A player with good heading skills is a more valuable one.
Anyone can get better at heading if they practice right…
…and do the best soccer header drills.
In this post, I’ll be sharing what those drills are… and how you can become better at heading in soccer.
Knowing how to correctly head a soccer ball is just one half of the battle.
Learning “when” and “why” to head the ball is also a crucial factor in the game and it is something that all players need to learn.
By learning just a few simple soccer header drills, you can get well ahead of the curve as far as heading is concerned and you can use these skills to show others a better way of playing the game.
In this article, we are going to look at offensive and defensive soccer heading drills that will make you a better soccer player!
Torquing Your Neck
One of the hardest things to do is get over that heading the ball looks like it will hurt.
To get the ball going as far as possible, you have to put your momentum into the ball and make it go! To do it, you have to torque your neck.
[General Heading] Drill 1: Momentum Heading
This is a great way to practice torquing your neck.
- Have your player start on their knees.
- Throw the ball to them, have them wrench their body backwards and then quickly move forward with their momentum in order to head the ball.
- A great variation is to have two players try to head it back and forth.
After they master it on the ground, they should be able to stand up and easily head the football from one to the other with more force.
The short video that follows perfectly illustrates the above steps and add a few more advanced ones.
Attacking the Ball
In this instance, what I’m talking about is making sure you are going straight for the ball.
So many players, regardless of their age, are scared to attack the ball.
When coaching, I always try to convey that it is those who go full on each time that get hurt less than those that decide to stand back.
So… attack the ball!
No matter if you are attacking or defending, attack the ball and you will prosper from it.
[General Heading] Drill 2: 50-50 Challenges
This is a variation of a game that can be played any number of ways, but in this version we are going to work only with headers.
What you need: This can be done with 2+ people, but you need a ball and a person to throw it to you.
- Simply have the two players stand equal distances away from you and then throw the soccer ball into the air.
- Emphasize that both players go hard but fair for the ball.
- Mix up the heights and velocities with the tosses, but always make sure they are in the air.
You can play so that it is two out of three or you can make it rapid fire where the winner stays in until they lose.
Soccer Offensive Heading Drills
Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to the offensive side of the game.
To do this, we have two drills that are both fun and very useful for learning how to head the ball.
[Attacking Heading] Drill 3: Six-Yard Box Headers
Being able to head the ball from right next to the goal is great but, to tell you the truth, that skill is very rarely rewarded.
Instead, players should learn how to head the football from outside the six-yard box.
What you need:
In this drill, you need to set up cones to remind your players not to cross over.
Preferably this is done with a squad of players (but it does not have to be), as well as a good number of soccer balls.
- Two people stand beside the goals and toss the balls to the players.
- The players will run up, one at a time, and head the ball from someone that is tossing the ball to them.
The reason we are tossing the ball is so that we get more accurate touches and because it is harder to get power to it.
The players are not allowed to come inside the goal box. If they do, the goal does not count.
If you have enough for two teams, you can keep count of the goals and see who wins the game!
[Attacking Heading] Drill 4: Everyone is a Keeper
Here is fun drill that will get everyone involved and it might even make them realize how hard it is to be a goalkeeper too.
What you need: You need four players for this drill, four cones, and a ball. The cones need to be set up in a six by six square.
How to: The object of the game is to head the ball inside of the opponent’s side of the square. The opposition team, both players, may use their hands. Goals only count by being headed into the ground and in.
- To start, one player tosses the ball to their teammate.
- From there, the teammate heads it back to them before the original tosser will try to head the football into the goal.
- If it is saved, they need to get back on their line and get ready for the other team’s attempt.
The reason the ball needs to be headed into the ground is because this is teaching the players to keep the ball down when they are heading for the goal.
It can be tough to do so when the ball is coming at you hard, so this is a good way to teach that skill at a lower level first.
Soccer Defensive Heading Drills
The following drill is a good one to teach your team the exact opposite of the above skill.
[Defending Heading] Drill 5: Monkey in the Middle
When defending, you never want to head the ball into the ground, rather you want it to go high and over the other team.
What you need: In this drill, you need at least four people. Two players will stand in the middle of a 10×5 box. At least one player will be on the ends.
How to: The goal is for them to head the ball back and forth to each other while keeping it away from the players standing in the middle.
- To begin the game, one player throws the ball over the top of the “monkeys” toward the other player(s).
- They must head the ball back over the top of the “monkeys”.
- If a “monkey” takes the soccer ball away, they switch and the game restarts quickly.
Don’t penalize a player that heads the ball over the top just because it doesn’t reach the other side; that is not the purpose of this drill.
Just have the next player pick the ball up and continue.
[Defending Heading] Drill 6: Corner Kick Defending
The classic moment when you need a good defensive header is when your team is defending a corner kick. It can be a scary moment at youth level since many players just don’t want to head the ball.
This is a simple, yet very effective drill to do.
What you need: Any number of players can be used in this, ranging from one to ten.
- Line the players up at various intervals.
- Then, have someone reliable take corners from afar.
- The players’ job is to attack the ball and get it as far away as possible. If they can, they should try to head it out for a throw-in or as far out wide as they can.
The other thing we are looking for in this drill is communication.
If a player intends to go for the ball, they need to call it by saying “I got it,” “mine”, or something else to signify that they are going for it.
This not only helps your team learn to attack the ball and clear it out of the middle as well, but it also teaches them to not run into each other.
Heading the ball can be a frightening experience for some players.
These soccer header drills are a great way to help your players become much less timid and have more fun while heading the ball.
The more comfortable they get at it, the better they will ultimately be at heading.
To reach that level, they need to have fun and understand that they can mess up a little on the way to learning it.
Hopefully the exercises described here will bring competition and fun into it while also teaching valuable lessons that can’t be replicated by just playing in a scrimmage.
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Remember: practice makes perfect!