Heading a ball is one of the few alien skills of soccer. After all, nobody in their right mind would choose to be struck on the head. Yet it can be one of the most spectacular and exciting plays in the game. Any adult field player who has poor heading skills is a weak link in the team.
However, recent medical research has cast doubts on the desirability of repetitive heading practice for players under 12 years of age – particularly with high balls or service from a distance. Some people have even suggested that there is a risk of permanent damage to the spine arising from the compaction effect of heading the ball.
This is not a medical manual and there is no qualified, expert opinion in this area. But I have enough experience in soccer to know that heading skills can be left for intensive development until the next age phase (early teens) – particularly as the skill of heading is something older player can cope with better than a non-discerning youngster. So why take the risks?
But there’s no getting away from the fact that heading the ball is an inevitable part of any soccer match. For this reason it is important to show your children how to head the ball correctly. Just don’t do it too much.