In many sports, athletes perform motor tasks that simultaneously require both speed and accuracy for success, such as kicking a ball. Because of the biomechanical trade-off between speed and accuracy, athletes must balance these competing demands. Modelling the optimal compromise between speed and accuracy requires one to quantify how task speed affects the dispersion around a target, a level of experimental detail not previously addressed. Using soccer penalties as a system, we measured two-dimensional kicking error over a range of speeds, target heights, and kicking techniques. Twenty experienced soccer players executed a total of 8466 kicks at two targets (high and low). Players kicked with the side of their foot or the instep at ball speeds ranging from 40% to 100% of their maximum. The inaccuracy of kicks was measured in horizontal and vertical dimensions. For both horizontal and vertical inaccuracy, variance increased as a power function of speed, whose parameter values depended on the combination of kicking technique and target height. Kicking precision was greater when aiming at a low target compared to a high target. Side-foot kicks were more accurate than instep kicks. The centre of the dispersion of shots shifted as a function of speed. An analysis of the covariance between horizontal and vertical error revealed right-footed kickers tended to miss below and to the left of the target or above and to the right, while left-footed kickers tended along the reflected axis. Our analysis provides relationships needed to model the optimal strategy for penalty kickers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-166
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Apr 27 2018


  • Accuracy
  • Kick
  • Modeling
  • Penalty
  • Soccer
  • Speed
  • Trade-off

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling the two-dimensional accuracy of soccer kicks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this