Most football plays end with a tackle. If they do not end with a tackle, there’s a very good chance that there was a touchdown. So, in order to win games and limit touchdowns, you must tackle. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Not only is it a necessary skill in football, but it's absolutely crucial for any team, no matter what their aspirations are. And yet, too many young athletes are being taught how to tackle the wrong way. With video games and highlight reels stuck in the back of their mind, they often forgo the fundamentals in favor of flair and that could be the difference between saving the game and watching your opposition celebrating in front of you. Take these tips from CoachUp in order to make the most of your tackling form at your upcoming practice.
Like anything that requires practice, tackling can become muscle memory, especially if you focus on the basic fundamentals and practicing the right form. Then, during a big moment, you’re not trying to walk through the steps on-the-fly -- you just do it without thinking, because that’s what the best players do. That being said, these are the most important things to keep in mind while going for a tackle.
Defenders frequently make the mistake of sprinting as hard as they can at the ball, only to completely miss the second the carrier changes direction. Being the fastest to the ball doesn’t matter if you don’t put yourself in a position to succeed. To stop this from happening, slow down when about five yards away from the ball carrier, then mirror everything he does. If you do this correctly, you should meet him every time.
Watch Their Torso Once you’re mirroring the ball carrier, get in a positive, ready position. Watch his hips when attempting a tackle. Feet and eyes can trick you and might send you embarrassingly in the wrong direction. The hips, however, will never, ever lie to you. Those hips will lead you right towards the tackle and, incidentally, right where you should aim to tackle him at.
In order to finish any good tackle, a low center of gravity is crucial. If you try to hit too high, a good offensive player can get out much easier with a stiff arm, or by simply just continuing to move their feet. Conversely, the lower you hit, the easier they’ll fall. By hitting them around their legs, it becomes much harder to keep moving them. If they can’t move their feet, they can’t go anywhere and will increase the likelihood of tripping over themselves. If they can’t go anywhere, that’s a huge win for the defender.
Keep Your Head Up
Keeping your head up will serve three main purposes -- first, you’ll be able to react adequately to any moves he makes. Too frequently, young players will look down while tackling, which makes last-second evasions even easier. Secondly, you'll be able find the football and put your facemask on it, this will increase your chances of knocking it out. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, keeping your head up will reduce your risk of getting a concussion. Poor form, especially with younger athletes, can lead to brutal concussions.
Use Your Legs
A strong, tackle-ready athlete uses his legs to generate power against the ball carrier -- give him a taste of his own medicine! Then, once you have him engaged, keep pumping your legs and use that energy to push the ball carrier back. Stop him in his tracks and don’t give him the opportunity to break from your tackle!
Wrap It Up
Now, just because you’ve made solid contact doesn’t mean the tackle is done and dusted. In fact, this is where most players falter. Only at lower levels of football do players fall down on first contact. Make sure you don’t just bounce off the ball carrier! Remember, you’re most dangerous with your shoulders around his numbers and your facemask on the ball. Then, wrap your arms around the carrier’s waist and bring him down. If you’re only able to get his legs or shoulder, that’s perfectly reasonable as well, just make sure you know the rules about tackling around the neck.
(Related: Read about standard operating procedure here.)
Together, all these steps create a fundamentally sound tackler, one that won’t get shaken quickly when faced with a ball carrier. But these principles alone? Unfortunately, these keys won’t hold up without the other ones working with it in symphony. Don’t be the athlete that misses an important tackle, so put yourself in a position to succeed. Often times, learning tackling forms at practice can be intimidating and difficult, so consider hiring one of CoachUp’s private trainers to help you along the way.
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.
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