How do you head a football?

Footballer header
File Photo Credit: Samuel Lim

By Lim Weiyang


In the game of soccer, aside from using your legs, the only other body part you can use to generate power, accuracy and distance would be your head. The head is also the highest body part, making it possible to reach the ball quicker than a player just adept at using his feet. As such, mastering heading is very important in becoming a good footballer.

Many teams make long overhead passes, especially during goal kicks as it gets the ball up-field and eliminates the risk of interception. In situations where the ball is still in the air, which team gains possession often boils down to who wins the aerial duel between your receiving player and the opposition. There are football teams that fashion their tactics around this advantage and they play what is termed “direct” football, which you can read up more about under football formations

In this article, we will discuss the methodologies of heading in different scenarios as well as the actual technique used for heading a football.

Defensive headers

For defensive headers, you want to be heading the ball at an angle away from your post and upwards into the air. You should never head downwards unless you are extremely certain that your teammate would receive the ball. To get the ball upwards, use your forehead to make contact with the underside of the football.

The reason why you head upwards is so you buy time and allow your defence to get ready and perhaps even engage in another aerial duel. If you head it downwards, it may go to the feet of your opposition and you will have committed a great injustice to your team. So remember, for defensive headers, head the ball upwards and away from goal.

Offensive headers

If you are in a goal-scoring position such as being within the 6 yard box or penalty box, you will want to direct the ball with your head with power and downwards at goal. To do so, you first need to leap higher than the football and make contact with the top half of the football.  The important thing to remember during an offensive header is to keep the ball low and to use power!  

3 Tips for Headers

1. Where is the ball going to land?

Study the trajectory of the ball and position yourself where the ball will be for you to head. 

2. Always make contact with your forehead

Your forehead is the area that will generate the most power and cause the least pain to yourself. Avoid using your scalp as the accuracy will be poor and it has a higher risk of head injury from high impact balls. Engage your neck muscles just before your forehead makes contact with the ball.

3. Open your eyes, close your mouth and clench your teeth

Opening your eyes would ensure you don't crash into opposing or friendly players. It may be hard to get used to at first as its a reflex action to close your eyes upon impact. Closing your mouth and clenching your teeth is extremely important as it prevents you from accidentally biting your tongue or breaking a tooth during a forceful header. 

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