Youth soccer players can be reluctant to head the ball because of the fear of getting hurt. When coaching youth soccer, specifically beginners, your role is to remove this fear. You can do this by applying the following soccer coaching tips.
Heading is one of the most important techniques to acquire because it has such a wide range of uses. These include scoring goals, saving goals, clearing the ball, controlling the ball and passing the ball. Unlike most of us when we get older, kids have great memories. If a child has headed a ball incorrectly when they are younger, they will tend to remember this for the rest of their playing career unless they are coached in the correct technique and are exposed to the most appropriate soccer drills. This technique then needs to be reinforced at training until they are confident in heading the ball without fear.
Consider for a moment that a ball is on the collision course with your head, or that you have a good chance of intercepting a ball with your head. Should you use the top of your head? Or maybe you should use the side of your head? As a matter of fact, it is the forehead that should be the only portion of your head that comes in contact with the ball. If you cannot ensure that it is your forehead that connects with the ball, it is better to let the ball pass. The reason is quite simple: the forehead is the most densely boned portion of your skull, and it is the least likely to be damaged by a high velocity impact, thus protecting your brain the best. If the ball comes in contact with the temple, however, the same cannot be said.
Other than the head, the neck and torso also play an integral part in heading the ball effectively. At the moment of impact when the ball is striking the forehead, the neck is completely rigid, thus protecting the integrity of the neck muscles as well as that of the spine. The movement of the neck that follows later, such as when the ball is propelled toward the target, is almost always coupled with the propelling of the torso forward which further provides the strength the neck needs to assist the forehead in redirecting the ball.
Soccer Coaching Tips – Heading
- Feet apart, one slightly ahead of the other pointing toward the target
- Body weight on the soles with the majority being on the back foot
- Knees bent slightly
- Body leaning slightly back (arching back from the hips)
- Arms forward and towards the ball
- Head steady
- Eyes focused on the ball
- Get as much of the body behind the ball as possible
- Keep eyes open and watch the ball onto the head
- Gently push through the ball with the head and contact the ball with the forehead not the top of the head
- Head through the top half of the ball to head down
- Head through the bottom half of the ball to head up
- The head continues to move through the target after striking the ball
It is a good idea if the player is a beginner, get them to practice heading the ball to themselves first so they can get the feel of the ball on the forehead. As their confidence increases, put them with another team mate and they can practice throwing the ball to each other from close range. When [tag-tec]coaching youth soccer[/tag-tec], a good warm up exercise to practice is ‘soccer tennis’. There are various [tag-tec]soccer drills[/tag-tec] and variations of ‘soccer tennis’ but one soccer drills I like is to get the kids in a circle and get them to keep the ball up in the air with their head. The challenge is to see how many headers they can do without the ball touching the ground. Don’t forget before they head the ball, get them to say the name of the player they are going to be heading it to, this will assist in their accuracy.
When coaching youth soccer, it is important to identify those players in the team that are not confident or are frightened to head a ball. Take them aside and provide some one on one coaching and follow the [tag-tec]soccer coaching tips[/tag-tec] above. Heading is usually performed under pressure so as soon as the players are confident and are using the correct technique, soccer drills should incorporate situations where the player is heading under pressure.