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High Balls & Crosses – A Youth Goalkeeper’s constant threat

Why is it that in every new just4keepers class I teach with new goalkeepers that I have never trained before, when I ask the question: “ what is your biggest weakness one of the constant answers is crosses or high balls.

What makes this type of ball so intimidating and hard to deal with for the goalkeepers?

 Though the goalkeeping position has evolved through the years, dealing with crosses and high balls still remains a facet of the position that goalkeeper’s are constantly evaluated upon.  Even though the game is played differently in each domestic league, functionally preparing goalkeepers to intercept crossed balls is a skill of the utmost importance.  Whether the game is a youth or professional match, goalkeepers must be readily prepared to come off their goal line and deal with crosses into the penalty area.

 At the very young level matches U7 – U9 or even U10 most players can not yet serve or cross a ball high enough to present a challenge for the goalkeeper, yet you still see those miss kicked balls that once in awhile go high enough and the goalkeeper is not prepared to handle. Most keepers at that age are not trained yet with the proper technique of reaching for the ball with both hands behind the ball maintaining eye contact at all times with the ball and catching the ball  at the highest point or if they have to properly punch or push the ball away.

 During the U11 and higher age matches, I still see goalkeepers struggling not only with their decision making on when and if they should come off their line to handle a cross or a high ball but their fundamentals and technique on how to attack and handle that ball. Goalies often are scrutinized for not controlling the penalty area and not snagging balls that should have been won. The task of handling crosses has grown increasing more difficult due to the player’s ability to serve balls with more velocity, spin and accuracy. In preparation, the technical ability of the goalkeeper must be sound, but the overall effectiveness of the goalkeeper will truly lie in their tactical positioning and decision-making.

In my opinion more time needs to be spent addressing all these needs, like technique, timing, reading the game, decision making and most definitely mindset as well as the fear that most goalkeepers have of injury and exposing themselves while the opposing players charge them at high speeds. This is a key element of goalkeeping that requires not only technical training but also repetitious training. Starting the goalkeepers at a young age on the proper technique, timing, decision making and mindset and combining those elements with continues repetitions will help a young keeper’s confidence to handle high balls and crosses. Every goalkeeper is different and should be treated as such. If they are slow starters and can not grasp it at first do not abandon the repetitious cycle and always give them training at small intervals until they master it. Think of regular school; small doses of knowledge reinforced over and over again.

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