Heading Guidelines

New Heading Guidelines

Effective immediately, the Massachusetts Youth Soccer will implement the policy linked below and modified laws of the game for heading.  This requirement is for all Mass Youth Soccer affiliated activities, including but not limited to, Mass Youth Soccer affiliated member organization league play, practices and tournaments.

For all Mass Youth Soccer and all Member Organizations the following will be adhered to:

Heading Not Permissible

a) Players by Age

(1) All players age 10 years old and younger, regardless of what age group program they are playing in, shall not engage in heading either in practice or in games.

b) Programs by Age Group

(1) All players in single year age groups of U11 programs and younger shall not engage in heading either in practice or in games.

(2) All players in dual year age groups which incorporate a U11 program (e.g. U11/12) shall not engage in heading in games. Training is permissible for player age 11 and 12 per limitations noted below.

Limited Heading in Practice, No Limit in Games

a) Players by Age

(1) For all players between the ages of 11 and 13, heading training will be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes per week with no more than 15-20 headers per player, per week.

It is advised coaches should continue to work with their players in receiving the ball from the air using chest, thigh and foot techniques.

To get to the point where the objective of beginning heading can be achieved, it is suggested that coaches use the following ball progression:

1. Balloon
2. Sponge (NERF™-type) Ball
3. Playball*
4. Volleyball
5. Partially-deflated soccer ball
6. Properly inflated soccer ball

Please note:

  • Players are not to try to throw a ball up into the air to attempt heading it themselves as this rarely works and develops improper technique.
  • No player is to be forced to head a ball; heading is an “unnatural” act and children who are reluctant to head at first do so from a normal protective instinct; no teammates should be allowed to ridicule a reluctant player.
  • Players should avoid heading the ball with the top or side of their head.

Heading Infraction

For those players designated as not being permitted to head the ball in games as identified in the above section the following modified law 12 will apply.

A team whose player in the U12 or lower divisions deliberately heads or attempts to head the ball will be sanctioned by an indirect free kick awarded to the opponent at the spot of the foul.

The exception to the spot of the foul location is, if the infraction occurs within a team’s defensive goal area. The spot for the taking of the indirect free kick will be on the goal area line that is parallel to the goal line nearest to where the infraction occurred.

If, in the opinion of the referee, a player does not deliberately head or attempt to head the ball, then play shall continue.

In review there are effectively two restrictions:

(1)    Game Rule – No one may head the ball in a U12 or younger age group.

(2)    Practice Rule – No one under age 11 may practice heading, and there are limits on heading practice for those age 11-13.