Soccer Penalty Kicks Explained | Everything You Need To Know

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Soccer Penalty Kicks

Penalty kicks in soccer can be incredibly exciting to watch and nerve-racking to take! PKs and penalty shootouts often provide some of the most exciting moments of a game. But do you know what penalty kicks are and how to take them? In this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about penalty kicks in soccer, including what penalty kicks are, when they are awarded, and most importantly, how to take a penalty kick so that you score every time!

What Is A Penalty Kick In Soccer?

Penalty kicks are direct freekicks that take place within the penalty box, also known as the 18-yard box. They are awarded when a defending player commits a foul within their own penalty box. When this happens, one player from the opposing team gets the opportunity to have a free strike on goal from the penalty spot with only the goalkeeper allowed to defend it. Penalty kicks are also referred to as a ‘PK’, a ‘spot kick’, or simply as a ‘penalty’.

What Are The Rules When Taking A Penalty?

There are several rules that the penalty taker, the goalkeeper, and other players must follow during a penalty kick. Here are the rules when taking a penalty:

  • The ball must be stationary and on the penalty spot before it is kicked.
  • The ball must go forward. The ball cannot be kicked backward.
  • The goalkeeper must start with at least part of one foot on the goal line.
  • The goalkeeper can only move off the goal line after the ball has been kicked by the penalty taker.
  • All other players on the field must be behind the ball and outside the penalty area until the ball is kicked.
  • The penalty taker cannot touch the ball again until it touches another player, a goal is scored, or the ball goes out of bounds.

When Is A Penalty Kick Awarded In Soccer?

In soccer, a penalty kick is awarded when a player from the defending team commits a ‘direct free-kick offense’ within the defending team’s penalty area. The ‘direct free-kick offenses’ that can result in a penalty kick are as follows:

  • A player other than the defending goalkeeper deliberately touches the ball with their hand or arm.
  • A player uses careless, reckless, or excessive force to charge, jump, kick, challenge, push, strike, or kick an opponent.
  • A player holds an opponent or impedes an opponent with contact.
  • A player spits at or bites an opponent or match official.
  • A player throws an object at the ball, opponent, or match official, or makes contact with the ball with a held object (this one isn’t that common!).

How Do Penalty Shootouts Work?

In tournaments and competitions when teams are competing for a cup, if the score is tied at the end of normal time (and sometimes extra time), then the winner is determined by a penalty shootout! Here’s how penalty shootouts work.

First, both teams choose 5 players to take one penalty each. The teams take turns taking the penalties and after all 5 players on both teams have taken a penalty, the team with the most goals, wins.

If, during the penalty shootout, it becomes impossible for a team to win, then the shootout ends and the team that scored the most is declared the winner. For example, if team A scores their first 3 penalties and team B misses their first 3, then it is impossible for team B to catch up because the most they could score is 2. So, in this case, the shootout would end and team A is declared the winner.

If teams are tied after taking all 5 penalties, then the shootout goes to ‘sudden death’. This is where each team selects one penalty taker, and after they both take a penalty, the first team to be up by 1 point is the winner. For example, if both players score or both players miss, then 2 more players are selected who then take another penalty. But, if one player scores and one player misses, the scoring player’s team wins.

One important thing to note is that during a penalty shootout everyone on a team must take a penalty before any player is allowed to take a second one. So, it is very important that all players practice penalty kicks as they may be called upon during a high-pressure penalty shootout.

Tips For Taking A Penalty Kick So You Score Everytime

It is incredibly important to practice penalty kicks. Doing so will make sure that when a player inevitably gets called upon to take a penalty kick, they are confident and ready to put the ball in the back of the net! Here are 6 useful tips to improve your penalty taking skills so you can make sure you always score!

1. Practice Alot!

Whether you’re taking a penalty during regular play or a penalty shootout, you will undoubtedly feel the pressure! Even the best professional players fold under pressure and miss sometimes. So, how can you make sure the pressure doesn’t get to you and you hit your target? Practice, practice, and practice some more! Doing so will make sure that when the time comes, you’ll be able to confidently place the ball on the spot, pick out a corner, and score every time.

2. Know Before You Go

Picking your spot in advance (i.e. the place in the back of the net you are aiming for) is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your penalty kick. If you don’t know where you plan to kick the ball as you approach it (or worse still change your mind as you approach) your chances of striking the ball smoothly and cleanly are slim. So, make an early decision on where you’re going to kick the ball, stick with that decision, and then focus all your energy on using the correct technique to put the ball there.

3. Develop A Routine

Developing a simple routine for taking penalties will help you block out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. Most professional soccer players develop routines to help them get in the zone and prepare for big matches or moments. Most routines for players taking penalties involve taking some breaths, slowing your heart rate down, and blocking out everything and everyone else around you. A great example of this can be seen if you check out what Christiano Ronaldo does before each free kick or penalty that he takes. If it’s good enough for Christiano Ronaldo it’s probably good enough for you!

4. Place The Ball Yourself

Sometimes a referee or the goalkeeper (see next tip below) might try and put the ball down on the penalty spot for you. Don’t let that happen! Place the ball yourself so the ball is exactly where you want it and then focus on your run-up and striking the ball. You are in control of the situation and nobody else!

5. Don’t Be Put Off By The Goalkeeper

Along with trying to place the ball on the spot themselves, goalkeepers can try all kinds of tricks to put penalty takers off. This could including waving their arms, moving from side to side, standing directly in front of the ball until the referee moves them, or even standing towards one side of the goal to try and force you to shoot in the other direction. Goalkeepers do this because they know the odds are stacked in the penalty takers’ favor, so don’t let their antics put you off. Stick to your routine, decide where you’re going to place the ball, and shoot! Don’t be put off by the goalkeeper!

6. Visualize Your Success

This last tip for taking penalty kicks also applies to playing soccer in general. A great way to develop your confidence is to visualize your success, and if you follow the above tips for taking a penalty kick, then there’s no reason you won’t be successful next time you take a penalty kick. You can start visualizing your success the night before a game and continue to do so in the morning and then in during the warm-up for the game. As you are about to take a penalty, run through the same visualization again. Visualizing your success like this may sound simple, but trust me, it really helps to improve your penalty kicks and your game in general.

More Useful Resources

Thanks for reading. I hope this guide on penalty kicks in soccer was useful to you. Before you go, check out these related resources:

7 Fun Drills To Practice Soccer At Home
Soccer Field Size And Dimensions
Soccer Player Numbers Explained