on elite athletes (e.g., Nicholls & Polman, 2008), these soccer players reported
using a wide variety of coping strategies and the types of coping strategies changed as the
event unfolded. In general, the distinction between problem-focused, emotion-focused, and
avoidance-based coping strategies was meaningful and allowed the researchers to code all of
the responses given about coping. However, as opposed to in Nicholls and colleagues’ studies
of rugby and golf players (e.g., Nicholls, 2007; Nicholls, Holt, & Polman, 2005; Nicholls,
Holt, Polman, & James, 2005; Nicholls et al., 2009), the avoidance strategy blocking was less
frequently reported by the participants in our study. This relative lack of explicit references
to avoidance coping is also interesting in the light that avoidance-based strategies have been
identified in observation studies on performers in penalty shootouts as a common response to
particularly high pressure (Jordet & Hartman, 2008; Jordet, 2009a, 2009b) and as a negative
correlate to performance at the penalty mark (Jordet et al., 2009). Having mentioned this, there
was still evidence of avoidance coping in this study. Particularly interesting were the remarks
made about the break after extra time where several players were observed by the participants
to have answered no when the coaches asked them if they could take a shot. Several of our
participants also clearly expressed that they did not want a penalty shootout, and that they also
did not want to take a shot, yet they ended up with both a penalty shootout and having to take
a shot. Concerning the avoidance behaviors that have been studied in the observation studies
by Jordet et al. (2009), one of the players in our study reported deliberately looking away from
the goalkeeper in an attempt to reduce his level of distress (corresponding to avoidance gaze).
In addition, one remark was made about preparation time, by a player who referred to taking
time as a helpful way to cope with the pressure. However, no remarks were made about quick
preparation. On this note, it could be that lowering one’s preparation time is a strategy that is
engaged in at a subconscious level, and that this is the reason that none of the players referred
to it. If indeed this is the case, then quick preparation could also not be classified as coping,
in so far as coping only can be used to describe strategies that are consciously engaged in
(Lazarus, 1999; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
This study did not seek to directly measure coping effectiveness, but with respect to the
goodness-of-fit model (Folkman, 1992), where effective coping denotes a fit between the
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appraisal of a stressor and the type of coping employed, we could identify a general pattern
that would be consistent with this. Specifically, many participants reported anxiety in the mid-
circle and that this was a function of experiencing little control over the outcome, making the
players having to resort to “waiting and watching” behavior. This corresponds well with the
other result that the players engaged relatively much in emotion-focused coping while in the
mid-circle. On the other hand, the players did more problem-focused coping in Phase III and
IV, and particularly in Phase IV, at the penalty mark. At these latter points in time, they had
more control over the situation, as this is when they needed to start executing their shots.
Given the ethical obligation to not reveal the identities our participants, we cannot further
report on the experiences by players who either scored or missed, but we can say something
about how the participants experienced the strategies that they used, although some might
have led to a goal, others to a miss. For example, there were problem-focused strategies that
were praised by the participants as effective throughout the penalty shootout, such as having
a favorite corner to place the ball, a pre-shot routine, and planning for and concentrating on
details of the kick. And there were emotion-focused strategies that were presented as effective,
such as communication and social support in the mid-circle, finding the right feeling and
rhythm, and holding the ball. In addition, the avoidance strategies of pretending to be at
practice and looking away from the goalkeeper were also experienced by the players who used
them as effective. This may be consistent with other studies that have shown that avoidance-
based strategies potentially are effective when used in the short-term (e.g., Nicholls, 2007),
but that they may be maladaptive when used extensively over time (Kim & Duda, 2003).
With respect to coping, it is interesting and regretful that although the participants reported
that physiological support was given by the coaching staff in the period right after extra time,
no mentionable psychological support was offered. Given the importance of this event for the
outcome of major tournaments in soccer, the results of this and other studies that shed light
on the psychology of the penalty shootout should be communicated to coaches to help them
deal with this situation.
Consistent with what we expected, the participants described experiencing a wide array
of emotions during these kicks, with anxiety referred to the most. This is consistent with
elite golfers, who report anxiety to be the most frequently experienced emotion in relation to
competitive events (Nicholls et al., 2010). More unexpectedly, Phase II, the mid-circle, hosted
more descriptions of anxiety and less descriptions of calmness than any of the other phases.
Thus, although a few participants expressed many thoughts and some unease associated with
walking from the mid-circle (Phase III), the results do not support or even suggest that this
is the most stressful phase (which one might have had the impression that it would be from
accounts given by players in media and in autobiographies, e.g., the quote by Stuart Pearce
introducing this paper). A couple of explanations can be forwarded for this observation. First,
although the performance itself is the actual kick, the players may perceive the walk (Phase III)
and the initial time at the penalty mark (Phase IV) as constituting the first steps of the actual
performance. That is, the performance starts as the players step out of the mid-circle. This is
consistent with predictions from multidimensional anxiety theory (Martens, Burton, Vealey,
Bump, & Smith, 1990), suggesting that anxiety is highest immediately prior to the onset of
competition (here equivalent to the mid-circle) and then dissipates once the competition has
begun (equivalent to the walk and at the penalty mark). Second, as discussed above, some par-
ticipants indicated that passively waiting and observing in the mid-circle was difficult because
they did not have any power to affect the outcome of the kicks they observed. This is indica-
tive of low perceived control, which has been shown to be associated with more debilitative
anxiety (e.g., Hanton, O’Brien, & Mellalieu, 2003; Jordet, Elferink-Gemser et al., 2006). In
addition, hope was most frequently reported in the mid-circle. This emotion can sometimes
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reflect yearning and believing in a good outcome through factors that can be uncontrollable,
which almost always have some relation to anxiety (Lazarus, 2000a, 2000b). Interestingly, this
is consistent with results from medical archive studies, demonstrating how merely observing
games that are decided from the penalty mark produces sufficient levels of stress to trigger
serious cardiovascular strain (e.g., Carroll, Ebrahim, Tilling, Macleod, & Smith, 2002). It
should also be noted though that several players in the mid-circle expressed feelings of being
confident (e.g., Hanin, 2000). This was expressed as the belief that they or their teammates
would score and/or that they would win.
The frequent expressions of anxiety in the mid-circle may provide an alternative explanation
for the general archival data finding that players who shoot late in a penalty shootout event
score fewer goals than players who shoot earlier (Jordet et al., 2007; McGarry & Franks,
2000). Rather than the original explanation, that later shots are progressively perceived as
more important to the final outcome of the event, thus, increasing anxiety, it could be that
more time spent in the mid-circle, with cumulative exposure to high levels of stress, in itself
increases pre-shot anxiety levels, and that this negatively affects shot performance. In general,
given these emotions and the long time spent in the mid-circle, it can be argued that coping and
emotions in the mid-circle provide a key to the upcoming performance from the penalty mark.
Specifically, research should be conducted to more precisely estimate the manner in which
anxiety fluctuates before, in and after the mid-circle and practitioners should equip players
with coping strategies for use in the mid-circle.
Knowledge about stress and coping that is tailored to specific contexts and problems have
the potential to be directly useful to the context from which it was derived (Somerfield &
McCrae, 2000). Thus, based on the information provided in this study, some implications can
be suggested to players and coaches preparing for soccer penalty shootouts. First, the current
descriptions of experiences from these events may be used to educate players and coaches
about typical stressors and emotions that tend to be experienced during penalty shootouts. If
communicated to players prior to games that potentially may go to a penalty shootout, such
awareness of typical experiences can demystify the event, which in itself may serve to decrease
anxiety, and it can be used as a basis for realistic practice regimens. Specifically for each of
the four phases, coaches can sensitize players to the general dissatisfaction with a penalty
shootout and the desire to avoid taking a shot that many players seem to experience in Phase
I; the experience of passively waiting and the many negative emotions that seem to arise in
Phase II; the many thoughts that may pop up and the feelings of solitude that some players
have in Phase III; and finally, the encounter with the goalkeeper that impact some players in
Phase IV. Such communication can be accompanied by a process where players are taught
possible coping strategies for each of the phases, which they then can adapt and rehearse.
For example, players can be advised to start planning their shot in Phase I, communicate and
support their teammates in Phase II, use positive affirmations and start concentrating on their
shot in Phase III, and focus on their pre-shot routine in Phase IV. Second, based on the finding
that no psychological support was offered to the players immediately after extra time (Phase
I), we suggest that specific attention should be given to how the coaches can influence players
positively and negatively in this phase. Specifically, based on some of the recommendations
that emerged from the participants themselves, coaches should avoid confusion by having
selected a line-up of players in advance of the game, with all players in prioritized order one
thru 11. This order should be communicated to the players at this point in time. Furthermore,
in this phase, coaches can also assist and remind players about appropriate and personalized
coping strategies that they can engage in throughout the shootout (e.g., the ones suggested
previously in this paragraph). Third, given that the mid-circle seems to be perceived to trigger
particularly high levels of emotional distress, players should particularly be encouraged to
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use coping strategies at this point. From our interviews, the role of communication and team
support seems particularly important and this is something that teams should deliberately
engage in.
One major limitation of the study should be noted. The retrospective interviews took place
up to a full year after the event, which may seriously compromise the reliability of the results.
There is evidence that people can reliably remember emotions for a considerable time after an
event (Tenenbaum, Lloyd, Petty, & Hanin, 2002), but the evidence is less convincing for the
memory of coping (e.g., Ptacek, Smith, Espe, & Raffety, 1994). Thus, although this particular
incident probably represented a milestone in these players’ careers (as few of them before
had reached this far in a major tournament, and even fewer had ever taken a kick in such an
important penalty shootout), which could make the experience easier to remember, the coping
data in particular needs to be interpreted with some caution.
In conclusion, this interview study provided detailed descriptions of the experience of
stressors, coping, and emotions related to participating in a series of kicks from the penalty
mark at the highest level of international soccer. Practitioners can use the results to help elite
athletes simulate similar stressful competitive events and cope with the stressors that naturally
occur during these events. Moreover, the first-hand descriptions of how players experience
taking part in this event provide an important basis for future research, both explanatory,
experimental and applied, on the psychology of the soccer penalty shootout. For examples,
researchers should design experiments that aim to validate the findings in this study that the
anxiety tends to reach a peak in the mid-circle, and then progressively decrease as the shooter
starts walking towards the penalty mark. It would also be useful to see intervention studies,
where the effect of providing knowledge from the current study about stressors and coping
strategies to coaches and players is examined.
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... Although there is now a large body of knowledge on choking in sport, and performance under stress more generally (reviews by Hanton et al., 2008;Mesagno et al., 2015), rather surprisingly, few studies have examined related effects on professional footballers in penalty kick situations using an experimental and/or mixed-method design. Existing research has focused on professional footballers during penalty shootouts, albeit in major tournaments, has been observational (e.g., Jordet et al., 2007) or retrospective qualitative (e.g., Jordet & Elferink-Gemser, 2012). In part, this may be attributed to the inherent difficulties researching this population (cf. ...
... More specifically, several stressors have been reported by professional footballers when taking a penalty kick in a quarter-final UEFA European Championship (Jordet & Elferink-Gemser, 2012). In this insightful research, eight players were retrospectively questioned on their experiences during four phases of the penalty shoot-out (e.g., walk to the penalty mark, at the penalty mark). ...
... Using a 6-step protocol, the present experiment recreated pressure without directly manipulating attentional regulation. Rather than examine the independent and/or cumulative effect of multiple different stress manipulations, the focus of this study was to create a single pressure protocol that would simulate the dynamic nature of stress and emotions reported during a penalty shootout (Jordet & Elferink-Gemser, 2012). The current design was, in part, driven by the practicalities of working with professional football players (i.e., limited access, time restrictions, staff/player turnover; Gilmore et al., 2017). ...
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The penalty kick in soccer is arguably one of the most highly visible and high-pressured sporting situations in the world. This study examined the effect of a high-pressure protocol on penalty shooting performance, and the associated psychological and psychophysiological responses to, and perceptions of that protocol. A sequential mixed-method research design was employed wherein the experimental condition consisted of a repeated-measures design with pressure as the within-participants factor (low-pressure, high-pressure). Quantitative data collection was complemented with a semi-structured interview. Twenty professional footballers took part. The Immediate Anxiety Measurement Scale (IAMS) and Pressure Likert-type scale were administered prior to both conditions. The NeXus-10 biofeedback system recorded players’ heart rate and respiration rate. Outfield players took five penalty kicks to four targets to the goal, under low and high-pressure. Pressure, cognitive anxiety, and respiration rate significantly increased in the high-pressure condition. After controlling for the level of pressure experienced in the high-pressure condition, bivariate variable error performance significantly increased (i.e., players were more variable in their grouping of shots under stress). Qualitative data indicated the 6-step high-pressure protocol predominantly evoked the distraction mechanism. This research provided first insight into the experiences of professional footballers to a simulated high-pressure penalty protocol.
... Importantly, for an overweight/obese population, an improvement in strength promotes engagement in daily activities and physical activity, and subsequently improves their health-related quality of life. 26 In addition to the specific measures, it was important to get feedback to evaluate the success of the programme, and to gather useful information regarding wider implications of resistance training as a beneficial mode of physical activity. Informal feedback from the children involved, and their parents, provided supportive comments including: feeling positive to keep progressing, improved confidence, and a sense of achievement. ...
... 9 A process focus can be facilitated through the individual developing and utilising a range of coping mechanisms such as emotionfocused coping, problem-focused coping and avoidance coping while undertaking practice. 30,31,20,8,26,32 With the practice environment being an important variable in psychological preparation in football, all staff working within this need to understand the importance of psychological processes, to build these into their practice plans and to be able to provide psychological support within this environment. To some extent this requires a different approach for sports psychology practitioners; rather than focusing solely on delivering direct interventions they become 'facilitators', working with a wider coaching team to develop practice strategies and flexible coping strategies within the practice environment. ...
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Psychosocial coaching practice is an essential part of the whole coaching approach if coaches are to be able to focus on the all-round well-being of an athlete. The authors describe a study carried out recently regarding current attitudes towards psychosocial coaching, involving a questionnaire and interviews with key stakeholders.
... The context and importance of the penalty modify the kicker's emotional state (Jordet & Elferink-Gemser, 2012); the competition itself (Palao et al., 2010) and the point in the match when the penalty occurs are both relevant. In the European Championship and World Cup, twice the number of penalties is awarded in the second half of the match than in the first, and more penalties are given in the last 30 min than in the first 60 (Dalton et al., 2015). ...
An observation instrument was designed to analyse the interaction between the kicker and goalkeeper in a penalty kick, which allows to obtain relevant information in order to predict the direction of the kick. To fulfil this aim, an analysis was carried out of the interaction between kickers and goalkeepers in penalties taken in the following international team competitions: European Football Championship, Africa Cup of Nations, Copa América, AFC Asian Cup and Concacaf Gold Cup. Intra and inter-observer reliability was guaranteed using Cohen’s Kappa coefficient. Evidence was produced of generalisation accuracy in the observation sample and of the validity of the observation instrument. The results obtained provide relevant information regarding the zone –or sector– of the goal towards which the kick is aimed, from the information contained: in the contextual dimensions “competition”, “match time”, “match score” and “match result”; and in the dimensions that make up the diachronic structure of the observation instrument –“start of kicker’s run-up in relation to the ball”, “goalkeeper actions prior to the kick”, “movements in kicker’s run-up”, “length of kicker’s run-up”, “speed of kicker’s run-up”, “direction of kicker’s supporting foot”, “position of opposite arm to kicker’s kicking foot” and “contact surface”.
... Finally, previous follow-up studies (Avugos et al., 2020;Price & Wolfers, 2014) reached different conclusions than those originally drawn by Roskes et al., yet these studies did not examine the bias among women goalies' choices or analyse between-gender differences. Although shootouts are less frequent in women's soccer (15.9% of the women's games in our sample were determined by free kicks, compared to 22.9% of the men's games), this event is extremely important for the outcome of major tournaments in the global game of soccer, especially as the winner of each game advances to the next stage of competition, while the loser is immediately eliminated from the tournament (Jordet & Elferink-Gemser, 2012). ...
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There is plenty of research on penalty kicking in men's soccer, with a focus on either the goalkeeper or the penalty taker. Yet women's soccer and their playing behaviour are under-represented in research. The current study was designed to examine gender differences in the choice patterns of expert kickers and goalkeepers during penalty shooting in relation to the previously documented right-oriented bias. Using videos of penalties from shootouts at the highest level of men's and women's international soccer, we recorded the goalkeeper's dive direction and accurately measured the location of the ball as it crossed the goal line. We created a map of all kicks and their outcomes (goal, no goal, off-target). Our mapping procedure allowed us to use alternative definitions for the goal centre width and to extract the corresponding kick distribution between right, centre and left. In addition to analysing the potential right-oriented bias in women goalies’ behaviour, we also analysed the joint distribution of kickers’ and goalkeepers’ choices for each score situation (behind, tied, or ahead). Our findings indicate that the goalkeepers’ general tendency was to dive more often to the right, while the kickers’ tendency was to shoot to the right of the goalies. Moreover, this latter tendency of kicking to the goalies’ right was found to be stronger among the female kickers. Finally, our analysis refutes the claim that goalkeepers exhibit a detrimental right-oriented bias, with this conclusion being even stronger among female goalies.
... Within the variables mentioned above, the type of competition, i.e. the format of the dispute may, according to studies, influence the athletes' performance (Jordet & Elferink-Gemse, 2012;Gómez et al., 2013). As pointed out by Hernández and Torres (2009), it is necessary to consider the type of competition when training an athlete. ...
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p>The Judo World Ranking List has been used to assess its predictive power regarding athletic performance. The aim of this study was to check if the ranking difference among athletes in the individual rankings could be used as a predictor for the outcome of mixed teams judo competition. We sought to verify the association between the variable “rank difference” and the probability of the higher-ranked athlete winning against that lower-ranked. This heterogeneity between athletes is a major factor in increasing or decreasing the team’s chances of winning. The higher ranked athlete’s defeat seems to have a significant negative effect on his/her teammates in subsequent bouts. These findings imply that future studies on mixed teams judo competitions should consider individual ranking differences among athletes as a predictor of performance.</p
... Within the variables mentioned above, the type of competition, i.e. the format of the dispute may, according to studies, influence the athletes' performance (Jordet & Elferink-Gemse, 2012;Gómez et al., 2013). As pointed out by Hernández and Torres (2009), it is necessary to consider the type of competition when training an athlete. ...
The Judo World Ranking List has been used to assess its predictive power regarding athletic performance. The aim of this study was to check if the ranking difference among athletes in the individual rankings could be used as a predictor for the outcome of mixed teams judo competition. We sought to verify the association between the variable "rank difference" and the probability of the higher-ranked athlete winning against that lower-ranked. This heterogeneity between athletes is a major factor in increasing or decreasing the team's chances of winning. The higher ranked athlete's defeat seems to have a significant negative effect on his/her teammates in subsequent bouts. These findings imply that future studies on mixed teams judo competitions should consider individual ranking differences among athletes as a predictor of performance. El resultado de la competición de judo por equipos mixtos y el Ranking Mundial de Judo Resumen El Ranking Mundial de Judo se ha utilizado para evaluar su poder predictivo respecto al rendimiento deportivo. El objetivo de este estudio fue verificar si las diferencias de clasificación de los atletas en dicho ranking podrían usarse como predictores del resultado en las competiciones de judo por equipos mixtos. Se buscó verificar la asociación entre la variable "diferencia en el ranking" y la probabilidad de que el atleta mejor clasificado gane al aquel clasificado en posiciones inferiores. Esta heterogeneidad entre los atletas es un factor importante para aumentar o disminuir las posibilidades de triunfo del equipo. La derrota del atleta mejor clasificado parece tener un significativo efecto negativo en sus compañeros de equipo en los siguientes enfrentamientos. Estos hallazgos implican que estudios futuros sobre competiciones de judo por equipos mixtos deberían considerar las diferencias de clasificación en los rankings individuales como un predictoras del rendimiento. Palabras clave: Artes marciales; deportes de combate; judo; ranking de judo; competición de judo por equipos; análisis del rendimiento. Resultado da disputa de judô em evento por equipes mistas e o Ranking Mundial de Judô Resumo O Ranking Mundial de Judô tem sido utilizado para avaliar o poder preditivo de desempenho esportivo. O objetivo deste estudo foi utilizar a diferença de ranqueamento entre os atletas nos rankings individuais como preditor do resultado de competições de judô por equipes mistas. Buscamos verificar a associação entre a variável "diferença de ranking" e a probabilidade de o atleta com classificação mais alta vencer aquele com classificação mais baixa. Essa heterogeneidade entre atletas é um fator importante para aumentar ou diminuir as chances de vitória da equipe. A derrota do atleta favorito parece ter um efeito negativo significativo sobre seus companheiros de equipe nas disputas subsequentes. Estas descobertas implicam que estudo futuros, em competições de judô por equipes mistas, devem considerar as diferenças do ranqueamento individual entre os atletas como um preditor de desempenho. Palavras-chave: Artes marciais; esportes de combate; judô ranqueamento do judô; competição de judô por equipes; análise de desempenho.
Although many different emotions colour our experience of sport, on and off the pitch, anxiety sticks out because of its ubiquitous presence. Focusing on anxiety as a “state”, i.e. a momentary feeling, this chapter uses a cognitive model of emotion to develop an understanding of anxiety in sport. Triggers of anxiety in sport are identified, and the cognitive processes leading to the emotional experience, including body, mind and behaviour, are described. This chapter further describes a core topic of sport psychology, the examination of the relationship between anxiety and performance and the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Understanding of the processes involved in the anxiety experience allows the development and application of strategies to regulate and manage anxiety. This chapter concludes with showing how sport and physical activity may help persons to better deal with anxiety, anxiety disorders and stress.
In this review, we examined the literature on psychological aspects among professional soccer players and discussed the research trends in this field. National and international databases were searched using terms such as “psychological and (soccer OR football) and professional” and 56 studies were selected. A total of 15 psychological aspects were extracted from the selected studies. In addition, an overview of the studies revealed that (1) most of the studies were conducted in Europe and targeted approximately one soccer team, (2) most of the studies were survey or observational studies and only a few were intervention studies, and (3) most of the research topics were related to players’ mental health, with many studies dealing with aspects such as stress and coping strategies. From study designs, it can be said that the research targeting professional soccer players is still in the stage of identifying the psychological aspects among the players and organizing these in terms of significance. In the future, it will be necessary to determine the significant psychological aspects through research and suggest and evaluate interventions for professional soccer players.
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A considerable amount of human behavior occurs within the context of sports. In recent years there have been notable advances in psychological science research applied to understanding athletic endeavor. This work has utilized a number of novel theoretical, methodological, and data analytic approaches. We review the current evidence related to developmental considerations, intrapersonal athlete factors, group processes, and the role of the coach in explaining how athletes function within the sport domain. This body of work sheds light on the diverse ways in which psychological processes contribute to athletic strivings. It also has the potential to spark interest in domains of psychology concerned with achievement as well as to encourage cross-domain fertilization of ideas. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 74 is January 2023. Please see for revised estimates.
In team sports, it has been found that team mistakes were reported as a stressor by both males and females, and at every playing level (e.g., club, university, national). The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of partners’ play on performance, emotions, and coping of doubles racquet sport athletes. Seventeen one-on-one semistructured interviews were conducted over the course of 6 months. Inductive and deductive analysis produced the main themes of overall impact on performance (i.e., positive, negative, or no impact), negative emotions (i.e., anger), positive emotions (i.e., excitement), emotion-focused coping (i.e., acceptance), and problem-focused coping (i.e., team strategy). These athletes acknowledge that how their partner plays significantly affects not only their emotions but also their own play and their choice of coping strategies. Future research should try to understand which forms of coping reduce the impact of partners’ play.
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This book provides a review and discussion of the recent move towards the positive aspects and consequences of competitive anxiety. Following a description of competitive stress-related terminologies, conceptual and psychometric developments are considered including the notion of directional anxiety interpretations. The commentary then focuses on the theories and models that outline the potential positive aspects of anxiety in relation to athletic performance. Applied implications and future research directions are also discussed together with a number of explicatory statements regarding the nature of the precompetitive stress experience in sport.
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Kicks from the penalty mark (official term for the "penalty shootout") are regularly featured in major soccer tournaments to determine the outcome of tied games. Based on the contingency-competence-control (CCC) model (Weisz & Stipek, 1982), this study provides an examination of the control beliefs and anxiety experienced by W elite soccer players in the context of a major tournament penalty shootout. Measures included interview questions and CSAI-2R (Cox, Martens, & Russell, 2003) with direction instructions (Jones & Swain, 1992 The results gave some support to the model's predictions. The quantitative analyses demonstrated that perceived contingency and competence correlated with anxiety. For example, believing that outcome is based on luck was associated with debilitative interpretation of somatic anxiety symptoms. Most findings were supported by the qualitative analyses. The CCC-model can be useful for researchers endeavouring to learn more about perceived control in competitive sport.
A study was carried out to examine the ability of equestrians to accurately report precompetition emotions and thoughts across varying time delays (3, 7, and 14 days) after competition. Forty male and female dressage riders were randomly divided into two equal groups: participants who watched their video-taped precompetition routine before responding to the items, and participants who visualized the precompetition routine without any external aid. Each rider completed several questionnaires which measured emotions, items related to horses, and an open-ended question on thoughts and emotions at that moment. After a delay of 3, 7, and 14 days, the riders were asked to respond to the same questions after imagining themselves preparing for the competition. Repeated-measures MANOVA indicate that though some decrease in emotional intensity was noted for some emotions in the retrospective report, the stability of reporting precompetition emotions was very high in all delay periods. The horse related items were reported particularly accurately. Watching the videotape did not improve the accuracy of the report. Content analysis, however, indicated that when measurement consisted of free report, many emotions and thoughts were added or omitted in the delayed modes. Ericsson and Simon's (1980, 1984) verbal reports and protocol analysis conceptualization is used to elaborate upon these results.
Qualitative research in sport psychology is slowly becoming more of an accepted form of inquiry, and most of this research is conducted using various interview methods. In this paper, information is provided on a paradigm that has been given little consideration in sport psychology literature. This paradigm is termed existential phenomenology, and within this paradigm a chief mode of inquiry is the phenomenological interview. With its open-ended format and similarities to the athlete-sport psychology consultant interaction in a performance enhancement intervention, it is a method that appears to offer valuable information about the participant's experience that might otherwise go unnoticied. The basic views of existential phenomenology, including its philosophical foundations as well as instructions for conducting a phenomenological interview study, are provided. Specific discussion of the potential significance of this type of research for the field of sport psychology is offered.
Patterns of human self-defeating or self-destructive behavior are examined in relation to several hypothesized causes. Threatened egotism appears to be a major, pervasive cause: Self-defeating responses are especially common when people feel that others may perceive them less favorably than the people desire. Self-regulation failure is also a common element in most self-defeating behavior. Emotional distress is often a precipitating factor. Several causal processes, including foolish risk taking and escapist responses, link emotional distress to self-defeat.
Investigated the functional relations among cognitive appraisal and coping processes and their short-term outcomes within stressful encounters. The authors used an intraindividual analysis of the interrelations among primary appraisal (what was at stake in the encounter), secondary appraisal (coping options), 8 forms of problem- and emotion-focused coping, and encounter outcomes in a sample of 85 married couples (females aged 35–45 yrs and males aged 26–54 yrs). Findings show that coping was strongly related to cognitive appraisal; the forms of coping that were used varied depending on what was at stake and the options for coping. Coping was also differentially related to satisfactory and unsatisfactory encounter outcomes. Findings clarify the functional relations among appraisal and coping variables and the outcomes of stressful encounters. (47 ref)