How to Head a Soccer Ball: A Complete Guide

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How do you properly head a soccer ball? That is a common question that many soccer players, beginners and even more advanced players, may ask themselves at some point along their soccer journey.

Heading a soccer ball is a very important, yet often overlooked, skill that is not as emphasized and practiced as other skills. One of the most important soccer rules is that players cannot use their hands to manipulate the ball, which is why players have to learn how to control and redirect the ball with other body parts such as the feet, thighs, chest, and head.

In this blog, I will cover everything you need to know about how to head a soccer ball, from tips to overcome the fear of headers, the different types of headers, as well as explain step-by-step instructions on how to head a soccer ball properly.

How to Head a Soccer Ball Image by Edgar Wetsing

What is a header in soccer?

A header in soccer is a fundamental skill where a player uses their head to direct or control the soccer ball during gameplay. A header involves deliberately making contact with the soccer ball and it is a crucial aspect of the beautiful game, that allows players to pass, shoot, or defend effectively.

This technique is essential for soccer players of all levels, from youth players who just turned old enough to begin practicing heading a soccer ball to professional soccer players playing for the biggest trophies in the world.

It is also important to be aware of the U.S soccer heading guidelines for youth players. U.S soccer states that children under 10 years of age should not be allowed to head a soccer ball, while players ages 11-13 can only head a soccer ball during a game, but this skill is limited during practice. This is done to help prevent head injuries among youth players.

How to Head a Soccer Ball

Image by Jack Hunter

How to Overcome the Fear of Headers

For some soccer players, the idea of heading the ball can be intimidating, leading to a fear of headers. However, with the right approach and mindset, it’s possible to overcome this fear and become better at heading the ball.

Understand Proper Technique

Knowing how to head a soccer ball correctly is crucial for building confidence. In the next section, I will provide a general step-by-step guide about how to head a soccer ball.

Start Slowly

If you’re nervous about heading the ball, start by practicing basic drills at a slow pace. Gradually increase the intensity and speed as you become more comfortable with the movement.

Build Trust in Yourself

Remind yourself that you have the skills and ability to head the ball safely and effectively. Visualize successful headers and focus on the positive outcomes rather than worrying about potential mistakes.

Practice Consistently:

Repetition is key to becoming better at any soccer skill. The more you practice a skill the easier it becomes due to muscle and fascia memory, which is why practice is literally the best way to improve at anything, including heading a soccer ball.

Work with Coaches and Teammates:

Seek guidance and support from coaches and teammates who can provide feedback, encouragement, and advice on improving your heading technique.

How to Head a Soccer Ball Image by Source

The Different Types of Headers

Now that you are familiar with how to get over the fear of headers, it is important to discuss the different types of headers that can be performed when you play soccer.

Offensive Header:

  • This type of header is executed by attacking players, such as strikers, wingers, and CAMs with the intent of scoring goals or creating scoring opportunities for their team.
  • Offensive headers require precise timing, coordination, and the ability to generate power to direct the ball towards the goal.
  • Players often jump and head the ball forward or downward to beat the goalkeeper or defenders.

Defensive Header:

  • Defensive headers are crucial for clearing the ball away from the defensive zone and preventing opponents from scoring goals.
  • Soccer players in defensive positions, such as center backs, full backs, and CDMs, use this technique to head the ball out of danger and regain possession for their team.

Diving Header:

  • Diving headers are exactly what they sound like. A player dives through the air in an attempt to make contact with the ball.
  • This type of header is often used to reach crosses or long balls that are delivered at an angle or height difficult to reach with a standing header.
  • Diving headers require courage, agility, and good timing abilities

Glancing Header:

  • A glancing header involves redirecting the ball’s trajectory with a subtle touch of the head, instead of trying to make full on contact with the ball
  • Glancing headers are commonly used to redirect crosses or set pieces towards teammates or towards the goal.

Flick-on Header:

  • Similar to a glancing header, a flick-on header involves redirecting the trajectory of the soccer ball with a subtle touch of the head, but with a bit more force than a glancing header
  • This type of header is commonly used to pass the ball to a teammate or to create space and opportunities in the attacking third of the field.
  • Flick-on headers require precise timing and coordination between the player flicking the ball and the player receiving the ball

How to Head a Soccer Ball

How to Head a Soccer Ball: Step-by-Step Guide

The different types of headers will have slightly different steps, but these are some general instructions that can help improve any header technique.

Step 1: Be in an athletic position

The first step is to be in a ready athletic position, which means you have your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and you are on your toes, or on the balls of your feet.

Step 2: Keep your eyes on the ball during flight

Once you are in the right athletic position and as the soccer ball is in motion, make sure to keep your eyes on the ball and maintain visual focus to accurately judge its trajectory and timing.

Step 3: Communicate with your teammates

Verbally or nonverbally signal your intention to head the ball to your teammates to avoid confusion and maximize teamwork. One of the worst things that can happen when you are trying to win a header is that one of your teammates also jumps for the header, which is why communication is key.

Step 4: Hit the ball with your forehead

As the ball approaches, position your forehead to make contact with the center or upper portion of the ball. You can also wear a protective headband to help absorb some of the impact of the ball.

Step 5: Keep your eyes open, do not close your eyes when you hit the ball

One very important part to remember is that as you make contact with the ball with your forehead, make sure to keep your eyes open to know where the ball is going. Heading the ball with your eyes closed may send the ball to an entirely different location from where you wanted it to.

Step 6: Push your head forward through the ball

To get a powerful header it is important to gain momentum and use that momentum to help you get more force and head the ball forwards.

Also, be sure that you are the one hitting the ball and do not let the ball hit you because there is a huge difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality and will help you get better at heading the ball.

What are the common head injuries in soccer?

Concussions are the most common head injuries, and one of the most common injuries in general, which is why it is very important to get proper technique for headers down.

How do you keep a soccer ball on your head?

To keep the soccer ball on your head without it falling you need elite balance, proprioception, and a good understanding of how the spin and weight of the ball works. To keep the ball balanced on your forehead you have to stay directly underneath the center of the ball.

Conclusion

In conclusion, knowing how to properly head a soccer ball is one of the most important skills to master as a soccer player regardless of your position and playing level. Although young players should practice caution and follow U.S soccer heading guidelines, there will come a time where they will have to learn how to header a ball properly, and it is better to get familiar with the concepts now rather than later.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about how to header a soccer ball including tips on how to get over the fear of headers, the different types of headers, as well as provided step-by-step instructions on how to give a good header.

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