Heads up! U.S. Soccer calls for end to heading for young players

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Soccer has this message for its youngest players: No heading, please.

The governing body for the sport in the United States is urging youth soccer leagues across the nation to put a stop to players striking the ball with their heads.

That could mean some changes are in store for Hawaii's youth soccer teams. About 18,000 kids play AYSO soccer in Hawaii, while the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association -- HYSA -- has about 7,000 kids on teams statewide.

The new directive recommends no heading of the ball for players 10 and under. For kids 11 to 13, the recommendation is for limited heading in practice.

UH Women's Soccer coach Michelle Nagamine supports the new recommendations, based on medical advice. Some studies rank soccer second to football for concussions.

"I think it's a good idea," Nagamine said. "When there's a 50-50 ball and it's up in the air, you have two players trying to challenge for that ball. Usually they end up missing the ball and heading each other."

Nagamine pointed out that HYSA clubs did away with heading the ball three years ago.

Youth soccer coach Chava Cabrera also supports the changes.

"You have to be careful with the children," he said. "I have to slow down in my training, especially the headers."

One of the best-sellers at Xtreme Soccer store is protective head gear. "It's also to help with collisions, when the kids are running after the ball," said store manager Leilani Fagaragan.

Soccer dad Francis Sakamoto said doing away with heading will "change the dynamics of soccer."

But, he added, "looking at the youth it's for their protection."

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