At Techne, we often get asked about the topic of keeping your head up while training.
Have you been told by a coach that you need to “pick your head up” more? While training, do you wonder which drills you should look up when doing, versus when it’s okay to look down at the ball? We’ve worked to clarify some of the frequently asked questions about picking your head up while training and how that can translate into the game.
Why is it important to look up while training?
When you train soccer skills, the aim is to be able to use them in a game. The goal is to get so comfortable controlling the ball, changing direction with it, and sending it where you want it to go, that you can focus on other things while playing and not have to consciously focus on those techniques. The best players are always scanning the field, both before they receive the ball, while they have it, and even while they’re seemingly not directly involved in the play. So you should make sure that when you’re training on your own, it’s in a way that will allow you to have that awareness when you get onto the field with teammates and opponents.
For which drills should I be looking up and which are okay to focus on the ball?
When you’re first learning a new skill, simply focus on doing it correctly. There’s no need to think about picking your head up until you have a basic level of control over the ball. Once you feel you have the ball under control, the first type of drills to do while picking up your head are dribbling drills. When you’re passing and receiving the ball, you can also begin to look up and see more than just the ball and your feet. You’ll almost never need to look up while juggling, because that’s purely about ball control.
How much should I be looking up and when?
There’s always a balance between glancing down at the ball and looking up at your surroundings. You shouldn’t be looking down at the ball and your feet the entire time, nor should you be looking up and completely ignore looking at the ball. If you watch top players play and train, you’ll get a feel for how and when they look up to scan the field.
For example, if you’re dribbling and turn to go in the opposite direction, it’s important to glance up to see where the space is into which to explode. If you’re receiving the ball to turn or take a directional touch, you’ll want to look to verify there’s space in the direction you plan to move.
If you’re about to pass, you’ll want to look up at your target. And for an effective soccer shot on goal, you should look up at the goal to notice the position of the goalkeeper (even if there isn’t one there while you’re training), and where you’ll aim.
When I look up, where should I focus?
The key is not just to raise your eyes for no reason, but to practice truly seeing what’s around you when you look. That doesn’t mean you have to see the entire distance of the field or focus for a long time on a specific spot. Sometimes, a quick glance in your periphery is enough to assess if there’s space. Other times, you’ll need to pick your head up all the way as if you’re looking to see a teammate across the field in order to switch the ball to that player. Or, you’ll need to make eye contact with a teammate before passing.
Other times, all you need to see is the grass 5 to 10 yards around you. After all, if you see opponents’ feet, it can be enough information just to know that they’re there. No need to see their entire body.
Just as with the ball skills you train, have an understanding and an intention when it comes to looking up. What would you realistically be trying to see or assess if you were in a game? This will help you instinctively determine when, where, and how much you should be looking up.
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