US Soccer has announced new rules which ban headers for players 10 and under. Headers for players 11 to 13 will be limited. The changes come after a lawsuit dealing with concussions.

Local soccer club Midwest United FC shares their reaction to the changes.

We asked Lewis Robinson, Director of Coaching at Midwest United FC, about the changes.

What are your thoughts on US Soccer's decision on headers?

I, like a lot of people am pretty shocked by it to be honest. I don’t think anybody saw this coming or thought the reaction to a large lawsuit would be quite this extensive. Although myself and everybody else involved at Midwest United FC believe that concussion prevention, care, correct screening and rehabilitation is of the utmost importance in youth soccer I think to ban heading at the younger ages may not entirely fix the problems. If a player is playing in the right environment with the right coach, being instructed and educated on the proper techniques of heading the ball then they should be at a good level of safety. Obviously in any contact sport there is a risk of concussion along with any other injury, but this is the same risk we have when playing any sport and the same risk the majority of athletes choose to take every day. Not teaching players at the formative developmental years (U10-U12) could in turn make it more difficult to teach the correct technique when introducing them to heading at an older age.
Now it must also be said that at this point we don’t know how US Soccer is going to implement this mandated change. Is it going to be a hard fast rule that when broken will reduce in a penalty or free kick or is it merely a way for US Soccer to not be liable for any further lawsuits and leave the implementation up to local league associations? US Soccer tells us that there will be more information on how to implement the rules within the next 30 days.
How will it affect Midwest United FC going forward?
As of right now it wont affect us until we know the exact details of how the rules will be implemented and how the youth game U9-U13 will be changed. The risks that US Soccer takes is changing the game too much at the younger ages and being the only nation in the world to do this. This could possibly have negative effects on the National Team’s success and harm competition with other nations at the national team level.
Now the other side that we have to think about is that within our club in the younger ages (U9-U12) the game is typically played with the ball on the ground. We have an emphasis on players keeping control of the ball and manipulating the ball on the floor to develop their ball control and technical foundation of the game. So from a training standpoint the majority of what we do shouldn’t change and it should push coaches and organizations to keep the ball on the ground and continue to work on the technical aspect of the game developing better technical players. That being said heading is a core technique in the game of soccer that we could be taking away from young players so this could drastically change the way the game is played.
Will there be any changes in the way kids practice and play at Midwest United FC?
Well if it is mandated then we would take heading out of the U10 program and it would be “limited” (per US Soccer) at U11-U12 age groups. If US Soccer mandates the changes our club will comply and embrace the changes.
Until then we will continue to teach and play the game safely like we always do.
Our coaches are all educated on concussion safety and the correct protocol when players receive any kind of head injury. Our staff are educated on the correct procedures we must take before a player returns to any activity, and with our partnership with Metro Health we seek to have medical staff and trainers at the majority of our activities and games for the players safety.