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Handling Crosses #2

by  Don Williams

Always use the 6-yard box for training crosses. The keepers need this for a reference point.

The keepers begin each with a ball. The coach is standing out wide, between the edge of the 6-yard box and the edge of the 18-yard box. The keeper throws the coach a ball and prepares to receive a cross. The coach throws a ball underhand up in the air for the keeper. First the ball is thrown out toward the top of the 6-yard box. This is the easiest ball for a keeper to challenge because the keeper can get a running start at the ball and can jump higher. It can also be the scariest for a keeper because they have to leave their goal to go get it.  After this is done from both sides the coach throws a ball that comes down half way between the 6-yard box and the goal. Repeat both sides.

Next is the hardest for a keeper. A ball that comes down close to the goal. The reason for the difficulty hear, is that the keeper cannot get a good running start and is many times at the mercy of the striker, who can be coming in at full speed. Repeat both sides.

After this series with no pressure, we introduce a passive attacker. This attacker should start out by standing still. (If you have more than one keeper you’re training, you can use the keepers as the attacker.) Next the attacker is allowed to jump for the ball. After success here, the attacker can pick up intensity until they are making full curved runs in at the goal and are actually trying to score.

It is very important to remember not to be in too big of a hurry to jump through the series, every keeper learns and progresses at a different rate. Sometimes it takes a number of sessions just to get to this point in the training.

Coaching points:

Rather than re-iterate all the coaching points I made last time, let me just summarize and make a couple of new ones.

  • Proper stance
  • Calling “keeper” very early.
  • Long last step. Upon takeoff the keeper will need to use their last step as leverage by making it a very long last step.
  • Protection knee. The knee that is closest to the field will need to come up for protection from on rushing attackers.

New coaching points:

  • Decide early, but come late. In other words, if the keeper comes to the point where they think the ball will be coming down too early, then they will be standing still when it arrives. This gives an advantage to an attacker who times their run well to arrive when the ball does. We want our keeper to also time their arrival to that of the ball.
  • * First step is back. This means that when a keeper sees that the cross is going to be high, it is crucial not to go with the first impulse they have, which is usually to run forward toward the ball. The first step should be away from the ball. This will help the keeper better judge where the ball is going to come down and will also allow the keeper to move forward and attack the ball. (note coaching point above)
  • Catching the ball. Arms must bent slightly at the elbow and the catch should be made in front of the face. This technique is usually ignored in training and as a result keepers often drop crosses that they could otherwise hold. A note on this point. I’ve heard it said that keepers should catch the ball at the highest point possible. This is not exactly true. They should catch the ball at the highest point possible, while maintaining proper technique as noted above. After the keeper has jumped, has the hands and arms in and the ball the proper position and if the ball is still too high to catch properly, then the ball may be dealt with in another way, such as being punched out. In my up coming articles we’ll introduce the ball and move through the 1 v 1, small-sided games and a scrimmage. All dealing with crosses.

Good Luck in training,

Don Williams

Don Williams is a veteran college coach whose coaching career spans 30 years. He coached at virtually every level in the United States, including a pro stint in the USL, the NCAA, NAIA, and at the Junior College level. Most recently, he coached the men and women at Feather River Junior College in California, where he was able to transfer 92 players for $4,375,000 in scholarships having his players recruited by many distinguished schools such as Penn State, UMass, Florida State, UCLA, Lipscomb, New Mexico State, North Carolina, University of Washington and many more. Before coaching at Feather River, Don spent 12 years coaching at California State University at East Bay. Don has also been the men’s head coach at Ohlone College and the goalkeeper coach for the Bay Area Seals of the USL. There he coached such notables as Jon Conway, who went on to play for the NY Red Bulls, Chicago Fire, and Toronto FC of the MLS. Don also served as the inaugural Director of Coaching for the Northern Nevada State Olympic Development program, where he helped 67 players get invited to the US Regional Event. Don is Head of Operations with Sports Recruiting USA for The Americas, the most successful and connected college placement agency in the world. He has earned his "A" License from the United States Soccer Federation.