The concept of the cross is fundamental to your team’s success on the field. Your team must be prepared to deliver crosses, receive crosses, and defend against the cross. A cross is a pass sent across the mouth of the goal by a wing. The cross can be received by any teammate (usually this teammate has called for the ball and is prepared) and this teammate in turn will try to score a goal from the cross.
Effective crosses will leave enough room for movement to the ball (i.e. the cross should be sent a comfortable distance in front of the teammate) without giving too much advantage to the defender. A good receipt of a cross occurs when a player traps the ball cleanly, gets off a good shot on goal, or sends another pass to a teammate. Good defense of a cross includes always staying between the opponent and the goal, never leaning in at the ball, and anticipation.
Effective crosses are also generally sent to the ‘far post.’ The far post refers to the goalpost that is farthest away from the crosser as he sends the ball. If the ball drops too soon and is not near the far post, it is harder to collect the ball and score. A ball that is met by another attacker at or near the far post can be sent back into the goal quickly, keeping the goalkeeper off-guard as he is turning to face the ball.
There are a few different ways to cross the ball: a wing may cross directly across the field in a more or less straight line, he may cross at an upward angle, or he may cross at a backward angle (this is generally done from close to the endline).
U-8 Drills: Crossing
It is important for your players to learn what a cross is, even if they rarely use it on the field. If they are able to recognize when and how they should cross, consider the lesson a success! Most likely, your kids won’t be passing all too much when they’re around the goal. Most players at this age tend to become very excited when they are around the goal and all lessons regarding strategy will go out the window. Still, while you have their attention at practice, it is always effective to run a quick crossing drill to simulate a game-time situation.
A good, simple drill to teach crossing to U-8’s is called Sideways Goal:
Rules: Have your kids line up as forwards (three or four on the line are fine). Have them rotate through the line, left to right, as the game progresses. Set up two goals: One like a regular goal, and one ‘sideways goal’ making a ninety-degree angle with the real goal on the right side (the right side when facing the goal). The player on the far right starts with the ball. The players all start running down the field, like forwards, and the player on the right must send the ball through the ‘sideways goal’ when he gets far enough down the field. If his ball goes correctly through the cones, he scores a goal. The remaining forwards then receive the ball and try to score more goals (on the real goal). If you are up to it, add defenders, but then you will get clumps of kids in front of the goal.
This drill teaches the concept of the cross and also helps to keep the kids spread out as they move down the field (at least until the ball arrives, and then everyone will go towards it).
U-9-U-12 Drills: Crossing
There are many different drills for practicing crosses and receiving crosses. You want to pick drills that your players are comfortable with and enjoy. A good way to make sure that your players are getting the most out of the exercise is to rotate the roles while you run the drill.
Typical Cross Drill:
Rules: Line the players up as forwards line up on the field. Start the ball on the wing and have him send different crosses (straight across, forward, and backward) across the mouth of the goal. As your players rotate, they become accustomed to taking and receiving crosses. Add defenders and a goalkeeper for variety.
Another drill that uses the length of the field and works on defending against the cross, as well as dribbling, fitness and conditioning is called Dribble and Pass:
Rules: All players can play at once. Divide the team into two groups. Each group forms a line at opposite caddy-corners of the field. Each player has a ball. Have one player from each group act as a feeder in the midfielder. A goalkeeper is in each goal.
The first players at the corners start by dribbling quickly towards midfield. Before reaching midfield, the players should make a wall pass to the feeder and stay running right along the sideline. The feeder will turn and send the ball back to the player as they continue to run. The player then dribbles towards the corner arc, where they send a cross across the goal box. The goalkeeper must defend against the cross and roll the ball back to the player, who takes his place behind the other line of players at the opposite corner.
This drill is fun for the players because everyone is playing at once. Space the players start times out accordingly using the whistle.
13 and up Drills: Crossing
By this age your players should be aware of the strategy of crossing and will need ways to hone their abilities through different drills. At this age, your team should be making and receiving crosses on both sides of the field, and should start to use the left foot to make a cross even if it is not the dominant foot (and vice versa). Your goalkeeper should be prepared to step up in the goal box to punch out the ball, and your defenders should be accustomed to anticipating ball direction and movement.
There are many variations to the typical ‘forward line up’ drill, in which the forwards make runs towards the goal and make and receive crosses. This drill is effective in that it allows the players to rotate through different positions and lets your defense and offense practice the cross at once. One particular variation is called Bahia:
Rules: Have the players line up in five lines. The numbers will run from left to right when facing the goal. Players in lines one and five are the crossers. As Player 1 goes, Player 5 will be resting. Line 1 is against the sideline; line 2 is at the left top corner of the goal box, line 3 is at the top center of the goal box, line 4 is at the top right corner of the goal box, and line 5 is also against the sideline (lines 1 and 5 should start about five yards farther back than the middle three lines).
First, the player in line 1 will dribble to the end line and send a cross back across the goal box to the middle or to the far past. Players 2, 3, and 4 time their runs so that player 2 is heading to a spot about six yards from the goal on the far side, player three heads to far post (his run will overlap player 4) and player 4 runs to near post to get any short balls. Players will rotate through the lines. For variation, add defenders. Switch goalkeepers with each series.
Another good drill for practicing receiving crosses in the air and also allows all players to rotate through the lines is Many Points:
Rules: Set up the players in four lines facing the goal. Set up two cones, one near each corner arc (allowing room to move, the players will be crossing after passing the cone). The target zone for the crosses is between the top of the penalty box and the top of the goal box. The players in the two lines next to the sidelines are feeders. Only one line of feeders will go at a time. The other two lines are in the middle, lined up along invisible lines strung from the two sides of the penalty box, about five yards out from the goal box.
One feeder dribbles down and around the cone, turning to send a ball into the target area. The two players from the two middle lines come forward to meet the ball in the air and try to score with a one-touch. Have the players rotate lines. Award different amounts of points to each player depending how they score: five points for a diving header, four points for a header, three points for a full volley, two points for a half volley, and one point for a rebound or deflection. Award two points to the goalkeeper for every save. For variation, add defenders.