One of the hot topic questions when it comes to youth tackle football is how much tackle practice kids should be doing. We see news stories and research that an increase in tackle sessions – and an increase in contact – is what leads to concussion and traumatic brain injury. However, without the right football coaching, how will kids know how to tackle at all?
There is a balance to strike here, which finding and maintaining isn’t always easy. The intent of this article isn’t to tell you that you should do X tackling drills a month. Instead, it is to get you to think about your football coaching strategy to put your kids in the best position to succeed and – most importantly – stay healthy on the field.
Focus on Technique
The first aspect of deciding how much tackling to do to prepare your kids for youth tackle football is to realize that the skill is all about technique. Parents are scared of tackling at this point. That is one of the reasons why flag football has become so popular. Counter that by doing your football coaching on tackling to show parents that this sport can be safe when players learn the right tackle technique.
This does not mean lining kids up in an old-fashioned Oklahoma Drill. It means working without pads and helmets first so that kids understand how to hit with their shoulders and drive through a tackle instead of leading with their facemask. Teach them how to wrap the legs, bring down a ball carrier in a controlled environment, and teach them good techniques that will benefit them no matter how far they take their game.
Upskill as a Coach
One problem coaches have is that they don’t know the best way to teach tackling drills in the 2020s. Football has changed, and safety is the biggest drive towards kids (parents) deciding to play the game or not. Luckily, we here at Tackle Smart have you covered with an array of tools that will make your team the best tacklers in your league.
Our team tackling resources have been used by the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Ohio State to improve their tackle safety and success rate. Look into small group training, team training, or attend a camp or clinic to learn how to coach football tackling successfully.
Fundamentals are Key
As with any aspect of the game, tackling is driven by fundamentals. The intensity will come as players get more comfortable with the fundaments of the tackle, so put all your tackle practice effort into the art of the tackle as opposed to making it about the speed of the contact.
Using the shoulder, wrapping the ball carrier, and breaking down before initiating contact. These are all basic fundamentals that not enough coaches teach. Sure, the big hits look good, but the best coaches know those sound fundamentals will stop a ball carrier from bouncing off such a hit and breaking out for a big gain.
When to Start Live Tackling?
This point is a little contentious. The key is to get your players ready for tackle football without burning them out on tackling too early. The best way to do this is to wait until a couple of weeks before your first game to start with live tackle drills.
When you do start them live tackling, scale up the drills from an easy starting point. There is no need to have players getting a ten-yard run at each other. Instead, go as basic as tackling from the knees to really emphasize the point of contact and how to make a safe and effective tackle.
Tackling Sessions Duration is important
Keep your tackling sessions short, sweet, and to the point. Tired tackling is a great way to get a player injured, so make sure these sessions are done at the start of practice when your player’s minds and bodies are fresh. Work for no more than ten or 15 minutes on tackling, making sure to rotate players in and out often to keep them fit and mentally engaged. This duration concept is just as important in a game. If you notice a player struggling because they are tired and out of breath, get them off the field before they hurt themselves with a poor technique tackle.
The best way to ensure that you take on the right amount of tackling practice is through our resources. They will make your sessions more engaging and – importantly – more efficient. With only a finite amount of time in a practice, getting the most out of each drill is critical. That is what Tackle Smart was created for and is why we are the leader in tackling safety and efficiency today.
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