Heading

Updated February 25th 2020 in line with new FA guidance on heading the ball...

Before getting into anything involving the technique of heading the ball, you need to make yourself aware of the FA's guidance (updated February 2020) around heading a ball and what you can / can't do at training sessions. Heading is completely banned in training for younger age groups and limited for the older ones. Full details on which age groups can do what are on the FA website, here:

http://www.thefa.com/-/media/thefacom-new/files/about-the-fa/field-research-study-findings/the-fa-heading-guidance.ashx

http://www.thefa.com/news/2020/feb/24/updated-heading-guidance-announcement-240220

Keep an eye on further FA guidance - things may well change as more information becomes available from further studies. Safety and the health of players is absolutely the priority here, so err on the side of caution if you are in any doubt as to what is / isn't allowed.

Heading - Coaching Points

Once your players are at an age where heading the ball becomes relevant and limited practice is allowed, you want them to learn the correct technique...

As always, don't try and cover all these points in one session, especially now heading practice for even the older age groups is limited (and banned altogether in the younger age groups). The basics should always be taught before trying to introduce any more complex or advanced concepts. Having your players understand the key points for heading a ball safely is the most important thing.

  • Feet wide in a "boxer" stance.
  • Contact with the ball should be made with the forehead area. Top of the head occasionally used for flicking on throws or low-trajectory balls from corners etc. where contact is not "face on".
  • Body position - as the ball is travelling, get into position so you can make a good contact with the ball, with your body shape dependent on where you want the header to go.
  • Watch the ball approach (but close eyes for actual contact), keep mouth closed to avoid injury.
  • Attack the ball to give the header power - don't just wait for the ball to hit your head or you risk injury. Use the hips and back to add that power. Keep the neck firm.

Once your players have mastered simply heading a ball, you may then want to consider further points to make them more effective in game situations with their heads...

  • Is this a defensive header (send the ball away from danger into wide areas) or an attacking header (to score, or to pass to a team mate) - different priorities in different situations.
  • If trying to score from a cross, as a general rule, head down into the ground as harder for the keeper to save.
  • Arms up to help protect from opponents, keep balance and move the head forward.
  • Timing of run and jump to make contact with the ball at just the right moment (difficult skill).
  • Heading the bottom of the ball will send the header up, heading the top of the ball will send the header down.
  • Angle of head for direction of header.
  • Is a header the right choice for the situation - could the player take a step back and receive the ball on their thigh or foot instead? A header isn't a great way of cushioning the ball or keeping possession if under no pressure, so get the players thinking about this.


There are plenty of videos on YouTube with demonstrations of how to head a football - a simple search for "how to head a football" brought some good ones up. Watching them will help you understand the above coaching points in more detail.


Heading - Introducing Into Training Games (Game Realism)

Practicing heading to get a sound basic technique is great, but you'll then want to get your players coping with heading the ball in more realistic, game situations.

Starting by introducing opposition pressure when heading the ball into your training exercises will get the players dealing with that.

If you've run a session on heading, then finishing with a match where a goal scored from a header is worth double or a defensive clearance with a header earns you a point is a way of focusing the players' minds (and heads!) on heading the ball. At a more advanced level, you can get into giving points for specific types of header (flicked on from a cross or corner, down into the ground across the goalkeeper etc...)

Remember though, any heading practice in training must sit within the FA guidance. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.