Heading the ball in soccer will no longer be allowed for all teams with 11-year-olds and younger, according to a change in the American Youth Soccer Organization’s rules and regulations.
AYSO announced that its National Board of Directors has passed the change to AYSO’s rules and regulations related to heading in accordance with the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Return 2 Recover program, the AYSO said in a press release.
“The safety of the kids who play this beautiful game is our biggest priority and being able to take that and align it with USSF made this an even easier decision,” said Mark Stewart, AYSO National President.
The new rule bans heading for all U-11 and below division players. If an AYSO program doesn’t have single age divisions, heading is banned for U-12 and below. Heading for players in U-14 will be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes per week with no more than 15-20 headers per player. There is no restriction on heading in matches in U-13 and above.
“It’s important that players learn proper heading technique at the appropriate age. The new heading limits will encourage other control skills,” said Mike Hoyer, acting national executive director.
The new policy includes that an indirect free kick will be awarded to the opposing team if a player age 10 or younger deliberately touches the ball with his or her head during a game. The indirect free kick is to be taken from the place where the player touched the ball with his or her head. An indirect free kick awarded to the attacking team inside the opposing team’s goal area, must be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the player touched the ball with his or her head. This policy was put into effect so referees, coaches and players can all align with the change more quickly.
Safety is very important to AYSO as a whole, according to the release. Heading was already banned for U-10 and below and extending it to U-11/U-12 was a way to ensure that players are older and more developed when attempting heading to avoid preventable head injuries.