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How to Tackle in Football

Tackling Tips for Football

Once you learn how to tackle in football, your coaches are going to chew you out less in practice and trust you more in games. Tackling is a huge part of defensive football, because of all the hidden yards that come from a “run after catch”.

When you can execute a “form tackle” on a running back, it’s going to stop the runner short of a first down more often, gaining your team possession and giving your defense the rest it needs. From Pop Warner to the National Football League, football teams that can tackle the ball carrier are going to consistently win. There really is no more important skill for a defensive player than tackling, since it keeps the opponent from making big plays.

With that in mind, here’s a tutorial for becoming a better tackler.

1. Read the Play

Before you can make a tackle, you need to be able to read the offense and know who the correct ball carrier is. This is why college and pro athletes study film so much, to recognize tendencies in the offense and see which play is developing.

Reading a defense is an especially important topic for linebackers and safeties, who are often expected to make the most tackles. Defensive linemen are supposed to clog up running lanes and maintain containment, while cornerbacks are supposed to “maintain the edge” and not let runners get around the corner of the defense. Even safeties tend to have pass defense duties, maintaining a safety net behind the defense, to make sure no big pass plays happen.

Linebackers, though, are expected to read a play and run to the ball. When you see the ball in a runner’s hands, run at full speed to the point of attack and meet the running back head on.

2. Make Contact

When the ball carrier has been spotted, a good tackler needs to spint to the ball and make contact. There are proper ways to tackle an opponent, though, so remain in control. Here’s the proper way to tackle in football.

3. Keep Your Head Up

Keeping your head up does several things.

One, when you hit an opponent, you want to hit him with your face mask, instead of the crown of your helmet. This is a safety matter, because if you hit with the top of your helmet, you can jam your neck or even break your neck. This is how the most serious injuries occur in football. Keep your head up and plant your face in the chest of your opponent, whenever possible.

Two, keeping your head up lets you continue to follow the play. Put your head down to hit with the top of your helmet and the ball carrier can evade your tackle. Even if their evasion isn’t complete, you might hit them with a glancing blow, instead of a form tackle. A glancing blow is going to force an arm tackle or a simple hit. While this might look impressive, hitting instead of “wrapping up” is going to let a good runner break your tackle. Arm tackles are using your arms instead of your body to bring down a runner. This is less likely to succeed.

Three, when you maintain eye contact with your opponent, you become like a smart bomb. You make solid contact in the center part of your opponent’s body. If you can place your helmet squarely in the center of gravity of your opponent, that means you’ll be able to put your body on their body and wrap up after the hit is made. This gives the runner no chance to break your tackle, as you literally cling to his body. If you hit him hard enough or you’re strong enough, you’ll be able to tackle him outright. If not, you will impede and slow his movement, allowing another defender to clean up the tackle.

4. Run Through the Ball Carrier

“Running through the ball carrier” is a term coaches use to indicate that you build up a head of steam and then slam into your opponent with full force, literally taking your opponent off his feet with the full momentum of your body mass and speed. Running through an opponent requires speed, explosion, balance and leverage. Get “under” your opponent, so you have greater leverage than he does. If you have a lower center of gravity, even a smaller player can take down an opponent. Leverage and a lower center of gravity gives you better balance than your opponent, so you should be able to make the tackle.

5. “Wrapping Up” the Runner

In the instant you hit the ball carrier with your face mask and body, wrap your arms around his torso or waist. This is what is called a “form tackle” and is exactly what coaches want. The form tackle includes a big impact with a sure grapple of the ball carrier. This should either knock him down and, failing the knockdown, should let you grapple him to the ground or throw him down. In either case, you continue to apply the tackle until he is off his feet.

This is where all that time strength training and weight training comes into play. Once you have a runner wrapped up, it becomes a wrestling match. Hopefully, you’re going to have teammates swarming to the ball, so you should receive rather immediate help, if you can’t make the tackle yourself.

6. Sure Tackles are Better than Big Hits

The best teams in football might intimidate their opponents with big hits, but more important than the hit is the certain tackle. Game changing plays happen when a runner “runs over” a tackler and goes for long yards afterwards. Receivers like Terrell Owens have made careers on “running after the catch”, because they are too big for tacklers to take down after the catch. If you can limit a ball carriers yards after a reception or after the first hit is made, you can limit first downs and big plays. If you can get 11 players on a defense to do the same thing, you’re going to have a pretty good defensive unit.

7. Make the Tackle

If you get to the play late or the opponent gets behind you, you may not be able to execute a form tackle. If this happens, don’t give up. An arm tackle is better than no tackle at all. Continue sprinting, leap to trip up the ball carrier, throw yourself at his legs to stop his momentum and knock him off of his feet and otherwise continue fighting until the whistle stops.

Good defense is about strength and speed, but it’s also about effort and energy. Don’t get caught standing around or your newfound knowledge of how to tackle in football will be wasted.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 6:45 pmand is filed under Football, Youth Football. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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