Changes are being made to the way kids 10 and younger play soccer in Jacksonville.
Earlier this year, representatives from the Illinois Youth Soccer Program, a group in charge of 80,000 young soccer players, approved a ban on players 10 years and younger from using their heads to strike the ball.
WLDS/WEAI News reached out to Jacksonville Soccer Association President Daniel Hackett earlier this week.
When it comes to the header issue, Hackett says everyone in the JSA “is on the same page” and the rule change will be put in place during the fall session.
“These kids learn to go up for the 50/50 ball and win the header. That is the first thing you learn about the head ball. I think this is an opportunity for the rates of concussions to go down. Older kids, from eight to ten years old, do this and it is expected. There is a learning curve, but with the younger age group we have to start there and work our way up.”
Hackett says taking away this element of the game could change the style of soccer in Illinois.
“If do don’t learn how to do a header early on there is a little bit of a concern with that. The positive side of it is the ball will be at the feet more. That is a must know in the game of soccer. You have to know how to play the ball off your foot. This will keep the ball down more and possibly give the USA an edge on footwork.”
Hackett realizes the transition will be a tough one for players, parents, coaches and referees, but everyone needs to be on board to make the change.
Hackett says he hasn’t heard any complaints about headers from parents since he joined the JSA eight years ago.
Last year around 400 players, ranging from four-year-olds to eighth graders, participated in JSA leagues.