How to Keep Your Head Up in Soccer
If you keep your eyes down and watch the ball too much in soccer, other players can see that you aren’t aware of them -- and they can swoop in and steal the ball from you. The best players, such as famed midfielder Zinedine Zidane of France, rely heavily tremendous field vision to keep tabs on everything going on near and far. Although the skill of keeping your head to maintain field vision can be deceptively difficult, you can gradually improve by performing specific skills drills.
Pair up with a partner to work on simple passing and receiving. On your reception, touch the ball once to stop it. Bring your head up immediately to survey where your partner is and make a decision on how to pass the ball. Try to pass the ball back with your second touch, looking down to make the pass and then resuming your heads-up surveying of the practice area and your partner.
Mark a grid 20 yards square with plastic cones to perform the Extreme Tag drill, designed by the online site Soccer Xpert. Join with teammates, each with their own soccer ball, dribbling around the grid. Keep your head up as you try to avoid being tagged. Use your low peripheral vision to keep track of the ball. Try to administer tags yourself below your teammates’ knees. Award a point for every tag you make and subtract a point for every time you are tagged. The first player who gets to 5 wins the round.
Play pinball warm-up to improve your field vision, recommends coaching clinic instructor Colin E. Schmidt in “Advanced Soccer Drills.” Ask four teammates, each given a number from 1 to 4, to jog in the penalty area, while you stand outside the area with a ball. Complete passes to player No. 1, No. 2 and so forth in order, having each teammate return the ball to you. Look up to identify your next target before the return pass is received. Ask your coach for feedback on whether your eyes lift to follow the ball and to assess the position of the next player. As a variation, perform pinball warm-up with no verbal communication.
Practice during your scrimmages and games to dribble the ball keeping your eyes on the field, stealing little glances down to make sure the ball is still there, recommends longtime coach and sportswriter Sam Borden in “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Soccer Basics.” Mimic professional players, who occasionally bob their head to check on the ball; they fundamentally keep their head up except for the occasional peek down, rather than the opposite.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.