How to get your players heading

Taking the fear out of heading can have positive results on the pitch



How often do these thoughts go around your head? One of the golden rules of defending is don’t let the ball bounce from a high ball into your half of the field. It makes a huge difference to your team if the ball is headed away.

It’s the same in attack. How often do you see Billy Elliott style high legs trying to get at a ball that needs heading into the net?

It happens all the time. And why should an 8-year-old put his head in the way of the ball? – it hurts!

You are going to have to convince young players that heading the ball the right way doesn’t hurt. Show them how to do it so they can head it naturally in matches. At this age, rarely will the ball be kicked at them with great power so they will be able to ease their way into heading before they have to dive or head out a hard free-kick.

The simplest way to gain confidence is to gradually introduce players to the feeling of their forehead meeting the ball. Begin by asking them to balance the ball on their forehead.

You can progress to the quick exercise below that gets players used to the ball approaching their head, while maintaining control of the ball throughout.

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.

You should be 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

It’s that simple to coach heading. Don’t be rushed into advancing them just yet keep it at this level before you move on to throwing the ball to each other in pairs to head it.

Get more secrets, tips and advice on how to run a successful team in the weekly coaching publication Soccer Coach Weekly.

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