Heading the ball soccer training drills

Lots of kids don’t enjoy heading the ball – but by using confidence-building training drills, you can help them overcome the fear factor.

Play it safe
As always, safety is paramount, so…
  1. Start heading training drills when players are aged about eight or nine.
  2. Don’t overdo heading sessions with young players – keep them short.
  3. Make the distances you’re asking players to head the ball suitable for their age.
  4. Don’t introduce opposition to sessions until kids are confident and old enough to cope with physical contact.
  5. Try a softer ball to help build confidence.
  6. Technique and accuracy first – power can always be added later.

Finally, remember: if they’re timid, it’s because
they’re scared, so coax them gently.

It’s only natural

A lot of the time a child’s reluctance to head the ball – they often close their eyes and let it drop on the top of their heads
– is to do with fear. After all, it’s only natural to want to keep your head out of the way of an object you think might hurt it.

Gently does it

The simplest way to gain confidence is to gradually introduce players to the feeling of their forehead meeting the ball. Begin
with asking them to balance the ball on their forehead. Then allow them to have a ball each, and just gently throw it up, head it in the air and catch again. Once they’ve tried that several times, ask them to try to head it twice before catching the ball. Then three times and so on.

The next drill would be to throw the ball up to themselves and then head it to a partner standing approximately 5 metres
away, who repeats the exercise.

This soccer training drill is encouraging your players to:

1. Watch the ball.

2. Keep their eyes open.

3. Head the ball with the forehead.

4. Aim for the middle of the ball.

Once they’re comfortable with this training drill, increase the distance to about 10 metres, and this time have the players
throw the ball underarm to each other.

It’s at this stage that, as well as the four points outlined in the training drill above, you should coach your players to:

  • Move into line with the flight of the ball.
  • Use their neck muscles.


Head up, head down
Heading the ball from danger – The aim of defensive headers is to achieve distance and height. (Click here for a soccer drill to improve defensive headers.) Distance, to keep the ball away from the goal, and height, to give more time for the defence to become organised to repel the next attack.

To achieve this, as well as the drills already mentioned, players should:

  • Keep their eyes below the ball.
  • Head the bottom half of the ball.
  • Be almost side-on with the body.
  • “Attack” the ball.
  • Take off on one foot.
  • Use the arms for elevation.
  • Arch the back before heading the ball.
  • Head the ball at its highest point.
  • Land on both feet.

Heading to score – The big difference between defensive and attacking headers is that attacking players are mostly looking
to head the ball down. That’s because heading the ball down makes it tougher for goalkeepers to make a save. For the same reason, attackers should try to be accurate and aim for the corners of the goal.

The key to the attacking header is to get the eyes over the ball and head the top half of the ball. (Click here for a soccer drill to improve attacking headers.)

Heading for success
Heading the ball is a skill that’s often overlooked. Ignore it, and you could be throwing away the chance to gain a crucial advantage over your opponents. All it takes is a little bit of patience and a lot of practice.