I remember practicing with my youth football team, the mighty South Arm Bobcats – the best youth team to ever come out of the Richmond league in my humble, but educated opinion. Our coach, Bill Verdi, would never cancel practice – it was always a go, rain or shine. Living on the west coast of Canada, we trained in rain often and on heavy downpours, the coach would implement diving header practice on top of the regular heading drills we practiced every session – yes, we were raised tough folks. It was never understated on how important heading was in the game of football. Whether you were an attacker or a defender, heading was a critical component of being a well-rounded footballer.
As a striker, ‘square your shoulders, time your run and use your upper body strength to drive the ball (downwards if possible) towards goal.’
As a defender, ‘have your hand(s) on the attacker for positioning, and time your jump according to the trajectory of the ball. Remember, you’re facing the ball square on while the attacker needs to head opposite to their natural position. You should win the ball, regardless.’
Over the years, I feel the art of heading a football has been lost in the men’s game. Bar Cristiano Ronaldo, is their a player that stands out to you as a magnificent header of the ball? Gone are the days of Alan Shearer and Oliver Bierhoff. It appears players of today are not willing to go into battle with their head. Afterall, it may impact the number of followers they have on Instagram if they have to put pictures up with a scar on their forehead from an aerial collision.
However, what I’ve witnessed in the Women’s World Cup 2019 in France is a phenomenal ability to head the football with the correct technique. While having the advantage of being 6’2, Wendie Renard of France had the best heading technique I’ve seen in a long time, equal in defensive and offensive positions. Both goals from the US in their semi-final vs. England were world class headers by Christen Press and Alex Morgan respectively. Press’s in particular was an absolute pile-driver. In the quarter-final between Italy and Holland, Vivianne Meidema and Stefanie van der Gragt scored two sublime headers, one glorious flick to the far post off a free-kick and one driving header too powerful for the goalkeeper to handle.
Watching the Women’s World Cup brought back my appreciation for heading a football and all the practice required to perfect the process.
Thank you, ladies!