If you’ve ever played soccer for more than 10 minutes you’ve probably had the chance to use your head to direct the ball one way or another. But for many people rather than moving towards the ball with their head, they choose to do all they can to not let the soccer ball hit their head. For most people, this is because they are afraid it will hurt.
Does a soccer header hurt? A soccer header can hurt if the correct technique is not used when contact is made between the ball and the head. But if the header is performed correctly, with the right technique, then any pain should be minimal.
It’s no great surprise that deliberately letting a hard soccer ball, moving at high speed through the air, hit you in the head could possibly hurt. It would be strange to expect any other result. But soccer players all over the world do it multiple times every day. So, there must be a way of avoiding any pain.
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Technique is key
There have been many, many times while playing soccer where I have come away dazed or in pain from not being properly prepared when a ball hits me on the head(It’s particularly bad when it hits you straight in the face on a cold day!).
The stinging sensation and the fuzzy feeling in your head isn’t fun. The reality is that heading a soccer ball can hurt. There are even occasions where people have been knocked unconscious from incorrectly heading the ball!
But what is important to remember is that in almost all instances where people get hurt from heading a ball it is because they haven’t been correctly prepared or have not used an appropriate technique to head the ball that would have saved them a lot of pain.
This isn’t to say that it will never hurt. There will probably be times where you do everything correct and you will still feel the effect for a little while after, but don’t be put off from giving it a go.
Don’t just avoid it because it may hurt!
It can be an easy thing to do to avoid putting yourself in a position where something may be painful. But there are lots of advantages to using your head to move the ball in soccer.
Sometimes it can be because it’s the only part of your body that can reach the ball at that moment. The ball may be about to fly past your head and you need to do something to stop it.
Or you may be in a position where you are competing with a member of the opposite team, jumping together for the ball as it comes down from a goal kick. If you don’t use your head now the other team is going to come away with the ball and your team will have missed out.
Using your head is a necessary skill that every good soccer player needs to learn if they are to be an asset to their team and be able to make a difference when needed.
Use this technique for heading the ball to minimize the pain
As with so many things in soccer, having a good technique can greatly improve your ability to do what you set out to do. It’s no different when it comes to heading a soccer ball.
Spending time practicing a good technique to header the ball is going to save you a lot of pain. You will appreciate it for years to come!
Here’s what you need to do –
- The first thing you need to keep your eyes fixed on the ball at all times.
Too many people either close their eyes or look away from the ball as it’s coming towards them. This is a natural and instinctive reaction that you need to get past.
You have the best chance of judging the flight of the ball, and making contact at just the right time, if you have your eyes locked on the ball.
- Secondly, you get your body in the right position.
This will look like –
a) Making sure your feet are where you want them. About shoulder-width apart giving yourself a strong, stable foundation. Weight on the balls of your feet ready to adjust your position or jump as needed.
b) Knees bent again ready to adjust your position as needed but also maintaining your balance.
and c) leaning back ready to launch forward to put all your power through the ball with your head as you make contact.
- Thirdly make sure the ball makes contact with your forehead.
This is the best place on your head to hit the ball with. It is where you can give most control and also experience the least pain!
- And lastly, make sure you hit the ball rather than letting the ball hit you.
I can’t stress this last point too much. I think this is the most important part of ensuring a header doesn’t hurt too much. You need to be attacking the ball as you make contact.
Follow through the ball on contact, moving your head forward fast and pushing it in the direction you want it to go.
If you want to find out how to increase your chances of scoring every time you find yourself in front of the goal then you need to check out my article – How to Score in Soccer.
Different types of headers you can do
You’ve understood how to reduce the chance of getting hurt while heading the soccer ball. Here’s how to put it into action.
Most people seem to agree that there are 5 different types of headers regularly used in soccer.
- The first one is the defensive header.
This whole idea with this type of header is to get the ball as far away from the goal you are defending as possible. Although it is great if you can direct this header toward someone else on your team who is free, this isn’t the priority here.
Aim for the ball to end up towards the sides of the field rather than the middle where the majority of players will be. Give it as much height as you can to help it travel further and put as much power behind it as you can.
- The second is the offensive header.
This is the header you use when you are trying to score a goal. With this header, you want to aim the ball towards an empty part of the goal where the opposing goalkeeper hopefully won’t be able to get to it.
If you can aim the ball as low as possible as well this will give you a higher chance of scoring as the opposing goalkeeper has to get down low to stop the ball which takes more time for them.
- The third is the flick-on header.
This header is usually used when you are competing for the ball in the air with a player from the opposite team. You will usually have your back to the goal you’re aiming to score in for this header as well.
As the ball comes towards you you will flick your head backward, making contact with the ball as you do, with the aim of helping the ball on in roughly the direction it’s already traveling in.
- The fourth type of header is the diving header.
In my opinion, this is by far the most fun one to do! You literally throw yourself forward, as if you were diving into a pool, and hit the ball with your head in mid-air.
This type of header can be used whenever you wouldn’t be able to reach the ball any other way. It can be used in both offensive and defensive positions and can put a lot of power behind the ball. Scoring a goal this way is a great feeling!
- The fifth type of header is the glancing header.
You will use this type of header when the ball is coming across your body and you want to subtly change the direction of the ball using the momentum that the ball already has.
The most common situation you will see this used in is to try and score a goal from a corner kick or free-kick.
*Check out the next post – How does a Soccer Game End?*
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