There is a line in Shakespeare that reads; "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them."  The later part of this statement can be applied to my good self since taking up the mantle of soccer coach for my eldest son's junior team. 

The reason that this statement resonates with me so much is that my appointment was not based not on my expertise as a shrewed manager of a leading premiership team, but rather on my comment of ,"I'll help out, if you have no one else available," and the fact that there was no one else available.

When I expressed a minor interest in getting involved with my son's soccer team during the signing on day, I foolishly assumed that there were queues of keener, more able dads scrambling to start their coaching career at grass roots level.

There werYoung Soccer PlayersCredit: no scores of footballing stratergists fresh from the World Cup stood ahead of me. I was the only "applicant" and I use that term loosely.

Fortunately, I am not without a little experience of the beautiful game.  I played it quite regularly in the long lost days of my youth, when running was something that did not induce double vision, and while I was never destined for a career in the top flight with a six figure a week salary and a fashion model trophy wife, I was pretty good at crossing the ball; the art of delivering the ball to a team mate in such a way that it gives him a fighting chance of getting into a good scoring position.

Many of the other junior team coaches my local club are either new to the game or are the mothers of some of the players with a limited knowledge on the basic technical aspects of soccer.  This renders them, for all their wonderful enthusiasm, ill-equipped to include this essential part of playing soccer to their training schedules.  They have all sought my counsel on how best to develop and nurture the raw talent that they have at their disposal, and this has been advice that I have been more than happy to give.

So, if you are new to coaching soccer or are in need of a couple of pointers on how to teach some one to cross a soccer ball,  then I would like to impart my "know how" regarding this particular area of the game.

There are two fundamental things that you need to be aware of when instilling this skill into the players in your team.

1) The Technical Aspects of Kicking a Soccer Ball Correctly

There are four basic steps to crossing the ball. These instructions are for a right-footed player. References to left and right can be reversed for a left footed player.

  1. Place the left (non kicking) foot firmly to the left side of the ball and about half a step behind it.
  2. Raise the left arm forward, ready to be pulled back to aid momentum
  3. Pull the right arm back together with the right leg
  4. Take a good swing

When swinging at the ball the player should keep his eyes focused on it and use his arms to add to the swing. 

The right arm will follow the swing of the right leg and the left arm will be pulled back to counterbalance the forward momentum caused by his right leg.  This prevents the player from spinning or falling over and performing an audition for Monty Python.

To add height to the ball, the player should lean back slightly when striking it, but not too much as again a comedy falling over incident will occur

Control of the soccer ball, when attempting to kick it over a great distance, is usually maintained by striking the ball firmly using the instep, the top area of the foot just behind the toes.  To be able to add curl the ball, or to guide it to the intended destination when crossing it, the ball should be struck using the area just to the left of the instep for a right footed player and vice versa for a left footer.

Using ones toes, or toe-poking as it is known, to wildly hack the ball upfield only results in a lack of control and ability to direct the ball efficiently.  It also hurts and will cause bruising and some discomfort  Mr Pinky and his four friends.

2) An Appreciation of the space inbetween the defender and the goalkeeper

The optimum delivery of the ball is to the space in the goal area, near enough to the goal so that the attacker has a greater chance of scoring, but far enough away from the goalkeeper so that he cannot make a save from the cross.  In footballing vanacular this space is called 'The Box'.

In order to create the best scoring chance, the soccer ball and the attacker should meet in this space at the same time.  This makes this type of pass very difficult for the defending player to cope with as he will be watching the attacker, the ball and his own goalkeeper.

The attacking player should only have one thing to concentrate on and that is to time his run so that he is first to the ball.  This will require him only to fix his gaze on the flight of the ball as he should have already picked the spot as to where he wants to collect the pass.

The player crossing the ball has to concentrate on two things; the ball at his feet and the space inbetween the goalkeeper and defender where the attacker is heading towards.  Before striking the ball, he should have made himself aware in what direction his team mate was running, either to the middle of the goal area, or toward one of the posts.

An Unplayable Delivery

Any ball delivered with pace in this manner is virtually impossible to dSoccer(40511)Credit: against for the reasons mentioned above.  The perfect cross requires all the skill and concentration of a top class golfer aiming for the green from the middle of the fairway or a tennis master playing a forehand return to the back of the court.

Not all players will master this skill and become the next David Beckham or Michel Platini,  but with enough practice and the right encouragement, those who do will prove to be valuable assets to your team.