Tips, Drills and Attributes to Improve Heading in Soccer!

how to improve heading in soccer

30% of the total scored soccer goals in the top leagues are from headers! In other words, for each scored 5 goals, almost 2 of them come out of a header …

… So, a team or a player that neglect improving this aspect of the sport will certainly reduce their success rate by at least 30%!

That’s why, I’ve decided to put together this article to breakdown what it takes to enhance your heading capabilities in soccer efficiently.

Importance of Headings in soccer

Headers are a very important tactical and technical element of any team!

In addition to what I’ve just said about its striking benefit, it also has the benefit of reinforcing your team’s defense against center shots and long balls directed towards your goal.

There are some defenders with poor heading abilities who cost their teams some own goals. In other words, instead of clearing the ball out of his team last square to remove the danger, the ball reflects on his head and go straight to his team’s net!

Today, we cannot imagine a good soccer player without highly developed heading ability.

Most important attributes efficient headings …

The most important attributes to improve this skill are:

Important Tip: To properly practice those skills, I strongly recommend to use soccer shoes with decent Quality  and reliable Grip to perform at the best of your abilities. You can have a quick look at these quality soccer cleats to get an idea!

1. Timing

This represents a good estimate of the flight of the ball. Players must perceive the flight of the ball and its projected trajectory.

The ball in the air can be of greater or lesser amplitude, with or without swerve.

Often a poor assessment of the flight for the ball leads to cardinal mistakes and can cost the team a lot.

That is why it is very important to evaluate the ball and take a good position before the jump.

2. Movement and jumping

Players need to position themselves towards the ball. It is vital to estimate the ball and prepare yourself for the jump.

The jump itself can be done with one or both feet, depending on the situation!

You should position yourself in a way that allows you to jump where you can reach the highest altitude in the air.

Keep in mind that different positions of your body create different amounts of pressure on it. For headers, this mostly refers to the lumbar part of the spine.

With one player throws the ball and the other returning it with a header. This simple exercise can prepare your body and make it easier for you to jump during the game.

Learn more about jumping in soccer.

3. Hitting the ball

When hitting with the head, it is necessary that the elbows are spread in the area of the shoulders.

This prevents the opponent from coming close to the ball and prevents a possible player collision.

When hitting the ball, a shake of the head is very important. This creates additional force for the hit.

4. Landing

If performed correctly it reduces the risk of injury. Poor landing can lead to injuries to the knees, hips, back.

The safest technique used here is the toe-heel rule!

The player should land on the toes and then transfer the weight to the middle of the foot and heel.

This is the way to achieve the highest level of amortization of the landing force.

Drills to improve Headings in Soccer …

1. Defensive heading

When it comes to practicing defensive heading games, it is necessary to put 3 players in a line.

  • The first player is the one with the ball in his hands.
  • The second player in the middle has the task of interfering with the player at the end, whose task is to kick the ball with his head.

The in the middle can stand still or take a light step to disturb the player he is guarding.

The speed of his movement depends on the flight direction of the ball, the opponent’s position and the space available.

The hitting of the ball in the jump is done in two ways:

  • Jumping with both feet
  • Or with one foot

The player must have a good assessment of the flight of the ball and the speed of the ball.

The attributes needed for a good defender’s jump game is balance!

It is significant because of the duel game and the constant contact during the jump that the players have.

Assessing the flight of the ball requires a well-timed change of pace and therefore it is necessary for the defender to reach maximum speed when moving towards the ball.

Jumping requires constant work on jumping exercises during training sessions. The jumping ability is improved by placing certain weights on your ankles.

Another aspect for good header play of defensive players is their strength. It simply refers to the physical strength of the player so that he can win the duel before getting the ball with his head.

2. Offensive heading

This drill should be mainly done by stikers! You can learn more about the striker position in soccer

Place two goals at a distance of 30 yards. This exercise requires the participation of two goalkeepers!

  • The goalkeeper throws the ball to the side of the defensive player who moves the ball forward and sends the long pass to the box.
  • The defensive player and attacker have a 1 v 1 situation in the other goalkeeper’s area.
  • The defensive player plays passively or semi-actively.
  • After the action, the player who was on the defensive duty, calls for the ball and repeats the move toward the opposite goal.

The jumping game of the attacking phase is equally important during set pieces in the opponent’s penalty area, like corner or a free kick.

For teams whose game is based on the attack from the flanks, the realization of crosses is crucial.

This type of kick is most often used by attackers in situations when they can endanger the opponent’s goal.

Practicing situations like this, from which a goal can be scored should be done constantly in training.

This requires coordinated action by the player who performs the long pass into the area and the attacker inside.

The striker must constantly work on the movement without the ball in order to get into a favorable situation in front of the opponent and send a header toward goal.

To perform a kick of the ball with the head, good coordination of movement, strength, reflection, agility, and a good assessment of the flight of the ball are required.

The attacker must be adorned with courage and determination when it comes to playing with his head and not afraid of entering the duel game

In many formations in today’s soccer, coaches use the tactic of the so-called target-man, whose task is not only to score a goal but to lower the ball with his head to the players who are joining the attack.

Improving your jumping abilities

Jumping skills can be improved in several ways …

One of the methods most widely used is plyometric training. This training aims to increase muscle strength and explosive movements during the game.

The intensity of this training must be taken into account. Cones, squats, bounce jumps from the bench, catching medical balls, all can be used here.

Another way to increase the explosive power of jumping are load exercises.

The load can be the weight of your own body, the resistance of your partner, the bar, etc.

The third way is the athletic approach where simple forms of movement are used.

These exercises are performed in the introductory or main part of the training and include jumps from motion, jump in place, high jumps.

How much time does it takes to notice improvement?

In order for positive changes to occur, 6 to 12 weeks with two to three training sessions per week are needed!

The best effect for jumping exercises is given by the plyometric approach.

The latter makes it possible to increase the force of muscles used in a jumping movement. It includes exercises with jumps that allow the muscle to reach their maximum strength in the shortest possible time.

The main effect of this training is to increase the explosiveness (the ability of the muscles to implement as much force as possible in a short period of time) and the elasticity of the muscles (to lengthen and increase their tension), which have a great effect on the header plays.

Coaching tactics that require headings skills

Modern soccer is characterized by a high rhythm of the game!

Most coaches prefer a game based on quick side crosses and creating a surplus of players on the side.

In order for the pass coming from the side to materialize into a chance for goal, a good heading game is mandatory.

Many coaches rely on intermittent tactics. Here the head game is the strongest weapon.

Also, teams that are defensively oriented must have defensive players with good header abilities.

In this way, the risk of cardinal mistakes is reduced and the danger in front of the goal can easily be eliminated.

Soccer Positions that require headings skills

Soccer positions that require the best header play are:

  • Stoppers
  • Defensive midfielders
  • Strikers

These players have the most duels during the game!

Stoppers are characterized by height, and that helps them hit the ball with their head. They prevent opposing players from entering the position to endanger the goal with their head, and it is often the case today that the stoppers bring victories to the teams after the set pieces.

The defensive midfielder helps the defense and has the same task as a defensive player. Whether the team will score a goal in the match, often depends on the realization of the chances of attackers.

They try to position themselves in a way to hit the ball and make a use of the header.

Precautions to take …

One precaution to take is to avoid going too hard especially if you go for a ball in the air at the same time against an opposite player. Try to time your head kick and avoid the other player head and shoulder as much as possible to minimize the collision risk!

In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy about whether it is dangerous to hit the ball with the head.

Some research has shown that soccer players have a higher risk of developing chronic traumatic brain injury and encephalopathy.

Investigations have been launched into the possible link between brain trauma and ball hitting the head of a player.

Scotland is the first country to introduce a rule that younger categories under the age of 12 are not allowed to hit the ball with their head.

Famous soccer players with amazing heading skills

The grace with which Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo scored goals with their heads caused enthusiasm among soccer fans all over the world.

Drogba was a synonym for scoring goals with his head. In all the clubs he played, he scored some amazing and decisive goals doing so.

Incredible strength, movement and heading strength were the main attributes of this player.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores a tremendous amount of goals with his head. Often described as a player with “finest jump in the history”, his heading technique and body positioning is amazing.

He has the ability to set himself in the right area for the pass, in most cases jumping in front of defenders.

Former Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic certainly had the best header of the defensive players.

His composure, phenomenal strength, and heading duels will be remembered!

His duels with Drogba were especially interesting and a joy to behold.

Final Thoughts …

Learning proper heading in soccer for a beginner could represent a steep learning curve! I totally understand that …

… However, being patient and getting through all the necessary drills to enhance that is totally worth it!

By doing so, you will become really very valuable for your team/coach whether you should to go for a defensive position or an offensive one.

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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