Clarification - Policies, Rules and Laws of the Game

Heading Restrictions for U12 and Younger Age Groups

NVSC has implemented the policy rule and guidelines set forth by Virginia Youth Soccer Association (VYSA) effective immediately.  These policies will apply to all applicable club teams in our Competitive and Recreational Programs and our Super Y League with additional guidance for our recreational U11/U12 combined age group:

These guidelines apply to all players, coaches, and member organizations registered with VYSA, as well as those who train with players, coaches, member organizations registered with VYSA. 

U11 and Younger:
Players in U11 programs and younger shall not engage in heading, either in practice or in games.

NVSC policies also include the No Heading policy for our combined U11/U12 recreational age group.  The decision to include the U12 age group came as a result of coordination with VYSA, the guidance received and consideration of the combined age groups in our recreational program.  As more information on the implementation for U.S. Soccer's Player Safety Campaign - Concussion initiatives becomes available these policies will be reviewed and modified as necessary to align with the adopted policies of VYSA.

Recreational Program U12 and Younger:
Coaches shall ensure that U12 and younger players do not engage in heading the ball during practices or play the ball with their head in games.  In all instances when the ball strikes a U12 or younger player in the head (any part of the body above the shoulder including the neck area) play must be stopped.   Before restarting practice or a game players should be reminded that they are not allowed to use their head to play the ball.

This modification to the laws of the game applies to all levels of play including travel, recreational and academy programs as well as sanctioned tournaments.

Modification to Law 12: Whenever the ball strikes a player in the head, play is stopped.  The proper restart depends upon whether the player deliberately played the ball with his or her head.  If deliberate, the proper restart is an indirect free kick to the opposing team.  If this occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.  If the play by the head is deemed inadvertent, then the proper restart is a dropped ball.


The referee will need to use his/her best judgment when determining if the action of the player was deliberate.  Did the player's action result in the ball striking the player's head (moving head into the path of the ball, jumping to make contact with the ball, etc...).  For the purposes of this modification, the head is any area above the shoulders to include the player's neck.


Player Equipment


Issue:  Referees not being consistent. 

Answer: This is very straight forward from the NVSC modifications, jewelry (of any type) is not allowed.  No jewelry is allowed to be worn by players (e.g., friendship bracelets, hairbands worn around wrist or neck, sports bracelets, earrings, etc...).  If a player has recently had their ears pierced and cannot or is unwilling to remove the earring or other piercing, then the player is not allowed to play.  We no longer allow players to cover jewelry with tape. 

The rule on no jewelry also applies to items worn as part of body piercings. The only exceptions for “jewelry” are medical-alert bracelets/necklaces and religious items specifically required by the wearer’s religion.  Although the referee on any particular game has the final authority to approve any non-standard equipment as to its safety, that decision must be made within the Laws of the Game. There are only two acceptable reasons to consider allowing such non-compulsory equipment — religious or medical reasons — and even there the referee must still determine that the item meets the Law’s safety standard.

Another instance of players equipment is in the use of a head covering.  Though our policy document does not directly speak to this, hard/rigid brimmed headgear (baseball style) should not be allowed to be worn by players.  The use of a soft brimmed runners style cap or other soft brimmed headgear by players should be limited to use for medical reasons (i.e. sensitive eye or skin conditions) or regilious requirements. This is a safety issue and the referee should take care to ensure the object does not become a hazard to the player or other players on the field (ex: the player wearing the cap attempting to head a ball in close proximity to other players). As a cap is not part of the basic equipment the referee is permitted to prevent its use if in the referees’ judgment the cap is or could become a hazard to the player or other players on the field.

If you have players being substituted and you observe them wearing jewelry after you have already addressed the issue with the player and coach, send the player off the field to correct the issue and remind the coach of the law.  

Excerpt from USSF Advice to Referees: Law 4  All items of jewelry are normally considered dangerous. Players may not tape, cover up, or otherwise hide prohibited items. The player must be prevented from participating in the match if the prohibited item continues to be worn. 

The willful refusal by a player to remove illegal equipment (including items of jewelry), having been previously warned that such equipment cannot be worn on the field yet continuing to do so, is considered unsporting behavior.  



Issue: Identifying shoes with toe cleats.

Answer: During the equipment inspection the referee is looking for proper or improper/ potentially dangerous equipment. Shoes with toe cleats are not allowed to be worn; these are typically found on baseball style cleats though not all baseball cleats have the toe cleat. The toe cleats may not be cut off in an effort to circumvent this rule.  The main difference between baseball and soccer cleats is the cleat pattern on the bottom of the shoe. It is illegal to have a "toe cleat" in soccer, which would be located directly underneath the middle toes and may be a single or double cleat. This is mostly for safety purposes because the toe cleat could cause more injury in soccer.


Law IV - The Players’ Equipment - NVSC Modification excerpt

B. It is recommended that all players wear legal, molded-sole soccer shoes or turf shoes. Metal or metal-tipped cleats are not allowed. Shoes with toe cleats are not allowed to be worn (typically found on softball or baseball type cleats). The toe cleats may not be cut off in an effort to circumvent this Law.

C. Illegal equipment is not to be worn. If an article of equipment is considered dangerous or confusing by the referee, that article must be removed or covered before play can start or continue. Hard casts may be wrapped with a soft cushioning material (bubble wrap) to reduce the likelihood of injury to another player. It will be at the Referee’s discretion to determine the safety and suitability of player equipment including the wearing of an orthopedic cast or hard brace.

D. Jewelry of any type is NOT ALLOWED to be worn (including earrings). Medical bracelets or necklaces may be worn, but must be taped to the body.

E. No metal, plastic, wood or other hard pins, barrettes or ponytail holders may be worn. Hair bands with hard plastic balls are also illegal. The use of elastic bands and soft headbands is allowed. 


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