The Art of: Taking a Penalty Kick

Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor

Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke Josh Ellis shows his form to The Duke Monday afternoon on Rooney Field.
Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke
Josh Ellis shows his form to The Duke Monday afternoon on Rooney Field.

A wise man once remarked to me, “Are you a goal scorer, or one who scores goals?”

Although I occasionally step onto Rooney Field after classes to throw a football around with friends to entertain my delusions of grandeur that I can throw a football 70 yards instead of 35, I stepped onto Rooney Field Monday afternoon to learn the art of taking a penalty kick from junior midfielder Josh Ellis, the Dukes’ leading scorer this season.

It should be noted that one of my most distinct memories of playing high school soccer as a steady benchwarmer and ball boy on the varsity squad is of a penalty kick I bombed directly over the crossbar as a sophomore in garbage time, which counts for three points on a football field and zero points in the heat, or lack thereof, of a soccer match. So a lesson on how to keep your cool and place the ball inside either post was in order. Josh is obviously much more well versed on the subject than I am.

Walking me through the process of one of the sport’s many set pieces, he articulated to me that “each player has his own routine” and generally prefers one side of the net over the other. As he lined up his own shot just outside the end zone, he explained that the key to success inside the box is to take a few steps back, “remain confident and place the ball past the keeper.”

He stepped purposefully toward the ball and buried it just inside the post to his right and sophomore goalkeeper Sam Frymier’s left. Though Sam has become familiar with Josh’s tendency to go right practicing and playing on the same team for over a year now, it’s still difficult to lunge left and deflect a shot aimed precisely at the inside post in a practice situation, let alone a live game.

After a brief refresher in remaining calm, choosing a side and tickling some twine with a well-placed shot, it was my turn on the mark. Addie, The Duke’s resident female staffer and full-time sports editor, stood confidently on her line between the pipes. In my defense, slacks and suede shoes are in no way the proper gear to knock the ball around on the turf. She watched triumphantly as I once again disregarded any semblance of instruction, relapsed to my high school ways and shanked my attempt ten yards wide of the right post.

I quickly gathered myself, retrieved the ball and lined up another attempt to redeem myself now for the third time in my illustrious soccer career. Knowing I had the upper hand on Addie this time with a shot at redemption, I heeded Josh’s advice and finished my second attempt in the same spot he did during his demonstration.

Soccer may seem like a trivial game where ten players knock a ball around and attack the opposition’s defense, but keeping your cool, finishing your shot and maybe celebrating a bit after is a lesson both you and I can take away from my struggles in front of a net.