Tackle without fear

When contact begins in early age groups it quickly becomes apparent that some players really want to tackle. Others don’t, no matter how much technical work you do with them – here are three reasons why.


  1. Children are told not to hurt others
  2. They know collisions in the past have been painful
  3. When confronted with a quick target, some panic

1. Mental blocks

Parents and schools have instilled into children that it is wrong to hurt people or naughty to bash into others. This creates conflict for them when faced with the opposite requirement.

2. It might hurt

Players have never been told they should run into somebody else but are now being actively encouraged to do this. When they have run into somebody else – by accident – it has been unpleasant so we should not be surprised that some youngsters find the idea of collision difficult.

3. Speed

Some children demonstrate tackling ability perfectly fine at walking or jogging speed but no faster. The extra speed is too great for them to process everything. Simply start at slow pace to allow players to gain confidence – see Eamonn Hogan’s activity on page 11 .

Dealing with the causes

The challenge is to help players overcome these issues. Emphasising good technique is always crucial but this alone won’t overcome fear. Use physical grappling warm-ups and ball wrestling contests to make contact natural. Wrestling, bumping and pushing activities will help overcome the initial worries of pushing other people. Play small-sided games in reduced areas to keep the speed down, giving players time to contemplate tackling. In time, players will just forget their initial lack of involvement as physicality and automatic responses become natural.

Two ways to boost tackle confidence

  1. Grab a player’s shirt or shorts and bring him down to complete the tackle
  2. “Tackle twins” can work together to iron out each other’s weaknesses

1. Complete the tackle

Start the tackler holding on to the ball carrier with one hand on the shorts or shirt.

On your call, the ball carrier has to progress while the tackler aims to bring the player to the ground.

This gives the player confidence to know that completing a tackle is satisfying and not painful. It also shows the need to hold on hard and tight.

2. Tackle twins

In tackling exercises, work weaker tacklers in pairs over a number of sessions. Make a feature of them working together.

They will relate to each other’s weaknesses and enjoy each other’s improvements.

In matches, weaker tacklers will now feel they can work with other players. As time goes on, they will start to make tackles on their own.

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