Landon Donovan: 'A 10-year-old doesn't need to be heading a soccer ball'

By Mike Woitalla

Landon Donovan, the greatest player the USA has ever produced, recently appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" and was asked about heading in youth soccer.

Beginning this year, U.S. Soccer has eliminated heading for children 10 and under, and put limits on the amount of heading in practice for children ages of 11 to 13.

“I think until you’re a certain age there’s no real need for [heading],” said Donovan. “A 10-year-old doesn’t need to be heading a soccer ball. It’s not like they’re gaining much in the game by doing that.

“Teach them how to do it, and by the time they hit 15, 16, 17 start to allow it a little bit more. But there’s no need for someone of that age to be heading a soccer ball. Just like there’s no need for someone to be tackling in football.”

In recent months, various youth organizations have adopted U.S. Soccer’s heading regulations according to the Federation’s Return 2 Recover program.

For example, AYSO: “The new rule bans heading for all U-11 and below division players. If an AYSO program doesn’t have single age divisions, heading is banned for U-12 and below. Heading for players in U-14 and U-14 will be limited to a maximum of thirty (30) minutes per week with no more than 15-20 headers, per player. There is no restriction on heading in matches in U-13 and above.”

• U.S. Club Soccer launched a Recognize to Recover web page HERE.

• U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover home page is HERE

• U.S. Youth Soccer's: Introducing the Skill of Heading in the 11-U Age Group

• Coaches, referees, parents and players are encouraged to watch U.S. Soccer's "Concussions in Soccer Overview" video, which also includes general safety guidelines:

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Roster: U.S. U-20 women head to Florida

Coach Michelle French  has named a 26-player roster for the World Cup-bound U.S. U-20 women's national team's April 1-8 training camp in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. All but four of the players coming into camp are collegians.

The USA was drawn into Group C to face France, New Zealand and Ghana at the 2016 U-20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea (Nov. 13-Dec. 3).

U.S. U-20 women’s national team
GOALKEEPERS (4): Emily Boyd (California; Seattle, Wash.), Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Samantha Leshnak (North Carolina; Liberty Township, Ohio), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.).
DEFENDERS (8): Madeline Elliston (Penn State; Omaha, Neb.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Hailey Harbison (Pepperdine; San Diego, Calif.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Taylor Otto (CASL; Apex, N.C.), Ally Prisock (USC; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Savannah Demelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Courtney Petersen (Virginia; Canton, Mich.), Parker Roberts (Kansas; Leawood, Kansas), Shannon Simon (Washington; Torrance, Calif.).
FORWARDS (7): Mimi Asom (Princeton; Fairview, Texas), Jorian Baucom (LSU; Phoenix, Arizona), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Mayra Pelayo-Bernal (Florida; West Palm Beach, Fla.), Taylor Racioppi (Duke; Ocean Township, N.J.), Jessie Scarpa (North Carolina; Lakeland, Fla.), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; Colorado Springs, Colo.).

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Around the Net

The San Francisco Examiner reports that the city's Recreation and Parks Department has sent a letter sent to San Francisco Youth Soccer league supporters threatening to bring in an outside expert to mediate the conflict between soccer clubs if the league cannot "resolve its internal dispute quickly and fairly on its own." According to Rec and Parks, the number of kids playing soccer in San Francisco has doubled since 2009. The addition of an estimated 5,000 youth soccer players and 300 teams in nearly seven years has led to steep competition over premier practice times, field allocations and prized slots to play against teams outside San Francisco. The heightened competition has led to allegations of favoritism, reports Michael Barba. "Youth soccer boom in San Francisco leads to turmoil"

9 comments about "Landon Donovan: 'A 10-year-old doesn't need to be heading a soccer ball' ".
  1. Georges Carraha, March 30, 2016 at 7:58 p.m.

    No wonder Landon Donovan has been a very soft player! I agree that heading is not necessary under U11 but tackling? Tackling is a technical skill that should be learned early otherwise you will be limited. Tackling is very different than heading! The reason that the US has been struggling is because too much emphasis is placed on attacking. Total Soccer is the way to teach children the game! You attack and defend! I coached a U17/U18 team last night and i was shocked to see how these players were totally ignorant about the technical skills and tactical principles of defending.

  2. Joey Tremone replied, March 31, 2016 at 9:05 a.m.

    He's talking about tackling in AMERICAN FOOTBALL.

  3. Goal Goal, March 30, 2016 at 10:03 p.m.

    First I don't think there is a consensus that Donavan is the greatest US SOCCER PLAYER. Concerning Georges comment about defense. In most cases concerning our men's national team the weak link is defense. I watch and can't believe what I see. I see it in youth soccer at all age groups. Our younger players don't even cover the basics. They don't even know how to turn a player with the ball to go in the direction they want them to go. They always know where the ball is but they don't have a clue as to where the player is without the ball who is going to soon put it in the net.

  4. James Madison, March 30, 2016 at 10:15 p.m.

    Hey guys, get out there on the field and watch youth soccer. Donovan is right on. Very few 10-year-olds ever try to head a soccer ball in a game. They are taken up completely in learning to use their feet effectively.

  5. Todd Szkotnicki, March 30, 2016 at 11:14 p.m.

    He's referring to "tackling" in American Football as unnecessary at younger ages. Not "soccer".

  6. beautiful game, March 30, 2016 at 11:55 p.m.

    I agree. The learning process is about technical development with the legs. Heading comes much later; and one either has that ability or not. So why use the noggin when the execution is poor. Youngsters tackle the for the ball more often than the opponent. It's the older players that start to bruise up the opponents by following instructions..

  7. Joe Wilson, March 31, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

    Ball control and decision-making is where we are light years behind the rest of the top soccer nations. All skills are important, but as a U9 coach of a bunch of good players...heading the ball is pointless at that age.

    Our national teams can't possess the ball under even the weakest pressure. On top of all that - most headers just turn the ball over back to the other team. A header off a cross for a goal is great, but crossing the ball all day to minimal success is one of our problems, especially with the women.

  8. Allan Lindh, March 31, 2016 at 2:19 p.m.

    Maybe Donovan should replace Gulati. He manages to say perfectly sensible things every time he opens his mouth. And maybe he wasn't our best player ever, maybe Claudio Reyna was, but Claudio had so many leg injuries, hard to know. And Donovan wasn't soft, he was just very smart. Either pulled out of, or jumped over pointless vicious collisions with psychopaths. Ever notice how many knee surgeries he didn't have? Much like Messi, the best hard tackles are the ones you avoid. It's the Beautiful Game, not ice hockey or demolition derby.

  9. Scott Johnson, April 2, 2016 at 6:36 p.m.

    My youngest just started U-9 Rec, and the coach mentioned the heading ban. Apparently, heading in game is going to be treated like handball. If it's inadvertent, play on; otherwise a DFK for the other team.

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