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On this page Coach in Action will talk about How to improve closer control and how to dribble the football, and also the correct way to Head the ball...

Attacking Header     Diving Header     Glancing Header  

Improving Close Control and Dribbling

Improving close control and dribbling skills in football is vital for a player to be able to create space, keep possession, and beat defenders. Close control is essential for every player on the field, except perhaps the goalkeeper. Close control generally refers to running with the ball, and dribbling skills, but it can also include the first touch, and control with different parts of the foot, thigh, chest and head. 

Close control means being able to keep the ball under control and close to the player. The best players are able to dribble as if the ball is attached to the boot! Running with the ball is the first stage of close control. The two aims are to keep the ball within 30-50 cm of your foot, and to avoid breaking stride. Coaches should encourage players to achieve these goals at slow speeds, and then gradually build up speed. Competition can be encouraged by organising races or relays between players, but penalties should be imposed for letting the ball run too far in front.

A simple individual exercise is to build an obstacle course with cones or other markers placed at varying distances apart, and at different angles to each other. The object is to run with the ball as quickly as possible from cone to cone, but coming to a complete stop at each cone. This simple soccer drill teaches close control, running, accelerating, and stopping with the football.

Improving close control requires turning ability. The ball can be turned quickly in either direction using the inside and outside of either foot. A couple of useful tips are to crouch slightly so that your centre of gravity is low for better balance, and not to exaggerate movements of the feet. Slalom soccer drills, moving the ball from foot to foot using the inside and outsides of the feet, and running and turning with the ball will all help to improve close control. The body swerve, dribbling tricks,dummying, juggling and other topics are presented on this web site. Our football coaching software includes several graduated drills for building up close control, and features video demonstrations and animations. It is a comprehensive coaching program even including sport psychology and nutrition.


Soccer heading techniques are vital for air power in the game of football. The team that dominates in the air can win the ball in the vital danger zone in front of the six yard box both when defending and attacking, and that team can win the ball from long goal kicks. Heading skills also enable a team to use the long ball tactic bombarding the opposition with long passes towards their penalty area. 

The correct part of the head to use is the forehead as shown in the photograph. This is the hardest and flattest part of your head, and it will give you better control over where you want to make the ball go as well as giving greater power.

You often see youngsters playing football who can play the ball well on the ground, but are clueless when the ball is played in the air. Often the problem is a fear of getting hurt, but once they learn to head the ball properly using your forehead, there is no danger. It's advisable for young children to start heading by using a soft ball rather than a leather one.

Defensive headers, attacking headers, diving headers, the flick-on and other football coaching topics are discussed in other sections on this web site.

The Correct way to head the ball is to use the forehead...

Defensive Heading Techniques

Defensive header techniques in soccer enable a player to direct the ball upwards in such situations as clearing the football from defence. The key to this skill is to start with the forehead underneath the ball, so that the head can move upwards to attack the ball. 

The secret to heading upwards is that your eyes remain below the ball, so that at the moment your forehead makes contact with the ball, your head is moving upwards. Use your legs to push yourself upwards just before heading the ball as this helps to obtain good distance.

A useful and fun game for beginners and more experienced players is heading the football over a volleyball net. Since the ball has to be directed upwards to clear the net, it's particularly good for the defensive heading. It's also a great way for players to learn control, and direction.

Attacking Header Techniques

Attacking header techniques are football skills for directing the ball downwards to score goals, and win the ball in the air. The key to the attacking header is to get the eyes over the ball, so that you are attacking the ball from above. 

The attacking header requires getting the forehead and eyes over the ball, so that the ball can be attacked from above. Beginners often have trouble timing the header, and end up hitting the nose or the top of the head, so coaches should start young children with a soft ball. Obviously, it's important to watch the football carefully! Balance is another point to watch, and beginners should try to get their feet into position early, so that they are behind the ball. Better players should work on meeting crosses on the move, so that their momentum helps to add power to the header, and to avoid being caught static by defenders.

Several factors help to obtain power in the attacking header. The shoulders can pushed forwards and the back arched before attacking the ball. The upper body should be kept in a straight line, not falling away to the side, and much of the power comes from the neck muscles. It's very important to be positive.

A simple training drill is illustrated in which the ball is thrown against a wall, and headed below the line. Numbered circular targets can also be made. 

Diving Header Technique

The diving header technique gives a football player that extra edge and versatility to get to the ball first, and to get a head on crosses that otherwise would be missed. This is particularly true at the near post where the attacker is trying to get in front of the defender. It's a great soccer skill to perfect, and one of the best coaching drills is illustrated in the photograph. 

The diving header require getting both feet off the ground, and a jump towards the football. You should be almost horizontal as you head the ball, using your forehead as always. Generally, take off is from only one foot, because the diving header is usually attempted on the run.

Most players find the dive the most difficult part of this technique. If you are having problems, practise the dive first without the ball. Put a low hurdle down, such as a large bag, a couple of twigs, or even a player crouched down if you can find a volunteer! Jump over the hurdle without hesitating. Then try the same thing with a partner serving the ball, so that you have to jump over the hurdle to head the ball.

Glancing Header 

The glancing header technique provides versatility, and disguise in the air. When it isn't possible to face the direction in which you want to head the ball, or you want to dusguise your intentions, you can deflect the football off the forehead. This soccer skill is important in front of goal to direct the ball past the goalkeeper, and anywhere on the field for passing to another player.

The ball should be struck off the center of the forehead, not the side of the head. Deflection is produced by turning the head just before impact, and the amount of deflection depends on the angle that the head is turned. A potential error is to allow the head to sway to the side instead of keeping it inline with the ball.

A simple, but effective, soccer drill for the glancing header is for three players to form a triangle. The first player chips the ball for the second player to head to the side for player three. Next player three chips the ball, and player one heads the ball. Each player gets an equal turn at heading, chipping and receiving the ball. If the quality of the kicks are poor, then it is best to throw the ball.

The Flick-On

Adding the flick-on (back header) to your repertoire of heading skills enables you to play the ball in any direction off the head. The flick-on technique is often used in front of the near post when the ball is crossed from the wing, or on corner kicks. The ball is helped on its way into the danger zone, and it is very difficult for the goalkeeper to cut out this type of cross.

The flick-on does not require a lot of power; the idea is to use the speed of the ball. We simply flick the head back to deflect the ball behind us off the centre of the forehead. Don't use the side or top of the head. When you finish the flick, you should be looking directly at the sky.

When learning the flick-on, the ball must be thrown or kicked with reasonable force so that the player can use the speed of the ball. In the drill illustrated here, the ball is flicked over a defender, who is allowed to jump to try to intercept the ball, but does not directly challenge for the ball.



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