If this is your first time reading this article series. Read the introduction on effective tackling. In short. I have broken down a tackle into pre, in and post contact. Tackling has many elements to it that we as coaches tend to forget or not emphasis enough to our players. By breaking it down you give the player an opportunity to master the skill of tackling. This article will focus on the pre contact aspect of the tackle. I will also show some relevant drills how to effectively perform a tackle.
What is Pre-contact?
Pre-contact is when you approach the ball carrier in an attempt to make a tackle. It is the space between yourself and the ball carrier. Before you perform the tackle there are many things that can go through your mind, like how far is the ball carrier for instance. Should I take up the space? Am I in a good position to perform an effective tackle?
The aim of Pre-contact?
The aim is to close the space as fast as possible between yourself and the ball carrier. Thus, to put you as the defender in a good position to perform a tackle. It sounds simple, but by not mastering the pre-contact phase you will struggle to make an effective tackle. So to progress to the in-contact part, first get comfortable with this phase.
The philosophy behind Pre-contact
Pre-contact is broken down into the following key elements:
- Take up space
- Stay Square
- Dip before contact
- Break the glass (foot plant)
Take up the space: Taking up the space will put you as defender in a good position. It will also ensure that you will take away the ball carrier’s options (e.g. stepping). Taking away space will stop the ball carrier from gaining momentum.
Notes: Take space as quick as possible. Adjust to smaller steps before contact. Do not sit in the tackle.
Stay square: Approaching the ball carrier with a shoulders turned position, you will either be side stepped or caught up in an unsafe body position. Coaches like Jacque Nienaber always like to say “spine in line”. Spine in line refers to the head, shoulder, hips, leg and arms in line with the ball carrier. When a player steps to the right you will tackle with the right shoulder. Planting the right foot and head on the left side. When he steps to the left you will make a hit with the left shoulder plant the left foot and head will be on the right side. Arms tucked in. This will make your body smaller and help you to quicker tuck your arms around the ball carrier. It will also make the target that the ball carrier runs onto, smaller.
Notes: Stay square with the attacker. Do not turn shoulders or have your head down. Spine in line. Tip: Look at the ball carrier core to predict which side he will step towards.
Dip before contact: The focus is to dip before the tackle. Approaching the ball carrier in an already bent forward position will give the ball carrier the advantage to step or bump you. If you run in an upright position and then dip before contact the ball carrier will be caught by surprise.
Notes: Present with an upright body position. Dip your body before contact. This will be the element of surprise. Timing is crucial. To late might put you in a weak position to make the tackle.
Break the glass (Power step): The foot plant and dip before contact will almost happen in a simultaneous movement. The aim is to get your leg as close as possible to the ball carrier. This will ensure a more explosive hit. It is also a better position to make a dominant tackle. This also teaches the player to not plant both feet parallel before contact. To sit back in the tackle. Break the glass = more power.
Notes: Get your leg between the ball carrier legs. This drill teaches you to adjust your body position to what side the ball carrier runs towards. The foot plant aim is the power step. Through this you can break the ball carriers shape.
Notes: Implement all the principles in this drill. Remember the focus is pre-contact and not on in- or post contact.
Remember this is my view of tackling and coaching it. Feel free to build on this principle. If you have any question or feedback please do share it with us and we will be more than willing to respond. The next article will be based on the in - contact principle of tackling.