The art of doing a head check
In the previous article, we concluded that a head check is that what separates the average players from the top players. To read what a head check is and why we have to do it, read this article. Read here.
In this article, we will talk about the basics of doing a head check and gradually go deeper into ‘the art of doing a head check’. Because doing a head check is way more complex than simply turning your head and focusing your eyes on something else. Mainly because football is so fast-paced with constantly changing variabilities.
When to do a head check
One of the most important things is when to do a head check. On a basic level, we can say that you want to do a head check before something is happening, you want to do a head check when the situation is happening and you want to do a head check after the situation happened. We call these a pre-head check, an in head check, and a post-head check.
The pre-head check is the right situation to get all information, you’re not in a high-stress situation yet. So you want to prepare yourself as well as possible for what might happen later. This is the situation that you want to see everything around you. You check the spaces, you check the opponent for possible threats or opportunities and you check your teammates if they are positioned right. In other words, you check everything around you. Your visual field is the whole field. The best moment to do a pre-head check is when the ball is not ready to play, this means when the ball is on its way from one player to another.
In head check
After you did the pre-head check the game may develop in a way that you get directly involved in the situation, the ball is close to you, either in your possession or in your opponent’s possession close to you. When you’re directly in the situation you want to have a focus on the ball and the direct area around it. This means there’s no possibility for checking the things you checked in the pre-head check (space, opponent, and teammates). That’s why it’s so important to collect all available information before you get in the situation because this will help you make the best decision when you’re are directly involved in it. With the in-situation head check your visual field is way smaller and limited to your zone. The best moments to do an in-head check are the little moments in between that the ball is ready to play, for example, between touches of when an opponent is dribbling.
After you got directly involved in the situation or you may have not got involved in it, you want to do a post-head check to take in the information after the situation. This is not the time to relax because you think the situation is over. Football is a fast-paced game with a constantly changing environment, different situations are following up each other all the time. The post-head check is meant to close down the last situation and to be best possible prepared for the next situation. So in the post-head check, you want to have control over your direct surroundings and neutralize immediate direct threats or exploit weaknesses in the opponent, but you also want to enlarge the vision field of your head check to teammates and opponents directly around you. The best moment to do a post-head check is when you’re out of the direct situation and the ball is not ready to play.
When you don’t have to do a head check
Doing a head check has been a hot topic in football lately. But you can also overdo it. A head check should be useful and not take your attention away from the situation. There are moments you simply can’t do a head check and should have your eyes focused on the ball. These are all the moments that the opponent has the ball ready to play and can reach your zone with the pass. Another moment is with free kicks and corners. Normally you want to do a head check when the ball is traveling in the air or on the ground. But with a set-piece situation, you want to keep your eyes on the ball and focus on your tasks. Then again you want to do a post-head check after the set-piece situation.
(Source: Geir Jordet)
It’s important to know when to do a head check. We named three moments of a head check. Before the situation, when the situation is happening, and after the situation. We call these the pre head check, the in head check, and the post head check.
The pre head check is the moment you want to get all the information around you to prepare for the situation. You want to do the pre-head check when the ball is not ready to play.
The in-head check is the moment you want to focus on the ball, but with little head checks around you. For example when you’re dribbling.
The post head check is the moment to close the situation and prepare yourself and your team for the next situation.
There are also moments you don’t want to do a head check. For example when the ball is ready to play and can be played into your zone, or when the ball is in the air from a set-piece.
Loran is the tactical expert in sport and he is the founder and owner of Tactalyse.