December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
The following are different heading methods to consider.
Standing position: The feet should be spaced apart, forming a good base, 8-10 inches wide. The feet should also be staggered, to provide balance when the upper body arches backwards as the ball arrives. The trunk of the body should snap forward to give power to the header as the forehead contacts the ball. Point of contact on the ball can vary depending on whether the player is attacking or defending.
When heading to score, the contact should be at the midline of the ball to keep it directed down and low. When defending, the contact should be made below the midline of the ball, with the upper body continuing forward in the snapping motion.
One-footed Take-off: The player should be sure that, when jumping off one leg, she chooses the leg most appropriate to the situation. Some players prefer jumping off of one leg over the other; therefore, a coach should make sure players are able to jump off of either leg successfully when attempting to head the ball. On takeoff, the knee and ankle of the takeoff leg should push upward and should arch backwards after the jump. The action of the non-takeoff leg should swing forward and high, bending at the hip and knee.
The upper body should be leaning forward at the point of takeoff and, when maximum height is reached, the body should arch backwards. The momentum of reaching back in a snapping motion propels the upper body forward, and the energy generated puts power behind the header. The head and neck should be tense as the forehead meets the ball. The player should end up landing on both feet.
To redirect ball: The player's jumping should be rotated towards the intended direction so that the surface of the forehead and the upper body are at the right angle to redirected the ball. In addition, when heading from a jump-and-turning action, it is best to jump with the leg that is closest to the ball. The opposite leg must then swing in the direction of the ball, in order to help rotate the trunk.
Diving header: There are instances when a ball is served below head height, but still too high to successfully strike with the foot. As one foot pushes off the ground, the opposite leg kicks in an upward motion while the upper body leans forward and the arms are extended forward. The body is parallel to the ground as the forehead strikes the midline of the ball. Arms are still extended outward to help brace the landing as the body connects with the ground at roughly a 45-degree angle.
© 2001 by April Kater and Robert "Butch" Lauffer
Article reprinted with permission from womenssoccer.com.