How To Head A Soccer Ball

When people think of soccer, they often think of skilled and athletic players using their incredible fitness and coordination to kick a ball with accuracy and power.

While it’s true, soccer players need to primarily focus on their ball skill and coordination when using their feet, there is one very important and overlooked skill that people underestimate in soccer, and that is heading the ball.

Heading in soccer is absolutely key and is one of the biggest tools, used as a defensive tool as well as a lethal goal scoring threat. Although heading looks quite simple, there’s a lot of skill and technique involved in making great headers, and it’s something that any player with high aspirations should work on.

How to Head a Soccer Ball

Take Cristiano Ronaldo for example. He made his name as an incredibly fast winger, with blistering sprint speed, incredible footwork and dribbling as well as amazing power and accuracy in his shots.

He was pretty much the complete footballer in the beginning of his career, however as his youth started to fade and he lost some of his speed, Ronaldo added a new tool to his arsenal to completely overhaul his playstyle and shape himself into an incredibly accurate and powerful header of the ball, making him one of the most prolific strikers in football, even at the age of 37, an age where most players can no longer continue to perform at the highest level.

This indicates just how important heading technique can be, and it’s one of the key reasons that Ronaldo has remained a goal scoring threat in his latter career.

A quick youtube clip will show you just how much technique is involved in Ronaldo’s heading, as he is able to generate huge power and leap incredibly high, totally beating most players to the ball in any aerial competition.

In this guide we’re going to look at how to head a soccer ball, helping you to add this hugely important skill to your own arsenal, whether you need to use it to defend set pieces as a center back, win 50-50 challenges in the midfield or score goals as a striker.

The Basic Steps

There are three key phases in a good header, and we’re going to break each of them down to help you understand what you need to do in each phase of a header.

  1. Prepare yourself to head the ball

This step is very important, as it’s really difficult to head the ball if you aren’t positioned correctly or don’t see it coming.

Once you’re in a great position to make a header there are a few things you should be doing simultaneously in order to maximise your chances of winning a header.

  • The first thing you need to do is keep your eyes open and on the ball right up until it makes contact with you. There are a few reasons for this, the first being that it’s safer, and allows you to stay aware of where the ball is going to be until the last moment, and where other players are around you. It will also help you to pick your desired spot when you actually head the ball.
  • Close your mouth! Heading the ball often puts the skull under considerable pressure and force, so clenching your jaws will help prevent you from injuring yourself as you head the ball.
  • Plant both feet and stay poised with a slight bend in your knees and your body ready to spring up to meet the ball. It’s best to position your dominant foot slightly in front of the other to give yourself the best balance as you prepare to launch yourself to meet the ball.
  1. Generate power

This phase of the header is what will allow you to actually direct the ball with purpose and force, whether you need to clear danger or are hoping to put the ball in the back of the net.

To do this you need to do a few things, bending your knees, and engaging your core ready to increase your power as you jump for the ball. The following things should happen at the same time;

  •  Bend the knees and keep your arms slightly out from your body to give yourself space and to fend off contesting players.
  • Stand up straight and arch your back to engage your back muscles as you prepare to jump.
  • Try to keep your chin tucked slightly to ensure you can generate additional energy by using your neck muscles when you make contact with the ball.
  1. Head the Ball

Heading the ball is an active, direct, and purposeful skill. It’s something that requires intent and aggression, and if you simply allow the ball to hit you without attacking it, you actually increase the chance of head injury from the ball or contesting players.

Headers need to be won most of the time, so steel yourself and prepare to put some umph into it. You will need to actively jump at the ball to win a header, and to do this you need to follow these steps;

  • Jump (if the situation calls for it) and use your hips to bend forward slightly, and also thrust your head and chin towards the ball, simultaneously using your arms to drive backwards and engage additional muscles and force for the header.
  • Use the center of your forehead to make contact with the ball to avoid injury. If the ball hits you on the nose or the top of the head you will be dazed at best or potentially break your nose depending on the speed of the ball. This is why it’s important to keep your eyes open, to avoid losing track of the ball and hurting yourself.
  • If you need to direct the ball, try turning your head as it hits you to direct the ball where you want it to go.
  • If you need to jump, land on both feet and absorb the landing by bending the knees slightly.