Although the beautiful game may be called 'foot' ball in many parts of the world, the ability to head the ball correctly is often underlooked and is a powerful part of the game, so today we're going to look at heading drills to improve this underrated soccer skill.
Why is a good heading technique important in soccer?
If you have soccer players who are strong and know how to head the ball in your team, then you have a massive advantage, not only in defense but in attack as well. In recent years, think about the versatility of Didier Drogba for example, who was a powerhouse heading talent up front, but also saved Chelsea on many an occasion from his defensive heading ability.
The same can be said for Cristiano Ronaldo... he may be famed for his dancing feet, however, check out the number of top quality headers he has scored with and how much value he adds as an extra defender for corners.
The same can be said for powerful defenders coming forward into the opposition's box to head home a corner or free kick... I immediately think of John Terry in this position who has scored an incredible 39 Premier league goals for Chelsea as as center back!
In this post we're going to look at:
- Basic heading technique
- Defensive Heading Drills
- Attacking Heading Drills
How to Head a Soccer Ball
Heading the soccer ball is not all about power, but you will see the best players have a much smoother technique and with a few simple tips you will vastly improve your game:
1. Use your forehead
Always try to meet the ball on your forehead, between the top of your eyebrows and your hairline. If you use the top of your head you will be looking at the floor, will lose the flight of the ball and the ball will fly off in any direction.
2. Use your body
Having strong neck muscles is important, but when you head a soccer ball you should use all of your body rather. Learn to use your arms and your body as a lever as you explode in to head the ball.
3. Head the right part of the ball
- If you want to get height on the ball, head the bottom part of the ball and this will raise its trajectory - good for defensive headers or goal line clearances.
- Head the top of the ball if you want to power the ball downwards - great for strikers
- If you're just after power then try to head the ball in its center.
4. Use your feet
Getting your feet in the right position is particularly important for defensive headers. Make sure that you have one foot leading in front of the other when you take the ball.
5. Keep your eyes open
When going for a high header against the opposition your natural instinct is to close your eyes, however, practice keeping them open as this will give you more control, will help you avoid the opponents and will give you a better reaction time.
6. Close your mouth!
Yep, you don't want to go into a competitive challenge with your mouth wide open as you can easily bite your tongue. Keep your mouth shut and your teeth clenched to be as safe as possible.
If you want some more great tips about soccer heading technique, check out this video below, where there are some great drills for improving your technique:
Where can I find soccer heading drills?
Well, I've been training my soccer players for many years and have learned a variety of different exercises and drills that I practice with players of different ages and ability.
We'll have a look at some of these in more detail later, but I would also recommend the Epic Soccer Training System, which has some great tips to improve your heading ability.
I’ve included one of the videos here to show you the type of content you’ll receive.
In this video Matt gives us some more advice on how to head a soccer ball with power.
The Epic Soccer Training System is a full course of soccer training that has been used by more than 10,000 soccer professionals to help them develop their game and has a huge range of drills, tips and techniques available in their video collection.
I’ve tried many different coaching and training videos in the past and can honestly say that Matt Smiths personable and thorough style of teaching is something that is easy to follow and will help you develop your skills along the way.
Defensive Heading Drills
Perfecting the defensive header is a skill in its own right, and there are 5 key things that you'll learn from the next set of videos:
- Watch the ball - keep your eyes on the ball, not the player
- Be first to the ball
- Height - Head the ball high so it can't be intercepted
- Distance - Get great distance on the ball to give your defenders a chance to move out
- Direction - Head the ball away from goal and away from the danger zone
Mannequin Defensive Heading Drill
Watch how the coach disciplines his players in this video into using their whole body to snap and attack the ball with aggression.
Focus is on gaining height and distance in this drill so it gets over the midfield line.
This drill simulates a real game scenario when you could be clearing a goal kick and long ball into the box.
Defensive Heading Game
This is a fun heading drill to practice your defensive headers and ensure that the ball is cleared with good height and distance.
Similar to header volleyball, the idea is to keep the ball in the air, but getting over the top of the line of defenders by the net.
Attacking Headers Drills
The next set of drills are aimed for the other end of the pitch, and are targeted at your strikers and training their third foot (their head)!
Most top strikers should be grabbing at least 20% of their goals from their head, so you really need to practice your finishing technique and become comfortable using your head.
Simple drill to get you used to taking a header and finishing whilst you are on the move.
Near and Far Post
Practice your accuracy by calling for the ball and finishing into either the near or far post.
Head to Score
Put the theory into practice and play a game with your buddies where you can only score using your head.
next, sharpen your finishing and accuracy...
Remember to keep your eyes on the ball, keep your eyes open and focus on the direction that you will head the ball in. Don't just head the ball aimlessly but try and select a spot where you want the ball to end up
now, some fun practice games...
Premier League Heading Drill
In this heading drill the focus is on accuracy, power and timing.
The players take it in turns to score as many points as possible within a minute, getting extra points for diving headers and rebounds.
Soccer World Cup Heading Game
Use this simple game of 2 on 2 to practice your heading technique.
Again, this is a high tempo training drill to practice accuracy and finishing from headers, with emphasis on diving headers.
now, watch how the pros practice...
1 x 1 Heading Drill
I use this final attacking heading drill a lot with my teams as it pulls all of the different aspects of heading technique into one drill and is great for both defenders and attackers to practice.
Key for the attacker is to try and find space, move quickly and finish instinctively, whereas the defender needs to try and block their run and get first to the ball as it comes in.
Flick ons / Glancing Headers
The final technique we're going to look at today is the 'flick-on' or glancing header.
This can be used to devastating effect in attack as it can completely wrong foot defenses as both the trajectory and direction of the ball is changed, causing panic in the goal line.
To perfect this technique, keep your eyes open, tilt your head backwards slightly and have a very loose soft neck to gently touch / kiss the ball and help it on its way.
You can use this to great effect from near post corners, free kicks and defenders can even use this to head the ball over their own bar.
Check out the following video for a simple drill to help you practice you flick-on heading technique:
Individual Heading Drills
OK, so for some of you, you're not going to have a team of players willing to serve balls to you all day long so you can selfishly improve your heading technique and beat them in the next soccer game.
Well, don't worry, there is plenty for you to practice in your own time...
This video takes you through 6 simple heading drills that you can do against a wall to help you develop your overall heading technique, accuracy and control of the ball.
This is also great to improve your jumping and co-ordination when taking a ball in the air.
So, as you can hopefully see now, mastering the header is something that you can all achieve, as long as you're willing to put in the time and effort to practice this.
This is a crucial skill to have both for defenders and attackers as a large part of the modern soccer game is played in the air, and you want all of your team to be able to compete with the best.
If you follow the drills that we've looked at today you'll be able to improve:
So that's all from me today. Hopefully, you've found this article useful and can benefit from my years of coaching around the globe.
Remember,if you want to develop yourself fully as a soccer player then I can't recommend Epic Soccer Training highly enough
So, you've got plenty of soccer heading drills to practice now, so remember... no excuses, go train and have fun!