Soccer is one of those games where you have a variety of options when it comes to scoring a goal and winning a match. Among all of the allowed methods to score during a soccer match, heading the ball is considered one of the most important ways to score.
Headers have a very long and bright history in soccer. They are a great way to score a goal to entertain viewers and win a game. I’ll teach you the basics that you need to know whenever you want to head the ball for any reason on the field.
In order to know how to head a ball, you need to know when you are supposed to use your head to hit the ball. Then I’ll teach you how to do it in each scenario.
When should the technique of heading be used in soccer?
The following 5 scenarios might require that you hit the ball with your head.
1- Your team wins a corner kick
Most of the goals that are scored from a corner kick are header goals. Once your team wins a corner kick, most of your team players position themselves somewhere very close to the opponent’s goal waiting for their teammate to kick the ball in the air towards them.
If you are one of the team players who is standing in the opponent’s penalty box waiting for the ball, then you should prepare yourself to hit the ball with your head towards your opponent’s goal.
Here are some of the best practices when it comes to scoring a header goal from a corner kick:
- Before your teammate kicks the ball, make sure that you stand a few meters (yards) behind the trajectory that you think the ball will take after the kick.
- Once your teammate kicks the ball, run towards the goal to gain momentum and adjust your run direction based on where the ball is heading towards.
- Jump once you think that you’re going to intersect with the ball soon.
- Hit the ball with your forehead towards the goal. The best way to do this is to make sure that your forehead is facing the goal once you hit the ball.
Since you are already running forward towards the ball, and since you have enough momentum from the running that you did before intersecting with the ball, then you don’t even need to try and aim at the goal very precisely.
If you ran in the right way towards the goal and you jumped and hit the ball with your forehead at the right time, then there’s a great chance that you will hit the goal somewhere even if your aim wasn’t very accurate. The reason why is because you are already very close to the goal and the goal itself is wide enough.
2- Your friend is kicking the ball high towards you.
High balls are extremely common and effective in soccer matches. Players throw the balls high in the air towards their teammates to make sure none of the players in the middle can block the ball from reaching their teammate.
If you handle these balls effectively in front of the opponent’s goal, you’re going to be a goal scoring machine.
The most common scenario is that your friend is running forward on one of the field sides while you’re running in parallel with them in the middle of the field towards the opponent’s goal, once you become close enough, your friend kicks the ball in the air towards you and gives you to score a header.
Here’s what you should do:
- Keep running in parallel with your teammate till they throw the ball towards you but make sure that you do not fall into the offside trap. Learn more about the soccer rules if you don’t know about the offside rule [soccer rules].
- Your teammate is supposed to kick the ball high in front of you so that you don’t have to pause your momentum while running forward
- Once your teammate kicks the ball, try to adjust your run so that you’ll be able to intersect the ball and hit it with your forehead towards the goal.
- You might need to jump and dive forward if the ball is a little bit far from you. Such an action is called a diving header in soccer and it’s one of the most fascinating ways to score a goal in a soccer match.
3- You are passing the ball to a friend
This one is very simple to accomplish. Let’s say that your teammate sent a high ball towards you, but you immediately notice that one of the opponents is approaching you so you decide that you need to pass the ball immediately with your head.
The ball is supposed to be very close to your position since it’s a pass. Here’s how you can handle it
- Make sure that you are standing still on the ground in order to keep your balance once the ball reaches you.
- Decide in what direction you want to send the ball to when it reaches you.
- Once the ball reaches you, make sure that you hit it with your forehead in a way that directs it towards your target destination.
- You might need to swing your head to change the ball’s direction, or you might need to move your head forward in order to create enough momentum to be able to chance the ball’s direction towards the intended target.
- You might need to jump in your place if the ball is a little bit higher than you. Make sure that you jump at the right time in order to maintain your balance when you’re in midair.
4- You are preventing a high ball from reaching your opponent
Defenders might have to hit the ball with their head more than anyone else in the game. Let’s say that your opponent has kicked a high ball towards one of their teammates. If you’re close to that teammate, then you need to reach the ball before they do.
Here’s what you can do in order to achieve that
- No matter what happens, make sure that you are in front of your opponent and not behind them.
- Once the ball reaches both of you, you’ll both have to jump in order to reach the ball. If you are in front of your opponent, you’ll have a better chance at reaching the ball before them. Note that when you and your opponent are fighting for a high ball, then both of you are required to jump because if one of you didn’t then the other might lose their balance and fall because there’s no one next to them to help them regain their balance once in mid air.
- When the ball reaches you, hit it with your forehead into any direction towards your opponent’s side. You don’t need to aim for anything because your primary goal is to prevent your opponent from reaching the ball and nothing else.
5- Your opponents won a corner kick
When your opponent wins a corner kick, you need to prevent them from scoring by heading the ball away from your goal.
Here’s what you can do when your opponents win a corner kick.
- Pick one of the opponent’s players who is standing close to the goal preparing to score and stay very close to them.
- Make sure that you position yourself correctly. You need to be a little bit closer to the corner than they are in order to reach the ball before them, and you also need to be standing closer to your goal than they are. This will help you beat them to the ball in case it is kicked very close to your goal.
- Once the ball is kicked in the air, follow your opponent to wherever they move in a way that keeps you closer to the ball than they are and closer to your goal than they are.
- Once the ball is close enough, jump and hit the ball with your forehead away from the goal in any direction you wish. Your goal is to send the ball away and nothing else.
There are many other scenarios during which you might need to head the ball, but these are the most common and these already cover all of the details that you need to follow when heading the ball under any situation.
How to practice heading the soccer ball?
Even if you know what to do when you need to head a soccer ball during a match, you might not be able to execute your plan very well because you aren’t trained enough. Here are some methods that you can use in order to head a soccer ball more confidently.
But before I proceed with this section. Whenever you are practicing headers, make sure that you are careful enough, and make sure that you take long breaks between each practice session in order to avoid any possible head injuries.
1- Practice headers with a friend.
Bring one of your friends to practice with you. Stand facing each other while keeping a distance between each other. Then try and pass the ball to each other by heading it towards each other. The longer you can keep the ball in the air, the better you become.
This will help you learn how to hit the ball with your forehead, how to aim the ball correctly towards your friend’s head, and how to jump in the right moment in order to reach the ball in the perfect time.
If none of your friends is available to practice with you. You can just replace your friend with a wall. Throw the ball with your hand towards the wall. Once it bounces back, try to head it towards the wall again.
Keep practicing until you feel confident enough that you’ll be able to hit the ball with your forehead in a perfect way.
2- Do some neck exercises.
The strength of your neck is extremely important during soccer headers. The stronger your neck, the more power the ball will gain once you head it.
Doing some neck workouts can also help reduce the risk of hurting yourself when you are heading a soccer ball.
Here’s a good article that can help you with doing some neck exercises to strengthen your neck.
3- Practice your jump timing and strength
Soccer headers are all about timing your movement very well. If you know when to jump when a high ball is coming towards you, then you’ve already done more than half of the job.
In order to practice your timing, you need a friend to try and kick a corner ball towards you. Make sure that you try to approach the ball from as much different positions as possible.
The more you practice, the better you become at knowing where to stand, how to move, and when to jump when a high ball is coming towards you.
Does heading a soccer ball hurt your health?
Headers in soccer are a great concern for many people. You might try to run away from hitting the ball with your head because you are worried that it might hurt you.
To be honest, headers aren’t always safe. You need to be careful when heading a soccer ball. According to this healthline article, heading a soccer ball may cause concussions if you aren’t careful enough.
With that said, you need to practice heading the ball in the right way. You also need to make sure that you take long breaks during your heading training. Do not practice heading a soccer ball for long durations in order to lower the risks of any head injuries.