Maddie Hinch: The Queen of the shootout

Maddie Hinch stops the Dutch in their tracks

English sporting teams and the penalty shootout have been the subject of many a joke and punch line over the years. A seemingly national affliction preventing any of our sporting heroes getting their team over the line in the pressure cooker of the shootout had become so commonplace as to become almost cliché. However one woman (and her team mates) have done some sterling work in changing that perception.

The last two major finals goalkeeper Maddie Hinch has played in, one for England one for Great Britain, have gone to shootout and both times, the No1 has excelled, helping her team to the most un-English of feats- the shootout victory.

Speaking to the Times, who described her as “the greatest goalkeeper in British sport” Hinch offered her services to help advise the nation’s footballers on how to shed the millstone round their necks.

“I'd happily have a chat with anyone who wants to know about how I do things I'd love to hear what they do. For all we know they are doing the same as we do in our sport.” she says. “Teams dread shootouts and breaking that is going to be hard. The problem for England footballers is a lack of confidence. They need to strip it back and start again and do the work. They don’t suddenly become bad footballers but at the moment it has become a mental thing they need to overcome.”

Hinch, famously, meticulously does her homework on each and every opponent, trawling through hours and hours of footage with the team’s Video Analyst Amber Luzar. Despite her almost obsessive commitment to her preparation, Hinch almost came unstuck in Rio. As she explains to the Times:

“A player who I didn't recognise stepped up. I thought “Who the hell is this?” I started flicking through my book but I thought “Don't give it away that you don't know what to do.” That was the closest one, it hit me on the head. I was more reactive than proactive.”

Maddie Hinch celebrates at the Olympics

Despite having to do one of the shootouts on the fly, the No1 is keen to emphasise the importance of preparation, no matter what the sport in question.

“All goalkeepers prefer to dive one way. If you know which is not their favourite corner then you can practice and hit that corner again and again. If you execute that skill and they still save it, then fair play. You need to work out your opponent’s favourite thing because under pressure the majority won’t change”

As she reflects on her Olympic gold medal, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all come very easily to Hinch, but she has also dealt with the disappointment of non selection being dropped at U21 level when her family had to deal with “pure tantrum” stuff. However she is keen to stress that those disappointments make the successes even sweeter.

For now the disappointments are firmly behind her and Hinch is happy looking ahead to hopefully more successes and continuing her part in curing her nation’s fear of the penalty shootout. Perhaps Gareth Southgate will be in touch soon?

Maddie Hinch was talking to the The Times' Rick Broadbent. Full article here.