Starting next football season, there were will be a step between flag football and full-contact tackle football for young players.
Archbold Parks & Recreation is moving forward with “Tacklebar” football for youngsters in the fifth and sixth grades.
Archbold Park Board discussed the program at its Wednesday, March 6 meeting.
David Dominique, AHS football coach, said the Tacklebar apparatus is much like a belt that goes across a player’s abdomen.
On the back are two vertical handle-like pieces that are attached with hook-andeye fasteners.
Players will be issued helmets and shoulder pads. They will be taught to wrap their arms around a ball carrier, grab the handles at the back, and rip them off. Once the handle has been ripped off, the play is over.
Dominique said a defender cannot take a ball carrier to the ground.
“That’s the big thing. I think people are going to mess it up a bit,” he said.
“People will see the term ‘tackle’ and they think it will be full (contact).
“It’s not going to be. It’s going to be wrapping up, teaching the proper way to tackle,” he said.
Bridging The Gap
Park Board has offered flag football for grades three through six.
In flag football, a player wears a belt with streamers or flags on either side. When a flag is ripped off, the play is dead.
Flag football will continue for third and fourth grades. Tacklebar will start in fifth and sixth grades.
“We’re looking for something to kind of bridge the gap, to be more of a smooth transition to tackling in seventh grade,” he said.
Flag football players wear helmets now. While Dominique questioned the safety of wearing helmets in flag football (“Sometimes kids are pretty aggressive. Sometimes you take a helmet when a kid is trying to pull a flag off. It doesn’t feel very good,” he said), “I understand why we did it. It was to make the game more realistic, trying to get more kids out,” he said.
“That’s the big thing right now. Football is under attack; it truly is. You know– safety concerns, concussions. We’re trying to teach kids the right way to play the game. You don’t need to use your head to tackle.”
There are schools that have played full tackle football in fifth and sixth grades. Dominique said they’ve seen turnout for football going down.
At the same time, there are very few places that play flag football in fifth and sixth grades.
“It was us, Stryker, and North Central,” he said.
“It makes it tough for me. The kids want to play against competition at other schools. That’s a big thing; they get to play different kids. It brings out a more competitive nature.”
Archbold was asked to join a Tacklebar league. Other programs looking to go to Tacklebar include Evergreen and Hilltop.
Kidder said it can cost about $150 to outfit a player for Tacklebar, including the apparatus, shoulder pads and helmet. Dominique said that’s a one-time cost, as the equipment is durable and can be reused.
It was estimated it would cost about $7,500 to outfit about 40 players.
Kidder said the registration fee for traveling soccer teams is $150 plus uniforms– but kids get to keep the uniforms.
Football players would get to keep their jerseys, she said.
She mentioned there are efforts to get donations to fund Tacklebar football.
Dominique said “old-school types” might say football is getting soft, “but it’s about keeping kids safe. We want to use our shoulders to stop a guy.
“I’ll get a lot of flack from people for not going tackle, but that’s okay. I’m used to it now.”