New United States Soccer Federation rules forbidding kids from heading the ball are going to prevent a lot of head injuries. This is, of course, good news for anyone who has or ever will have a kid on a soccer team — soccer causes more concussions than baseball, basketball, softball, and wrestling combined, according to the lawsuit filing that led to the changes.
But soccer fans eventually will see an unintended benefit from the rules, too. Especially if the anti-heading sentiment continues through to their adult years, today’s generation of young players should actually have better skills than those that came before.
How? When the ball gets put back into play with a corner kick, kids will now have to abandon the now-standard practice of clumping together in front of the net, jumping up, and hoping against hope that their noggin contacts the ball and deflects it in the right direction. They will have to adopt new strategies for scoring goals, presumably ones that entail completing passes and taking shots on net.
Whether or not top-level soccer leagues will see the trickle-down benefits of this change will depend on how persistent these non-heading strategies are. It’s worth noting that the new rules only ban heading for kids 10 and under, and limit it in those 11-13. How much of a difference will the rule change have in the long-term playing style of such young players? Will they revert back to the old moshing-and-heading ways as soon as the rules let up?
The persistent effects, most likely, will be subtle. But hey — there’s always the whole not-giving-kids-permanent-brain-damage argument in favor of the new rules to fall back on.
That won’t stop dumb parents, though: