If I were coaching tackling to kids for the first time, I wouldn’t focus on low tackles. I think it’s better to work on the choke tackle. It’s safer and more effective.
As a professional rugby coach, people often say to me, “oh, but you’ve never coached an eleven-year-old before.” Well, a year and a half ago, before COVID, I not only coached my son’s U10s and U11s, but I coached the rest of the school’s A, B, and C teams, from U9s up to U12s. During this period, I taught them to choke tackle.
Now, with the choke tackle, we gave them two easy principles, barring the tackle technique:
When the ball is lifted (by the 9 or clearing passer), we’re going to take two steps.
When the ball’s in the air, it’s a race to catch that ball carrier.
It’s a race, you don’t let him breathe. You’re like a swarm of bees, but you’re not going to all come in, only the first three guys in front. As the ball’s in the air, you’re going to move to that guy and you’re going to just hold him up and swallow him up. Meanwhile, the rest of you are just going to realign.
The number of choke tackles that we pulled off after just one training session was incredible.
LEG TACKLES TOUGH
However, some parents asked me to work on the leg tackle.
Now, there’s something about the leg tackle that needs explaining. It’s really, really technical, and it’s very hard to train for the following reasons.
Say, as your coach, I tell you that we’re going to do some tackle practice, and I say that you’re going to low tackle another player.
Straight away, you’re going to get nervous because they are going to step you about, you’re going to hit the ground hard, and you will probably knock your chin on the ground. Your elbow might even hit the ground or you could dislocate your shoulder. In other words, training a low tackle is rough.
So, unless you’re a wrestler who’s performed double-leg take-downs, and have experience being very exposed from high to low, it’s realistically not a practical tackle.
HIGHER NOT LOWER
Think, for example, about the short corridors where there’s not a lot of space. If an opposing player is about to get the ball and I fly and I meet him, I will almost, with line speed, always catch him high.
So, why wouldn’t I go low? This is the mistake that coaches often make. In a short corridor with line speed, I fly up, I stop suddenly and dip to make the low tackle. But if I do that, and there’s a big kid there, he’ll say “thanks for putting your head there,” squash my head into the ground, or bump me like a rhino and I sleep.
All of the boys, during my time coaching youth teams, tended to give me the same feedback: they feel scared to low tackle. That’s the reality of it, and I think that, rather than teach them bad low tackling, you’re much better to teach them some principles of line speed and how to tackle the choke tackle because, ultimately, it’s more pragmatic.
Lots of defence drills get the players in position to tackle, but not enough spend time on setting and then, crucially tackling, especially under fatigue conditions. Play heads up, real-life situations in training.
Helps players match up to the circumstances in front of them and then complete the job. MORE
Players must work on their individual technique whilst cooperating with their team mates to reduce the options for the attack. This session develops this mindset.
A tackler is part of the whole defence. A defence is not always breached because a tackle has been missed, but because a space is not covered. MORE
Work on the roles and skills of the attackers and defenders closest to the tackle area in a tight space. This activity puts the players in game-like situations to look for solutions.
Though there are some principles to follow, this activity will give the players an opportunity to try out different ideas. Expect messy outcomes. MORE
When the defence is outnumbered, it has to drift with the pass. It still has to go forward, but has to curve out at the same time. This session works on those curves.
Defensive systems aim to cut down the time and space for the attack, even when they have to drift out. MORE
This session works on players reading the situation and not being afraid to give up ground as long as the tackle is made.
Sometimes the tackler needs to accept that he cannot “win” the contact, but still needs to bring the ball carrier to ground effectively. MORE