When teaching how to perform a tackle, you must begin by teaching
good football position which is a position of leverage, mobility and
power. The feet should be shoulder width apart with the toes pointed
straight ahead. The player should dip his body to lower his hips into
the power position with knees bent and weight of the body forward
on the front of the feet like performing a three-quarter squat lift. The
chest should remain over the knees while the knees remain over the
toes. The eyes are focused forward and on the target with the hands
relaxed hanging outside the knees.
Focus – Aiming Point - The eyes of the tackler must be focused on
the hip. Which hip the tackler focuses on will be determined by the
angle and by where his help is.
The approach is very important when making a tackle and usually
means the difference between making the tackle and missing it. The
approach is closing the distance between you and the ball carrier as
quickly as possible while maintaining both good football position
and focus mentioned above. It is important to keep your shoulders
square to the aiming point and the feet moving as well as knowing
where your help is.
Shoot the Hands, Eyes to the Sky - The Tackle
The strongest areas of a football player’s body are the legs, hips and
lower back. A tackler must use these muscle groups and decrease
them in the ball carrier by taking them away to stop his forward
momentum. While maintaining the power position and focus, just
before contact, bring the hands forward and up in a quick and
powerful motion causing the hips to come forward with force. If the
hands do not start forward until after contact, then the tackler is only
catching the ball carrier or running into him and will not be able to
use his hip strength to stop the ball carrier’s momentum. As the
hands come forward, contact is made with the tackler’s shoulder pad
to the ball carrier’s thigh pad. The head is up and focused on the
aiming point of the hips and should slide to the side before contact.
As contact is made the tackler’s eyes should raise, keeping the head
up and the hips in a power position. This is referred to as “slide the
head, eyes to the sky”.
The contact point refers to the area of the tackler’s shoulder pads
that makes contact to the aiming point of the ball carrier. The ideal
contact point is located on the ball carrier’s thigh pad. The tackler
must maintain the power position and keep his head up with his
shoulders square to the aiming point.
The arms and hands should shoot through and up, grabbing cloth or
anything they can to keep hold of the ball carrier. If the hands and
elbows are on the same level then the tackler is not using his hip
strength but instead is only running into or catching the ball carrier.
When evaluating a tackle, check for the hands shooting through.
They should wrap around the ball carrier and the hands should be
above the elbows. The eyes should be looking toward the sky.
“Shoot the hands, slide the head, eyes to the sky”. The feet continue
to drive through the tackle while the ball carrier is brought to the
Use key words for each part of this tackling progression:
Dip – Dip the hips into the power position and keep your head up
while focusing on the target.
Strike - Strike the ball carrier at the aiming point while shooting the
Wrap – Shoot the hands and raise the eyes while fingers grab
anything to keep a hold of the ball carrier.
Drive – Don’t stop your feet but drive through the opponent. Lift
the ball carrier slightly to keep you on your feet and your feet
moving, to prevent dives and misses and to break the ball carrier’s
balance and contact with the ground.
1. Hit and Lift
a. The first drill (first three days of pads)
b. Two lines across from each other 4 yards apart.
c. Coach gives a command to the tackler following the progression
(dip=players dip: strike=players strike etc.) Check and evaluate each
part of the progression to make sure proper form is used for each
2. Angle tackling drills
a. Ball carrier and tackler 4 yards apart
b. Ball carrier aims for cone
c. Mirror step
d. Near shoulder through far hip
e. Shoot hands, eyes to the sky
f. Get outside foot down on contact
g. Change up by having ball carrier spin on contact. Punch with
hands and keep good base.
a. Tackler 4 yards from sled or dummy.
b. Good football position, keep leverage and eyes up
c. Shoot hands, eyes to the sky
d. Drive feet keeping a good base
4. Open field tackling between cones. Vary the distance between
cones depending on focus (where on field the ball carrier is).
a. Close distance to ball carrier
b. Give tackler a landmark distance
c. Emphasize coming to balance
5. Sideline Tackle
a. Trains the tackler the importance of knowing where his help is
b. Ball carrier and tackler 10 yards apart on the numbers
c. Ball carrier takes a 45-degree approach
d. Tackler takes an inside-out approach taking away the cutback
e. Accelerate feet and make contact with the proper shoulder
6. Eye Opener
a. Teaches the tackler to run through the window and attack the hole
when the ball carrier shows
b. Give ball carrier a hole to hit
c. Ball carrier runs lateral then turns up into the hole
d. Tackler shuffles laterally staying on back hip of ball carrier
e. When ball carrier turns, tackler attacks with proper shoulder
f. Feet should be inside the bag when contact is made
7. Pop the zit.
a. The focus is on two tacklers attacking one ball carrier.
b. Set up three cones ten to twelve yards apart from each other in a
triangle. Two tacklers and one ball carrier. The coach throws the
ball to the ball carrier and he tries to get past the tacklers staying
between the cones.
c. Points of emphasis: Tacklers heads are always up and across the
body of the ball carrier. The tackling progression applies.