According to US Youth Soccer, which oversees youth football associations in each state, a league could use a smaller ball if each club consented. But players in interleague or interstate matches should follow the rules of American football for young people, which require a bigger ball from the age of 12 or 13.
Brandi Chastain, who has played in the Women’s Premier Soccer League and is a former member of the United States Women’s National Team, says she doesn’t think professional players should pass the ball bigger. But she agrees that both boys and girls would benefit from the Eir version: “It just doesn’t make sense,” she says, “that you ask a 12-year-old to use the same size balloon. than a 6 foot balloon. A 4-inch, 195-pound man uses it.
Dr Cantu says that children’s thinner skulls and weaker necks make them more susceptible to head injuries. Sudden movement of the head, which causes a concussion, has a “doll-doll effect” on children, he says.
Last year Ms Chastain, who coaches her son’s youth football team, threatened to take her team off the pitch when an opposing team’s coach refused to use a smaller ball. And this year, Ms. Chastain partnered with Dr. Cantu’s Institute and the University of Santa Clara’s Institute of Sports Law and Ethics to launch the Safer Soccer initiative, which calls on children of under the age of 14 to stop directing soccer balls. The proposed change aims to reduce concussions.
Others in sports have also expressed concern. In August, a group of soccer players and parents filed a class action lawsuit against six organizations, including the United States Football Federation, the American Youth Soccer Organization and FIFA, claiming that 50,000 high school footballers suffered head injuries in 2010. Complainants want rule changes regarding how concussions are watched and treated, and how many times under-17 players can steer the ball.
Yet changing the attitudes ingrained in any sport is a challenge. Operating as a small non-profit organization in the multi-billion dollar football equipment and clothing market is certainly not easy for Eir Soccer. And as Ms. Gilmartin notes, “women’s football doesn’t make money and we don’t have a real fan base.”
According to Ms. Chastain, the Eir ball has something in its favor: it’s faster. “It might be better for scoring goals because it would be more difficult for the keepers to score,” she said of the ball, which she tried. “And I think most people, especially in American culture, think football needs more goals.”