FDA uses new Shadowman dummies to avoid injury

Published 5:40 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

Both the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA) and the Alabama Independent Schools Association (AISA) have cracked down on contact allowed during football practice in an effort to cut down on injuries.

But one Butler County coach has found a rather clever loophole around the hitting restrictions enforced throughout the fall.

Fort Dale Academy head football coach James “Speed” Sampley has employed Shadowman tackling dummies, an innovating new tool that allows players to make full-speed tackles on inflatable, moving targets.

“Due to that in the preseason, you can only hit on alternating days, and only so many hours a week during the regular season,” Sampley said. “But hitting dummies don’t count.

“This device actually moves; you can pull it.  And it allows you to practice tackling on something that’s moving without breaking regulations that they’ve set aside for us.”

The dummies have taken a few days for the Eagles to get acclimated to, often to hilarious effect, according to Sampley, but there exists ample proof of the dummies’ effectiveness in nearly every arena of play, from peewee to the NFL.

At shadowmansports.com, one can find dozens of drills and video samples showing a multitude of ways in which the dummies can be implemented into practice.

The Eagles are following the example of a few NFL teams as well as Division I NCAA teams.

“The Seattle Seahawks are the best tackling team in football, and they implemented this,” Sampley said.

“Most of our videos are from them, and it’s the exact opposite of what we’ve been taught since kids in how to play football.  But what this does is take your head out of it, because if you get a concussion today, you’re not playing.  In the old days, you’d tell someone ‘hey, my bell got rung,’ and they just kept on playing.  In order to keep them on the field, we need to minimize their chances of getting concussions, and this is the best way to do it.”

Ultimately, though, Sampley acknowledged that injuries are an inevitability in all realms of athletics.  Though he hopes the Shadowman tackling dummies can help cut down on injuries sustained both on and off the practice field, Sampley added that the real adjustment is learning how to not only mitigate future injuries, but plan around them.

“Injuries are a part of sports, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the Fort Dale Eagles or the Green Bay Packers,” Sampley said. “All of us are going to have some kids get hurt, and some people—on any team—are irreplaceable.  If, for instance, Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers gets hurt, their football team becomes a whole different football team.  If their left guard gets hurt, they can probably overcome that loss better.  Everyone has people on their team that they can’t replace, but the thing about it is that you have to be able to do it.

“And that’s why I think football is the ultimate team sport, because it involves so many people working together in so many different ways to be successful, and everybody is relying on each other.”

Though the proof has yet to surface in the proverbial pudding, Sampley is hopeful that Fort Dale’s implementation of the tackling dummies is a successful one.

“I think they’re interesting, but the jury’s still out,” Sampley said. “We haven’t played anybody, but I do like the idea of using them.  We’ll just do the best we can and see what happens.”