Benefits of heading ban are clear to see

By Mike Woitalla

I have now refereed and watched several games since the elimination of heading for children 10 and under – and have compared them to my notes and memories of games at the same level when heading was still allowed.

First of all, on the girls’ side, I noticed very little difference. At least in my experience, heading was already extremely rare for girls 10 and under.

On the boys’ side, especially during games played by 9- and 10-year-olds at the comp level, I saw several instances where the players would adjust their bodies when a high ball approached to control it with their chests, thighs or feet. And it was often impressive.

In one game, I counted five situations where a player who under previous rules probably would have headed the ball, instead controlled it. In four of these, the player kept possession for his team -- a rate I imagine much higher than had the player headed it. In fact, the heading that I recall at these ages rarely served as a pass or ended up in the net. Most commonly, they were responses to goalkeeper punts.

One player forgot about the new rule when a high ball arrived at the edge of the penalty area. He headed the ball a third of the way toward the goal, and an indirect free kick was called. He had been unmarked and would have had the space to control the ball to set up a clear chance at goal. It was a rare occasion when a player forgot about the new rule, and using his head wasn’t even the best option.

In the same game, a team took a corner kick, and instead of launching it into the goal area, hit a low pass to a player who appeared between the corner of the penalty area and the sideline. He relayed a pass across the field to a teammate, who scored from long range.

It was a clever combination play that may have been inspired by the rule change.

For sure, in the first games of the season players at times looked a bit confused as to how to handle high balls. But I’m betting that players are figuring out that low passes are a more effective way to keep possession -- whether or not heading were allowed. And encouraging low balls across the goalmouth rather than high crosses is also good strategy because low driven balls are more difficult for defenders and goalkeepers to cope with. A goalkeeper, for example, has a big advantage over forwards on high crosses.

The reasoning behind delaying heading for children is the possibility that repeated sub-concussive impact may have a harmful long-term effect on children’s brains. There may come a time when enough research has been done to assure us that heading is safe for children, but in the meanwhile it’s certainly sensible to delay heading -- these are children’s brains we’re talking about -- and because the rule is actually good for player development. That is, it challenges young players to improve their ability to control high and bouncing balls and encourages players to aim passes toward their teammates' feet -- important ingredients to possession play, which is much more effective than the predictable tactic of booting high balls upfield, which may work at the younger ages but not so much at the higher levels.

And I find thoroughly unconvincing the argument that if children don’t head in games before age 10 they won’t be able to master heading technique. In fact, players might be more apt to develop good heading technique if it’s introduced when their neck muscles are stronger.

Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the USA's leading experts on concussions in sports says: “You can be taught in a practice situation and you can be taught with a lighter ball than a regulation soccer ball, so that the sub-concussive aspect of things can be greatly minimized. So you can still be taught some of these skills in a controlled environment where heads can’t collide."

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Friedel names U.S. U-19 roster for Slovakia Cup

U.S. U-19 men’s national team coach Brad Friedel  has named a 20-player roster for the 2016 Slovakia Cup, where the USA will face Ukraine, Georgia and Slovakia in Group B at the April 20-29 tournament.

Group A is comprised of Russia, Czech Republic, Norway and Macedonia. The group winners will meet in the final.

All but one of the players – 1999-born Ernesto Espinoza, who played for Pateadores before joining Tijuana -- on the U.S. roster was born in 1998.

At the first tournament with Friedel in charge, the U-19s lost three games at the Copa del Atlantico to the Canary Islands (0-1) Spain (0-1) and France (0-5). Friedel took a 23-player roster to that tournament that included 10 newcomers to the national team program. Of those 10, goalkeeper Ben Hale and defender Hector Montalvo were called back for the Slovakia Cup.

U.S. U-19 men’s national team
GOALKEEPERS (2): Benn Diaz (Queretaro/MEX; Los Angeles, Calif.), Ben Hale (FC Dallas academy; Frisco, Texas).
DEFENDERS (6): Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Danny Barbir (West Bromwich Albion/ENG; Allentown, Pa.), Marlon Fossey (Fulham/ENG; Surbiton, England), Nabilai Kibunguchy (Sacramento Republic academy; Sacramento, Calif.), Hector Montalvo (FC Dallas academy; Frisco, Texas), Alexis Velela (New York Cosmos; San Diego, Calif.).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Eric Calvillo (New York Cosmos; Palmdale, Calif.), Pierre Da Silva (Orlando City B; Port Chester, N.Y.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham/ENG; San Diego, Calif.), Sebastien Des Pres (RSL Arizona; San Diego, Calif.), Ander Egiluz (Athletic Bilbao/SPA; Getxo, Spain), Nelson Hunsinger (Leg A-Z; Mary Esther, Fla.), Weston McKinnie (FC Dallas academy; Little Elm, Texas).
FORWARDS (5): Colby Agu (Capital Area RailHawks; Cary, N.C.), Ernesto Espinoza (Tijuana/MEX; San Diego, Calif.), Joe Gallardo (Unattached; San Diego, Calif.), Brandon Vazquez (Tijuana/MEX; Chula Vista, Calif.), Isaiah Young (PDA; Berlin, N.J.).

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Tsakiris names U.S. U-16 boys roster for Italy tournament

U-16 boys national team coach Shaun Tsakiris  has named a 20-player for the 2016 Tournament Delle Nazioni in Italy, where the USA will face Croatia (April 25), Slovenia (April 26) and Brazil (April 27) in Group C.

U-16 U.S. boys national team
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicolas Defreitas-Hansen (Weston FC; Southwest Ranches, Fla.), Alex Rando (NYCFC; New York, N.Y.).
DEFENDERS (6): Eduardo Blancas (Napa Soccer Academy; Napa, Calif.), Dominic De Almeida (PDA; Lincoln Park, N.J.), Luke Hansen (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), John Hilton (unattached; Long Beach, Calif.), Leonardo Sepulveda (LA Galaxy; Corona, Calif.), Sebastian Serpa (Weston FC; Miami, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Taylor Booth (RSL-Arizona; Eden, Utah), Konrad De la Fuente (Barcelona/SPA; Barcelona, Spain), Roberto Hategan (Sac Republic FC; Roseville, Calif.), Alexsi Morel (NYCFC; Huntington Station, N.Y.), Marcelo Palomino (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas), Michael Pellegrino (Philadelphia Union; Wenonah, N.J.).
FORWARDS (6): Luis Arriaga (RSL-Arizona; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Ulysses Llanez (LA Galaxy; Lynwood, Calif.), Nicholas Mendonca (Flamengo; Coconut, Fla.), Jose Rivas (Weston FC; Weston, Fla.), Gabriel Segal (Bethesda-Olney; Bethesda, Md.), Indiana Vassilev (IMG Academy; Savannah, Ga.).

45 comments about "Benefits of heading ban are clear to see".
  1. Bob Ashpole, April 19, 2016 at 10:26 p.m.

    You quoted Dr. Cantu in a manner that implied that the heading ban was to prevent injuries from contact with the ball. Elsewhere he made clear that concussions occur from unintentional head-to-head contact while heading. Teaching proper technique does reduce the risk of injury. Players should be taught to jump up, keeping their heads over their shoulders, and not lean into or over other players. Another good practice is to keep a shoulder pointed toward the nearest opponent while heading. Players who jump over or into other players put themselves and others at risk. Don't mistake my position. 20 years ago I taught U10s heading using low impact exercises, because imo it is common sense to reduce unnecessary physical stress, especially with young children and especially during technical training.

  2. Bill Dooley, April 19, 2016 at 11:30 p.m.

    The next step is to do away with punts from the goalkeeper at U14 and below. "If you control the ball with the hands, it must be distributed from the hands." The heading issue aside, it will make players learn to play out of the back.

  3. Kent James replied, April 21, 2016 at 5:15 p.m.

    Good idea!

  4. Bob Ashpole, April 20, 2016 at 12:06 a.m.

    The key to success is in the movement off the ball, not in which technique is used to distribute the ball. U-littles should be working on skills and small group tactics anyway, not team tactics. My belief is that the problem is not the players. The problem is adults teaching kids in the back to kick the ball away, thinking it will lead to better match results.

  5. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 8:09 a.m.

    I'm confused AA. I figured you would be in favor of teaching youngsters how to bring the ball down and keep possession of the ball rather than having them head the ball as far up the field as they can. As this article states, the no heading rule is not just about safety; it's about teaching youth the best way to play.

  6. Joe Rhodes, April 20, 2016 at 8:50 a.m.

    I think that everyone can agree that head injuries and concussions are far worse injuries than once understood. These injuries can result in serious reduction in quality of life and cognitive issues. FIFA should be doing more to find ways to prevent head injuries as are other major leagues and governing bodies of sport at all levels of the game - not just for youth.

    Head injuries are common in soccer due in large part to the use of the head to propel and direct the ball “headers”. This occurs not only because of the force of the head hitting the ball, but also because players butt heads or hit their head against other players body parts as they fling their head at the ball.

    In general, if you were looking for ways to reduce head injuries, you would de-emphasize and discourage the use of the head as part of play.

    Yet, heading the ball is an effective and exciting way to score goals. And certainly scoring goals should be encouraged and is good for interest in the game and is the most fun part of the game for players.

    However, the use of the head outside of the scoring zone (let’s say the 18 yard box) is not an exciting part of the game. In general, it’s more exciting to see the skill and beauty of players controlling the ball at their feet than to bat it around in the air with their heads. And, two players competing with each other for a “jump ball” or “50/50” ball frequently is the cause of butting of heads. This often occurs off of goal kicks in the midfield. That same play could feature two players competing for the ball to get it to their feet or to direct it with parts of their bodies other than their head. That would be more interesting and safer for the players. This is just one example.

    At first glance this would seemingly represent a significant change to the game. But in practice, I actually don’t think it would change the game that much and if anything, probably makes for a more exciting game because it emphasizes getting the ball down to the feet where more skill can be demonstrated.

    Therefore, I think FIFA should examine/consider disallowing the use of the head outside of the 18 yard box at all ages and levels.

    This would not diminish the excitement and beauty of the game or hurt scoring, but would reduce the number of head injuries and the general use of the head which is not good for the brain.

    I’m guessing you would reduce the negative effects of head play by at least 50%.

    I'd be interested to know what others think of this idea?

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, April 20, 2016 at 10:29 a.m.

    You asked what others think: Your proposal is worthless to participants in the sport.

  8. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9 p.m.

    I like the idea, but teams would take advantage of it by playing long since the defenders would not be able to head the ball away...

  9. Kelly Quinn, April 20, 2016 at 9:37 a.m.

    Head injuries are a serious problem, however I do NOT believe that we have seen the benefits on the ban on heading in youth soccer. These kids will start heading the ball at some point, there may be a surge in head injuries then. True research has not been performed as it includes outcomes, and outcomes need to be measured once these kids start heading the ball.

  10. Big Dad, April 20, 2016 at 10:44 a.m.

    My observation is that the game has become much more dangerous under the header ban. Quality of play has also decreased. This observation is from watching top level U11 boys teams play in AZ. Style of play had become much more direct. The flying karate kick has taken place of the header. Teams that used to play a possession style now hit it long and rush the dmid or CB with 2-3 players. Defenders wait patiently and chest trap/ control the ball with attacking players literally flying at them. Gimicky type set pieces are the norm and determine the outcome of games. Ref's have no clue how to call the game now. Differentiation between intentional and unintentional headers is non-existent. I have seen a GK take a flying kick to the neck as the target can not head a bouncing ball. Basically this is feel good legislation that is resulting in a de-evolution of style of play and will certainly lead to additional injuries. US soccer can feel good that they are 'making a difference" LOLOLOL

  11. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9:08 p.m.

    That is the fault of the horrible coaches that are creating these "tactics," not the fault of the rule. And this is the exact type of winning over development philosophy that is being demonized in programs that are truly about development.

  12. Robert Parr, April 20, 2016 at 10:53 a.m.

    It should be self-evident that we all have an interest to reduce the rate of serious injuries in the game, including head injuries. However, as Kelly and All American point out, there is no empirical evidence that supports the specific prohibitions on heading that US Soccer has put forth, and there are obvious scenarios in which these restrictions will actually lead to MORE, and MORE SEVERE, injuries for players.

    What the data does show is that concussions from deliberately heading the ball are very, very rare. The vast majority of concussions come from other types of contact -- head to head, arm/elbow to head, foot/head, and head/ground contacts. Most of these are already violations of the Laws of the Game, and I don't see how you can legislate away head/ground contacts that aren't the result of serious foul play.

  13. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9:10 p.m.

    But those types of collisions occur when players are attempting to head the ball. When the ball is on the ground, you don't see a lot of head-to-head, elbow, ground, etc. impacts.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 3:10 a.m.

    @don Lamb The problem is that your comments are not based on reality. You have never seen a keeper kicked in the head while making a save? I think knee to head is probably the worse impact, but not as bloody as an elbow or cleat.

  15. Robert Parr, April 20, 2016 at 11:03 a.m.

    Keep in mind, part of US Soccer's policy has been to prohibit coaches from teaching players how to head the ball in practice! This is as backwards an approach as you could take. I know of no endeavor in life (involving any degree of risk) in which we become safer by not practicing a skill to competency before we try to do it under pressure. Should we just start passing out drivers licenses without any training or testing?

    It would be much more useful to focus on the things we KNOW lead to serious injuries (not just head injuries). Clamp down on serious foul play of all types. Clamp down on the cynical fouls that often lead to retribution fouls. Focus on improving proper technique (research shows a direct correlation between lower injury rates and higher skill levels). I support eliminating or restricting punts by GKs at U12 and below, but more on soccer grounds (Mike Woitalla's point) than for safety concerns (although this would all but eliminate the possibility of heading at ball at U10 and younger, simply because the ball would almost never be in the air). I'd also return to the old rule of not allowing any physical contact with the GK inside the goal area (something that got lost during a re-write several decades ago without much comment or notice). GKs are especially vulnerable in these tight spaces, and the game certainly doesn't benefit by having them manhandled like we see so often during corner kicks. I'd expect that if they had "free reign" in the area right in front of the goal that we'd see teams naturally take fewer long corners and play more of them short or on the ground, which would further reduce the number of high-risk aerial collisions of all types.

    Then, start conducting some actual long-term research on test cases with other different modifications (maybe even Joe Rhodes' rule against heading outside of either penalty area) so that we have valid data, one way or another, before we just start mandating changes that could very well cause more harm than good.

  16. Will G, April 20, 2016 at 12:35 p.m.

    I can't speak for the girls side nor any other age group other than the top level of U10 boys. There is not one person that has witnessed these games that wouldn't say this rule has made the game more dangerous for the kids. High feet, turning their backs so it doesn't intentionally hit their heads, awkward tackles because they can't head the ball...all our occurring multiple times per game. It is completely and is going to cause more harm than good. Their are many leagues offered in our area and the ones that are sanctioned by US Club Soccer (must follow this rule) will struggle to exist next season. Corner kicks are the worst as you have 5-6 kids wildly throwing their bodies at the ball instead of doing what they should do.

  17. Oma Hawkeye, April 20, 2016 at 1:28 p.m.

    I'm amazed that all these "top" U-10 players are now playing horrible soccer because they can't head the ball at 9 years old and younger. If they are so "top" tier that you have them doing proper headers at that age, you should be able to teach them to trap with the chest to bring a ball down to the feet and not do a "flying karate kick" (which is an offense if done, so it shouldn't take long for that behavior to end, assuming you as "top" U-10 coaches can't control it in the first place). You need to take break from the sport if you think U-10s and below not heading matters at all in the big picture.

  18. R2 Dad replied, April 20, 2016 at 6:03 p.m.

    You're correct, Oma. Unfortunately it appears to be the coaches that oppose this, not the parents and players.

  19. John Schultz replied, April 20, 2016 at 8:27 p.m.

    I happen to be both. Coach and Parent.

  20. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9:19 p.m.

    Amen, Oma. AA, if coaches are only trying to win at these U10 levels and sacrificing their players' health and development for the sake of winning, they need to be fired or the parents need to recognize what is going on and find a better coach that has a longer term picture in mind. You say that the only thing that will change the culture here is TC, but if TC doesn't even begin until later ages, how is it going to effect U10 development? It's up to the parents (who are still not all that educated about the game [cultural problem!]) and the technical directors to promote the right environments. This no heading rule is promoting a safer and more technical game, and therefore, it's a good thing.

  21. don Lamb replied, April 21, 2016 at 12:04 a.m.

    AA - Clubs shouldn't focus on developing the player from the time they are U8 until U18. The idea that we have to "hold on to our players" is horrible. Programs should specialize in specific periods of development. For me, I operate two organizations that each focus on one area. The first focuses on early childhood development from ages 2-5. The second is the introduction to their soccer education from 6-12 (the golden years of learning). I am very good at what I do, but I would have to create a completely new organization if I wanted to create the right environment for 13-18 year olds... Our system of development in this country is not great because it relies on the wrong people to do this training. The clubs have the money, but most don't have any pedigree or deep understanding of how to develop players. The problem is that they are not capable, not that they are not incentivized. These clubs would love to produce pros. To suggest that they wouldn't is ludicrous. And to say no TC means no coaches doing it the right way is to say that every youth coach out there is morally deficient. I find that hard to believe. When we have people who have the proper knowledge and experience in the positions we need, that is when we will start producing pros. This is very much tied to our culture since we don't currently have ENOUGH people with this knowledge. Pretending like TC is going to bring coaching geniouses out of the woodwork is naive. Unfortunately, as you have alluded to, we still have a lot of meatheads coaching horrible soccer. Kids at the early levels of the game should be mastering the ability to possess the ball on the ground. Sure the ball is going to be up in the air at times, but the kids at the early stages should begin by learning that with good dribbling, good passing, and good movement, it is not necessary to kick the ball in the air. They can learn about that stuff at ages 13 and up (much less 11 and 12), but until then the game should be kept simple in its focus on developing a MASTERY of the core principles of the game (these core principles DO NOT include putting the ball in the air -- unless perhaps you are English). Back to TC -- if you are running a business based on the hope of getting funds eventually albeit inconsistently, you are a fool. European clubs that develop players in this system are extremely volatile from a business perspective and youth coaches and directors are paid VERY little.

  22. don Lamb replied, April 21, 2016 at 8:38 a.m.

    On the contrary, my friend. I let everyone play regardless of money. My academy gives all immigrants an automatic scholarship and allows all refugees to play for free. It's not my fault you can't figure out how to run a business. We don't turn away any player who wants to play. How much money have the pros that you developed earned? If only the man weren't holding you down, surely you would be a millionaire by now on all of the TC that is due to you. I don't measure things by the number of pros that I develop. That is years away considering I am focused on the youngest ages -- that is where I can make the biggest impact on the culture, and that is what I am focused on. Individually, I don't look at the kid who has no chance of being a pro any different than the next kid. They all deserve to learn and play the game in a top level environment if they love the game and love the ball. Your system forces you to prioritize players who might be pros and it puts pressure on you to keep those kids in your system, which is not necessarily the best thing for them. As a parent, coach, or administrator, I'll take my approach over yours any day.

  23. don Lamb replied, April 21, 2016 at 12:52 p.m.

    Far more than just a feel good "club." We aren't a club at all. We are a professional setup that is taking the idea of youth development to another level by focusing on ONLY the youngest ages. It is an academy in a true sense of the word, not this bs that parents are being sold all over the country.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 5:46 p.m.

    @don Lamb I will believe that you understand working with children, but from your comments I don't see how your training plan teaches U-Littles the fundamentals necessary to prepare them for U14 play. For example how does your training plan teach players to strike on the volley and half volley which is necessary for finishing and to teach first touch on the volley and half volley necessary to control balls in the air? You have mentioned you want players to be able to pull balls out of the air and settle them to the ground, but how are you going to train that if players have to always keep the ball on the ground? As an competitive adult player I regularly practiced receiving balls with the feet up to waist high. Above the waist inaccurate passes also have to be controlled with feet as the only way to reach the ball in time. Are you going to teach those skills or leave it for someone else to do?

  25. don Lamb replied, April 22, 2016 at 8:44 a.m.

    Bob - We focus on mastering the core techniques and principles of the game and we use rondos, specific dribbling instruction, and conditioned small side game environments to do that. They will not have learned everything in the game at 11 years old. They don't need to. Just like you don't teach a 6th grader calculus. We focus on providing a foundation that can be built upon. We also encourage playing on their own and set up pickup games. We teach them how to use a wall as a resource, so they will deal with bouncing balls receive instant feedback on their own technique based on how the ball comes back to them. We don't focus on winning games, we focus on developing children who have mastered dribbling and passing techniques and who have an understanding of the principles of play within 3v3. Coaches want to teach everything at once, but at the young ages, we need to get the children into progressions that deliver repetition after repetition of the fundamental skills and principles that will translate to the highest levels of the game. We build a foundation of mastery instead of trying to teach them every part of the game when that is not necessary or best for their long term development. Finishing is an example of an advanced skill that does not need to occupy a lot of time of the curriculum at the U10 levels. Something like 90% of goals are scored from the area right in front of the goal. Instead of teaching them different techniques of how to put the ball in the net, we focus on teaching them how to move and circulate the ball in a way that teaches them to get the ball into that area where goals are scored (by dribbling or through a build up, not by playing long). Kids should not even be playing games that matter at U10. Our training curriculum focuses on the 3v3 environment, so when we play 6v6 games on the weekend, that is a separate training environment where we teach tactics as opposed to principles which we stress during the week. We set up in a 1-3-1 even though a 3-2 would probably lead to more wins. In the 1-3-1 they are forced to perceive the space on the field much more and concepts like connectivity have a greater importance. We don't play in leagues, which is ridiculous for this age. We play friendlies against like-minded academies and in house scrimmages squad so we don't have to deal with the meathead coaches and roster restrictions that some bemoan here. It's not about winning games and championships. It's about learning the core aspects of the game to a level of mastery as to build a foundation for the future. And it is about developing a love for the game and a relationship with ball that encourages them to play at home and at the park in their spare time.

  26. R2 Dad, April 20, 2016 at 1:55 p.m.

    The folks posting here that are against this no-heading rule are either blaming non-enforcement of the rules due to poor officiating OR that players will pick up bad habits because coaching is poor. If this is actually the case, these situations would be most prominent in rec-level matches where you have volunteer coaches and young referees without much experience. I personally have not seen "karate-chop" behavior in 9 year old players, but I think opposing this rule based on an N of 1 is premature. I will say the worst case I have seen was a state cup final for BU15 kick-and-run teams (basically the lowest level of state cup) where the lack of skill resulted in 50+ headers over the course of the match and a concussed player by half-time. Those players would certainly have benefited from a ban on heading earlier in their careers.

  27. R2 Dad replied, April 20, 2016 at 6:05 p.m.

    You're hilarious. How many times have you been dismissed from a match, coach?

  28. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9:21 p.m.

    AA, the rest of the world might not take us seriously when it comes to soccer, but to think that they are laughing at us because of this rule is extremely myopic. They might laugh at us because culturally we don't really understand the game, but this rule is helping force our culture to understand that the ball belongs on the ground.

  29. R2 Dad replied, April 21, 2016 at 12:08 a.m.

    I have dismissed about a dozen in 5 years, AA, all with your same attitude about playing crappy kick and run and how it's OK for kids to learn that as a strategy instead of a tactic.

  30. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 3:54 a.m.

    @R2 Dad, I think you are over-reacting to people blaming referees for dangerous play in soccer. I see match safety to be the responsibility of match and league officials and especially coaches and club officials. Referees cannot prevent unsafe play. They react to it. Coaches on the other hand manage the players and tactics and control who is playing. Coaches can be proactive. Blaming referees for not carding U-Littles ignores the coaches ability to bench unsafe players. Blaming referees for irresponsible coaches is also a mistake. Club and league officials need to "bench" irresponsible coaches. Assuming everyone who disagrees with your opinions is a coaching Neanderthal is a mistake. I have coached over 500 adult matches and played in over 800, without being dismissed or ejected or even cautioned. I think the ban is a mistake, but I also used low impact methods to teach U10s to head 20 years ago because it is common sense.

  31. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 5:18 p.m.

    AA, I understand. The only success I have had in talking directly to opposing coaches is in the context of friendly matches or in adult matches in a recreational league that stresses fair play and respect for officials. Even then, I have had to resort to formal complaints occasionally, but the complaints are against the coaches who were sanctioned personally for failing to control their players.

  32. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 5:56 p.m.

    I was on a league disciplinary committee for several years. You would be surprised how easy it is to sort through the stories. Officials were very useful and supportive.

  33. seth d, April 20, 2016 at 2 p.m.

    I would like to hear more individual examples of how the rule has benefited/hurt play. I think this rule is great even if it wasn't intended to reduce head injuries. The by-product is kids being forced to control the ball in different ways. I would think this increases skill and composure in possession. There were two specific negative examples resulting from this rule that I'm not sure are negative at all. First was defenders under pressure cant just head away. That is true, but successful defenders will learn how to quickly collect and shield the ball to absorb the pressure. That value of that skill speaks for itself. Unsuccessful defenders will cough it up and forwards will have more scoring chances. Isn't that what we also want? More goals? Forwards that can win the ball back? The other negative example of more high kicks occurring is an unintended by-product. If this becomes a problem just legislate it out. But perhaps this overhead/volley kick Technic will start to flourish and impress??

  34. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 4:18 a.m.

    Seth do you realize that the ban applies to all use of the head, even soft touches to control the ball. The particular skills being banned are settling the ball with the head, passing with the head, finishing with the head, and clearance headers. Requiring players to settle high balls on the ground is a huge disadvantage to teams playing in their defensive thirds, because it requires a tremendous amount of time compared to playing the ball early on the volley. This is going to increase the already higher risk of incidental contact in the final third compared to the space and time found in the middle third of the field.

  35. Bob Ashpole replied, April 21, 2016 at 4:26 a.m.

    Maybe I can make the point another way. Think about this. Are you going to tell the defending team that they have to wait until the ball is settled on the ground before they can tackle?

  36. Will G, April 20, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.

    Some of the comments are laughable. I am not sure what soccer you have been watching but are you saying that before the "ban on heading" you saw young kids going out of their way to head a ball that could be taken down with their feet? I have seen thousands of games at these ages and have never seen a kid go out of their way to head a ball they didn't have to. I stick by my observations and there are now at least 15-20 times in a game that a kid is either ducking completely from the ball or instead of running through and heading the ball, they stop and flair their feet up in the air. Furthermore, I would love to meet the coach that is teaching their defenders to collect the ball only to have to immediately shield it - is this a serious comment? Why not just head the ball to another defender so they can have the time and space to make a decision? I also contend that this rule (like one of the posters above) has a negative effect on style of play. Knowing that defenders can't head a ball, more teams will be firing long ball after long ball and turning the game into a foot race. I find it comical when a kid perfectly capable of intercepting a pass with his head instead needs to duck form it. Heading the ball properly is an important aspect of the game be it defending or scoring goals - this rule isn't going to last.

  37. Big Dad, April 20, 2016 at 3:06 p.m.

    Will G has it right. What we have seen is long ball after long ball. This by top U11 teams / top clubs. Playing the #4,5 and/or 6 now feels like an NFL punt returner with no fair catch rule. Already seen a snapped tib/fib on a center back when the boy that trapped a long ball was at the wrong end of a horrible tackle. At the moment he settled the ball, he was tackled with the flying kick to the outside of the calf. Dumb rule to say the least. Prior to this rule, the player would have simply headed the ball clear.Watching kids duck out of the way of the ball is sad IMHO. Teach the kid to head the ball correctly and how to protect themselves and we will be better off. the current solution only satisfies the attorneys for US Soccer. Nothing to do with player safety but it keeps the attorneys happy...for now!

  38. R2 Dad replied, April 20, 2016 at 5:57 p.m.

    Top U11 teams don't send long ball after long ball. What you are describing is standard rec kick and run. Here is a top U11 team:
    I don't see hardly any fouls or headed balls in that whole clip. Compare that to the video link on John S post to see the difference.

  39. don Lamb replied, April 20, 2016 at 9:25 p.m.

    Who cares about championships at this level!!!!!!! It's out of control

  40. John Schultz, April 20, 2016 at 3:22 p.m.

    I ran into this video a few days ago on youtube. This is mostly a dad recording his son's USSDA games and highlighted all the atrocious fouls on his kid that resulted in either no call or/and no cards handed out for these criminal fouls. Please tell me how not heading the ball can fix this type of coaching and worst of all Refereeing. Enjoy

  41. R2 Dad replied, April 20, 2016 at 5:51 p.m.

    I just watched this, prepared for the worst, and there seems to be a big disconnect about what is legal contact and what is not. Without having watched the entire match it's hard to determine if the referees had a handle on their matches but: 1) this may be DA but it's not "elite level of play", 2)the referees did whistle for plenty of fouls and cards were probably warranted at least twice (but apparently weren't issued), and 3) when there wasn't a whistle the referee called advantage. that doesn't mean he ignored the foul, and he could have gone back to card after the play if he wanted (which wasn't shown). The source of the video (Luis A) presumably thinks every clip requires a card but that's simply not the case.

  42. John Schultz replied, April 20, 2016 at 8:42 p.m.

    R2, I just watched it again and alot of those clips seem to be from the same 2-3 games. It doesnt look like those players were too concerned with attaining a card. The plays that stood out the most were vs the red team. In one the player kicks the player on the leg he was supported on as he was p[assing the ball back with other foot. This foul was from behind and with no other intent than taking down the player. That should have been a direct red card as an extremely dangerous play. The other one was where the player took on a few players on left flank, then dribbled down goal line and defender came to take out this player again with no intent of playing the ball. He then looks to trash talk the player on the ground. At the very least thats a yellow with a stern warning of next foul being a red card. The ref did not even call the foul on that play. I think the dad included all those clips because there were calls made but not followed up by correct cards or they were noncalls. The player seems to be very skilled and looks to be targeted as such by the defenders. You can allow advantage but at the same time come back and card the player after play is dead for such fouls. I have seen a few DA games and never see this and I dont think the dad would have titled the videos as "terrible reffing" had the ref gone back to card the player. Either way its a shame that these type of players are not taken better care of, dont you thinkl?

  43. John Schultz, April 20, 2016 at 8:27 p.m.

    ANd I agree with AA for the most part.

  44. Allan Lindh, April 22, 2016 at 8:38 p.m.

    It is myopic to think that further research will conclude that heading does not do brain damage -- the results will be quite the opposite. The article does a lovely job of highlighting that w/o heading, the beautiful game is more beautiful. Now the sensible step would be to move the heading ban up each year so that these kids aren't heading until they are old enough to make the decision for themselves. Would probably produce better soccer players.

  45. Big Dad, April 26, 2016 at 3:50 p.m.

    Funniest thing I have read in a long time HAHA "Now the sensible step would be to move the heading ban up each year so that these kids aren't heading until they are old enough to make the decision for themselves"

    Might as well rename the game from Football or Soccer to a newly invented name because you are proposing to completely change the game.

    Capri Suns and orange slices for the U/18's please !
    Finish the DA games with a parent tunnel too! Participation trophies for everyone, weeeee!!!!

    I see Capri Sun as an future MLS jersey sponsor in Allan's soccer world. What a joke !

    Back to reality....I see more and more top youth players leaving the US at U9 and 10( yes really, as crazy as it sounds) to avoid the disaster that US soccer has created as they buckle to the pressures of stupid class action lawsuits. Sad times!

    This country will never excel in the sport with attorneys running the show. Sad to say the least.

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