So, a week after the death of his mother, Frank Lampard returns to the Chelsea side, for the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool. As the game goes into extra-time deadlock, Chelsea are awarded a penalty. It’s presumed that Michael Ballack will carry on spot-kick duties.
So, there’s a real sense of surprise, when Lampard steps up to take the pressure kick. With remarkable coolness, he outwits Reina, and places the penalty, with aplomb, to the keepers left.
It’s a great demonstration of mental and emotional strength from Lampard. For, from his reaction after scoring, it’s obvious that the goal is dedicated to his mother.
The penalty spot, is one area on the pitch where emotional weakness is always exposed. Season after season, we see top players fail to convert from twelve yards. Witness Christian Vieri’s desperate missed penalty, for Fiorentina in Thursday’s UEFA Cup semi-final. The pressure can eat away at mental clarity, leaving the player to simply hit and hope.
But not Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge. This was a man very clear about what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it. And, maybe most importantly, why he was going to do it. His motive gave him the power to think decisively under pressure.
The pressure was on. But, like a top professional, he was able to match that external pressure with internal power. When the external pressure is greater than the internal power, that is when we witness choking. Internal power comes from being able to draw on your personal strengths, qualities, past success and motivation.
Frank Lampard didn’t choke, simply because. like Stuart Pearce in 1996, he had a powerful reason why he wanted to take a pressure penalty. And, when your motive is strong, nothing, but nothing, can stop a good player succeeding.