Onalaska youth football program replaces tackling with TackleBar method for safety

Onalaska youth football leaders are taking a new approach this coming season. They will no longer use tackling for their fifth and sixth-grade program.

The dangers of football are more transparent then ever before, and numbers are declining for several programs.

The Onalaska parks and recreation youth football program is using a non-contact method to keep children involved and keep them safe.

Safety has been a growing concern, and Onalaska youth football is taking a new approach.

It’s called the TackleBar

“What it does is to teach the kids to get into the correct tackling form to wrap around the player and then you can rip it off,” said Dan Wick, director of the Onalaska Parks and Recreation department. “You don’t have to worry about taking a kid to the ground. It’s a much safer way because their is less contact with the head.”

Onalaska head football coach Tom Yashinsky said this new tool will make the game safer for developing youth.

“I think we have a program that is going to grow in numbers because of this change,” Yashinsky said.

Parent Eric Siegel said there are problems with tackling at a young age.

“It’s just the difference in size of kids,” Siegel said.

He doesn’t want children to fear the game.

“Seeing the little guys that are out there putting their heart on the line and wanting to play the game that they love and worrying about the other guy that’s a foot taller and maybe 50 pounds heavier,” Siegel said.

Under the new TackleBar program, the helmet and shoulder pads will still be a part of the game. Teams will be made up of nine players with fewer offensive linemen to give kids more opportunities to handle the ball.

“Let’s get every kid the chance to touch the ball and score a touchdown so they can celebrate with their friends,” Siegel said.

Yashinsky said some of the most successful programs in the state wait to teach tackling until eighth grade.

“I point to Menomonie High School,” Siegel said.

Last year, Menomonie had over 150 kids go out for football and they finished the season 11-1 including a quarter final birth in the playoffs.

“No body is lining up waiting to play Menomonie because they are soft because they don’t do youth football,” Yashinsky said.

He said communities need to think long term.

“The biggest concern is keeping as many kids out for as long as possible, and that’s how you build a program,” Yashinsky said. “Not tackling at the youth level.”

Siegel said he just wants his son and other children to enjoy playing the game.

“I want them to love it,” Siegel said. “I want them to play it and hopefully they stay safe at the same time.”

However, he understands injuries will always come with football.

“If you like the sport and you want to play it you have to take the risk with it,” Siegel said.

The Onalaska youth football program will start this new technique this fall.