Just yesterday, Monday November 9th, a settlement regarding heading the ball in youth soccer was released by Hagens Berman, a law firm that represented a a group of youth players taking action against some of the largest youth soccer groups in the nation. The settlement explained in detail that new regulations from US Soccer added age limitations for heading the ball:
- American youth players under the age of 11, will no longer be able to head the ball;
- Players aged 11 to 13 will have restrictions on how many headers they will take during a week of practices, and a limit on the length of practicing headers.
Both of these restrictions stem from a series of issues that the youth soccer programs have struggled with regarding concussions.
I get that, but let’s take into consideration a big aspect of what is being avoided: head to head collisions.
Head to head collisions are part of the game. They are not pretty, nor do they only happen on headers. I agree that limiting heading will clearly reduce the amount of impact that a head takes. And of course at a young age, when the body is still developing this is important to consider.
But heading a soccer ball is part of the beauty of the game. Personally, I’m not afraid to head any ball, but I was also taught by my many coaches over the years how to head the ball properly. Teaching the techniques of the game is an important part of being a coach, and instructing these coaches proper ways to guide kids to head the ball correctly is the initiative that this struggle with concussions needed first.
By ridding the game of this technical skill at a young age, the players may develop more fundamental skills with their feet, but what about when they get to the more competitive age of playing soccer? Then they have to learn the skill of heading the ball, and the entire pace of the game will change.
Concussions are no joke, but heading the ball is part of the game whether you like it or not.