One of the most critical aspects in tackling is teaching players to shoot their arms through while unloading their hips in the tackle. Many players struggle with connecting these two actions because they must happen at the same time. We use the Eye Opener Drill to teach the tackler to unload their hips while shooting their arms.
Practice Tackling with the Eye Opener Drill
The two critical components of the tackle that the Eye Opener Drill focus on are the unloading of the hips and shooting the arms through. These are two critical components of the tackle because they stop the ball carrier’s forward momentum while also ensuring that he doesn’t bounce or spin out of the tackle. When these two elements are combined effectively they can create a picture perfect tackle that stops the ball carrier in his tracks and does not allow him to gain the extra yard in contact.
The problem with these two components of the tackle is that they are the hardest elements to practice. They must be done simultaneously so timing them up takes multiple reps. These reps can be hard to come by because it involves the body on body contact that can wear players down over the course of the season. To focus on these two movements while limiting the contact we use the Eye Opener Drill.
The Eye Opener Drill starts with two players facing each other with four cones spaced a yard apart to their side. One player will be the defender who is making the tackle and will be in an athletic position while the other player will be the ball carrier who will simulate holding the ball in one hand. On the go command the offensive player will step sideways to the first gap. The defender will take a drop step and then approach the ball carrier and shoot his arms while unloading his hips. After he has unloaded his hips he will drop back behind the next cone while the ball carrier steps to the next open space for the next rep. The players will continue down the line until they have gotten four reps done.
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There are a few critical components for the defender to focus on for this drill to be truly effective. First, the defender must shoot their arms at the same time as they throw their hips. The best way to see this as a coach is to stand on the cones and watch the players hips. The defenders hips should follow a natural upward swing as they engage in contact and make contact with the ball carrier. One way to help the players understand this is to tell the ball carrier to give a small hop so the defender can get the ball carrier off the ground. It’s important that the ball carrier just takes a small jump, just enough that he break the inertia of the ground. This jump will allow the defender to lift the player and get his hips through.
The second major component of the drill is the defender shooting his arms. We tell our players we want them to shoot their arms through to the shoulder blades of the ball carrier. This allow them to get their arms all the way through while also allowing the hips to come through the tackle.
The Eye Opener Drill is one of the best drills for getting players to understand how to make effective contact using their hips and arms while not getting players hurt and banged up.