Leadership: Would You Take The Penalty?

Posted on Jul 18, 2014 in Francis Christie News, Leadership, Learning & Development, Personal Development

World Cup Penalty Shoot-out: Would You Volunteer?

Volunteering to take a penalty is often the defining moment of a player’s career.Can you carry the weight of a nation’s expectations on your shoulders? If you succeed, you are a national hero. Fail and you may be remembered for ‘all the wrong reasons’. Or will you?


Romero saves the first penalty

When Ron Vlaar walked up to take the first penalty for the Netherlands, in the World Cup semi-final against Argentina, the stress was evident in his body language. He did not look confident. He took it badly and Romero, the goal-keeper for Argentina, saved the ball easily.

On the other hand, Argentina sent their best player, Lionel Messi, to take the first penalty. He looked confident and scored! This raised the spirits of the rest of the team and all subsequent penalty-takers also scored. Argentina won 4-2 on penalties.

Would you see this as a leadership opportunity? Or be paralysed with fear?

Matthew Syed, Sports Columnist for The Times, has written a brilliant article about this. (See: http://bit.ly/MissPen) He describes the ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response that we all experience when faced with a threat. It is instinctive, very rapid and beyond the control of our rational mind.

How To Respond?

There are ways to deal with this through coaching. Sports psychologists have found ways to help us come to terms with this uncontrollable, instinctive response:

  1. First, acknowledge that it happens to you and talk about how to deal with this response. Top athletes often speak openly about their fears;
  2. They also speak with pride about facing up to and dealing with their fears. By discussing it with a sports psychologist, they have reframed the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. That makes the event something positive that they can embrace; and
  3. They have recognised that there is life beyond ‘this event’. If you miss this penalty, life will still go on. There will be other games and other opportunities to distinguish yourself.

In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 4 out of 16 matches have been decided by taking penalties. 26 penalties were scored – a surprisingly high 72% success rate.  Perhaps it is not as risky as you think?(See: http://bit.ly/ResWC14)

Matthew’s advice is simple: ‘If you are given an opportunity to take the equivalent of a penalty, grab it! You will grow, learn and mature.’

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