Heading to score

Heading to score

Heading to score

This football (soccer) drill is designed to improve the player’s heading ability.

Players are divided equally into two groups.

One group is positioned behind the goal to recover missed headers. The second group are split equally and positioned at two cones placed at the edge of  the penalty area. Two servers, positioned each side of the goal, serve the ball in the air and between the two cones placed approximately 12 yards from the goal line.

Players recovering the balls should ensure there is a ready supply of ball for the servers.

The players heading receive a throw from the server diagonally opposite. The ball must be struck after it passes through the cones. Any ball struck before passing through the cones does not count. The group works as a team to see how many goals they can score in a three-minute period.

Coaching points: The emphasis should be placed on accuracy and power. Players should time their runs so that they do not have to break stride when heading the ball.

Heading for beginners



1. Each player with a football, emphasis on striking the ball at the hairline. Players self-head ball back to hands as they jog across field and back. Stop at each line (sideline to sideline) to stretch.

2. Pairs with one ball. Moving across width of field, player running backwards tosses ball to oncoming player, who alternates heading to tosser’s feet and hands.

3. Pairs with one ball. Tosser on end of grid (15-20 yards long); header attacks ball for either defensive or attacking headers as he or she moves forward or backward to play ball.

4. Players with one ball each, head juggling to self. Add movement to a line and back while working in pairs. Make relay race – return to starting point if lose control of ball.

5. Pairs juggling. Hit ball twice and return to teammate; 3x, 4x, 5x and work numbers back to one touch.

Fundamental stage

1. Pairs hold ball head high and head it out of hands (don’t toss it). Forces player to hit through the ball.

2. Pairs, lying on stomach. Use upper back and neck to head for power. Start with chin tucked down and, as ball is headed, extend forward.

Heading 1

3. Pairs, sitting position with hands and feet on the ground and hips lifted off ground. As tosser throws ball, header pushes his or her hips forward, and as they head the ball, drives hips back for power.

4. Sitting position in pairs. Emphasis on arching back, “chin in, chin forward” head posture as they meet ball tossed by teammate (lack of backspin on the ball indicates proper striking technique with the head.

Watch that header doesn’t drop chin and hit ball with top of head;
Strikes ball at full thrust, meets the ball “out front” of body or in front of vertical axis of body;

Strikes ball on its top half (offensive heading) and head “down.”

Heading for beginners

5. Kneeling position with hyper extended hips in pairs. Emphasis on striking “through the ball” with head and upper body to impart power to ball. Also have follow-through such that header lands on his or her hands when finished.

Double groups and have two kneeling players self toss and try to play ball under hands of second player five yards away. Others have extra balls and retrieve. One-minute games.

6. Standing position in groups of two. Emphasis placed on hips and legs (staggered positioning of legs) when striking the ball. Watch total coordinated effort of body in heading. Introduce defensive heading with emphasis on striking bottom half of the ball for height.

Short, short long game (see Diagram 1 (A)). In groups of four (extra player with balls), start with player in middle (X1) self-tossing and playing a short ball to second player (X2), who then heads long ball to X3. X3 plays ball into a pivoted X1 who plays short ball back to X3. X3 then plays long ball to X2, etc. Watch where surface of the ball is being struck.

Heading7. Groups of three with a player in middle who redirects hand-served balls to one of the open players (see Diagram 1(B)). Emphasis on varied serves so that heading player adjusts body position to head the ball “in front” of them and, as much as posssible, faces with his or her upper body toward the intended target player.

8. Jumping for headers.
A. Twelve players — six form circle and hold ball with two hands at head height for other six players to run at and jump and head clockwise, then counter-clockwise rotation (see Diagram 2). Rotate player’s roles.

  • Watch for takeoff on foot closest to ball;
  • Approaching the ball from side, must try to turn so that upper body is square to ball;
  • Watch for arch and head thrust as in earlier instruction.

Heading 4B. Groups of three: tosser, stationary player, header (fourth player with extra balls.

Header performs headers over stationary player with two-footed takeoff from standing start;
Header performs headers over stationary player with short run-up and one-footed takeoff;
Have stationary player continuously jumping to distract header;
Have headers try to strike balls offensively and defensively;
Have headers try to strike balls to the server who moves to one side after tossing the ball to the header.

9. One ball per two players. Player performs three headers (offensive, defensive, his or her choice) with a player with a ball; players then move to another player with a ball (see Diagram 3). Alternate players with and without balls Next round – slide left, jump and head; slide right, jump and head; dive and head.

Drill can be timed (one minute?) and greatest number by each team can be tallied;

Can require a certain number of headers by each individual and lapsed time for team.

Youth soccer heading10. Moving triangle; 2 tosses ball to moving 1, who heads to feet of 3 (see Diagram 4). Change and have head to hands of either the server or third player (see Diagram 5). Change and have players punt ball out of hands, rather than toss ball.

11. Three groups of three players organized in triangles, each with a ball in a large area (see Diagram 6, parts A and B). Balls must always be tossed to a teammate, but upon toss, header may play ball to an open player from any triangular group. Repeat as triangles move freely about. Try with punts from hand and balls played from the ground.

12. 2v2 in 10 x 15-yard grid. Two players must stand on their end line acting as goalkeepers to defend their goal (the 10-yard line) (see Diagram 7). The other two players head the ball back and forth and try to score by heading it over the end line. The ball starts with a toss, but then must be headed back and forth only. If the ball drops, the two who were heading retreat to defend their goal line. The other two players pick up the ball where it dropped and attack by heading back and forth. If the keepers catch the ball, they start the tossing, heading action, etc. Score by heading the ball over the keepers (defensive headers) or by playing ball below head height (offensive heading).

Heading from crosses

  1. Partners with ball, server and header. Seated header from serve back to server. change roles.
  2. Push-up header back to server.
  3. Kneeling header back to server.
  4. Squatting position diving header
  5. Standing 5 yards from server, attack underhanded serve, head to feet, sprint to opposite side, repeat.
  6. Server behind goal to attacking player jogging forward from 18 heading to goal with goalie
  7. Add shoulder pressure defender to run with and to jump with attacking player in step 6
  8. Add second attacking player, let defender play full pressure
  9. Move service to side channels
  10. Move service to two crossing servers in outside channels, play 3 v 3 to two goals with goalies on short field, add two players in middle who play for attacking side to give 5 v 3 for team attacking goal each time. Add a second ball server behind the goal to provide rebounds.
  11. Play live, 5 v 5 to goals with goalies, restrict scoring to attacking headers or rebounds

A coaching point would be that players should make bending runs to goal so they can open their hips and face the ball coming in from the wing. Most players will start out by running straight to goal, and you have to train away from this, starting as soon as you have realistic ball services from the side.

A second coaching point for the 11 steps preceding is that these services require the player to attack the ball, and most of the services would be lofted balls, rather than driven balls to the near post.

Another tip that may help you if you move on to near post headers with driven balls (as opposed to lofted balls at the back post that the 11 steps above cover): If you do not have the consistent skill to serve a driven ball to the near post and get the timing just right and not strike it so hard that you kill one of your starting players, there is a workaround. Lie on the ground (face up) near the edge of the goal box near the goal-line (on the side of the goal-area). In this position, you can throw balls with an overhead throw from this position that have about the right trajectory and pace, and which always have the correct location. Not perfect, but if you hit the same spot each time, your players will start redirecting balls into the goal with confidence.

Heading – distance and power

Heading game

Heading gameUse a 10 metre square.

S (server) throws the football to X1, who then has to head the ball over S to X.

X2 then controls the ball with either foot, chest, or head, then returns it to S to repeat the practice.

All 3 players in the practice can rotate duties so that all players get the opportunity to work at heading.

As the players improve, this practice can be performed in a larger area, although the coach must insist on accuracy as well as distance (not just distance).

Coaching points

For the player heading:

  • Eyes on the ball all the time
  • Move into the line of the service (by using the feet)
  • Head the ball with the forehead
  • Almost side-on with the body when heading
  • Go for power by using the neck muscles
  • Try and increase the distance of the headed clearance.

Awareness and skill

Heading game 2Many professional clubs, particularly at junior level, use this practice.


Again using a 10 metre square, but starting this time with the server (S) being no more than 5 metres away from X1 (who will head the ball). This time a defender (D) is introduced. She stands 1 metre in front of X1 and to start with remains static.

S lobs the ball above D (who is stationary) and X1 jumps and heads the ball back to S again insisting on the coaching points made in the previous practice.

This is repeated several times and the players S, D, + X, can rotate duties.

To progress D can take a step backward to make it more difficult for X1 to head the ball.

To progress even further D can jump to try and head the ball herself – although the server should still lob the ball more favourably towards X1

Bowling with Headers

Bowling with headers

A fun soccer heading game

Setup: Depending upon the number of kids divide them into equal groups of 5-7 players per group. All players in each group form a single file line except for one player who is the server. The server uses three standard “flat style” training cones and places them in a row about 10 feet in front of the first player in the single file line. The three cones are perpendicular to the single file line and each cone is about 18″ apart. The server places a football on top of each cone.

Bowling with headers

How to play: Each server stands behind his line of three (ball topped) cones and tosses the ball underhanded to the first person in the line. The first person in the line tries to head the ball down and knock a ball or balls off the cones. It’s possible but unlikely for one header to knock all three balls off the cones by knocking one ball into the other balls. The person who just headed the ball goes to the end of the line. The server collects the ball and gets back into position behind the row of cones and serves the ball to the next player in line.

This is a competition between teams/groups. Last group to knock all three balls off their cones loses and must perform a fun/functional task – running, push-ups, etc.