The defence coach’s guide to tackling training

Your approach to what you are looking for when you are coaching tackling will help you and your players focus on the right areas to improve their defensive capabilities.

When I look at the tackle, I am predominantly outcome driven. If it works, then that is more important than if all the technical processes have been ticked off.

That does not mean I do not work on the processes, like tracking, head position, grip, or footwork through the tackle to ensure good technique habits are built. Rather, I have a “focused process” approach versus being “process focused”.

“Focused process” means I look at what is important for that player to improve on or indeed enhance a strength in his tackling. How can he add value to his tackling?


I might say to a player that he is dropping his eyes too early before the tackle so is compromising his capacity to adapt to the footwork of the ball carrier. If that is the case, we will run a drill to work on that process. I may have also observed other technical elements of his work that are not theoretically correct.

A drill to improve “process-focused”

  1. A pad holder moves from side to side, and then forward.
  2. The tackler comes forward, adjusting their feet to make a strong contact.


Being “focused process” in my approach demands I assess the most important one or two elements rather than trying to totally fix all the theoretical elements of his tackle, which is the danger of being too “process focused”.

For less-experienced players, I am more process-driven. They are still learning the basics.

Even if I am working hands-on with players, I will consider carefully the level of detail I offer him. Some players can handle a lot of detailed information and still execute and perform effectively. Others will lose their effectiveness if they are inundated with too much detail at the one time.

A critical skill for effective coaching is understanding on an individual basis how much detailed information you should offer without compromising effective processes and outcomes.

In other words, “knowing what to leave out” at any given time in your coaching delivery, message, assessment or feedback is about being able to focus on the most important things that matter in achieving better outcomes.

“Knowing is not enough; we must understand. Willing is not enough; we must do”

Bruce Lee

I like this mantra because as a coach I have a good knowledge of the game and believe in what I do, but more importantly, it is the players who must believe that they can deliver in the heat of the battle.

A key challenge for a coach is to turn knowledge into effective execution and performance by developing clear and concise understanding from the players in what they need to do, how to do it, when to do it and why they do it.

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