Thursday, July 25, 2024

Why England’s penalty shoot-out ‘buddy system’ does NOT benefit players and could even HINDER them, explains sports psychologist

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England‘s new penalty shoot-out ‘buddy system’ will not necessarily help players and could hamper their character-building, a sports psychologist has claimed.

The Three Lions used a ‘buddy system’ during their spot-kick triumph over Switzerland in the quarter-finals, whereby a player would walk the previous taker back to the team on the half-way line. 

The idea is for the ‘buddy’ to ease the pressure on a mortified player goes wrong, acting as a comfort blanket on an otherwise lonely walk. On the surface, it seems a good idea. 

But Paul McVeigh, a former Premier League star turned sports psychologist, told Mail Sport it will not benefit players ahead of England’s semi-final clash with the Netherlands. 

‘When you hit penalties, it’s so individual. Whether someone comes back and greets you after you’ve missed a penalty or the penalty has been saved, I don’t think that will have much impact on you being able to feel any better any time soon,’ McVeigh said. 

England’s penalty shoot-out ‘buddy system’ ‘will not have much impact’ on making players feel better, a sports psychologist has explained 

Gareth Southgate assigned buddies to greet kick takers and walk them back to the team during the victory over Switzerland

Gareth Southgate assigned buddies to greet kick takers and walk them back to the team during the victory over Switzerland

Ex-Premier League star turned sports psychologist Paul McVeigh argues that facing up to setbacks as an individual is good for character-building

Ex-Premier League star turned sports psychologist Paul McVeigh argues that facing up to setbacks as an individual is good for character-building

‘Lots of players struggle to move on from those things (missing a penalty). It’s very easy to get caught up in it and for it to hang around you for a while.’

Obviously, having a shoulder to cry on is no bad thing. But McVeigh, who has worked with Crystal Palace and Norwich City as a sports psychologist, explained that fronting up to setbacks as an individual, rather than trying to find ways to quickly move on, can be better for players in the long run.  

‘You also see someone like (Bukayo) Saka – it happened to him and it’s almost been the making of him, maturing and developing because of the amount of abuse he went through and that’s such a low point in his career,’ he said. 

‘That’s the resilience that he has shown because of the challenges he has gone through. I think it’s easier to say players can get over it just by moving on but actually it’s harder to do.’

Saka spoke of his journey from the heartache of 2021 at the weekend – though he did not face his burden alone in a broader sense. ‘I have faith in God. To come back from something like that’s really difficult. Today I took the chance,’ he said. 

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold all took impeccable penalties against Switzerland to help England advance. 

The ‘buddy system’ was originally explained by football psychlogist Geir Jordet after England’s win over Switzerland.

Gareth Southgate took time to speak with Declan Rice, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker and John Stones during his team talk ahead of the nerve-wracking climax to the quarter-final. 

Luke Shaw was assigned as Jude Bellingham's buddy and would have been taksed with consoling him had he missed

Luke Shaw was assigned as Jude Bellingham’s buddy and would have been taksed with consoling him had he missed 

Declan Rice was given the role of supporting Ivan Toney no matter the outcome of his effort

Declan Rice was given the role of supporting Ivan Toney no matter the outcome of his effort

Bukayo Saka has become a stronger character after missing his penalty in the Euro 2020 final, McVeigh explained

Bukayo Saka has become a stronger character after missing his penalty in the Euro 2020 final, McVeigh explained

Walker was assigned to Palmer, Shaw to Bellingham, Stones to Saka, and Toney had Rice as a buddy. 

They met their taker on the walk back to the half-way line and would have been charged with consoling them, but luckily there was only delight for England. 

Jordet said: ‘They’ve invented a way to approach this individual event as a collective, team event.

‘They have a structure for preventing the players from going at this alone. A support structure takes down the pressure just a little bit.’

England have a chequered history when it comes to penalty showdowns on the grand stages of football.

You do not need a long memory to recall England’s heartbreak at Euro 2020 after losing in the final against Italy, while they have also come a cropper at the semi-final stages at the 1990 World Cup and 1996 Euros. 

All in all the Three Lions have only won four of their 11 shoot-outs at major tournaments and Gareth Southgate has been eager to sharpen their penalty skills. 

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