There are many advantages to knowing how to properly head a soccer ball, for example, attackers can score goals and defenders can clear dangerous opportunities. Heading the ball is a vital skill that will require both practice and courage. Deciding when to jump, what part of the ball to hit, as well as generating power are all components that may be mastered after following the few guidelines below.

Keep Your Eyes Open and On The Ball

The only way to accurately judge the flight of the ball is to be looking at it. By keeping your eyes open, you can tell whether you will have to move towards the ball, or wait for it to come directly to you. At the last second when your head is making contact with the ball, then your eyes will be closed. 

Keep the eyes on the ball and adjust your body so you strike it using the forehead. Using the top of the forehead near the natural hairline gives players the most control, helps generate power and is the least painful spot to strike the ball. Preparing for a header and being ready to complete the action is crucial. Do not let the ball hit your head, the idea is to always hit the ball instead.

Assess Your Environment for Competition

In any given game, there is the assumption that there are no “free” headers, meaning every ball in the air will be contested by at least one opposing player. To protect yourself from injury and give yourself the best chance to win the header, a player should assess their immediate surroundings. Depending on the situation, you should analyze the field prior to having to head the ball, or if a decision must be made quicker, then you must use your peripheral vision to glance around the surrounding area. Assessing your environment is necessary to avoid clashes with a teammate, as well as to decide how to adjust your positioning based on the flight of the ball. 

Positioning Your Body

While it is the head that comes in contact with the ball, utilizing other parts of the player’s body will help to generate power. If a header does not require you to jump, then you should plant your feet firmly on the ground, providing a strong foundation for the rest of your body. Bend your knees to provide balance and to propel your momentum from your feet upward. To ensure you hit the ball with power, lean back to channel the momentum through your neck muscles, allowing you to transfer a sufficient amount of force to the ball. 

Use the arms for balance and follow through with the header to ensure maximum power.

Jumping At the Right Time

The most common type of headers requires the player to jump. A quality jump requires planting your feet firmly on the ground, bending your knees and exploding straight up. There is no exact science telling a player the perfect time to jump, however with enough practice and repetition, it will become rather easy to estimate the best time to jump to meet the ball in the air with enough force. 

Time the ball, bend your knees, and keep the eyes open until the time of the header. Is important to close the mouths during the heading process to prevent injuries.

Types of Headers

It is important to note that there are different types of headers, each requiring using different sides of the head. However there are many more, we are doing to talk about the basic 5 headers.

1. For attacking headers, you should use your forehead for optimal power. You should aim to direct the ball downwards toward the goal, making it difficult for the goalie to make a save.

Attacking Header

2. “Flick-on” headers can be executed as a pass, or to score goals. It involves using the top-middle part of your head to push the ball backwards. To flick the ball backwards, position your body so the ball will be landing on the top-middle part of your head. Just as it comes in contact with your head, move your head upwards and back, applying the right amount of power using your back and neck. 

Flick Header

3. To execute a diving header, launch yourself toward the ball, making sure your body is nearly parallel to the ground. Diving headers should be hit with your forehead to generate the most amount of power. Diving headers may require you to run towards the ball, so your run must also be timed to perfection.

Soccer player in blue jersey in the air heading the ball. Stadium in the background.

4. A glancing header involves a short burst run, followed by jumping. A glancing header requires minimal contact of the ball, as it relies on the ball to keep its pace in the air. To execute a glancing header, position your body so you are running towards the ball, letting the ball touch the side of your head to change its direction toward the goal. 

5. Defensive headers are used to clear the ball away from your goal. These headers should be directed upwards and out toward the sides of the field to avoid danger. To execute a defensive header, hit the bottom side of the ball with as much power using your forehead.  

Heading is an extremely useful attribute to master, regardless of your position. 

Defensive Header