Practicing Tackling without Live Contact Situations
Tackling is a huge part of football, and I believe it’s not given enough focus. With injury rates – and especially concussions – an increasingly hot topic, there are ongoing efforts to make the game safer. One proposed way is decreasing the amount of time that athletes engage in full contact training. For example, in 2013 the University Interscholastic League – which governs primary and secondary school athletics in Texas – established a rule allowing only 90 minutes of full contact training per week for high school students.
Despite these adjustments, every player needs to be able to make a tackle, and there are teams out there that don’t practice it. It’s important to strike the right balance between low-intensity, technical training without pads and full-contact, game-scenario tackling with pads. Unfortunately, this is often difficult to do and can leave players with either too much contact training or without the skills needed to properly tackle.
How to Get the Right Balance of Practicing Technique versus Full Contact
Coaches should focus on practicing technique for the vast majority of time. Not only does this have a low-injury occurrence, but lots of repetition practicing these techniques can lead to significant improvements. Among its many benefits, technical training lets you put together all of the building blocks, piece by piece, to ensure that each athlete has the right technique. As they’re ready, you can gradually build in components that make this practice more authentic like moving targets, reactions, decision making and tackling when fatigued. All of this training can be done without full contact and can be done year round.
That said, even with thorough technical training, athletes still need live, high-intensity contact scenarios. After all, nothing can replicate real-life pace. But, with the right technical training, even as little as 20-30 minutes a week of full-contact training will give kids the training that they need.
One way to help get the tackling balance right is through advanced tackling equipment. I use Shadowman products to train all of my athletes, as do thousands of NFL, NCAA, high school and youth league teams. I’ve found this equipment to be the right choice for the athletes I work with because:
- It gives the option of stationary or moving-target practice, which enables training for all levels from beginner to advanced
- The equipment is easy to use
- It’s great for coaching with different target zones
- There are different products for different ages and ability levels
- It allows kids to get lots of reps all year round
Tackling is an important part of football and all kids need to know how to properly tackle. Even so, kids don’t need excessive amounts of time practicing full contact. Rather, the majority of training time should be spent on technique, which builds the skills and reps that athletes need. When this training is done effectively and paired with some limited full-contact practice each week, kids will have the skills and confidence to safely and effectively tackle on game day.