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The 'No Heading' rule

Become a modern day coach - adapt

The heading ban in the USA has become a huge talking point. The changes came after a class-action lawsuit brought by a group of parents and players in a U.S. District Court in California that sought rule changes preventing head injuries. The lawsuit charged FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization with negligence for not addressing the issue. In 2010, more high school soccer players suffered concussions (50,000) than athletes in wrestling, baseball, basketball and softball combined. But how many of these head injuries came from heading a soccer ball?

From my experience at U11 and below, if a ball is high in the air or kicked at pace, then a young soccer player will more often than not get out of the way. I have lost count of the amount of corner kicks I have seen go out for a throw-in on the opposite side because no player will head the ball. The few head injuries I have seen have come from a clash of heads, a hard shot where a player got in the way or a head hitting the ground. I am a huge follower of rules. I personally believe US Soccer has bigger problems than changing heading laws but that's a different topic. If a governing body changes any rule you have to adapt. There is no point complaining. As a modern day coach, changes in how you do things should be embraced. This is how we learn and improve. Here is how you can adapt:

Purchase softer soccer balls (Nerf). If your coaching staff are doing any heading sessions they can use the softer balls. Even though heading has been banned at U11, we still need to teach the technique. I believe not teaching heading can be dangerous for the future. It also gives the players confidence for when the rule change allows them to head the ball. Telling young players not to head the ball and being negative towards heading will have damaging effects for the future. I had a player who was told by his parents he must never head the ball. The boy is now U14 and he will not even attempt to head the ball, even if it means getting a goal or using it for defending.

“Defending against corner kicks’ – For U11’s and under how do we teach defending against set pieces? What you have to do is place them in positions that are going to narrow the chance of the opposition scoring. Below shows how the blue and green defending team positions themselves on corners. The 3 key areas are zone marking and all others are man marking. Always leave a striker (4) or two up the field. If you bring everyone back, the opposition will have more attackers.

Figure 1

Position 1 – The defender comes off the post, not too far, to stop any balls being delivered into the near post area.

Position 2  - The defender covers the back post by standing inside the post on the goal line about one yard from the post.

Position 3  - This defender stops any low balls that are coming into the danger zone.

Position 4  - When the ball is delivered and the attacker can see a team mate is ready to clear the ball they should quickly move out wide. It is easier for the defender to direct the ball to position 4 when the corner is delivered.

Figure 2

When the corner is delivered to a dangerous area defender #1 now moves inside the goal like #2. With the GK, player 1 and 2 now in the correct areas, it gives the opposition a smaller window to score. There will be a lot of swipes at the ball and players ducking out of the way. Having the goal covered is crucial. Player 3 also moves in an area that covers the goal.


Have your more tenacious players in position 3 and in the danger zone (six yard area) Players in positions 1 & 2 do not need to be your best headers of the ball or more aggressive players but should have some soccer intelligence or quickness. Encourage GK’s to offer good communication like “Away” or “push out”.

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