Heading the ball in midfield

by Philip MacDonald | Last updated

A reader emailed in the question “where should I head the ball in my own end and in midfield?”  Many players simply head the ball to make contact but there is much more to heading the ball than that.  Below are a few tips on heading the ball:

  • When heading the ball out out of your 18 yard box, be sure to clear the ball wide.  Do not head the ball up the middle as it can be shot on net or crossed back into the penalty area.  A clearance out wide is much rather preferred than a clearance up the middle.
  • Do not let the ball bounce, especially when it is kicked up field by the goalie.  Heading the ball off a goal kick can hurt quite a bit but it still must be done.  If you let the ball bounce, the other team can run onto it and you will have problems in your end.  Not only that but it will take a large bounce into your end creating further problems. You’ll have to run back into your end just to get ball under control again and move forward.  Also, if you don’t head the ball/back away and let it bounce, then it appears you’re scared of it and the other team will take advantage of that.  Point being, head the ball on a first time basis.  Do not let it bounce.
  • Every header should have a purpose.  Make sure each header is meant for a teammate.  One team I played against used to call the following play a “knock-down.”  It was a header that was literally a pass off the head to a teammate where he could play the ball.  In other words, instead of heading the ball with power up the field, or for a clearance, it was rather a short/soft contact off the head where the intended receiver could easily bring it down under control and play on the ground with it.  These are very effective when you want to bring the ball quickly to the ground and under control.

Remember that every header you make should have a purpose.  Don’t just head it for the sake of heading it.  Becoming a good header of the ball will add another element to your soccer game.  Being smart about where and how you head the ball will add another element and then you’ll be off the races.

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