A 10 year old soccer player died Monday evening during a U11 scrimmage when the portable goal behind him fell over and struck him in the head and neck:

A young soccer player died during a scrimmage Monday evening in Winchester. Investigators said 10-year-old Hayden Barnes Ellias was playing goalkeeper for the Winchester United under-11 team. They said he was positioned in the goal on a Millbrook High School soccer field. Coaches said action was taking place on the other side of the field when they heard a loud crash.

Police said the goal toppled over on Hayden Barnes, killing him. They are investigating how the incident happened.

“At this point we’re unsure of exactly what happened,” said Steve Edwards of Frederick County Public Schools. “Frederick County Sheriff’s Department is doing an investigation. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that it was a terrible, tragic accident.”

Hayden Barnes’ father was at the field. He is a nurse and attempted CPR on his son, News4’s Michael Flynn reported.

Blunt-force trauma to the head and neck were ruled the cause of death.

He most likely never saw it coming.

What a tragedy. I wrote about goal safety and padding last year and touched on how portable goals can be very dangerous if they aren’t properly anchored. I know from experience that the goals can tip over from a gust of wind or kids hanging from the crossbar. Why they insist on doing this (and why parents don’t tell them to stop before we do) is beyond me. But in Hayden’s case – it sounds like he got hit from behind. They haven’t released why the goal fell over, but I can’t imagine it being anything other than a gust of wind, though there weren’t very strong gusts that day. I certainly hope it wasn’t some kids fooling around behind the goal.

Too many organizations don’t anchor those goals, because they seem very stable. But once they start to tip, the weight of the crossbar takes over and it will come crashing down. Even our league has trouble keeping the goals anchored. Our league bought a box of 100 goal anchors to keep our 24 goals anchored down and we found ourselves having to reinstall anchors almost every week. Kids pull them up, the guys mowing the fields may forget to put them back in, you name it. We already have to order more! But keeping those goals anchored is so important. This summer we’re going to buy new anchors that have an eyelet welded onto them, which we’ll use to chain each anchor to the goal so they can’t disappear (and get jammed in the mowers). The chain, links, and anchors will cost about $5 each, but it’ll be worth it. This way if an anchor gets pulled up, it’ll still be there and we can pound it back in when our referees and coaches check the goals. We’re going to paint them a bright color as well so you can see if they’re just laying on the ground.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Barnes family for their loss due to this horrible accident. A memorial fund has been setup for Hayden – you can send donations to:

Hayden Barnes Ellias Memorial Fund

c/o Michele Hutton

124 Slippery Elm Dr.

Stephens City, VA 22655

It’s unfortunate that tragedy is what often spurs us to evaluate our existing rules and procedures, but that’s how it is. The NC Youth Soccer Association contacted all the leagues here to ensure they were aware of what happened and to remind them that they should have a goal safety program in place:

Urgently need to get the message out to all your clubs of the need to accomplish the following:

  • Require coaches to inspect goals prior to any activity to make sure they are secured. Special attention is needed at practices.
  • Clubs/leagues should certify to your state association at least annually that they have implemented a goal safety program.
  • Coaches need to warn players and all parents of the dangers of goal posts to include horseplay on or around goals. It’s a joint responsibility.

The note about practices is especially important since the goal anchors can come up at any time. And it doesn’t matter if you are a coach, league officer, parent, or even just a spectator. If you see kids hanging off a goal, or climbing on one, tell them to get off. Don’t be shy.