With the rise in attention to CTE and traumatic injuries in football, parents are more and more hesitant to allow their children to be involved in football. Even Hall of Famer Brett Favre said recently he hopes his grandsons take up golf instead of football. But one local high school program is taking a new approach on practice, where the risk of practice injuries didn’t have to affect an emphasis on learning to tackle.
Since June, the Fox Valley Lutheran football team has been utilizing TackleBar during practices. TackleBar is a harness that goes on top of normal football equipment that enables teaching textbook shoulder tackling without the live action that can cause injuries. Players bury their shoulder into the hip or torso of an opposing player and rip two foam bars off the opposing player's back to complete the pseudo-tackle.
TackleBar is used by more than 2,000 youth football players around the U.S., in Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. In the Badger state, that includes Mosinee's youth league as well as Antigo, Onalaska, Merill and FVL at the high school level.
Head Coach Adam Frey saw his team needed to improve its tackling, but didn’t want to add any more live tackling drills to already intense practices. In their first season utilizing TackleBars, Frey says the Foxes haven’t suffered any major practice injuries and they’re improved their tackling fundamentals.
"I think the kids would always rather go live, but they also understand the idea that it’s not always great to go live all the time, with the wear and tear on the bodies and the worry of concussions and all that stuff," Frey said. "They realize it’s a good alternative to going live and actually taking guys down to the ground."
"Freshman year I was not a good tackler at all, and sophomore year, I kind of developed in a bit of a better tackler, and junior year especially it was a big difference and helped. With the TackleBars, it’s a lot easier to wrap someone up now," said rising senior receiver/defensive back Caden Rindt. "It keeps us fresh and we don’t have to always be taking each other to the ground, which like coach said, that’s where injuries happen the most often. So when you can just wrap them up and just take the TackleBars off, it’s a lot better and helps us stay fresh throughout the season."