I find the description of a new version of youth tackle football – Rookie Tackle – outlined in a recent Washington Post article very encouraging. This version sponsored by USA Football provides a developmental path to full 11-on-11 tackle football on a 100-yard field that is similar to the path for youth baseball (i.e. T-ball to coach pitch to standard baseball, but on a smaller field). Previously called ‘Modified Tackle’, I wrote about this concept a while back. This recent article goes into more detail about the program. Highlights include:
- Although the executive director of USA Football is reluctant to state that this is a safer version of youth tackle football (a very reasonable position given this is the first time they’ve tried it and don’t have the data to back up such a claim); it does seem intuitive that fewer players, not in three-point stances, on a smaller field ought to contribute to a safer environment
- A recommended path to tackle football: flag football in elementary school, Rookie Tackle in middle school, and 11-on-11 tackle starting in high school – this path fits my previous recommendations
- In Rookie Tackle, all players on the field are eligible receivers (like in flag football) and coaches are encouraged to rotate players from position to position (a hallmark of the H&A philosophy)
To me, the only downside is that this season, Rookie Tackle is only offered in 10 areas around the country. I understand the idea of a pilot program – but I would have thought this would be an instant hit with parents who would like their kids to have the opportunity to play football, but in a more developmental format. I hope USA Football extends the concept nation-wide next season.