There has been a lot of attention in the global media and within various footballing associations about the negative effects of heading in junior players, with varying approaches being adopted around the world to tackle this issue. This includes a ban on heading in games for players under 11 years by US Soccer and the Football Associations of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We, at Canterbury Football, have taken a more pragmatic and evidence-based approach, with a long term, gentle learning of correct heading technique to reduce head impact magnitude during heading.
By using, where possible, specifically designed (such as Heading Pro ®) soft balls in a staged limited repetition training environment, we can show players how to head the ball safely, and develop heading proficiency within a controlled, safe training environment using very low velocity balls from throw-ins before young players are expected to head a higher-velocity kicked ball in games.
These practices will teach the player the skills of safely managing ball-head impact as well as how to position their body during heading duels, so that they are better prepared when they are at an age where heading becomes far more common in the 11 aside game at aged 12-13 years+. In younger years, where small sided games are integral to skill development, there are very few aerial balls as ball movement on the ground is encouraged, but that does not mean we should ignore the technical learning of heading.