Tackling Strategies

Tesla Did It

11-man fan
Here's a great topic for coaches to discuss.
Since Lombardi said football was basically blocking and tackling, I thought I would paint red targets, about thigh level, on all of the white practice pants. That would make the guys focus on hitting low every time.
What do you guys think? Is this destruction of school property or worth a try?
I would also be interested in hearing about other creative, original, and innovative ideas you used to teach the fundamentals that were successful in your program. I want to emphasise ORIGINAL IDEAS!
Thanks in advance!
I was always taught to hit in the chest. I see a lot of younger players, JH, go low and end up grabbing an ankle which is quickly pulled out of reach. Are we teaching hitting low now? I am not putting down any style, hitting in the chest was like 100 years ago and things do change.

Hit em in the chest and wrap em up.

Not so sure about the whole target idea but we were always told to put our facemask on the ball. This is low enough but it also gives a greater chance of fumbles.

I always respect someone who drives through their targets. Only one true person have i ever played on the same field with that went low and actually drove through them and ended up on top of the player. He was on our team. I only went as low as he went once and it wasn't very pretty. We both came out hurtin a little bit.

I always liked the facemask on the ball rule. Although in junior high we always did form tackling, that is with the ball handler standing still. Honestly how many players stand still with the ball? Have the players do a dummy drill. Not hitting the dummies but make a lane with them and tell them they can't leave them. Make it fun though not real boring. Make it a do it right and lose conditioning reps kind of deal.
Ok, so I went to several different websites to see what they say. To a man, no-one suggested using the helmet (or facemask) as any point of reference. That is what the shoulder pads are for. Putting the shoulder as low as you can on the ball carrier and wrapping up his legs will guarantee he will go down. I watched all of our game film and 90% of our missed tackles were from sloppy headhunting tackles where the ball carrier simply slipped out of the weak grasp. The head coaches we had didn't use dummies or form tackling drills to teach proper tackling. (Yelling and screaming isn't teaching) That's why I thought the targets would help. Can you imagine practicing for 2 or 3 weeks with these, seeing them every day, haunting you to hit right there on the target, and learning to get increasingly lower on a tackle. Your helmet awards for tackling could even be little targets. Lombardi said tackling was hard to teach because the body's natural instinct is to keep from getting hit. I think creative teaching strategies are just as essential on the field as they are in the classroom.
Fo: I do not know a whole lot about this but, what I would do is find someone who has a good program and ask them what they do as to drills etc. For safety the stress is on not using the head and as it should be.

I applaud your inventiveness, but I think you could get some ideas from these guys out there. Contact them, most will tell you anything you want to know.

Good Luck

P.S. I would keep in mind that some feel like that the neck and knees are two especially important areas that need to be dealt with in the weight program. Again, if you do not know, ask, ask, ask.
If you try to put your facemask on the ball you should have your shoulder in their midsection and be wrapping up. Unless for some freakish reason the person is carrying the ball with both hands infront of him.
Our ball carriers rarely ever carry the ball in exactly the same location for over 2-3 seconds.
So if they (the ball carrier)are waving it around trying to evade a tackler and the would be tackler has erroneously been taught to try to put his facemask on such a fast moving target...? he'll eventually just be sticking his chin out into thin air.
But, if he (the would be tackler)drives his shoulder pad through an imaginary target on the ball carriers thigh ...then the ball carrier goes down, regardless of where the ball is.
It's also a matter of physiology. The legs (smaller) are easier to wrap up then the chest/shoulder area (much larger).
It also bears repeating that no part of the head should ever be used as any type of reference point.
So, tackling low should be a point we can all agree on.

Still waiting for anyone else's original ideas.
I started teaching "exploding through" instead of "wrapping up," teaching the kids to punch through the ball carrier with both arms in an upward, upper-cut motion instead of a wrapping around motion. This really seemed to help especially with explosion coming from the feet all the way up.
Fo....where are you from? Can we put you on the schedule? If your ball carriers are waving the ball around I would love to rack up some stats with caused fumbles. Tuck the ball away man, or get your tails kicked all the time. Way too many bad things happen with ball carriers like that.
Fo....where are you from? Can we put you on the schedule? If your ball carriers are waving the ball around I would love to rack up some stats with caused fumbles. Tuck the ball away man, or get your tails kicked all the time. Way too many bad things happen with ball carriers like that.
Exploding through is fine if they are doing it low enough to make the tackle.
What if they explode through at shoulder height or worse yet at helmet height?
How are they going to get any grip on the opponent let alone any lift to drive with?
What if they are merely exploding through with a big hit?
A hit is usually not enough for a real tackle.
Isn't it when a ball carrier's knees are being held together by a tackler that causes them to fall down with more consistency?
I've seen many large ball carriers keep going downfield carrying multiple guys on his back who were trying to explode through.
That doesn't happen very often with a guy wrapped around each leg!
With all the so called experience out there I can't believe all us so called new guys aren't being inundated with original thoughts.

Ha, that's good! But in order to cause all those wonderful fumble stats you must first tackle properly, which is what we've actually been talking about; more specifically, new and improved ways of doing just that.

When a kid goes straight for the legs he has to put his head down to do so. That is one of the first things we are told as kids to do is keep your head up and see what you are tackling. You are encouraging bad tackling habits by telling them to tackle at the legs. If you go for someones legs you will have to leave your feet in order to make the tackle.

Teach your kids to concentrate on the belly button of the runner. No matter which way the head or legs go, the abdominal region will stay in one spot. Our coach teaches to tackle with your facemask between the numbers, explode through the chin with your helmet and hips, throw your arms around the ball carrier and grab clothe and keep your feet moving. If this is done right you will keep your shoulders square and will not slide off the tackle. He uses the quote from Ronnie Lott about tackling. "Pretend like you are trying to hit someone ten yards behind the ball carrier and go through him" or something like that. Very seldom do you get the chance to make a perfect form tackle in a game. You just try to teach them the proper technique so they do not get hurt putting their head down. Your idea about the targets on the thighs are a good idea for teaching kids to cut block.
Thanks, I guess I need to clarify a few things.
The whole target thing is mostly a visual reference point for cerebral imprinting. 70% of all learning is done visually.
You said aim for the belly button? Can a boy really see that when tackling? I can understand telling them to aim for the belt because they can really see the belt of their opponent. It's concrete evidence not theoretical. A little 7th grade guy doesn't need much to get confused.
You said a player would have to put their head down and leave their feet to tackle low? The target idea should prevent the first from happening because you can't hit what you can't see, so we make sure to teach accordingly. Leaving your feet is not necessary either. Basic break down form puts you at waist level anyway and on the balls of both feet in a balanced stance.
If it'll work for cut blocking it will work for good hard tackling.
One of my favorite things about football is it's dynamic nature. The boys are in a constant state of problem based learning.

I know it's not a perfected practice. Many people had questions when Edison was trying to sell the concept of electric streetlights.
Tackling is difficult to teach... tackling low w/o leaving your feet even more difficult. I operate under the K.I.S.S. method in everything especially when teaching kids technique for things difficult to master. I teach to get below their shoulder pads get your head in front of the runner and drive both arms in an uppercut fashion, lock your hand to the opposite wrist and drive your feet. It takes a long monotonous amount of time to explain. I teach it this way because very rarely are your athletes going to be asked to make a tackle when they will be direclty in front of the runner ie take the proper angle.... the idea of painting a target on the pants just seems like to low of an aiming point. Maybe you could try it higher like the belt or perhaps the bottom of the shoulder pads..... All I'm saying is telling kids to hit their legs will make it even more difficult for them to stay on their feet and drive. Especially if your team is not as big as your opponents. Most kids will dive head first... it works sometimes but if they cant see it is easy for the ball carrier to elude them if they take the wrong angle/attack early/late

But I will say this KEEP. IT. SIMPLE. STUPID. K.I.S.S.
I realize the need to find and develop good tacklers, it has to happen. Even so, this perspective will be seen as sacrilege to most traditional defensive coaches. The truth is too many teams spend too much time trying to improve their teams tackling ability. And all too often the risk of injurying a key player forces the coach to limit the intensity of the lesson, thereby minimizing the actual gain. In addition, the drill becomes more of a macho testosterone display which often leads to major and minor injuries which few sixman teams can afford.

Just my opinion that proper technique must be taught in junior high and then reviewed early in the season briefly and at half speed at the HS level.
It's more important to perfect angles and pursuit lanes than actual tackling.

Every year that I played my coaches used tackling drills from the first week of pads throughout the playoffs, and almost every week a key player suffered some type of injury, usually minor, but nonetheless harmful to the players performance. Injuries like busted fingers, jammed necks, dislocated collarbones and strained backs affected our teams every year because of the overemphasis on hitting in practice and even during pregame warmups. looking back it was all so pointless and counterproductive.
And when those few players actually demonstrate tackling improvement, it is more often a result of some personal development like a growth spurt or improved strength which causes the player to gain enough confidence to place a proper hit on the opponent. I have seen a couple of kids become descent tacklers upon reaching their senior year. But again it is related more to physical maturity rather than the culmination of years of hitting drills.

I realize this will infuriate many coaches when I say that all the drills in the world won't develop 95% of players who aren't good tacklers. Most of the time by the time a kid reaches HS he either can tackle adequately or never will, irregardless of the drills you use to make him a tackler.
So in reality you are using valuable time on kids who simply never get to the point where they become good tacklers. And those that can make the play don't need the practice...they convinced themselves early in their football development of the necessity of hitting the opponent good enough to put him down. Therefore, the law of diminishing return kicks in and now all your doing is flirting with injury. And if you injure a Tyler Earl, Michael Everitt, Trey Doyle or Josh Colunga your chances of winning the tough game just went up in smoke.

Now, in no way am I inferring that a coach never addresses the need for his defense to be good tacklers;it must be monitored and constantly impressed upon the kids the extreme importance of good tackling. I'm just saying that the old traditional way of lining up and running full speed one-on-ones and two-on-ones just are not necessary most of the time. Although it can be fun and stimulating, its benefit is questionable and in my experience counterproductive. There are better ways to build comroderie(sp?) and teammanship.
Allow me to also say that tackling dummies are better used as agility props than hitting devices. Can't remember the last time a ballcarrier just stood there and allowed himself to be smeared like a foam-filled dummy. And if he does even the watergirls can make that play.

I'll probably regret that.... :cry: :mrgreen:
I agree with what your saying, but your giving examples of programs that now have strong tradition. The kids in those programs already have basic understanding of tackling form by the time they get into junior high. Fofish, I believe is talking about trying to teach his athletes how to tackle when they are very unfamiliar with the concept. If programs go through coaches like water it is difficult for kids who have had 4 coaches in 4 years to develop necessary skills to be good tacklers. However I do agree that some coaches spend entirely too much time on tackling and many of their problems could be solved by teaching pursuit angles and breaking to the ball.
Couldn't disagree with you more BE. We tackled alot this year and got ALOT better at it by week 10.Tacklers can be made.Pursuit angle and balance are often overlooked areas.
WOW! This is all great stuff guys! We're finally talking.
GB nailed it when he realized I am starting from scratch out here and in addition to basics of tackling I am always trying to come up with new and improved ways of doing just that. That's just me. Consider everything new. Someone had to try it first, against all odds perhaps, then slowly develope it through experimentation and time.
I also believe, and practice, certain modifications, in order not to injure my players.
I actually went to a Strawn practice and I saw no magic wands or modifications to protect Trey Doyle from injury. On the contrary, the mods were on Trey in order not to injure his team-mates. My point is that in post-season practice they were still going hard.
I have to consider how I have my big guys handle guys half their size. So if the big guys have a target on them it should develope a sense of where to go, when necessary, for all the little/new guys.
Without neglecting pursuit angles and agility/balance training too, of course.
Thanks guys!
Week ten? If you'll sit down and do an honest, objective assessment of the benefits you gained with the amount of time spent, I will guarantee you could have found another more important area to improve that would have made your players more skilled and prepared and your team much better. And the improvements would have arrived sooner than week ten.

Man, if you take the best tackling team in sixman against a team with finely tuned skill players, with all else being equal--talent,quickness, strength, coaching, philosophy, motivation--the skilled team will win almost every time. Think about it. No NFL team was better at fundamental football than the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers of the 1960s. And generally speaking those teams throughout the '60s and early '70s were superior in tackling (& blking) than most of the teams since then. Even so, can you imagine those teams facing a skilled team like the Patriots, the '90s Cowboys or the 1980s Forty-niners. It would be a contest for about a half, then the modern defensive schemes and passing attacks would beat them handily. What can good tackling do against an air attack where the ball skips over, around and through the first and often second levels of defenders? And in six-man your talking about working on something that for the most part occurs on or within three yards of the LOS. You better have something more valuable in your pocket.

I have been in situations where my team simply had no talent capable of developing a high level of skills, so I focused sometimes half my practices on blocking and tackling. But you know what I discovered, they couldn't do that either. However, on all of those teams I usually had one player who could tackle well, but he could also execute high level skills. That single player on those teams could do both equally well. So, I was faced with a choice of spending large amounts of time and energy on either blocking and tackling or skill. I eventually figured out, with a lot of outside help, that skill development payed better than merely blocking and tackling. We still did both, but I was wasting too much of my time. So, we started working on open offensive sets that even though they required several skills, the kids welcomed the challenge more than they ever did the endless blk. and tackle work. And even though we didn't win any more games, the kids felt like they could threaten their opponents more with scoring points than just making a tackle now and then.

It's just a matter of stressing whatever your style is, right? That's what they say... :p

If it is true that fundamentals can be improved, doesn't it make more sense to develop those skills like passing, catching and route execution which can nullify good tackling.

One more point, the 1999 and 2000 PC panthers were the best blocking teams I have ever seen, even so, they could not win state until they developed a state-of-the-art passing attack for the 2000 campaign. It was that air attack that forced Highland to utilize a 3-1-2 defense most of the game to minimize PCs aerial assualt. But in doing so the running game benefitted. Had PC stayed with the 1999 passing philosopy, which was pretty salty too, Highland would have won state, not PC. It was the threat of the passing skills that moved the ball down the field for them, and enabled the seal blocking to have more success.
Based on all the posts, I haven't got the impression that anyone is suggesting that we focus on tackling over the rest of the skills necessary to succeed.
My suggestion of the target pants are not so we would just wear them to practice tackling.
They would just be there, all during practice, in order to remind us to always stay focused on the real target, which is to simply improve each week at everything we do.
All fundamental skills need equal emphasis.
Every coach approaches these skills with a different perspective and no magic wand.
I am more interested in other's inventiveness, than the that's the way we've always done it mentality.
Didn't Lombardi, Landry, Wooden and others come up with some of the things we do today?