St. Paul Family's Invention Could Change How Youth Football is Played

November 23, 2017 09:43 PM

Minnesota high school football's biggest tournament is going on this weekend amid growing nationwide concern over head and other serious injuries.

The sport has many parents concerned their kids could get hurt via tough tackles. One St. Paul family might have the antidote.


5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spent time this Thanksgiving with the Ling family of St. Paul, who created a piece of safety equipment that could change the face of youth football.

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"We believe in the virtues of this game," said Jeremy Ling, who created TackleBar. And he said that includes the element of tackling.

But there's also the pain and injuries that can come with tackle football. "Our kids love it, and want to play it, but we wanted to put them out there in a safe position," Ling said.

So, Ling, a football dad who also happens to be an engineer, created TackleBar last year, along with his wife out of concern for their young sons.

Brigid Ling said, "We have seen our boys play the last couple of years. We've seen how much fun they're having, and they're just not being tackled to the ground, which is where so many of those dangerous injuries are happening."

Unlike flag football, the use of TackleBar still means helmets and shoulder pads. According to its website, it works like this:

"Players wear a TackleBar harness around the midsection, which includes two removable foam bars held in the lower back area. Players must track and engage with proper tackling fundamentals to wrap the ball carrier and rip off one of the foam bars. This design teaches players to utilize the recommended shoulder tackling technique, and helps dramatically reduce injuries that occur when tackling players to the ground."

TackleBar CEO Tim Healy said, "It still gives you a certain level of aggressiveness."

"It's a lot like real football, just no tackling," said 12-year-old Caleb Ling. Added his brother, 10-year-old Emmett: "You can't really feel it when you're running."

Indeed, they are still running hard and going after their opponent with the harness on.

"I mean, not as hard as you would in tackle football, but, hard, yeah!" Emmett said.

The idea was to design a safer option for the game that was authentic. 

"TackleBar football is played 95 percent the same as regular tackle football. It's the same blocking, the same line of scrimmage, the same plays," said Brigid Ling. "I'm excited to see (the kids) playing. They love the sport, and it's just exciting to see them playing in a safe way."

With TackleBar, the play stops short of taking the player to the ground.

"Instead, you wrap 'em up, and then you rip off one of these bars," Jeremy Ling said. "And that downs the ball carrier."

Healy said the company is currently working with several youth football communities to use TackleBar not just during practices and scrimmages, but also during league games. Those include: Minnetonka, Owatonna, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Brainerd, Eden Prairie and Wayzata.

The company and its concept has promise. It announced in October it had officially partnered with the Minnesota Vikings "in a joint effort to further the adoption of its innovative approach to the game of football."

Using TackleBar in League Play:

  • Breck School - Golden Valley
  • Blake School - Hopkins
  • Brooklyn Center
  • St. Paul Academy
  • Providence Academy - Plymouth
  • St. Agnes - St. Paul
  • Nativity-Groveland - St. Paul
  • Cottage Grove
  • Alexandria

Using TackleBar in Practices and Scrimmages:

  • Eden Prairie
  • Wayzata-Plymouth
  • Coon Rapids
  • Minneapolis North (high school varsity practice)
  • Rockford
  • Mound Westonka
  • Watertown-Mayer
  • Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
  • Mankato
  • Brainerd
  • Duluth East


Brandi Powell

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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