US Soccer’s decision to ban youngsters from heading the ball could have been avoided by the use of common sense.
That is the view of Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris who has joined a growing list of respected members of the football fraternity to challenge the controversial new ruling.
The US Soccer Federation has banned children aged 10 and under from heading the ball after introducing a number of safety measures to settle a lawsuit accusing it of negligence in treating and monitoring head injuries.
The ban, which includes national team and Major League Soccer academies means players aged between 11 and 13 will be limited to headers during matches only, while medical professionals must attend all academy games to decide whether players suspected of suffering concussion stay on.
For Harris, it is a difficult decision to fathom.
He said: ‘Unless someone can present to me empirical evidence that heading causes significant lasting damage, then I don’t see it.
I don’t know what the sanctions are if you break it but if a lad does a header in training or something, do you lose your coaching license?Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris
‘It comes down to common sense and experience as a coach in managing the environment you work in and making sure it is safe for the kids who are participating.
‘If you are asking children to do heading for an hour and asking them to do 30,000 headers, then that is probably not good practice!
‘But maybe not so long ago it may have been called exercising common sense.
‘It’s a very strange one and unfortunately I think it (the ban) is a product of this litigation and suing culture that we live in today.
‘It is very interesting because it will be quite difficult to police I presume.
‘I don’t know what the sanctions are if you break it but if a lad does a header in training or something, do you lose your coaching license?
‘How does it work?’
Harris, who is a holder of the UEFA A licence has never heard the suggestion children should not head a football in all his years of coaching.
He added: ‘There’s nothing to say don’t head a football.
‘Common sense, again says that with younger age groups you might use softer balls.
‘You can still develop technique, movements and keeping those eyes on the ball.
‘That’s a standard thing – you start with smaller softer balls with the kids.
‘Obviously they are not dealing with balls coming from 60 yards – it is all very light over short distances and things like that.
‘It just comes down to how you manage it.’
Meanwhile, Harris’ Pompey Academy side return to FA Youth Alliance League south west action when they welcome Oxford to Furze Lane on Saturday (11am).
– JEFF MARSHMAN