INSPIRED, CONFIDENT & EFFECTIVE COACHING

Have fun with headers and build player confidence

Players shouldn’t be scared of heading a football. You need to get them used to doing it and build up their confidence so they can do it in matches. Don’t spend too long on it, but do make it fun, says Dave Clarke.Most cases of concussion in football injuries are from heads clashing rather then heading the ball. From under 4s right through to under 16s your players need to practise heading. Young players from under 4 through to under 7 should practice heading by throwing the ball in the air, let it bounce on the ground once, and then try to head the ball forward, not up again. The grass takes a lot of the power out of the ball, and they are heading the ball from a much lower height. This drill develops good judgment of a ball from the bounce, and confidence that the ball will not hurt them as they learn the skill.

Two fun ways to coach heading
From under 7s upwards I always look for fun ways to coach players how to be confident in heading a ball and how to make it work for the team in matches. These are two very effective ways to do it.
  • Get your players into pairs with one player as the server and the other the header. The header must start by kneeling up with his arms by his sides.
  • The server throws the ball and the player dives forward to head the ball, follow through and end up on his arms.
  • Tell your players to try to contact the ball and not let it contact them, and hit it on the hard part of their head using their whole body to follow through.

Heading it backwards helps confidence

You can also use this fun game to help with the back header, important at corners when your players are trying to head the ball on. It also gets them used to flicking the ball on when it is banging around in mid-air. I like this exercise because it gets the players involved in team work as well as being fun. They are going to try to head the ball back along the line and the game is to see which team can get it from front to back quickest.

Key coaching tip: keep sessions short but make sure you do them often

Heading is an activity you don’t want to do for too long especially with a younger player but you do want to make sure they are comfortable with it, and that it is something they are not afraid of because it is a very important part of the game.

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