Crossing & Kicking Blog
There are many aspects to goalkeeping but in my opinion the hardest aspect of goalkeeping is dealing with crosses.
I often hear people talk about goalkeepers and say "He's a great shot-stopper" and of course keeping the ball out of the goal is the main objective of the goalkeeper and therefore constant work on their shot-stopping techniques is important. However and this is in no way being derogatory to goalkeepers they should be able to save shots or they shouldn't play in goal in the first place! I have seen many an outfield player go in goal in training and even occasionally have to don the gloves in a match if their goalkeeper has got injured or sent off and seen them make saves. It goes without saying these techniques need regular work but its how a goalkeeper deals with crosses, distribution and organisation that defines a bad goalkeeper, an average goalkeeper, a good goalkeeper and an outstanding goalkeeper.
Today I look primarily at dealing with crosses and a little bit on kicking:
The reason why I feel that dealing with crosses is the hardest aspect of goalkeeping is because there are so many factors which have an effect on the goalkeeper dealing with a cross into his/her box.
Wind - The ball holds up / The ball comes onto you quicker / The ball swirls around and moves in the air
Rain - The ball is slippery
Sun - You lose sight of the ball with a low sun in your eyes
Muddy pitch - Hard to keep footing and move quickly through the mud
Icy Pitch - Slippery under foot
Slope - The ball may come onto you quicker or hold up similar to windy conditions
Floodlights - Poor floodlights may make seeing and judging flight difficult
Own Physical Attributes
Short - Do you find it hard to compete with bigger players, do you have good timing of your jump
Tall - Are you slow to move your feet and not jump as high as you possibly should
Physical size - May have to deal with physical pressure from tall aggressive forwards
Delivery - Quality of the cross itself from the opposition players
Ball swinging in
Ball swinging away
Hung up in the air
Near post delivery
Far post delivery
Position the ball is actually crossed from on the pitch
Every cross can be different and needs to be dealt with on its merits
So straight away there are so many factors involved in actually dealing with a cross and a goalkeeper has a split second as the ball leaves the players feet to make his/her decision on whether to actually come for it and then how he/she is going to deal with it (catch/punch/tip/parry).
Drills can be put on to help with this area but its hard to really re-create the intensity and realism that you get in a game. Practise should be undertaken, firstly without any pressure, just dealing with some crosses coming in un-opposed to start getting used to judging the flight. Then a player can be introduced who doesn't challenge for the ball but does make runs and movements in and around the goalkeeper to try and put them off. Taking it further they may then make a challenge for the ball and then defenders and other attackers maybe introduced before taking it into a full scale practise match or phase of play. The real test and best experience comes from an actual match however I feel.
Otfen young goalkeepers in particular though even senior goalkeepers are guilty of this will shy away from coming for a cross and stay on their line and let defenders deal with crosses. I like goalkeepers to be more positive than that and try and take command of their area. I would much rather see a goalkeeper come for crosses and make the odd mistake and learn from that mistake and situation than just stay rooted to their line. If a goalkeeper can come and take crosses it takes so much pressure off your team and your defence in particular.
A positive starting position off your line, edging slightly forward and looking like you want to come, allied when you do come with a huge bellowing aggressive voice to call for the ball will help give you an aura or presence in your area and will actually lead to the opposition start to deliver crosses further away from your goal. If you are timid and look afraid, opposition players and coaches will pick up on this and likely put more crosses close to you to put you and your team under pressure to induce errors so that they may score.
Being short does not mean that you cannot deal with crosses, what it means is that you just have to work harder on the timing of your jump and the height at which you can jump (spring). Fabien Bartez the former Manchester United and France goalkeeper was a prime example of a goalkeeper not blessed with height but who came for a lot of crosses successfully. At the same time I have seen many a tall goalkeeper who has relied on their height but then not moved their feet quickly enough or timed their jump well and has struggled on crosses so don't let height be an excuse.
Because its a difficult aspect of the game much practise is needed on it and also patience. If you make a mistake try not to worry and don't let it put you off coming for the next cross and at the same time don't think you must come for the next cross to make up for your error as the next cross may not be the right one to come for, remember "every cross can be different and treat each one accordingly".
I get asked all the time by parents and goalkeepers about kicking and how the goalkeeper can get better at it. The simple fact is certainly when it comes to young goalkeepers most struggle to get a good amount of distance simply because they don't have the physical power in their legs to get that distance. Yes technique is important and that can be worked upon but often physical strength plays a big part in it.
There is also no rocket science to it or that many fancy drills to practise it, the best thing to do is get a bag of balls (or only one if thats all you have) find a field and with a friend / parent / brother / sister / coach simply practise your kicking. I always say warm up your muscles first, start striking the ball over a short distance and then gradually make that distance further with the person you are working with. Accuracy is just as important as distance as there is no point being able to kick it the length of the field if it goes in different directions all the time and out of play as your team will have no idea where to setup when you go to strike the ball.
Again having patience and not getting frustrated or upset is vitally important, especially at a young age and this goes for parents and team managers / coaches as well! I have spoken before about how annoyed I get when I see young goalkeepers not being allowed to take goal kicks and the big centre back coming back to take them because he can kick it further as how is the goalkeeper going to get better technically and develop his/her kicking muscles if they are not allowed to take them.
Everybody develops at a different rate of time and I have seen many goalkeepers who have struggled then all of a sudden it clicks for them and they can get great distance so patience and hard work really are key virtues for goalkeepers / parents and managers / coaches!