As an Englishman, discussing penalty kicks invariably ends in tears. We’re talking about soccer or football here, where one player stands 12 yards from goal and tries to place it past a goalkeeper. The odds are in the penalty takers favor. Unless you are English. Check out this Wall Street Journal article if you are really interested about England’s knack for choking. I’ve seen it enough.

England Team
England at Soldier Field in 2005 (no penalties that day)

I used to play soccer a lot. I don’t as much anymore – job, travel, baby, etc. I’m okay with that. But this past Sunday I did. It was my first full match in a year. I played 80/90 minutes on a hot day, hard ground. It was an absolute blast. I took a penalty.
Penalties are simply cruel. They are agonizing to watch. It’s horrible when someone misses. It makes men cry.

AkiTina wrote –

“Life and Penalty Kicks. Whoever in the FIFA decided that a match should be decided by a series of penalty kicks is a real masochist, a lover of all emotions that produce pain and excitement, anguish and ecstasy, sorrow and joy. The goalkeeper is hated or exalted. And if a player happens to miss his kick, he goes down into history as the one who shamefully blew away the team’s opportunity to win. What kind of lesson and message does this give to humanity? Does our success depend on one kick? Isn’t life just a series of actions and experiences, all good, all with courage, and it really is not a question of kicking to win, but rather moving to live fully?”

I don’t know who this AkiTina is, but she just made this blog post easier. Eloquent. Works in an Embassy. And does yoga. She’s qualified in my book. And she really captures what it’s like to take a penalty kick.

I’m not a big proponent of using sports as metaphors for life. I’m highlighting a pretty specific action within an untrusted sport (in the US) to talk life. There’s a difference.

But AkiTina is spot on. Taking a penalty kick is very much like living life. You take risks, you face potential humiliation or failure, you strive for success. And during this entire process it’s testing, emotional, and filled with opportunities to grow.

I’ve taken lots of penalty kicks in my day. I’ve scored most of them. I once missed one so badly, it struck a car in the parking lot. Ouch.

This past Sunday, I strolled up to that penalty spot, 12 yards from the goalkeeper, perfectly calm, my direction already selected.

I knew I could fail. I knew I could score. I didn’t care. It was the process I enjoyed. As AkiTina wrote, I was “….moving to live fully…”

I took about five steps, struck the ball to the right, heard the most beautiful dink of leather striking metal, and looked up to see the ball glance off the post into the goal. It was perfect.

Life isn’t much different and I’ll never turn down the opportunity to live fully. I just hope I don’t hit a parked car.

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And what is the best penalty ever, according to YouTube? It’s Francesco Totti for AS Roma during a practice session. 12 million views don’t lie people.

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