Heading is often overlooked in favor of other skills. Most coaches don’t explain proper technique and don’t give players enough practice heading the ball.
This is unfortunate because heading is extremely valuable. Players that head the ball well score more goals, clear the ball, and help their teammates win possession in the midfield.
This article will teach you how to overcome the fear of soccer heading, how to head a soccer ball, the types 4 of headers, and tips on how to win a header.
Overcoming Fear of Soccer Heading
Fearing the ball is natural. You’d be surprised at how many advanced players admit that they avoid headers when possible.
If you’re afraid of heading the ball, change your mindset.
Instead of thinking “this ball is coming at me fast, and it’s going to hurt” think “I’m going to attack the ball.”
Regular heading practice will decrease fear over time.
You can’t let fear stop you from being effective on the field. Focus on overcoming your fear of heading.
How to Head a Soccer Ball
1. Look at the ball
When players have a fear of soccer heading (see previous section) they look away from the ball.
Ironically this greatly increases the chances of injury and makes heading the ball harder.
Look at the ball while preparing to head and when heading. You can target the part of the ball you wish to strike with your head.
2. Plant your feet
Staying on your toes or leaning back on your heels reduces power.
Plant your feet. Imagine you are an object like skyscraper or tree that has too strong of a foundation to move.
3. Bend your knees
Bending your knees slightly helps you maintain balance and build momentum.
4. Lean back
Lean your body backwards. You lean back to build momentum, just like you bend your leg back to gain momentum before kicking a soccer ball.
5. Jump (optional)
Jump if the ball is too high. Push off the ground as hard as you can.
Time your jump so that your head reaches the height of the ball.
6. Move your head forward quickly
The faster you head the ball, the more power you generate. Use the middle of your forehead to head the ball. It’s the biggest, most solid surface on your head.
4 Type of Soccer Headers
1. Offensive Soccer Header
When you try to score using a header, head the ball down. I often see headers that would have beat the keeper if they were lower, but miss the goal because the header is too high.
A ball headed towards the ground away from the goalkeeper is nearly impossible to stop and you don’t have to worry about heading the ball over the goal.
2. Flick-on Soccer Header
When you “flick the ball on” you head the ball over you (and sometimes a defender) to a teammate.
The flick on header is a great way to pass the ball. It’s often used to set up 1 vs 1 breakaways with the keeper.
To do a flick on header, head the ball with the top of your head while moving you head up and backwards.
3. Diving Soccer Header
Diving soccer headers are a brilliant way to score a goal.
To do a diving header, dive towards the ball and focus on making contact. The momentum from your dive will result in a powerful header. Land on your arms and chest (not your wrists).
Timing is key when it comes to diving headers. Be prepared to dive at a moments notice.
4. Glancing Soccer Header
Use a glancing soccer header to head the ball across your body. It’s a great way to fake out the goalkeeper and score.
To do a glancing header, target at the right side of the ball (if you’re heading left) or left side of the ball (if you’re heading right, then move your head slightly to the side when you head the ball.
The glancing header has slightly less power than an offensive header.
I see some players use the side of their head to do a glancing header. Don’t do this. The side of your head is less powerful and accurate. Use the center of your head and head the side of the ball. Using the side of your head is unnecessary.
Defensive Soccer Header
Use the defensive soccer header to clear the ball in your defensive third.
To do a defensive header, head the bottom of the ball with the top of the middle of your forehead.
Head the ball as hard as you can and face towards the sides of the field. The goal of a defensive header is to head the ball as far away as possible and away from the middle of the field.
3 Tips on How to Win a Header
1. Make good runs
I know short players that constantly complain that they can’t win headers.
While height is helpful, the main reason they aren’t winning headers is they don’t make good runs.
Good runs make all the difference. If you lose your defender, his height doesn’t matter.
So focus on timing your runs so that you reach the ball before anyone else. Also consider spinning and cutting rapidly to lose your defender.
2. Improve your jump
The higher you jump, the better chance you have of winning a header.
Learn how to jump higher by doing drills such as box jumps and strengthening your legs using exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
Give it your all every jump. You’ll be surprised at how much higher you jump when you simply want it more than the other player.
3. Use Your Arms
Use your arms to give yourself space between the opposing player, making winning headers easier.
Also use your arms to feel the opposing player so you understand where they are in relation to you.
You can even use your arms to push off another player and win a header. If the player is behind you, it’s nearly impossible for the referee to see you push off of the other player. Using this technique alone will greatly increase the amount of headers you win.