It is Europe's most productive academy, nurturing and developing more players in the continent's top five leagues than any other club. When it comes to transforming children into great footballers, Ajax are without peer. So, when people express concerns that banning heading for children will leave them ill-prepared for the rigours of the professional game, Ajax offer the perfect counter-point. Having looked at the research which linked heading the ball to dementia in old age, Ajax decided to alter their methods so now players are not allowed to regularly head a full-size ball until they are on the verge of the first team. The youngest players on Ajax books (8-12) barely spend any time learning how to head the ball and when they do, it is with a small foam version rather than a leather or a plastic one. The focus instead is on technique, fitness and game awareness, with the ball rarely going above waist height. After five years of tears and toil, football’s dementia battle is only just getting started Even between the ages of 13 and 16, there is little heading practice in training and on the few occasions it is part of the sessions, coaches merely gently throw balls in the air with the focus on technique, getting the ball to go in the direction you want it to safely, rather than generating power or distance. It is only when players move into their development squad at the age of 17 that heading becomes a major part of their training programme, the club confident that players can still hone and master their heading technique in their late teens.