Winning Youth Football

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Youth Football Tackling: High or Low Technique

With bigger kids and better athletes now playing football the game is evolving so that new approaches and ideas are being implemented to deal with the change of body size and ability in our younger youth football players. It's not hard to realize that the average size of a 12 year old is bigger today than it was compared to twenty years ago. But then again there are still smaller athletes playing the game as well.

Form tackling is one area that a lot of youth football coaches discuss on a regular basis.

The traditional way of tackling was to teach our youth football players to tackle below the ball carriers waist with the head back and to contact the ball carrier with their shoulder at the thigh level wrapping the arms around the legs while driving their legs and taking the ball carrier to the ground. The idea being that as a smaller player you attack the lower part of a ball carrier, rather than tackling above the waist and being "run over" by a more bigger and physical athlete. A good philosophy at the time but over the years there were some significant problems with this technique. The biggest problem is that in tackling low the defender more than not would drop their head and leave their feet thus losing control over their bodies and putting themselves in a vulnerable position for a head or neck injury as well as a lot of missed tackles.

I have seen it many times.

The new idea of form tackling that is being implemented is to teach the youth football player to tackle above the waist with the head always back and up, with the point of contact being the chest plate of the tacklers shoulder pads contacting just below the chest plate of the ball carrier driving the arms up under or around the arms of the ball carrier while at the same time driving the legs until the ball carrier is taken to the ground. Again, the head is always back with the neck bulled at the time of contact. The player now never drops his head or loses control of his body by lunging at the thighs and leaving their feet. The players are taught to set up the bodies in a low stance with the knees slightly bent, with the head and arms back prior to impact and on impact like a coiled spring they are trained to drive up and through the ball carrier. The tackler now has more control of his body and the head is never part of the equation.

Now, the argument can be made once again with the smaller football player being run over but I have found that this is not true for the most part. I have noticed that the smaller athlete that once confident in this technique because of his lower stature is more explosive at the time of contact compared to the traditional way of tackling below the waist. A lot of times the smaller tackler will come in with good technique and " stand up" the ball carrier for a couple of strides until help arrives and the ball carrier is taken to the ground. I'd much rather see this take place then watch the tackler drop his head and leave his feet!