Almost two-thirds of all goals are scored come from crosses. Great crossers are not only free-kick specialists but also have the ability to deliver the ball from deep positions into a danger area in front of the goal for teammates to score.
The pace and height of the cross are important. Anything kicked too hard could go straight into the goaltender's arms. Anything kicked too lightly could be easy for a defender to clear. Crossing into the areas of the near and far post gives your team the best chance of scoring. Goaltenders have difficulty handling balls in these areas especially if they're traveling quickly.
The ability to cross from distance will take youth players a long time to learn. Obviously, their small size and lack of leg strength will prevent crosses from distance. When coaching soccer to youth players, you can tell them that a cross doesn't necessarily have to originate from a sideline and make the entire distance to the goalmouth. A cross can come from anywhere. A cross can be a chip shot from outside the penalty area or a launch from distance, but the main idea is to target the area in front of the goalmouth.
An ideal cross is one made from a sideline that is kicked into the goal area but actually curls away from the goal-line where the goaltender normally positions himself. It's difficult, even for the best players, to actually target someone in a particular location when trying to make a cross. Players on the receiving end should be shown the areas where they'll have the best likelihood to score and set up in those areas when an incoming cross is on its way.
When coaching youth players you might find that the great crossers on your team aren't the best players on your team. If you have a lesser skilled player who is a natural at crossing, you'll want to position that player on the field to take advantage of his ability. This player could be inserted late in a game when a goal is needed, or when you see a potential matchup against an opposing team that could be exploited.
The cross kick itself will require all the skills your youth players have in their arsenal. In a game situation, they'll likely be running with the ball under high pressure from defenders. They'll need to be able to create space so they can "wind up" and cross the ball from wherever they're located. Following through with the kicking leg will help with accuracy of the kick as well. Crossing takes concentration and balance, both of which young players are in short supply.
It's important to spend a lot of time in coaching crossing because of the huge amount of goals that come from it. Goals can be scored in a variety of ways after a cross such as headers or direct kicks in the net should the goalkeeper drop the ball. With a little soccer coaching, beginning players will quickly develop a feel for when a potential cross is forming and will naturally get themselves into a position to put the ball in the net.
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