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Tips on How to Head a Soccer Ball

There are many advantages to knowing how to properly head a soccer ball. Attackers can score goals, defenders can make clearances and it even comes in handy for goalkeepers in some situations. Heading a ball well is quite different from being hit with a ball. Where the latter can be counter-productive, possibly resulting in a concussion, the former is a vital skill that requires practice and courage. Deciding the right time to make a move for a descending ball in order to head it as well as generating the power necessary to score (or make a clearance) are abilities that takes time to master but with a few guidelines, it becomes second nature. Let us look at the basics for heading, for starters.

Keep Your Eyes Open and On The Ball

The only way to accurately judge the flight of the ball is to be looking at it. At the last second when the head is making contact with the ball, the eyes would probably close. Otherwise, keep them open to see how the ball moves and, while looking, determine whether to move towards it or wait for it to approach.

Assess Your Environment for Competition

Normally in a game, the assumption is that there are no free headers. It means that every high ball will be contested by at least one player from each team. To protect yourself from injury and give yourself the best chance of winning headers, a player should assess his immediate surroundings to know who else might be interested in the ball. This is usually a quick decision that must be made almost with the corner of the eyes, while looking at the descending ball at same time. Assessing the environment is necessary to avoid clashing with a teammate, and for moving ahead of a defender or attacker in either scoring or defending positions respectively.

Positioning Your Body

While the head makes the actual contact with the ball, other parts of a player’s body feature prominently in generating the power. For headers that do not require jumping, plant your feet firmly on the ground to give the rest of the body a firm foundation for execution. Bend the knees to provide balance and propel momentum from the feet upward. And to ensure you hit the ball with power rather than the ball hitting you, lean back to channel the momentum into the neck muscles and give it sufficient force to direct the ball. Positioning the body optimally is essential both for desired results and for having the lowest bearable pain from heading a soccer ball.

Jumping At the Right Time

Most rewarding headers involve jumping. Body positioning cues mentioned above apply to heading in the air; a good jump requires planting your feet firmly, bending your knees and leaning forward. Again, this must be done while looking at the ball and taking note of who else may be going for the ball. There is no exact science to this other than estimating the best time to meet the aerial ball with enough force with the mid-point of the forehead to achieve the desired purpose.

And speaking of the forehead, it is important to note that there are different types of headers each of which may require using different sides of the head. The forehead is the region with the strongest potential for effective headers, but there are situations where using other sides is the effective choice.

Making the Selection

For Offensive Headers, the forehead is the sweet spot. To execute an offensive header, use the forehead to knock the ball down. This has more power than using the side of the head. ‘Flick-on’ headers are used to pass the ball and also to score goals. It involves using the middle of the head to push the ball backwards. To flick the ball backwards with your head, approach the descending the ball as though to allow it land on your head. But just as it hits the head, move the head upwards and backwards with the right amount of power from the back and neck. This is a skill that improves with practice and is useful for attacking corner-kicks. To achieve a Diving header, approach the ball horizontally with a well-timed jump and attack it with the forehead. Diving headers may require the player to run towards the ball, so you have to also time your run to perfection.

Similar to a diving header, a glancing header involves a quick run and jump towards the ball, though the head contact necessary to achieve it is less as it takes advantage of the pace and power of the ball. To execute a glancing header, position your head such that as you run towards and meet the ball, it will touch the side of your head and change its direction towards goal. Last but not least, defensive headers are executed by hitting the bottom of a ball with as much power as possible with the forehead. A good defensive header directs the ball towards the side of the field.


Headers can be mastered with practice and diligence. In all, it is important to take care to avoid heading shots fired by opponents or teammates as this could cause serious injuries.


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