After learning the proper techniques associated with standing heading and jump heading, players at U-14 and above may move on to advanced heading skills. Advanced heading skills in soccer include the glancing header, flick header, skip header, running header, distance header, and diving header. These skills run the gamut from subtle redirection of the ball to dramatic horizontal layout. All are appropriate for both passing and shooting, and some may be used in emergency defending.
As with all instruction and drill in ball skills, proper demonstration and service is critical.
A glancing header in soccer is used to create a minor deflection of a ball in flight. Unlike a traditional header, which provides force to the ball to alter its path, a glancing header uses the existing momentum of the ball to create a slight deviation. Essentially, with a glancing header, the heading player attempts to maintain the same amount of speed, with which the ball arrived, to keep the ball on-its-way after it has been contacted. Glancing headers may be standing or jumping. Glancing headers are often performed in a vertical, or “back-to-front,” orientation on the field.
To create the conditions for a glancing header, the player places the center of their forehead into that position in space necessary for the path of the incoming ball to bounce or touch off of the head in a similar outgoing angle to that from which it arrived. In physics, this is the same as “the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.” The incoming and outgoing angles are not dramatic. A similar analogy is with a billiards ball reflecting off the cushion of a pool table.
To get the head into the proper position, the player essentially has two choices, either starting by moving the body square to the direction of the incoming ball or starting by moving the body at a 90-degree angle to the incoming path of the ball. In the first instance, the player must twist at the waist in order to turn the head to establish the deflecting surface. In the second instance, the surface of the head is similar to that orientation of a teammate completing a wall pass.
Glancing headers are most effective in attack when passing or shooting. The most-common passing scenario involves keeping a flighted ball, which has arrived from out of the defensive end, moving forward, on to a teammate making an attacking run. The most-common shooting scenario involves deflecting the ball past the goalkeeper upon receiving a ball in the air from outside the Penalty Area.
Three players are placed in a line approximately twenty-yards apart. The end players face each other. The center, or target, player is to be offset by approximately two yards from the imaginary line between the two end players, facing 90-degrees to the end players. Using one ball, the player on one end serves the ball forcefully with a mostly flat, but slightly arcing, trajectory to the head of the player in the center. This can be done with a “throw-in” or a “baseball” throw. The player in the center uses a glancing header to send the ball on to the other player. The receiving player collects the ball and repeats from the other direction. The middle player should have at least six headers, then the players rotate positions.
Variation-1: The middle player faces mostly away from the server and rotates at the waist to put the forehead into the proper position to perform the glancing header. The middle player then turns around for the next service. Variation-2: The serving player moves approximately 30-yards away from the target player and kicks the ball to their head. If the kicks are routinely inaccurate, throwing should be continued, or chipping should still be tried.
Set up two players, one server and the target player, in line with a goal. A third player may stand in as an inactive goalkeeper. The target player should be approximately six-yards in front of the goal. Service should be made such that the target player may perform a glancing header into the goal to which the goalkeeper is unable to react.
A flick header in soccer is used to create a substantial deflection of a ball in flight by applying a quick, sharp motion of the head, more closely resembling that of a traditional header, to strike the ball and change its path. The approach to the ball is essentially the same as for a glancing header but, unlike the glancing header, force is applied and the striking angle of the forehead is used to redirect the ball not only laterally but also up or down. Flick headers may be standing or jumping. Flick headers are often performed in a horizontal, or “side-to-side,” orientation on the field.
Similar to that of the glancing header, to create the conditions for a flick header the player places the center of the forehead into that position in space necessary for the path of the incoming ball to be projected off the head. Unlike the glancing header, however, the ball is struck such that the outgoing angle is usually greater than that from which it arrived. In addition, power is applied and the ball is struck above or below the midline in order to target a teammate or a location on goal.
To get the head into the proper position, the player essentially has two choices, either starting by moving the body square to the direction of the incoming ball or starting by moving the body at a 90-degree angle to the incoming path of the ball. In the first instance, the player must twist at the waist in order to turn the head to establish the striking surface. In the second instance, the surface of the head is similar to that orientation of a teammate completing a wall pass.
Flick headers are most commonly used in shooting, usually upon receiving the ball from a cross or a corner kick.
Set up a server at the intersection of an outer Penalty Area line with the Goal Line. Set up the target player approximately eight yards into the field directly from, and facing, the near goalpost. Serve an airborne ball with a slight arc to the space midway between the target player and the goalpost. The target player is to perform a flick header into the far side of the goal.
Using s similar arrangement as in Demonstration/Drill 1, cross a flighted ball from near the corner or perform the variation of a near-post corner kick.
FLICK-ON HEADER (SKIP HEADER, BACK HEADER)
A flick-on header, also known as a skip header or a back header, is performed by drawing the head back at the neck, while simultaneously bending backward at the waist, in order to allow a flighted ball to strike the forehead in an orientation where the forehead is essentially parallel to the ground. This action maintains the momentum of the ball to keep it going on, behind the heading player, to a teammate. The flick-on header is analogous to skipping a flat stone on the surface of smooth water in a pond.
The path of the flight of the ball is basically the continuation of a straight line at the point of execution of the flick-on header. It is usually sent over defenders after the contact is made and is often part of designed or set play, including throw-ins or near-post corner kicks. Ideally, the heading player should be moving toward the ball as contact is made. Impetus for placing the forehead in the proper position, and actually imparting some additional momentum, may be added by thrusting one leg into the air in front, similar to the action of a hitch kick, in order to assist in the backward thrust of the head.
Flick-on headers are not to be performed with the top of the head or while backing up. As with all headers, the top surface of the head is soft and is not appropriate for contact. If backing up, the player can not see anyone or anything that is happening behind them. This creates an unacceptable risk of collision, especially in tight spaces in front of the goal.
Three players are placed in a line approximately twenty-yards apart. The end players face each other. One end player has the ball. The center, or target, player faces the end player with the ball. The player with the ball serves it forcefully with a mostly flat, but slightly arcing, trajectory to the head of the player in the center. This can be done with a “throw-in” or a “baseball” throw. The player in the center uses a flick-on header to send the ball on to the other player. The target player turns to face the receiving player. The receiving player collects the ball and repeats from the other direction. The target player should have at least six headers, then the players rotate positions. (In space, the service should be just short of the target player’s head so that the target player may step toward the ball.)
Same as above, but set up so that the target player starts outside the near post of a goal and the receiving player starts outside the far post of the goal. The receiving player then uses an attacking header to shoot. Variation: The service may be from a cross or a corner kick.
A running header is literally performing a header while on the run, as opposed to standing or jumping. It is often performed uncontested in a situation where getting to a flighted ball quickly benefits an attack or quick counter-attack.
With two players, a server sets up as an “attacker” approximately 20-yards into one half of the field from the halfway line. The heading or “defensive” player starts approximately 20-yards into the other half. Service by the “attacker” may be a throw or a chip that must be delivered, with reasonable arc, to a spot in space at least 10-yards in front of the “defender.” The “defender” is to head the ball, on the run, downfield. Reverse roles. (The heading player may have to hold the start of their run, in order to properly benefit from the drill. Distances may also have to be altered to be effective.)
Same as above, but add a teammate, or target, player off to one side of the server, to whom the “defender” should send the ball.
A distance header is one in which a flighted ball is received from approximately over 40-yards and is sent back with either a standing or jump header over a similar range. These headers involve some of the most significant forces to the head, both incoming and outgoing, in soccer.
(A legitimate alternative to distance heading may be a chest trap, in situations where it can be reasonably performed. This should be confirmed to the players by the coach.)
With two players, a server sets up as an “attacker” at the top of the defensive third of the field. The heading or “defensive” player starts at the top of the opposite Penalty Area. Service by the “attacker” may be a throw or a chip that must be delivered, with reasonable arc, to a spot in space at least 15-yards in front of the “defender.” The “defender” is to head the ball, either with a standing or jump header, as far downfield as possible. Reverse roles. (The heading player may have to hold the start of their run, in order to properly benefit from the drill.)
Same as above, but add a teammate, or target, player off to one side of the server, to whom the “defender” should send the ball.
A diving header in soccer is a head ball performed around the level of the knees by launching the body parallel to the ground, often while attempting to obtain the maximum speed in horizontal flight, and then usually redirecting the ball at goal.
Together with the “bicycle,” the diving header is one of the more dramatic skills in soccer. Although neither are used very often, when the diving header is performed, it involves projecting the body head first at the ball in a full layout position (like “Superman” flying or the start of an American Baseball head-first slide), about 18-inches above the ground. Because contact with the ball is made well below normal waist level, a diving header should not be performed “in traffic,” where one could get kicked in the head.
To perform a diving header, the player first runs directly at the incoming path of the ball. The take-off is performed by lowering the chest and throwing both arms forward while simultaneously pushing out with the last foot in contact with the ground. The head is pulled backward at the neck to align the center of the forehead with the ball slightly above, or just at, the midline.
Upon contact with the ball, the head is flicked to one side to alter the path of the ball. (An alternative is to turn the head early in the direction of the target while thrusting the leg leaving the ground first in the opposite direction, simultaneously bending – left or right as appropriate – at the waist.)
The legs should be slightly bent at the knees to help position the body for the landing. After the ball has been struck, the hands should contact the ground first during the landing, followed by the forearms, chest, hips, and feet.
First, practice diving without the ball. Place three flat disks in front of a goal. The first should be placed at the outer corner of the Goal Area, the second should be placed approximately two-yards inside the Goal Area and four yards toward the field midline from the goalpost (farthest from the first disk), and the third should be placed on a line with the first two disks approximately two yards inside the field of play on the line of the Penalty Area. The first disk is the start of the run, the second disk is the expected heading point and the third disk is the location of the server. (The actual location of the disks may have to be altered to accommodate the player.)
Practice the run and the dive without ball, concentrating on speed, proper takeoff, the head “hitting” an imaginary ball at a spot in space approximately 18-inches above the second disk, the head in the correct position, and a successful landing.
(Note that the initial performance of the dive can be challenging. If there is access to a diving pit of any kind, such as sand, foam blocks, air-filled mat, or gymnastics/wrestling mat, it might be tried first.)
Same as above. Coach holds the ball in an outstretched hand, from the main-field side, approximately 18-inches above the second disk. Players attempt to head the ball inside the far post.
Same as above. The ball is served with an underhand throw, with as little arc as possible, from the location of the third disk, to the spot approximately 18-inches above the second disk. Players start their runs just as the ball leaves the server’s hand.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Flick headers, back headers and sometimes even diving headers may be used by defenders in emergency situations to head the ball over the crossbar or outside a post of the goal. These are very difficult for defenders because of the danger of creating an own-goal. Defenders need to practice these skills to ensure that that the headers are off frame.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- Heading while backing up doesn’t usually turn out very well. Even in a proscribed drill, players should not get “locked-in” to try to perform a skill when the service is not there. They need to be informed that it is proper to react to an errant service with whatever approach would be correctly used in a game.
- As with all heading, do not overtrain. Overtraining is to drill to excess such that, not only is no additional benefit achieved, but harm or injury may result. This is especially true with heading.
- Shooting (attacking) headers should be addressed at all locations on goal.
- Emergency defensive headers should be addressed at all locations in front of the goal.
- Avoid the side, top, or back of the skull. Whereas truly advanced players may use the front, left, or right leading edge of the forehead, or even the sides or back of the head, this is dangerous and is to be discouraged.
- Wall work can be used successfully with each of the headers above as long as players throw the ball correctly at the wall first. There should be no “self toss” involved for heading. (Players are not to try to throw a ball up into the air to attempt heading it themselves.) This rarely works. It develops improper technique because of an inappropriate flight of the ball, and players routinely and incorrectly strike the ball with the top of their head.
© Copyright, John C. Harves