Youth Football Online

The Promotion & Instruction of Youth Football
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Youth Football Online

The Promotion & Instruction of Youth Football
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Youth Football Online

How to Tackle with Proper Tackling Technique

Many teams are going with shoulder/style tackle. This style of tackle has also been endorsed by USA Football. Major leagues like Pop Warner also support shoulder tackling technique.  Should tackling is taking the head out of the equation.  Here is an excellent video about shoulder tackling.

The vast majority of leagues are going with USA Football Shoulder Tackling. My team has utilized shoulder tackling for the past three seasons with decent success.

Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.  Every championship defense in history has tackled well. The amount of success on defense will be determined on how well your team tackles.  Pride your team on being sure tacklers.   Let’s start off with my tackling philosophy:

 Tackling Philosophy 

  • We will be committed to stopping the run. We will prevent the offense from having a consistent offensive attack by being sure tacklers and swarming to the ball carrier.
  • We will swarm to the football. All 11 players on the field will gang tackle the ball carrier.  Pursuit is all about effort!
  • We will be a sure tackling team. We will be a team that tackles well game in and game out. We will tackle properly,safely, and effectively.
  • Contain the outside. We will force the ball carrier inside to our relentless pursuit and we will gang tackle.
  • Hold gaps and anchor. Our interior defensive line will get penetration and anchor their gaps, not chasing counter action. We will destruct blocks and make solid tackles in the backfield.
  • We will not give up big plays.  All players will hold their gaps and pursuit to the ball carrier.  Swarm tackling the ball carrier will prevent big plays.
  • Create at least 2 turnovers a game. We will force turnovers with our relentless gang tackling and disciplined pass coverage.
  • Short yardage and goal line defense.  We must increase our intensity & attitude when we are in our red zone and short yardage defense. Get to the football and tackle! tackle! tackle!
  • Discipline. We will absorb the game plan each week and execute it on game day. Every player will read their keys and do their job.
  •  Be a smart defense. We will understand game situations, player alignments, opponent tendencies/game planning, and down and distances. We will be smart and athletic with our open field tackling.
  • We will not give up big passing plays. We will be disciplined in cover 3 zone defense. We will not allow yards after catch because of our relentless pursuit and tackling of the ball/ pass catcher.
  • We will play defense with passion. When we play defense we will fly to the football with enthusiasm and effort. We will communicate and talk it up with each other. If we make a big play get pumped about it!


 Here is How to Tackle With Proper Tackling Technique (New School)

Tackling successfully and safety all starts with proper technique.

  •  Approach ball carrier, chop feet and get under control. You never want to be caught flat footed. Aiming point is the inside hip of the ball carrier.  We do not use the term “break down” because breaking down will get defenders caught flat footed.
  • Stay low. Sink the hips, eyes on belt buckle. Sink the Hips and Sky the Eyes.
  • Tackle through.  Explode through the target with head up. Contact must be made with shoulder pads (same foot, same shoulder).  Feet need to be active (chopping) and underneath you. Shoot hands up, wrap up, and grab cloth.
  • Drive through.  Many kids will make the mistake of stopping their feet on contact.  Teach your players to shoot and drive through the ball carrier.


Summary: Approach the ball carrier, chop feet,  aiming point is the inside hip. Engage ball carrier with shoulder pads (same foot, same shoulder), and head up. Tackle through the ball carrier, do not stop feet. Grab cloth and finish the tackle. This is  how to tackle with proper tackling technique!

Tackle Safety-How to Tackle with Proper Tackling Technique

The hot topic lately has been concussions in youth football.  There are countless benefits that children will acquire when they participate in youth football- when the game is taught properly that is!  Many coaches are still in the “old school” state of mind where they teach winning at all costs.  They talk about being “tough” and they will do stupid contact drills that will just lead to injuries.  Many “old school” coaches will over hit in practice as well.  There is no need to do live contact for 1 1/2 hours of a two hour practice.  Most of the drills these coaches are doing do not even simulate football game play.

The majority of confirmed concussions happen at practice. This means that coaches are doing something wrong; they’re not teaching how to tackle with proper tackling technique.  Again, it comes back to over hitting, stupid drills,  and lack of teaching technique.   These stupid drills are tackling drills that line the kids up 10 yards apart and have them run into each other full speed. In my 12+ years of coaching youth football I have witnessed very few head injuries that I can recall. Any sport can be unsafe when taught improperly / unsafely, it is important to pride yourself on teaching your kids how to tackle with proper tackling technique.


This entire concussion discussion falls on the coaches and league officials (board members).  It is vital that all coaches are educated properly on how to tackle with proper tackling technique. It is crucial that teams have head coaches in place that understand proper technique.  As coaches, we cannot over hit in practice. We do not need to do live tackling every single minute of every single practice. Coaches, you have to watch match ups in practice as well.  Forcing a timid, weaker-non-athletic kid to tackle your best player in a head on full speed collision is does nothing but deter the kid from having fun and learning the sport. This will also lead to kids getting hurt. We have to eliminate drills that have the kids line up 5+ yards away and requires the kids to run full speed into each other-head on.

Best Non-Live Tackling Drills 

Coaches should always start off with non-live tackling drills. Practice tackling techniques on air, then with dummies/ tackling sled, then you do some live contact.  From the first day of practice we will teach how to tackle with proper tackling technique. You can practice form tackling right off the bat in your stretching lines.

  • Form tackling.  Form tackling drills are a great way to teach technique without beating the kids up. Form tackling should always be done before you go into live contact in practice.  It is vital that the kids follow their tackling technique progressions into their form fit.  We will do our form fitting every single day.  Implement multiple techniques in the form tackling drill.  Make the defenders get into their form fit on ball movement. To take it one step further, we will have them fire out on ball movement, destruct a block, break down and form fit into the ball carrier.

  • Tackling dummies/sled. We also do a lot of tackling sled and tackling dummy work. Again, this will limit the amount of live contact in practice,while still teaching the kids how to tackle with proper tackling technique.  We will do our form fitting first, then we will run over to our tackling sled. Tackling sleds are great pieces of equipment that can be used to teach how to tackle with proper tackling technique, with out beating the kids up. You can have kids hit and wrap up a blocking sled and drive it as well.
  • Tackle Wheels. There are several pieces of equipment that can be utilize during non-contact drills.
  • Pursuit drill.  We do a lot of our conditioning during our pursuit drill.  Our entire practice is conditioning, but we really get after it during the pursuit drill.  One of the coaches will be the ball carrier and the defense will swarm to him.  We will also have some of the coaches try to block the pursuing defenders so they can work on block destruction.  All the players have to get to the ball carrier and break down. This is an excellent drill because it works attacking on ball movement, responsibilities, pursuit lanes/angles, swarm, form tackling/getting under control, conditioning, block destruction, and aggressiveness.  This drill is very fun as well. You can have the kids do a chant once all the players get to the ball carrier. You can have them grunt or do break downs. Make it fun!

There are many effective non-live tackling drills you can do that will teach kids proper tackling techniques. I am not saying you should just tackle dummies all day. You will definitely need to do live tackling during the week. There is no doubt about the importance of live tackling in practice. But, you do not have to do live tackling all practice long. Teach proper technique and then start implementing it in live tackling drills.   Do not waste time doing stupid drills that do nothing but hurt kids.

Best Live Tackling Drills

Tackling drills that teach kids how to tackle with proper tackling technique:

  •  3 v 3We will have  2 defensive linemen, 1 linebacker vs. 2 offensive linemen and a running back. This is an excellent drill that simulates actually football movement and engagement. This drill works multiple techniques at one time ( block destruction, tackling, run blocking, running the football, and competition).  Kids do not really get hurt doing this drill because their path will change. Meaning the running backs will have to cut off blocks and get up field. They will not run into the defense in a straight line, head to head. In my opinion this is the best tackling drill.

Execution of the 3 v 3 drill:

We love the 3 v 3 drill. It works several different techniques for several different positions. It’s fun, it makes the kids compete, and the players look forward to it each week.  However, this drill has been getting a bad rap because many coaches are not conducting the drill safely. You will see coaches line the kids up 15 yard apart and tell them to run through an area that is 6 yards wide. This is dangerous because the kids will generate a lot of speed and the narrow drill area doesn’t allow the kids to avoid or protect themselves from this heavy contact. It’s essentially having kids run into a wall.

When you have the kids line up no more than 5-7 yards apart and you add defensive linemen and offensive linemen the contact will become minimal. When kids are only 5-7 yards apart they aren’t able to generate a lot of speed so the contact isn’t very violent. In addition, we widen the drill a little bit so that the kids have room to run and protect themselves during the drill. The fact of the matter is that when you limit the distance between the tackling players and the blockers/ball carrier there will be less violent collisions.

If you watch match ups during the drill (don’t put your stud against a first year player), don’t have the kids line up 15 yards apart and have them run right into each other, and if you are teaching proper blocking and tackling technique then your kids will not get hurt.

  • One on one. We will do some one on one tackling.  We will line the kids up no more than 5 yards apart and we will have the defender tackle the ball carrier. The drill will be about 5- 6 yards wide and the kids will be 5 yards across from each other. We will not have the kids lineup 10 yards apart and run full speed into each other between two cones 2 yards apart. We also put tackling dummies down so when the kids get tackled they land on top of the pads. This reduces the amount of times the players helmet gets slammed into the ground.
  • Open field tackling/angle tackling.  We do quite a bit of open field tackling during the practice week.  We will do live open field tackling and form tackling in the open field. Since most tackles happen or come from an angle of pursuit we make sure we do a lot of angle tackling, live and non-contact.

(See Also) Open Field Tackling Techniques

Tackling Drills: Tackling Drills & Techniques 


(See Also) Golden Yard Tackling Drill