By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
As more restrictions on full-contact practices have been implemented at the high school level over the last few years, coaches are finding new ways to teach safe tackling and blocking techniques.
Cathedral High (Ind.) coach Rick Streiff, a USA Football Master Trainer, has been teaching his players the Shoulder Tackle technique for five seasons. He offers 10 tips to teaching safe tackling and blocking techniques.
Keep the head up and out of the tackle. Streiff has found that even mentioning head placement when teaching tackling often results in players overthinking the technique and getting the head involved. The emphasis should be on the parts of the body that should be used in the tackle.
Focus on the positioning of the feet. A player attempting a tackle should keep his feet under him – rather than lunging or leaving his feet. Stress that a player should bring his feet to the point of attack and continue taking steps through the tackling process.
Become a leverage team. Defensive players should practice team defense when making a tackle. Players on the outside should attack the outside leg of the ball-carrier. The focus of the tackler should be stopping the ball-carrier’s momentum at the point of attack.
Force the ball-carrier toward the defense’s pursuit. If the defensive player is going to miss the tackle, he should miss in a way that forces the ball-carrier back toward the strength of the defense. Players on the perimeter should force the ball-carrier back inside where his defensive teammates are in pursuit.
Place the near foot on the leverage side. The tackling player’s shoulder and near hip should mirror the lead foot. This will prevent the ball-carrier from breaking containment and getting a clean path to the sideline.
When blocking, take six-inch steps into the strike zone. An offensive lineman will become unbalanced with longer strides. Keep the steps short and precise to remain balanced before the contact with the pass-rusher or run-stopper is initiated.
Perfect the strike zone technique. An offensive lineman should initiate contact with the defender by striking his hands into the defender’s breast plate. Strike with the thumbs up and palms in. The lineman should attempt to lift the breast plate to create leverage.
Lineman should stick with their hips underneath them. Once the contact is made in the strike zone, the offensive lineman should get on his heels and bring the hips forward. The proper technique is for the offensive lineman to have his entire foot on the ground. If you’re standing behind the offensive line, you don’t want to see linemen’s heels.
Teach blocking through the hands, hips and feet. The old system of blockers initiating contact with the hat and hands has become outdated. Now, it should be taught through the hands, hips and feet. Steer the blocker with the hands and keep the hips and feet underneath the torso to create leverage.
Walk through it. Build muscle memory by walking through the technique rather than starting in live game-action speed. In a pass set, teach linemen to create separation from the defender. In run-blocking, teach players to drive forward rather than going for a finishing blow.
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