Why Shouldn't Kids Learn to Head the Ball?

m largeContributor IJuly 10, 2009

WUHAN, HUBEI - SEPTEMBER 22:  A Chinese girl goes up for a header before  the quarter final match of FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 at Wuhan Sports Center Stadium on September 22, 2007 in Wuhan, China.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

So when I first got a little guy team years ago when I wasn't petrified (old) back in the 70's, one of the first things I taught them to do was strike the ball with their heads. 

They could barely kick the darn thing but boy could they stick their noggins on it. We did this first by letting them act like chickens, mad chickens, and peck the hell out of the ball resting in my hands. 

Up and down a line I would go daring each kid to peck it harder than the kid before them. There were a lot of face balls. Gradually we would move to underhanded soft tosses and the kids would come to the conclusion that they could do it and it didn't hurt too much.  Awards for the best little pecker were always sure to elicit deft, frequent and well directed hits. 

We did this standing, kneeling, jumping, laying on our backs in the "dead cockroach" position. It just plain worked and no extraordinary trauma was the result. 

My first little Peles were never great dancers but boy they could smack it with their heads.

Today, many years later, there is an ongoing debate about brain trauma when heading taught to children too young takes place. Better put, poorly taught heading creates brain injury. 

This might be true. The jury is still out. 

There are seemingly two camps. The head or not-to-head contingents. The not-to-head contingent is my current and ongoing nemesis. This group of well-intentioned youth soccer administrators and their sheep-like parents don't want their little ones smacking the ball with their noggins.

I don't blame them. Moms and Dads love their kids and administrators don't like court dates.

But take a step back and look at the long-term results of players taught to head properly and safely hit the damn thing with their beans. Everywhere, world-wide, kids have been taught to do this with consequences remarkably less significant than the trauma inflicted upon them by teachers, parents, classmates and clergy. 

If taught properly, a neonate could do it with no greater loss of functionality than ordinarily sustained by wobbling its little head to its mother's breast for food.

I know this, I once was an infant.

So enter the doctors, also well-intentioned and sworn to first do no harm. This camp bolsters, and with good evidence, the notion, that indeed brain trauma results from too many hits to the brain at an early age. It is here where I have to defer to their expertise, gained from years of study and research. 

They just "know better".

To further clarify their positions I'm offering solid evidence gained from my own observations throughout the years.These are not scientific, nor are they objective.

I have been known to associate with people from other countries. These associations often were in their countries. I often played futbol with these folks and noticed that they were neither stupid or lacked mental capacity. Their kids today also smack round objects with their heads from time to time. These little tykes seem to do just fine.

American youth soccer ought to take the lead from our cousins over there and stop obsessing about the imagined trauma sustained from heading the ball. Reality is, heading can be taught well or poorly. 

We need to concentrate on getting better coaches in the youth ranks and take a lesson from our international cousins who for years have smacked balls around with their thinking organs. 

They know how to give good head.

Lemme know what you think—that is, if your brain is not too mushy from you know what.