With all the possible safety topic discussions regarding football, there's always a battle between traditionalists and finding new ways to effectively play the game safely. The coaches of the Metro Youth Sports believe they have found a way to bridge the style of play from flag football to tackle football while continuing a strong emphasis on tackling fundamentals.
Last Saturday, about 50 children ages 5 and 6 showed up at Memorial Park Middle School to learn about a newer tackling system call Tackle Bar. Instead of traditional tackles, the game is similar to flag football as players grab a foam tackle bar off the back of an opposing player to stop play. The difference from flag football is players are instructed to keep their heads up, use proper tackling technique and wrap up a player to grab the bar without taking them to the ground.
Metro Youth Sports Athletic Director Neal Simmons heard about the system while attending the NFL Pro Bowl.
"We're always thinking of ways to keep the game safe," said Simmons who has been part of MYS since 1986. "There are some challenges and this is a way for us to advance the game and train the kids at a lower age on the fundamentals and keep it fun. We started the program with 5- and 6-year olds because we want to grow it and maybe next year use 7- and 8-year olds."
MYS is starting with a six-week program at 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings. The cost is $5, but the 50 equipment harnesses have been donated, and there's hope to acquire at least 20 more.
MYS has been a proponent of "Heads Up Football" system of tackling for several years. Coaches believe this system is even better as far as teaching proper fundamentals and limiting injuries.
"The hardest part of football is teaching kids to square up and tackle with your head up, but this gives us a head start in training kids a year or two ahead of time," said Courtney Davis, MYS's commissioner of the Tackle Bar program. "At the beginning (last Saturday) it was a little sporadic and out of control, but by the second half the kids were catching on so fast. They were so excited."
For the initial program, players are going without helmets and shoulder pads. Under Tackle Bar rules, players can be penalized for taking an opponent to the ground. There are also no turnovers.
"We just think it's an awesome way for kids to be introduced to football and see if they like it," Davis said.
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