By Jeremy Ling, Founder of TackleBar
Each month, FNF Coaches selects a product that makes the game safer or more enjoyable for players, and allows a representative from that company to share the benefits of the product. For the April edition of FNF Coaches, we’ll feature TackleBar.
Greetings, fellow coaches and football enthusiasts. I’m grateful to share with you some background on a project called TackleBar because it seems to represent many of the larger trends facing football today.
I’m a longtime football coach and board member of a youth football association. Ten years ago, we had hundreds of kids in our third- to eighth-grade program. However, we saw that participation almost evaporate over the last five years, and we could no longer field teams below seventh grade. We explored offering flag football for sixth grade and under, but board members pushed back, wanting to keep players in pads, and wanting to be inclusive of all athlete types, promoting the value of teamwork.
My career is in biomedical engineering, and therefore I’m trained to have a problem-solving mentality. As the participation crisis was unfolding for my football association, it triggered me to explore proactive solutions to help make the game better and safer.
TackleBar was developed with input from the world’s leading tackling experts, along with countless practice and scrimmage hours. My players graciously trialed prototype designs. In 2016, we piloted TackleBar football as our league’s game format for players 12 and under. We saw over a 40 percent increase in sign-ups when we made this pivot. The feedback at season’s end was very positive from our coaches, players and parents. This gave us confidence to launch TackleBar to the larger football community in 2017, and we now have thousands of players at the youth through high school level.
TackleBar football is a safer approach to the game that preserves the tradition and spirit of the sport. Players wear traditional football equipment, plus a TackleBar harness that holds two foam bars across the lower back. The defender must track and engage the ball carrier with proper form tackling technique, then wrap the ball carrier and rip a bar from the harness. With this approach, players stay on their feet rather than driving the ball carrier to the ground.
TackleBar For Practice
TackleBar can be used for practice drills, scrimmages, and passing leagues. It teaches players to utilize proper fundamentals without putting their body through the wear and tear of live tackling. As football programs are facing restrictions on contact, the TackleBar harness is the closest simulation of game-speed tackling. Our high school programs using TackleBar tell us their players are now more decisive tacklers.
TackleBar For Games
TackleBar Football is an ideal progression between flag football and tackle football. Youth football associations across America are adopting TackleBar Football as a game format, integrating it seamlessly with programs, and requiring no adjustments other than use of the TackleBar harness. TackleBar allows players to have the real football experience, learning proper fundamentals in a safer contact environment.
Why Use TackleBar?
Coaches tell us they are turning to TackleBar as a game format because:
- TackleBar teaches sound form tackling fundamentals, where the players focus on the body.
- It better prepares kids for the transition to tackle football.
- Players wear helmets and shoulder pads, providing maximum protection.
- TackleBar increases participation.
- USA Football is promoting a Football Development Model, whereby players progress from flag, to a modified game, eventually transitioning to tackle. TackleBar is an ideal modified game.
With growing concerns of the potential health risks in playing football, we want to provide a proactive opportunity for kids who love this game to learn the fundamentals and continue to play.