Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tackling Progression Part III

In Part II, we discussed the Finish Phase in detail and added in a progression to use as well as video of the drills against air and with bags. Part I detailed how we use the progression and how we identify the different phases of tackling.

Now, we will discuss the Strike Phase as well as Strike & Finish drills.

The Strike Phase begins as the defender starts to initiate contact with the ball carrier.

This phase incorporates an aggressive double uppercut action with the arms as well as rapid and forceful hip extension into the ball carrier.

We use five drills in the Strike Phase and start by teaching the rapid hip extension and then adding the double uppercut action. Finally, we will reteach the Hit Position (athletes who have been in our strength program are already well versed in this position) before we put the entire action together while standing.

I don't have video of all these drills against air, bags and partners, but you will just add someone in holding a bag for the Knee Strike and Strike drills. I think the Strike drill works best with a Pop-Up Bag that players can basically run through without having to add in the elements of the Finish Phase. The Superman and Superman Uppercut drills can be used without those bags on the ground, but the players are more likely to commit to selling out if they know they're landing on something comfy.

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Some key points for these drills...

1. Superman: I did a bad job of this when I introduced it last year, but the athletes should have their hands behind their back so they can really concentrate of forcefully extending their hips.
2. Superman Uppercut: This is where we add the arms and the double uppercut action
3. Knee Strike:  This is the same motion as Superman Uppercut, only now the players take a knee. I make them switch knees after every rep so we get even work on both sides.
4. Hit Position: Use a cadence to get athletes in the proper position. I lost the audio on the video here. We start with "Feet" and the athletes settle their feet hip distance apart. Next is "Arms" and the players stick their arms behind their back as far as possible. After that is "Sink" and the athletes sink into a half squat. The last cue is "Holsters" and the players will put their hands on their "gun holsters" by bending their elbows. Once we've mastered this by using a cadence, we will just tell the players "Hit" and they must quickly assume the Hit Position.
5. Strike: This is the drill that most closely resembles an actual tackle since we are standing and incorporating both the double uppercut and hip extension.

Once we progress through the Strike Phase, we will bring the Strike & Finish Phases together into one fluid (hopefully!) motion.

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The goal is for the fundamentals of each phase to start transitioning into multiple phases as we add them together. As you can tell in some of the video, there are a fair amount of players who are missing some important concepts of the Finish Phase. There are a handful of athletes who aren't doing a good job squeezing their elbows together in the Clamp and many aren't putting their eyes to the sky as well.

Part IV will detail the Pursuit Phase, which consists of the Profile and Buzz tackles and include a document for our strict progression over the spring and summer.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Tackling Progression Part II

In Part 1 of my tackling progression series, I detailed why and how I came up with a progressive system to teach tackling.

This next part encompasses how I teach the fundamentals of tackling through a progression of drills, starting with those in the Finish Phase.

As with all drills we teach, we want to go from simple and planned to complex and reactive. Doing simple and planned drills will allow all participants to gain confidence and develop the necessary skills to complete the drills that are complex later on.

Nearly every drill in the progression can be done on air, against a bag or with a partner.

In our section in California, we have "Spring Football" during the month of May. We're limited in hours per week, but we also can't use any equipment except a football. So, we start our tackling progression on air during May, beginning with the Finish Phase and ending with the Pursuit Phase.

Once June hits and we are in summer mode, our section allows us to use all equipment except for helmets, shoulder pads and leg pads. Now, we will use bags (shields) and go back through the entire progression.

When we go to our own team camp in Lake Tahoe and are in full pads for the first time, we will do our first live contact partner drills based on the progression. We will not go back through the entire progression, but hit the main concepts in a circuit instead.

After finishing camp I will evaluate where we need to begin reteaching tackling during the start of fall practice. Every year is different. We also gain players during the fall who weren't around during spring or summer football, so they must be instructed from the beginning.


The first drill we introduce is the "Clamp". Players start with their feet hip width apart and slightly staggered. Their hips should be fully extended and I use the term "Shamu" to get them to make a small arch in their lower back similar to this a killer whale explosively jumping out of the water.

The defender's hands are above his head with closed fists grabbing cloth (pinkies together). Players should squeeze their elbows together and focus their eyes to the sky.

We teach this fundamental with coaches roaming around a giant layout of players so everyone can go at one time. Coaches correct on the fly.

Next, we add the fundamental of driving the legs through the tackle. The next drills are "Clamp & Slow Drive" and "Clamp & Fast Drive".

Players need to pull the "ball carrier" into their body and drive their knees high and wide during the Drive portion of these drills.

Often, players will forget some of the Clamp fundamentals once the Drive fundamentals are added. I've noticed that the biggest problem with players usually involves them not squeezing their elbows together while forming the Clamp.

Check out the Hudl Presentation with video of all three drills.

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