Nonverbal Cues in Sports: Soccer Penalty Kick

The pink locker room has been a popular story . . . and fortunately, Martin was reminded of another sneaky, brilliant tactic used by Chelsea in the opposing team locker room

Have the boot locker low down, close to floor level, so that the away team player player has to bend down (and hopefully strain their back in the process) … and then position very large coat hooks for their kit at head height, so that when they stand up again they crack their head!

Indeed, who does come up with these great ways to influence your opponent. Are locker room designers really studying psychology or are these tactics developed over time by teams thinking about what they dislike? Is there anything scientific about this?

It turns out there are two academic, peer reviewed journals to look for answers: Journal of Sports Science (UK), and Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in the USA. I am currently reading through issues to bring you the best in locker room shinanegans.

Here’s the abstract of the paper I am reading now:

Soccer KickIn this study, we examined the impact of soccer players’ uniform colour and gaze behaviour on the impressions that are formed of them by opposing goalkeepers. Twelve soccer goalkeepers observed video footage, filmed from between the goalposts to simulate their usual viewpoint, of four players preparing to take a penalty kick. Each of the four players displayed a different combination of gaze (either 90% or 10% with gaze operationalized as looking directly at the camera) and uniform colour (red or white). Goalkeepers rated each player on a series of descriptors (e.g. confidence, composure, assertiveness) and rated their expectancies for successfully saving penalty kicks from that player. Analysis revealed that those penalty takers displaying 90% gaze were perceived to possess positive characteristics to a greater extent than penalty takers displaying 10% gaze. Results also revealed penalty takers wearing red were perceived to possess positive characteristics to a greater extent than those wearing white. Goalkeepers reported higher expectancies of saving penalties from penalty takers displaying 10% gaze and wearing white uniforms than any of the other combinations. Our results therefore support the potential importance of gaze and uniform colour in the formation of impressions and expectancies in sport.

Soccer penalty takers’ uniform colour and pre-penalty kick gaze affect the impressions formed of them by opposing goalkeepers by Iain Greenlees, Alex Leyland, Richard Thelwell, and William Filby. Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 26, Issue April 2008 , pages 569 – 576.

Jersey color and where the player was looking influenced the Goalies’ perception of how well he would do at saving the penalty. That’s bold.

Though Martin is no fan of Chelsea, the research was conducted in part at Chelsea. And even the Brits are naming the game Soccer in the UK journal . . .

Image courtesy of Doha Stadium Plus Qatar

16 thoughts on “Nonverbal Cues in Sports: Soccer Penalty Kick”

  1. Soccer penalty kick – all that must have some effect.

    Dick Butkis of the Chicago Bears said he used to stand in the path the opposing team would take as they came on to the field and give them his game face. It must of had some effect.

    I remember some player, I think a quarter back, in an NFL film saying that he scored a touchdown one time because he ran like he never did in his life and he heard Butkis screaming murder as he ran after him.

    Martin O’Connor

  2. Indeed! Red is a GREAT power confidence color.
    Lots of the HOCKEY team jerseys use it!
    unlike, sadly, the SJ Sharks
    who wear those immediately obviously aggressive testosterone raging manly color combination….

    teal and grey

    SO California
    pass the yogurt and granola, ok?

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

    Single Baby Boomer Dating Success Expert

  3. I sure do better when playing games when I focus on the goal – what ever game – than just socializing and playing. Sometimes it depends how much my partner wants to win.


  4. I always used the tactic of looking at one corner of the goal three or four times, and then shot to the opposite side…nothin but net. How’s that for covert?

  5. It’s interesting that there are actual studies to prove what anyone who has played a sport knows. I still remember how the refs hated our team in field hockey because we wore black uniforms and they would complain that the school chose bacl on purpose so we could more intimidating.
    I actually had a girl growl at me once, the problem was it made me laugh.

    Imagine if the game was simply based on skill with all other factors even? Nahhh, goes against human nature.

    Jen B

  6. I’d be interested to know how the impression/expectancy correlated with ability to prevent goal scoring. I wonder how sponsorship colour both on the uniform and surrounding playing area affects the outcome of a game?

    Keri Eagan

  7. This is crazy (but kind of a great idea) I would never have thought along those lines in designing a locker room.

    Lisa McLellan

  8. Great post!

    I remember things like that happening in our locker room, as a visitor.

    I never thought it had such an effect on me, but maybe it did a little. As a team overall, it may have had a bigger effect.


  9. Great post!

    There is something to be said about colors.

    Blue is a more trusting color, I believe, and so can be used in certain places on a product page to help in giving the visitor the right feeling to buy.

    James Mason

  10. Besides what the goaltender thought was going to happen on the penalty kick, was there any actual difference in the number of goals scored? ie.. did the goalkeepers thinking– confident or not– make any difference–positive or negative in his save percentage?

    Seize the Day,

  11. Soccer! Soccer!! It seems some Brits will do anything to appease the US (or get their paper published)!

    England, who play predominantly in white, are notoriously bad penalty takers. I hope they didn’t do their analysis based on the England team?

    I love this stuff – as long as I’m not on the away team!

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