“Heading” is a term used when a player strikes a ball in the air with his or her forehead, in order to pass or shoot the ball on goal. When a ball is lofted in the air, members of both teams jockey for position under the ball, giving taller players an advantage. For young children, using improper heading techniques in these situations can lead to head or neck injuries, so keep these key points in mind when teaching your child how to head a soccer ball:
- Pick a target to head towards before heading the ball.
- Always look at the ball…Never close your eyes.
- Strike the ball with your forehead, just below the hairline.
- Remember, the head strikes the ball, NOT the ball strikes the head.
- When the ball is approaching remember to arch your back, move forward and strike through the center of the ball, keeping your arms out for balance.
- Always use the appropriate size ball for the age of your child.
- Using a softer soccer ball to work on correct technique is good practice.
Learning and practicing these heading tips will go a long way towards keeping your child safe on the soccer field. If you are still uneasy about heading, some leagues have begun mandating the use of head gear to protect young children’s’ heads and necks. Check with your local soccer store or online for further information about protective head gear.
Special thanks to Paul Halford, Director of Coaching and Player Development, PA West