In today’s Football world we as Coaches are more conscious than ever of the Safety of our Players. This awareness compels us as Coaches to care for the health of our Players through the teaching of sound Fundamentals that ensure that the individual will be able to carry out all the training required in order to ready him for the Competition to come. The Technique that the player shall first practice and then Train should not endanger him.
The above picture shows one of the Techniques that where popular up until the 60’s. According to Head Coach Darrel Royall (Texas Longhorns) Tackling is made up of 25% Technique and 75% Effort. This is a Philosophy that still lives today. The point Coach is making is simple, the player must want to tackle before he can. Today we have the benefit of our Peers experiences that enrich our own and many of us realize that to have an aggressive player he must be trained to the point that his self confidence allows him to play aggressively. The same holds true for Tackling, a player will never tackle with speed if he does not trust himself. This is what Coach Royall meant. The player must know how to fundamentally tackle another player before he is willing to do it.
There are more than enough Sport Science Studies that give proof to the theory that a player will want compete at a higher level if he has been taught and practiced the required skills well enough. In a Tackle Phase the individual skills should be installed to such a degree that tackling need only be reinforced and not reinstalled.
The best time for corrective Coaching and the Teaching new skills is in the preparatory Phase of the Off Season. During the Season is too late.
Tackling should comprise only a portion of a Practice Schedule and not the entire session. Each skill should be broken down into individual movements which can be installed and corrected. Once these new skills have been Coached, practiced and learned they can be fused together to allow for the Training Phase.
In our Tackling Phase we devote 30minutes to Tackling in our Timetable. This allows us to Coach individual movements at a steady pace without pressuring the slower learners and without boring the quicker learners and experienced Players.
The Following Table shows how we organize our Tackling Phase:
At the end of this Challenging Phase the Player should be able to tackle fundamentally sound. As such the skills only need to be refreshed with EDD type of Drills.
Tackling should be performed after a thorough Warm Up phase, which does not comprise this post.
Fit and Form are the Pre Exercises and are practiced against a Dummy, in the event that a Dummy is not available improvise. We have used players as Dummies before, but a Tackle Dummy removes the fear of pain and allows for better concentration in my opinion and experience. These Exercises focus on individual movements.
The Target exercises are a combination of the Pre-Exercises. These would be first practiced against a Dummy before moving on to a Teammate.
Exercises in Competitive States:
In this phase we simulate Game like conditions by using a Tackling circuit and Training at speed. This phase should only be started once the Coach is comfortable with the Players grasp of the Fundamentals. If at any time the Coach does not feel confident, he should go back to the Fundamentals which are causing the Headache.
Hit Position and Stance – “FIT”:
In this Phase the correct Stance will be taught.
As the above Picture illustrate, good posture involves a slight forward lean
Toes are pointing forwards, like on a Ski, feet are shoulder width,
The Ankles will be flexed so that the Knees are over the toes,
The Knees are bent to allow the rump to stay behind the feet,
The Back is held straight to allow for flexion at point of impact, This is similar to the Squat position,
The Shoulders are over the knees and held back like in Cable Rows to the point that the shoulder blades are touching,
The Elbows are held in tight to the ribs, like Chicken Wings, this protects the shoulder,
The lower Arms are held in front of the Players chest, just like a Close Grip Benchpress, Thumbs point up,
The Chin is parallel to the Ground, this will bring the Head and neck into the Bulled Position,
This Stance should be deep enough so that the Eyes of the Player are at least at the numbers of the target.
A simple Drill for reinforcing this Fit Position is “The Humpback”. Group the players into similar sized pairs. Player A will assume the Hit Position and on command Player B will jump onto the back of Player A. Player A will hold this position for 5s. Player A and B change roles.
We do this for 1 -2 minutes and gradually incorporate linear Steps into the Drill.
In Session 2 we incorporate speed into the Steps and diagonal direction steps.
In Session 3 we use this position with a live, albeit slow moving, Ball Carrier. Player A remains in Fit Position and presses the Ball carrier. The Ball Carrier moves perpendicular to Player A. Player A should maintain his Pad Leverage versus the Ball Carrier throughout.
A Form tackle is a perfect tackle. In order to become good tacklers we need to teach good Form, which can then be adjusted to fit different situations such as Angle tackling, Open Field Tackling etc.
The Player begins in the Fit Position as outlined above.
The Player “Lead” steps into the Personal Space of the Ball Carrier, think of any Console Game to illustrate this. The console games circle the Ballcarrier to show the player where the ball is. The Tackler should step into this circle.
The Player should “Bite” the ball, if the Player has Pad Leverage then he should be able to put the ball onto his lips without breaking posture, he would do this by engaging the Ball Carrier with the same side foot and shoulder. This will bring Player A over the body of the B.
Player A will now “Lift” the BC by shooting his arms in a double uppercut motion whilst uncoiling his hips into the BC, this is similar to the Power Clean movement.
Player A will “Squeeze” once he has lifted. The squeeze is twofold, first we grab cloth by grabbing fistfulls of jersey or better, locking our Hands together and then squeezing our elbows together. This will pull the Tackler and Tacklee closer to one another securing the tackle.Once the Hip thrust has been executed Player A will continue to “Drive” by running his feet through the BC.
We teach this in 3 differing Tempos:
Dummy: This is the first step, Player A practices alone and each phase can be installed individually.
Thud: Thud incorporates Player B and only Lead, Bite, Squeeze and Lift are carried out explosively; we try to take care of our Players by first running this Tempo on a soft surface or Matt.
Full: In Full Tempo we are looking to carry out all Phases of Tackling explosively with 2 Players competing against each other; we try to take care of our Players by first running this Tempo on a soft surface or Matt
From Session 4 onwards we are using EDDs to reinforce our Tackling Technique. The EDDs are the Form and Fit Drills combined with a live opponent but at Thud Pace only.
We don’t Tackle at Full Tempo in EDDs because the EDDs are Preparatory Exercises for the Tackling Circuit itself. The Tackling circuit can be comprised of many different Drills, we tend to focus on Eye Openers, Angle Tackling, Open Field Tackling and Goal Line Tackling. We also use a Remedial Tackling Station. Here a Coach waits with a Dummy for Player to come to him for refresher Coaching. If a Coach at a Tackling station is not confident with a players Technique he will sent the Player to the Help Station for remedial Coaching. He will give the Player instructions on what he needs to work on and the Player takes this with him to the Remedial Station.
The Following Clips can be found on YouTube:
Both of these Clips are very good and highlight that there are still many ways to skin the proverbial cat.
I agree with Coach Hosea in that the Head is there to be thought with, not fought with. Keep the head out of contact and keep the players healthy.