This Post Needs More ‘Heading’

In an article I found recently, a Connecticut (USA) soccer club was reported to have banned ‘heading’ the ball for children under the age of ten. For those unaware, heading basically involves using the head as one would their foot. That is, scoring goals, clearing the ball from defence and passing to other players using the head to strike the ball.

To use that old cliche again, “back in my day…”, I played soccer for three years at the same park level as the Connecticut club. I was over the age of ten, but I remember some of those headers felt like they were pulverising the old grey matter. It was something you braced for and had to be reasonably well trained to pull it off. There is one main reason I mention that I was over the age of ten and that is because at the level I was playing at, for memory it was under 12, the balls are kicked harder, higher and faster. When you headed those balls into goal or to an open teammate, you were meeting several kilograms of force. Sounds brutal and you certainly felt it, but like many others I have come through the other side and been able to tell the story of heading a ball clear over the goals. Our striker once scored using the technique.

Ultimately though, look at the idols of young soccer players these days. Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Emile Heskey. All of these players are at the level they are through relentless practice from the time they left the womb. That’s not to say every child will reach those heights, but to ban headers is to restrict development. An eleven-year-old player who has never headed the ball and is suddenly allowed to is in for a huge shock. Kids need practice with this skill and the earlier the better. I will not peddle the “it toughens them up” angle, but if nothing else, early training perfects the technique required to head the ball effectively and without injury.

Don’t start ferociously kicking balls at your five-year-old. But try to promote in your own home responsible physical activity for young kids. It is the best head start they can get for a healthy lifestyle!


5 thoughts on “This Post Needs More ‘Heading’

  1. That is ridiculous! I used to love doing that and I’m a girl! It’s weird how they pick on little things like that, I’m sure kids hurt themselves more playing tackle footy, or even going skateboarding. They need to just let kids have fun and not worry, that is what kids do best.

  2. It’s interesting that this club banned the practice. For the reasons you outlined, I can see why, and having also played soccer as a youngster, if you didn’t head the ball correctly, you would be left with a sore head for quite a while.

    Junior soccer players should definitely be taught the technique at least so they know how to correctly head so mistakes that lead to injuries don’t happen. My question is though, realistically, how high could a ball be kicked into the air by children under 10 yrs of age to generate enough force to injure someone?

    Although I’m not a parent, I’d be concerned about my child getting the ball kicked into their face accidentally, as I’m sure their reaction times at that age would not be quick enough to attempt to head a ball.

    Interesting story though. Wonder if any other clubs around the world have followed suit?

  3. Yeh I think the issue here should be concerning correctly practicing the propor technique for headering, but not outlawing it from the game. For these kids to be penalised for a crucial component of the game will significantly diminish their chances of progressing further in life with the sport and will certaintly put them a step behind all others when it comes to playing professionally. Recently I took up soccer again, (I’m 20) after not playing for about 7 years.. I did however play for 7 years as a youngster. I found that when heading my technique was all wrong, instead of hitting my forhead, the ball would sometimes come off the top of my head and give me resulting headaches. Here, like anything in life, practice makes perfect and will proper teaching and technique training, headers have been proven to be safe, even to young children. Certaintly an interesting topic!

  4. Interesting post! Totally agree that if they don’t have practice heading a ball from a young age, then they will be in for a total shock when they do experience it at an older age. Further more it could potentially be more harmful if they haven’t grown up with the practice of heading the ball. I personally have never headed the ball but have been hit in the head by a ball and yes it hurts but it doesn’t necessarily kill you. Once again its a matter or letting children toughen up otherwise they will grow up to be rather weak and sensitive in too many ways.

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