Heading the ball is not a complicated part of the game of soccer yet many players fail to perform the header properly. Heading the ball isn’t simply about jumping and heading the ball, but instead being in total control when in the air and knowing exactly where you want to direct the ball. When heading the ball, some players create the “hang” effect which makes them appear to be in the air for a slightly longer period of time than their opponents. This allows them to be in total control and ultimately win the header.
There a few key elements to performing the header and perfecting the “hang”:
- the hang typically does not happen from a standstill to a jump. It requires a small run prior to the jump which could be anywhere from 5 feet or more.
- Once in the air, lift your feet behind you. In essence, this will give the appearance that you are higher in the air than you really are.
- keep your back straight. Having good posture will keep you more erect and as a result your body will be higher in the air. This further accentuates the “hang” effect. Note: you’ll never seen a person slouched with hang time.
- keep your elbows up. This will help create space around you and ultimately protect yourself. It also gives the illusion that you’re higher up.
Don’t forget that the players can hang in the air when heading the ball work hard on their vertical jump. This goes without saying.
You do not need to do the hang every single time you head the ball but the more often you can do it, the better. Sometimes, it is simply better to clear the ball in your defensive end with a normal header if you’re under extreme pressure. However, the midfield and offensive third is an excellent place to go up for the hang time. And be careful not to be undercut by any players. The attached picture of Cristiano Ronaldo heading the ball is an excellent example of the hang.
Give it a try next time in training. Once you get the “hang” of it, it really becomes quite simple.