Texas Youth Football Association doubles down on tackling safety

Efforts to make football as safe as possible around Texas at the youth level took a leap forward earlier this month.

The Texas Youth Football Association, the largest independent youth league in the state, and Shadowman Sports agreed to a partnership that will enable TYFA coaches to train using the drills and tackling products developed by the Irish company.

Shadowman Sports was founded by former Irish rugby player and engineer J.P. Hartigan.

The company’s chief financial officer, Steve Flanagan, explained via email that Hartigan’s system was inspired by the extremely physical sport of rugby.

“The founder of Shadowman Sports, J.P. Hartigan, conducted research on tackling during his time studying at the University of Limerick,” Flanagan said. “The rugby-style tackling technique has been a fundamental part of Shadowman from the beginning, since it’s geared toward taking the athlete’s head out of the game. We’ve been teaching this tackling method on a national scale since the beginning.”

Flanagan explained that limiting practice contact is important because that is where 46 percent of concussions and 53 percent of injuries take place. Those statistics come from a 2017 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics study, one of the most comprehensive to date.

TYFA, which has numerous teams in the Valley, announced the partnership this month. 

“We are always looking for ways to improve the safety and effective training of our players, and this partnership does exactly that,” TYFA president Brian Morgan said in a release. “Shadowman’s tackling systems reduce player-on-player contact, while also allowing coaches to teach their players to tackle without leading with their heads in hopes of preventing serious injuries in the long run.”

The partnership will allow TYFA member organizations to receive special pricing on the “Shadowman Junior,” a tackling apparatus designed for football players ages 6-14. The product is a humanoid dummy that has a white “impact zone,” which defenders are encouraged to target to avoid head contact.

Shadowman is hoping to revolutionize tackling and the way it’s taught not only at the earliest levels. On its website, the company lists partners from all across the country — from colleges like Wake Forest and Navy on the East Coast to 10 of 12 schools in the Pac-12.

In the lone star state, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and UTSA have begun using Shadowman drills and equipment.

NFL teams using the technology include the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Washington.

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