Heading Into Controversy

The following is a guest post from Graham Ramsay, originally posted by Karl Dewazien. Koach Karl is the author and publisher of the world-famous “FUNdamental Soccer” book series, the cornerstone of Youth Soccer practice and Small Sided games. Find out more at www.fundamentalsoccer.com.

We don't practice it properly or on a regular basis so ‘heading’ gets relegated to the waste paper basket. Then people wonder why injuries happen. Skill is knowledge and rarely do the great headers of the ball get injured because of that awareness & know how.

And rather than banning ‘heading’ in the younger age groups I would suggest that governing bodies encourage the play of Futsal as the main soccer game up to U.12's…! In Futsal the ball virtually lives on the ground and ‘heading’ does not become a factor. Plus it would create skillful players whether we want more skillful players or not. Quite a bargain.

The debate is about safety / concussions which is a concern but the reason for the fear factor is born out of ignorance and lack of understanding/ education. Heading in soccer has been a vital part of the game since its beginnings in 1863 as the game we know today. So why the sudden rush to ban a valid part of the game? 

In its history compared to the already number of millions of headers made the collision factor has been extremely small. However safety is a must and many associations have made, especially at junior levels further changes. Its highly recommended to read the English F.A. Concussion Guidelines - "If in Doubt, Sit Them Out" , changes to protect youngsters.

Soccer to its credit is always looking to improve its ways… Compared with a generation ago when balls were made with leather which on wet days became sodden & heavy plus were stitched with the laces showing. The balls today are often much lighter and user friendly. 

Soccer too is examining ways of promoting both technological ways (headbands that can monitor impact) and so recognize whether to sub a player or not.

At a personal level I have studied this topic more than most as I lost my eye in an auto accident when I was 6 years of age and lived in dreaded fear of anything coming near my face. Through good friends I got into soccer tennis first with balloons then gravitated to using volleyballs & finally onto soccer balls. By the age of 14 I was the best header of a ball in my school years.

My point being education is the best answer to solving this dilemma not simply elimination. I would also point a finger at the poor state of movement education in the USA in teaching this vital skill. Education is the answer and not litigation. The governing bodies of the sport should have stepped up to the plate years ago with seminars and video's, etc. on coaching this skill.

Often the most dramatic methods to score a goal is with a header. They live long in the memory as I can attest. The English FA did a study of where goals came from and 64% of goals came from headers from crosses. And remember the rest of the world is not waiting for us. By banning heading means we fall further behind in playing catch up. It’s a world game. Education & coaching is the answer. and adapting the sport with "Futsal" and a bridge to the regular game. Let’s keep the lawyers where they belong - Trump Towers!! 

Again I stress confidence and education will create this positive platform and this is where coaches need to go out to learn the ‘heading’ skill in more detail as we are dealing with youngsters’ safety on this learning road.

For this reason I have developed one-to- two day seminars on this topic called "HEADING FOR SUCCESS." The sessions include both field and classroom components which are reinforced with educational handouts & DVD's of soccer aerial action. You will learn ‘how to’ create a safe environment that builds confidence in the players to enjoy the special challenges that only heading can provide. 

For more information please contact me: Graham Ramsay, Executive Director, The Soccer School (est.1969) ...Phone: 1-410 708 7177 email: ramsaysoccer.yahoo.com.

Final Note: Thank you for taking the time to read this article and Sharing it with your soccer community. Clicking Like and Commenting on this subject is also very much appreciated. You can also read more articles by Coach Ramsay at: www.fundamentalsoccer.com

Your FUNdamental,

Koach Karl (Karl Dewazien)